Your Guide To

Welcome readers from ◎ Your Guide to the Mechanics of Creativity


Our first foray into creativity was quite the ride! We went from dresser drawers and bullets to DNA and consciousness! All this and more as we explored the terms of the Creativity Framework with respect to hierarchy including CONTEXT (what is above a node) and CONTENT (what is below a node). We saw that we ANALYZE to break things into aspects and SYNTHESIZE to join things for a new perspect(ive). So if you missed that, please pop on back to ◎ Your Guide to the Mechanics of Creativity and gain some context!

Common Creativity Phrases

Demonstration of creative expressions using the Framework

A ◈ We have all heard the terms used to help guide creativity:

Think Outside the Box

Exercise Lateral Thinking

Ooo, it’s a Paradigm Shift

Take a Mental Leap!

Here we will use the Framework to show you that these phrases all mean the same thing. Luckily we have a bunch of nested boxes so that will certainly help with the first phrase, OUTSIDE THE BOX. Here we have broken down transportation into a bunch of subcategories:

Thinking outside the box

B ◈ We are taking a car… taking a car… taking a car… unless… we think outside the box and look around. What if we take a bike or a bus! By the way, the video advert for the Framework has a good message for us:

C ◈ What about LATERAL THINKING? Well, luckily, the Framework showed different diagrams that all represent the same hierarchy of organization. So we can switch to our traditional hierarchy diagram with the same information to easily demonstrate lateral thinking. Maybe it would be more fun to hover!

Using the hierarchy view to demonstrate lateral thinking

D ◈ If you recall in ◎ Your Guide to Context in Creativity a node that is a sibling was also described not as SUPER (above) or SUB (below) but rather PARA as next to — like parallel lines. Well, PARADIGM SHIFT means movement to a node that is next to! So again we can use the hierarchy diagram to show how it could be a paradigm shift to go from roads to tubes! Like what happened when crowds of people starting taking the subway tube!

Using the hierarchy diagram to show a paradigm shift

E ◈ Inventor Dan Zen (see ◎ Your Guide to Inventor Dan Zen) tells the story of laying down in a field and looking over at a tall thistle plant. He imagined living in one of the thistles with a friend in another thistle. To travel to the friend, Zen would have to go backwards down the branch to a common branch and then forward to the friend’s thistle. He had a MENTAL LEAP. That is traveling like Data! Data can go across the world in an instant and only needs one address. Basically, it is ../ to go back and then forward to a destination. Data changes direction once. Would that help Elon Musk and the Boring Company?

A mental lead shown on a hierarchy diagram

F ◈ The term for what we are doing here is called META. It is a prefix but now treated like a word. It means… up (or outside) and next to. What a weird definition! But now we see how important that is. Zen’s daughter Madeline, grew up as he was creating this framework and teachings were alternated with bed time stories. Madeline has been getting high nineties in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Toronto and has just jumped into a PhD. She has an excellent brain but an understanding of the framework did no hurt. So, please, teach your kids about META.

META shown in the hierarchy diagram

The common creativity phrases are not only common among the people but indeed have common workings and can clearly be demonstrated with the terms of the Framework.

Alternative Ways To Explore Alternatives

G ◈ I saw Dan Zen give a talk for TEDx called Simply Creative — no more waiting for Aha. He used a few of these slides to describe that it is simple to create when you look for simple basic properties.

H ◈ Take any object and break it up into its parts. For instance a chair is made from legs and a seat. Then generalize these: the leg is a type of base. The seat is a type of container. That is to say, what class are they a subclass of. Then find other instances of the class to find alternatives for each part.

I ◈ Here we list the alternatives. Generalizing is not always the easiest thing to do — it takes practice and the Framework has practice forms in between the slides. You are encouraged to try. The Framework is free at Listing alternatives is a little easier to do and they are listed below:

J ◈ The last step is to bring parts together to form an invention. Zen had thought it would be nice to sleep in a cocoon that is on a spring to rock him gently asleep. What do you think? Maybe if it had little cooling vents like air hockey.

K ◈ Another way to break things apart is to just describe the object’s properties and purpose with words. The chair has four legs, it is L shaped made from black leather and it is for human sitting.

L ◈ Generalize these specifics and then list alternatives. Here we found that color and material are too specific still and we generalized them to appearance. We nearly missed patterns. And here is a good property… time. Things can change in time. Lazy Boy made millions with a chair that changes shape.

M ◈ Let’s imagine that our chair changes color. But why… oh… what about a chair that changes color based on the occupant’s weight! Would you want that. As you eat your pizza the couch slowly turns red. Hahaha.

N ◈ Zen tells a story that he has spent 30 years creating, 10 years analyzing the creative process and synthesizing it into a framework. And the answer was found on Sesame Street. Who, what, why, when, where, how, how much, how many! This is how Detectives might analyze a case to make sure that they look at all aspects. We have found in the English language that these questions just about covers it.

O ◈ What, who, where, when, how much and how many relate to the parts of something. The objects and properties. The physical things and their location. These are the nouns and adjectives.

P ◈ The how relates to its performance. What action and change. Basically, these are the verbs and conjunctions.

Q ◈ The why is the purpose. This sits outside the physical world and is more of a mental construct. Godel said that you can’t see the system from within the system. These are the needs and wants of society, etc. So we end with PARTS, PERFORMANCE and PURPOSE.

Inventions made with the Creativity Framework

Here are a three examples of Zen’s creations made by analysis (splitting things apart) and synthesis (putting things together).

R ◈ For the first, Zen wanted to make a Wearable Computing creation. That is easy to split up. Wearable and Computing! On the wearable side, we might have clothing and accessories. Clothing breaks down into socks, shirts, pants, etc. and accessories into watches, glasses, rings, necklaces, etc. On the computing side we have desktop and mobile and mobile has tablet and phone. These categories are one way (context) to break things apart. There are others. The Framework has practice sections for you to try doing this.

S ◈ In the end, wearing your tablet (or phone) as a “Mobidallion” with just a string and some electrical tape was chosen. He wore these devices to conferences, parties, festivals and people went crazy! They thought he had an electric shirt. Zen was wearing high definition when all other wearable computing creators were still in LED.

Mobidallion to express yourself!

T ◈ Here Humphrey Bogart has a play it again button. The Mona Lisa can finally smile. Some people mentioned that they would not want to wear their device around their neck. But… just use an old device! Below is a video of Zen wearing the device at the SuperCrawl Festival. This was the first time out and the camera (on the chest) is a little bumpy.

U ◈ Zen made an app called Hangy that had an invisible grid interface. The interface was upside down so that the user could read it when visible. See the rest of the videos in the playlist for instructions on how to make. Some asked if the app could show Twitter feeds. Well… it is your device, just go to Twitter. At one point in the video you see Zen dancing with people. At that point, he has the device camera pointing at the dancers so they see themselves on his chest.

V ◈ Next, Zen wanted to make a Mediated Reality app. Mediated can be broken down into adding things to reality (Augmented Reality) and removing things from reality (Diminished Reality). Zen’s Engineering School friend, Computer Steve (Famous Cyborg, Steve Mann), came up with Diminished Reality and does things like removing sparks during welding. Here is a diagram from a Zen sketchbook with an idea to role play (with Steve as Electrical Engineer) a production of Digital Glass in 2000.

W ◈ On the augmented side, Zen did not want the coding hardships of shape recognition — like identifying the plant you are looking at or a person’s name, etc. Instead he chose adding visual effects known as blend modes. In the sketch above, Zen broke down reality into all the Senses. For the Trippy app, he just chose video. He had already applied blend modes to recorded video with his app called Zen Mix with which he became the number one psychedelic dancer in the world for seven years according to Google (for dancing in the living room and applying cool blend modes). So instead he wanted to choose applying blend modes to live video!

X ◈ So Zen made Trippy the app that overlays effects on live video. He attached his tablet inside a shoebox with hook and eye fasteners like velcro. This was fastened to a bicycle helmet (we all have a couple). A five dollar lens from a bookstore was inserted. Zen inherited the book Garage Virtual Reality back in 1996. The book described how a VR station cost $20,000 and they will show you how to make VR Goggles for $2500. Zen has shown that they can be made for $5 and yet it took Google cardboard a few years later to make people believe it.

Y ◈ With Trippy you can kaleidoscopes friends, makes teachers look like Zombies and jog through rings of op art. Zen, used to making light shows, is now making light shows for where ever you are!

Z ◈ In the last example, Zen wanted to make a Mobile Game. Again, we break down that into mobile and game. On the mobile side, we may as well think of new aspects (parts) of mobile such as GPS and Tilt. That way we are likely to come up with something new. A couple things we can do with tilt is to keep something level or to match a waving pattern like Dance Dance Revolution but in the air — think Jedi practice!

AA ◈ On the game side, here is where Zen practices simplicity. He uses the basic property of position. Not absolute position which relate to GPS but rather relative position. IN and OUT. The vast majority of mobile games happen inside the device. Zen decided to make games that happen outside the device and yet use the device for management. He calls them:

mobile mediated games.

AB ◈ This concept allowed Zen to make a series of unique games that nobody else had made. The first was called Touchy which aired on CBC Television’s Dragon’s Den (similar in concept to Shark Tank). Touchy is the game where players press the together button to start a timer and then try and touch a target on the opponent’s device to take away their points. The follow-up, Tilty, players press the together button and jostle one another in the real world to try and make the opponent’s device tilt to take away points.


This has been a guide to Creating Content using the Creativity Framework. The framework has practice to analyze and synthesize. Please share it or these guides with family, friends, teachers and colleagues who might be interested in creativity.

The main guide is ◎ Your Guide to the Mechanics of Creativity. This is the third part with the first two parts being ◎ Your Guide to Context in Creativity and ◎ Your Guide to Flexibility in Creativity. The next and last part is ◎ Your Guide to Relevance in Creativity.

Along the way we have seen some creations by Inventor Dan Zen. Please see ◎ Your Guide to Inventor Dan Zen for more information and a tour through the Dan Zen Museum of interactive works.

Dan Zen is available for talks on Creativity. Please contact me (Dr Abstract) and he will put you in touch.

All the best,

Dr Abstract

Inventor, Founder of ZIM JavaScript Canvas Framework and Nodism, Professor of Interactive Media at Sheridan, Canadian New Media Awards Programmer and Educator

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