Aren’t journalists creative people, Neil Maiden?

Neil Maiden is INJECT’s project leader. He is Professor of Digital Creativity in the Faculty of Management at the Cass Business Business and co-founder of the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at City University London. He lives in Venice, Italy and London. You can follow him on Twitter @neilmaiden.

You are a Professor for Digital Creativity. What is that and how can you actually teach something like creativity?

It all depends on how you perceive and define creativity. Creative problem solving is skill-based, and you can teach people the skills to think creatively to generate solutions to problems. Many of these skills are encouraged and supported in creativity methods and techniques that are widely available to people. More recently, digital tools have emerged to support people’s creative thinking. These tools codify creative practices. If we can codify creativity, we can also teach it.

Moreover, it is no accident that some people appear to be more creative than others. These people often work at being more creative, reflecting on their performance, learning from it, and improving what they do, and how they do it.

INJECT is trying to bring new technologies to newsrooms – to boost creative ideas. Aren’t journalists creative enough?

Given enough time and other resources, then probably yes. But we know that journalists, today, have less time, and fewer resources, to create ideas and write stories. What INJECT will do is to make journalists as creative as they are at the moment, but more quickly and efficiently. The INJECT tools will do this by implementing strategies that will enable them to undertake some of the work of experienced journalists more quickly, to permit and support journalists to spend more time on creative thinking and story development.

And if all of this renders journalists more creative than they are at the moment, then great. It is good for journalists, for newspapers, and for the world in which we live.

You have a background in computer science. How can digitization increase the quality of Journalism and reporting?

There are clearly some outcomes of computer science research that exceed current human abilities. One of these is search. Digitalisation enables the effective search of large volumes of information much more quickly and accurately than people can. Search is important in journalism, to discover data, the back story, human angles and the underpinning causes – the long read.

What INJECT is doing is adapting digital search to mimic how experienced journalists work creatively, to discover new angles on stories. More specialised search can support journalists to discover new information and story angles, to do this more quickly than at present, and to generate the resulting stories more productively.