The power of the unaided individual mind is highly overrated. Although society often thinks of creative individuals as working in isolation, intelligence and creativity result in large part from interaction and collaboration with other individuals. Much human creativity is social, arising from activities that take place in a context in which interaction with other people and the artifacts that embody collective knowledge are essential contributors.
This paper examines: (1) how individual and social creativity can be integrated by means of proper collaboration models and tools supporting distributed cognition; (2) how the creation of shareable externalizations (“boundary objects”) and the adoption of evolutionary process models in the construction of meta-design environments can enhance creativity and support spontaneous design activities (“unselfconscious cultures of design”); and (3) how a new design competence is emerging—one that requires passage from individual creative actions to synergetic activities, from the reflective practitioner to reflective communities, and from given tasks to personally meaningful activities. The paper offers examples in the context of collaborative design and art practice, including urban planning, interactive art, and open source. In the effort to draw a viable path “beyond binary choices”, the paper points out some major challenges for the next generation of socio-technical environments to further increase the integration of individual and social creativity.