I make, therefore I am: Agency, action, affordance, and the path to creative identity

Culpepper, M. 2018. I make, therefore I am: Agency, action, affordance, and the path to creative identity. PhD thesis University of Westminster Communication and Media Research Institute

TitleI make, therefore I am: Agency, action, affordance, and the path to creative identity
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsCulpepper, M.

This thesis explores how everyday makers construct creative identities. The literature review charts creativity research from psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Transdisciplinary theories of creativity and identity are discussed, and the emerging theory of circuits of creative affordance is found to be a useful means for considering creative identities. Three research questions are developed: How do the internal and external affordances to creativity influence an individual maker’s evolution toward seeing him or herself as a creative actor? How do people identify and perceive these affordances? How does assuming a creative identity change a person’s life? Participants in the purposive sample (n = 42) were recruited from adult everyday makers in the UK and US who answered yes when asked if they felt creative working in their media. The quantitative segment of the parallel sequential mixed-methods research design consisted of an online creative identity questionnaire. The qualitative segment was comprised of one-on-one ethnographic interviews. The project also introduced craft elicitation, a method in which participants prepare for interviews by making something in the medium that they felt creative in, and thinking about when they first felt that way. Study findings indicate that participants are creative people who recognize affordances in their everyday making. A new Affordances-in-Action model proposes they burnish their identities in psychological, social, and cultural contexts by confronting affordances when they make things, which affects their sense of creative identity and produces the agency that drives further experiences in action. It is concluded that, when considered alongside agency and action, creative affordance theory offers a way to understand how everyday makers create identities.


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