Lydia Chilton: 2016 HCI + Design Workshop


Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Location: McCaw Hall, Arrillaga Alumni Center

"Decomposing Creativity: The Case of Writing Humor"



It is often assumed that creativity is the result of genius, like that of Mozart or Einstein; there are no steps, creative solutions appear like magic. However, this is a myth. By analyzing examples, we can isolate the steps and see patterns in experts? creative works. While it is true that there is no formula for creativity, there is a process. That process is adaptive. It is sensitive to the conditions of a novel problem.

Creativity is important in almost every domain of our lives, but it is difficult to identify a domain where it can be isolated from other problems, repeatedly tested, studied, and evaluated. The first strategic creative process we've chosen to decompose is generating humor. Humor is an ideal test domain for creativity. Writing humor is novel and difficult yet it is short and can be evaluated in comparison to experts. It also has the magical quality of emotionally impacting the listener. Our process for generating creative artifacts involves building on the work of others, putting together old pieces in new ways, organizing old pieces into building blocks for future use, searching alternatives, and operating under a constraint that needs to be met. The process we developed for decomposing humor will generalize to more domains such as generating persuasive argumentation and economic research and analysis.


Lydia Chilton is a post-doctoral researcher in Human-Computer Interaction at Stanford University. Her foundational work in crowd algorithms began as an undergraduate and MEng student at MIT, and her work on decomposing creativity during her PhD at The University of Washington and as a post-doc at Stanford. She was awarded a Facebook Fellowship and a Brown Institute Grant to further her work on crowdsourcing open-ended, creative artifacts.