Your Guide to

Flexibility in Creativity

Welcome readers from ◎ Your Guide to the Mechanics of Creativity

This guide is one of five parts. Please start with ◎ Your Guide to the Mechanics of Creativity and then ◎ Your Guide to Context in Creativity. After reading below, follow with ◎ Your Guide to Content in Creativity and ◎ Your Guide to Relevance in Creativity.

Meaning and Two Types of Hierarchies

Easy as pie! In the last parts of the Guide, we introduced the terms and structures used in the Dan Zen Creativity Framework. The structure of a hierarchy is pretty straight forward. Context is above a node and content is below a node. The nodes are the same as nested boxes.

The tricky part comes when we try and apply meaning in a hierarchy. Zen worked for years with countless sketches of hierarchies before he realized that he was making two different types of hierarchies. And where there are two types, there is also a third — a mix of the two types!

Let’s have a look!

A ◈ Composition is reality. The collection of physical objects. The parts of things. Things are made up of this and that and these and those.

Composition is ands.

The shelf has books and vases. Books have covers and pages. Pages have numbers, titles and paragraphs.

B ◈ Classification is conceptual. We have made it up in our minds to recognize similarities. It is the type of something. It is a house or a car or a person or a dog or a planet.

Classification is ors.

The publication is a book or a magazine. The types of books are romance, sports or sci-fi. You play hockey or soccer or tennis.

C ◈ This can be tricky. We definitely do not say that books have a cover or pages. That pages have numbers or titles or paragraphs. But… we might say that the types of sports are hockey and soccer and tennis. We can use ands there because we are talking about the composition of class of sports.

D ◈ Above at right is a mix of classification and composition. Can you match them? It is interesting that in the world of code, we are constantly composing with classes that are themselves made up of composition. So this mix is quite common. If you think you might want to try coding please see ◎ Your Guide to Coding Creativity on the Canvas


Zen gets quite passionate showing the flexibility of hierarchy. Hopefully, by the end of this section, you will too!

E ◈ From a composition standpoint, of everything there is a house and the house has a bedroom and a workshop. Oh… there is Dan Zen in bedroom. This is composition. Dan is in the bedroom in the house in Dundas in Hamilton in Ontario in Canada in North America in the Earth in the Solar System in the Milky Way in the Virgo cluster in the Laniakea SuperCluter in the Universe.

F ◈ But compositional hierarchy is flexible. Dan does not have to stay in the bedroom. Look — with time, Dan has moved to the workshop! And along with Dan went his head with its eyes, ears, brain, etc. hopefully!

G ◈ From a classification standpoint, Dan identifies as a male. You can also find Dan categorized under inventors — and inventors who are male. And inventors who are male who live in Hamilton.

H ◈ As a matter of fact, you can take any property of Dan and add it up above as a category. Inventors that are male in Hamilton with a brown shirt… Eventually, you would take all of the content of Dan and move it up to context. There would be nothing left of Dan. He would be completely described but all his essence would be gone. In describing this, Zen is usually lying in a little ball on the floor.

I ◈ I like the other way better. We put each property back in one at a time rising up the hierarchy until all the properties are back in and it is just Dan as a direct descendant of Node Zero. He is complete and at one with the universe. Sound familiar? Clearly demonstrated without a doubt. So maybe now we can move on to other things — like soon to get creating!

At one with Node Zero.

J ◈ As you can see, classification hierarchies are quite flexible too. It is a matter of context. Yes, we have classification, but things can be classified in many ways. As a matter of fact, Einstein told us that in is all relative. Anything can be the center of the universe. And classified as the distance from Dan ;-).

K ◈ Zen believes that a thought is a physical pathway through the brain perhaps time spread but still… this thought could be the center of the universe. Fun!

L ◈ Above is a writing example. Of everything to write about… we could write about Dan or RoseAnne (Zen’s wife). We choose Dan and he is? Riding or Painting or Laughing? And he is riding a yellow or green or brown horse… no it is yellow and it is a bike or a scooter or a craft. With these permutations and combinations we can see:

The future has no ands.

The past has no ors.

Dan Zen — Philosophy of Nodism

Context Conclusion

This is the end of the guide for CONTEXT — the terms and structures we will use to create with in the last two parts of the guide. We conclude with an exercise.

M ◈ Zen wanted to make a puzzle that would help people exercise their skill with hierarchy. So, look out Sudoku and Crosswords! Hahaha. Zen actually maintains that:

Coding is the world’s best puzzle.

In part because there is a useful outcome — not just for the person doing the puzzle but for people of the world. While this is a basic coding exercise, Zen meant the coding found in ◎ Your Guide to Coding Creativity on the Canvas.

N ◈ Draw any hierarchy — we will use the tree version. Now go around the left-hand side and letter the end nodes.

O ◈ Now from the middle go out and apply delimiters for each branching level. We will use ~ then ^ then + then * but you could use 0,1,2,3.

P ◈ Now read around from the left to get the code for the tree. I will do it now without looking at the answer:

A * B + C ^ D + E ~ F ^ G + H

Q ◈ With the code *+^+~^+ we can remake this tree. You can get out a piece of paper and pencil and try the next tree if you would like.

R ◈ You can also go the other way where you draw a tree from code. Zen has done this hundreds of times with people and the tree is always the same. He did consider analyzing a real tree. But with a quick calculation realized there might be a half million leaves so stopped.

In this part of the guide we saw the two types of hierarchy: composition (ands) and classification (ors). We also saw how flexible hierarchies can be in both cases. It is a matter of context and that any property can be brought out from the content and used as context.

In the next two guides we see how to use the Creativity Framework to create!

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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