Anticipation in Creativity: A Generative Approach


Assistant Prof. Daniela Sirbu, Dipl.Eng EECS, BFA, MArch

Department of New Media, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada







The present paper is concerned with the problem of anticipation in creative artificial systems in visual arts. Possible homologies between natural and artificial structures and modes of organization are analyzed attempting to establish a framework for modelling anticipatory creative systems. Intuitive and conscious anticipatory behaviours involved in human creativity are analyzed in order to synthesize behaviour patterns and information processing mechanisms that are transferable to adaptive artificial systems. This transfer aims at developing systems with emergent self-organizing behaviour capable to generate new products with the potential to be recognized as original and valuable in the visual arts domain.

1. Introduction

The focus of the present paper is placed on aspects regarding anticipation and creativity in visual arts. First, the concept of anticipation is analyzed with reference to novelty and usefulness as main concepts related to creativity. The concept of anticipation is then approached with reference to specific aspects of creativity in visual arts. The creative process in visual arts is placed in evolutionary perspective based on observations derived from the analysis of inter-relationships between creativity and anticipation. Finally, the research approach to anticipation in the visual arts creative process is placed in the GA (genetic algorithms) framework based on a comparative analysis with previous computational models of creativity developed in evolutionary perspective.

2. Anticipation and Creativity

Most researchers agree that a process is creative if the resulting product is novel and useful [22], [5], [19]. In order to understand relationships between anticipation and creativity, it is interesting to analyze how anticipation is related to the notions of novelty and appropriateness.


2.1. Anticipation and Novelty

In accordance with Berlyne [3], [4], some of the most important concepts related to novelty are surprise, incongruity, uncertainty, conflict, and complexity. These concepts are more or less connected to anticipation as follows: surprise is perceived in relation to anticipated outcomes; incongruity occurs when expectations induced by a stimulus are not fulfilled within the current experience; uncertainty results when anticipated outcomes have low occurrence probability due to uncommon stimuli or due to stimuli that allow multiple outcomes with similar degrees of probability; conflict is related to stimuli activating multiple responses, which come in competition for dominance; complexity is related to novel stimuli in the sense that the higher degree of novelty is perceived in a stimulus, the more complex the stimulus is perceived to be.

Anticipation is thus involved in most aspects of novelty and it is indirectly involved in the complexity concept. Complexity is important in the sense that it seems to establish a relation of inverse proportionality between anticipation and novelty as higher complexity is perceived in the most novel products. The product novelty is higher if the creative outcome is significantly different from expectations based on the system’s embedded knowledge. However, research [4] shows that this inverse proportionality is mediated during evaluation phases of the creative process. A novel product is more likely to survive the evaluation of appropriateness if it is not radically different from known structures [4].


2. 2. Anticipation and Appropriateness

Appropriateness of outcomes from creative processes can be judged based on knowledge embedded in the existing system. This relates to the structure and functions of the system. If a novel product is useful, it is supposed to improve the way the system works and thus expand its functionality.  The novel product may fit in the existing structure by expanding it, or it may require more radical changes in the system’s structure to make possible the implementation of the new improved functionality. Envisioning new functionality and changes implied by it is a conscious process based on existing knowledge and previous experiences. Anticipation is thus inherent in conscious evaluation of appropriateness associated with novel products.


2. 3. Anticipation and Creativity in Visual Arts

In accordance with David Huron’s theory [13], anticipation is directly involved in the creation and perception of art related experiences. Five physiological response sub-systems are identified as mechanisms triggering anticipation-induced emotions: imagination, tension, prediction, reaction, and appraisal. The five sub-systems are clearly related to time and are classified by Huron as pre-outcome (imagination and tension) and post-outcome (prediction, reaction, and appraisal) responses. Huron provides an in-depth analysis of anticipation as a structuring device in the creation and perception of music. The analysis of anticipation in creativity with application to music is introduced as a case study, however, the theory of anticipation is supposed to provide a larger theoretical framework with application to creativity in general.  I briefly analyze how the anticipation applies to the creative process and perception in visual arts.

The first problem to address is how creativity and perception in visual arts are linked to anticipation as a time related concept. If we consider visual art forms traditionally perceived as being static, it is important to point out that their static character is mostly related to their immobility and not so much to temporal aspects.

A painting or a drawing, although immobile, cannot be perceived at once. Instead, attention shifts in a sequential manner from one place to another along the surface. It was observed [1] that the compositional order is contained in space while the sequential analysis in time represents the means by which the visual artwork is perceived. We understand the compositional value of a certain detail we are focusing on as we simultaneously relate it to the entire surface of the painting or drawing. The order in the temporal progression is not the important factor in perceiving the painting or drawing. The coexistence or, in temporal terms, the aspect of simultaneity [1] between the detail viewed at a given time and the overall hierarchical structure represents the important aspect in perceiving the artwork. This is different from the musical composition where composition is embedded in the temporal order.

When multiple media are involved combining visuals with sound, music, and motion, the visual perception of the artwork becomes more closely related with the sequential temporal mode of development specific to music. The theory of anticipation as advanced by Huron may be easily expanded to apply to these forms of art. An interesting aspect to analyze is how anticipation is involved in non-sequential forms or art when all elements incorporated in the artwork coexist all at once like in painting and drawing.

I approach this problem looking at the functions of art. First of all, art represents a mode of communication with emotional implications. Communication is possible if shared knowledge in the form of experiences, patterns, structures, etc. exist between the artist and the community he is addressing. The artist works with visual elements that carry meaning and acquire new meaning in the compositional order created by the artist. Visual elements manipulated by the artist may not always have meaning in themselves. However, their arrangement in compositional order may embed meaning through the new visual structure created by the artist. Based on these simple observations, we assume that most of the creative process is entwined with anticipation. The artist expects that his manipulation of visual elements in new compositional structures will induce certain emotional responses from the viewer.

In anticipating viewer’s responses, the artist relies both on instinctive reactions from the visual perception system and on conscious reactions based on references to shared knowledge.     

5.1             3. Creativity in Evolutionary Perspective

An increasingly growing body of research [13], [7], [16], [18] describes anticipation as a “wired-in” mechanism indispensable for everyday and long term adaptation and survival of biological organisms. In accordance with some researchers [13], expectation can be understood as a sense of future, adding a sixth sense to the traditionally recognized five senses of sight, taste, touch, smell. Huron shows that while we are inclined to believe that senses provide us with true information about the surrounding world, their main role is to increase our survival chances. Emotions triggered by anticipation do not respond to the true nature of the environmental stimuli. Their role is to produce adaptive behavioural changes. Huron shows that, in this respect, emotions are never neutral, but always have a positive or negative impact on the present state of the mind and body depending on what is expected. The brain interprets emotional responses for adaptive purposes and the positive or negative character of emotions spurred by anticipation is the result of how natural selection determined the evolution of the brain.

Relationships between creativity in visual arts and anticipation as previously analyzed provide the motivation for analyzing creativity in evolutionary perspective. Anticipation is largely involved in everyday life adaptive behaviour. The question raised is how creativity, and in particular creativity in visual arts, relate to adaptive survival mechanisms.

This question could be answered by relating creativity to the tendency of expansion inherent to all biological systems and, hence, to the human biological and social systems. Both concepts of novelty and usefulness that define creativity can be directly linked to the concept of expansion.

Natural and biological systems are characterized by motion and change starting with their organization at molecular level, and cellular level respectively, up to the most complex systems. A tendency to growth or contraction is most probable as static systems in perfect balance and having no exchange with the surrounding environment are virtually non-existent. Contraction is a threat, while growth is a positive tendency in terms of survival chances for given species. Novel products which are useful to a given social group will certainly facilitate the tendency to expansion increasing the survival probability. In this perspective, creativity appears as an adaptive mechanism.

Creativity in visual arts is related to the sense of sight. The largest amount of information the human being acquires from the surrounding environment is of visual nature. Learning new ways to combine and interpret visual information could be largely related to the ability to fit better in a given environment and thus it is worth analyzing creativity in an evolutionary perspective.   

4. Genetic Approach to Artificial Anticipation and Creativity

Once anticipation and visual creativity have been linked in evolutionary perspective, it is interesting to analyze how GA could provide a framework for modelling anticipatory creative behaviour in visual arts.

A general theoretical GA framework exists [2], [7], [12], [8],  and within this framework numerous examples of creative evolutionary systems have been developed [19], [21], [23]. As the human creative process is still largely unknown, the computational modelling of creativity is still open to investigation.

The present research explores anticipatory aspects that creative processes seem to incorporate in order to transfer such behaviour in artificial creative systems that emulate anticipatory attributes in the system.

Different researchers have previously experimented from evolutionary perspective with various aspects involved in creative behaviours. Creativity as open-ended evolution has been previously analyzed by Taylor [23]. Soddu [21] describes generative design as a form of evolutionary process producing sequences of solutions that are different from each other, but having recognizable features to define them as part of a given design species. Starting from curiosity as a motivational factor in creative behaviour, Saunders [19] developed a model of curiosity in design capable to produce genetic artworks and evaluate the novelty of their output. We briefly try to analyze how Soddu and Saunders are different in their approach to creativity.

The main aspect in Soddu’s approach is that evolution is creative in the sense that it generates new entities from existing ones in a process that builds variety within the unity of a species gradually leading to changes in the species itself. As a result, a design idea once encoded can provide the artificial DNA from where new entities can be developed in the same way in which in natural systems evolution produces new individuals that express variety within the framework of an existing species.  This is different from Saunders’ approach, which is rooted in the analysis of human creative process at individual and social level. GA provide the computational framework for modelling curiosity in the creative process. It is interesting to observe that both approaches are based on homologies between biological and artificial structures. Soddu is inspired by the natural evolution process itself, while Saunders looks at the human creative process and attempts to build a model of this process using the GA computational framework.

The present research aims to combine the two approaches. It builds from the adaptive character of anticipatory behaviour, which has been analyzed above, and attempts to exploit evolutionary abilities inherent to natural systems to produce novel and useful new behaviours in a computational system that models human creativity in visual arts.

5. Conclusions

This paper offers a brief study of relationships between anticipation and creativity in visual arts. The concept of anticipation is approached in relation to adaptive survival mechanisms and analyzes how this brings creativity in evolutionary perspective. The proposed approach is then situated in the context of previous evolutionary approaches to modelling the creative process and specific directions of research are outlined for modelling anticipatory creative systems in visual arts.

6. References


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