Inspecting Creativity: Making the Abstract Visible

Authors: Readman, M.

Journal: Media Education Research Journal

Volume: 02

Issue: 01

Pages: 57-72


Media education has an uneasy relationship with the rhetorics of creativity, which are explored in this article. In Learning: Creative Approaches that Raise Standards (OFSTED, 2010), creativity is operationalised. That is, as Marcuse (1972) tells us, the concept is made synonymous with a corresponding set of operations.

The document takes the form of a ‘survey’, but its status as an Ofsted publication means that it is unlikely to be read merely as a neutral set of observations. It is more likely that this will be read as a set of guidelines for good practice – practice which, if adopted, is likely to lead to a favourable Ofsted grade in the future. In this sense the document operates, in a Foucaultian sense, as a discursive statement – it is regulatory, administrative and ‘limiting’.

Ostensibly drawing upon a version of creativity produced, reified and reinforced by three other education policy documents (All Our Futures (1999), Creativity: Find it, promote it (QCA, 2004) and Nurturing Creativity in Young People (2006)) the Ofsted survey creates an illusion of continuity and coherence. It is, however, determined by the requirement for creativity to be amenable to inspection and, therefore, the concept is rendered unambiguous, unified and visible.

By examining the rhetorical strategies employed in this document, and by starting with a rejection of the notion that ‘creativity’ is a ‘thing’ with essential qualities, it is possible to identify contradictions and tensions in this particular production of knowledge and ‘truth’.

I suggest that such an approach, which borrows a philosophical stance from Foucault and specific tools of analysis from Fairclough, is necessary if we are to understand creativity as a concept that is always, already socially and historically constructed, rather than something which can be identified, implemented and assessed.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Mark Readman