Prof. Carrie Yodanis’ new class explores how social forces impact creativity



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A creativity class calls for some creativity in teaching and learning. UBC Sociology Professor Carrie Yodanis hopes her new course, SOCI 270 – The Sociology of Creativity, will be different from others that students have taken.

Creativity is impossible without taking risks. In this interactive class, students will get the chance to do just that by debating existing ideas, developing original ideas, and practicing being creative. SOCI 270 – Sociology of Creativity will be offered in Winter Term 2.

We spoke to Dr. Carrie Yodanis about her new course.


What will you be covering in this class?

We will cover a bunch of topics that sociologists have considered related to creativity like why it can be hard to be creative; the myth of the lone genius and how we need other people in order to be creative ourselves; the necessity of diversity in the creative process; and inequality in whose creative ideas get recognized.

What do you hope people take away from this class?

UBC, like many workplaces today, highlights the need to “embrace creativity and risk-taking across all activities.” Yet, in our learning and work, we often feel the need to follow the narrow paths that we are told lead to success. These, however, aren’t always the most innovative, impactful, or even successful, ways to go. In this class, we will critically explore these ideas and think about new ways to approach learning and work.

What motivated you to develop this course? What was the process like?

I’ve long had the idea for this course. It originally came out of my work that focused on how difficult it can be to be creative in our everyday lives, even with small acts like deciding what to wear. My new focus on the sociology of art has furthered this interest. To be honest, it was kind of funny developing a course on creativity within the bureaucratic constraints and conventions of a large institution – but there was a lot of support for this new course!

“in our learning and work, we often feel the need to follow the narrow paths that we are told lead to success. These, however, aren’t always the most innovative, impactful, or even successful, ways to go. In this class, we will critically explore these ideas and think about new ways to approach learning and work.”
UBC Sociology

Who will you be studying in this course? Which reading(s) on this subject would you recommend?

We will discuss the work of Howard Becker (“Creativity Is Not a Scarce Commodity”), Aldon Morris (“The Scholar Denied”), Kyung Hee Kim (“The Creativity Crisis”), and Sarah Thornton (“33 Artists in 3 Acts”), among many others. But there are tons of great books on the social aspects of creativity available to everyone at the VPL. Just two great ones are Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic – for anyone who feels anxious about doing something new and different (which is nearly everyone!) – and David Epstein’s Range – for those who have a hard time staying on a focused and narrow path. My book, Getting Dressed: Conformity and Imitation in Clothing and Everyday Life, considers a lot of topics we will cover in the class but focused on something we all do every day – get dressed. The Spanish edition just came out for anyone who would prefer that!

How would you describe your teaching style?

My courses are quite different than many. There are no lectures, no exams. Instead, everyone is in class actively engaged in sharing, discussing, and debating the information learned from the readings. We then work together to apply and expand on what we learned in class through the course assignments, in this case critically examining real world examples of creativity.