Relevance in Creativity

Welcome readers from ◎ Your Guide to the Mechanics of Creativity

Creating with Combinations (Composition)

That was quite the creative cyclone in ◎ Your Guide to Content in Creativity! We created by:

  1. breaking an object into its parts (analysis)
  2. generalizing the parts (classification)
  3. finding alternatives to the parts
  4. bringing parts together (synthesis)

In the above diagram, we have two different objects and we will demonstrate creativity by combining them in different ways. Further on in this guide we will explore the concept of RELEVANCE but let’s look at combining first.

A ◈ We start with looking at combinations in composition (physical). One thing to note is that in this case, the two objects have no direct parts in common. If we want, we can combine the two objects completely to get a “new” idea but in the patent world, (patents describe and claim an invention) this is called an aggregate and is most likely not patentable. A famous example is an eraser on the end of a pencil. They both keep doing the same thing and there is no synergy or mix resulting in something new. The idea in the diagram is to combine a cane and a spring and get a pogo cane!

B ◈ You can take a part from one object and SUPERIMPOSE it on the other object. Artist use superimposition as a creative technique. Hopefully you have seen the previous creativity guides and if not then please go back and start with ◎ Your Guide to the Mechanics of Creativity. If you have then you will recall that super is above — so in this case, that is circle A. We impose H on A. An example is taking the fiber husk of corn and adding it to glue to get an organic fiberglass-like mix.

C ◈ The last option is to take parts from each and join them.

But, not all combinations will be inventive

What makes a good invention? What is creative? What we look for is RELEVANCE. There needs to be a relationship that works — that brings synergy. This is usually thought of as a qualitative entity. Something that people can decide but we do not know how.

D ◈ The Framework at this point shows a way to determine relevance in a qualitative manner. Something that could be calculated. Let’s say that a part has certain parts to it. For parts, we can almost imagine a dictionary definition broken down into words. Then these words get dictionary definitions and we break them down into words, and so on. A measure of relevance would be how many words are in common, perhaps at what level.

E ◈ For example, if we combine G and D. How relevant are these two parts compared to part C and F? Perhaps part G has a part L and part D has part L. Therefore, G and D are related by L. Part D also has part K. Below we see that part G also has part M which has K and N parts. Oh! Part D also has K. So now there is more relationship.

F ◈ As we continue to expand the definitions we potentially increase relevance. Questions to explore would be do the levels matter? How much do they matter? What if certain parts are more important in a definition than others? Will that come out as their definitions are computed? How do we watch for negative relevance, like opposites? Something like this must be going through our head as we judge relationships.

G ◈ What we are leading to above is MEANING. This type of quantitative analysis is most likely at the

heart of Artificial Intelligence.

Zen came to these conclusions through hundreds of sketchbook pages of working with hierarchy. Here are a few examples with bits fitting into various places in the Creativity guides:

Creating with Combinations (Classification)

H ◈ Imagine that we have three objects. The first has parts A,B,C. The second has parts C,A,D. The third has parts E, C, A. To create with classification we can use ABSTRACTION. We find the common parts and abstract them to their own class. Here that would be a class A, C.

F ◈ Now we dangle the sub classes down below. They are what is left: B, D and E which inherit A and C from the super class. The invention could be recognizing the super class with A, C. This is more rare, but it is patentable.

Creativity Exercise

Wrapping up the Creativity Framework, we are given an exercise. Think of any word. Have a friend think of another word without knowing yours. Then take the two words and create something based on combination.

  1. Analyze the words
  2. Synthesize based on the different types of combinations
  3. Look for relevance (whatever gives you an Aha!)

Back in 1995, Zen made the Tower of Babel app. Thousands of people whispered combinations of words that they thought had never been said before into the tower. For every set of words they submitted they got to vote on the other words — up or down. The best phrases rose to the top.

Zen whispered the words, SASQUATCH SEEDS into the tower and then wondered what they could mean. Based on his thinking he created the mystery called Utopia. Over 4000 people lined up to play Utopia and it

predated the largest media phenomena of the 2000's

by several years. What is going on in Utopia? Do you know the solution?

Well, you can go to the link above and try and solve or here is the spoiler! The breakdown (analysis) of Sasquatch was Monster and Tourist Attraction as people flock to see the things like Locke Ness Monsters, etc. The breakdown of Seeds was Birth and Food. Zen joined together Birth and Tourist Attraction and came up with a purposeful tourist attraction. Basically, the people in the mystery have been hypnotized into thinking they are in Utopia. And those 4000 people lining up are watching them through the scopes. Zen did not have the term for it… but this was a Reality TV Show.


It takes Zen four hours to present this framework properly. He has presented it over 100 times in a three hour period. He usually skips through the relevance part as it gets a bit in depth. Once again, here are the Guides.

We hope that you have had a good study of each one. Please let others know an we look forward to any thoughts you might have. You can continue to explore the world of Dan Zen and creativity with the following articles:

Dan Zen teaches Interactive Media at Sheridan College in Oakville Canada which seems suitable as the Sheridan motto is “Get Creative”. He lives in Dundas Ontario surrounded by old hippies and waterfalls. Please contact me (Dr Abstract) and I can put you in touch to answer questions or give a talk.

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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