Dear COR community,
You are invited to a Colloquium by Prof. Noah Askin (INSEAD)
“THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF CREATIVITY, EVIDENCE FROM POPULAR MUSIC, 1955-2000”
Friday, December 8
Porter Colloquium Room SB1-5200
Creativity is central to cultural production, but what makes certain producers more likely to innovate than others? More specifically, what are the different sources of social influence that drive variation in creative output, and through what mechanisms do these sources operate? To answer these questions, we leverage original data on over 25,000 musical artists and 600,000 songs recorded and released between 1955 and 2000, using fine-grained musical features to construct a continuous measure of creative output (i.e., song novelty). We then test whether artists draw creative inspiration through the recombination of diverse ideas, or are instead stimulated by the creativity of their musical neighbors. We find that both of these mechanisms explain an artist’s propensity to write and release novel songs, but in systematically different ways: creative artists tend to recombine material from diverse genres that they encounter through their collaboration networks, while they draw inspiration from—and are granted legitimacy by—other creative artists with shared genre, record label, and/or geographic affiliations. This pattern holds even after controlling for an individual or group’s historical propensity to produce novel songs. These findings suggest that the likelihood of generating new ideas is influenced not only by direct interaction and collaboration with others, but also through indirect exposure via shared cultural, organizational, and geographic contexts. Understanding when and how creative potential travels across these “spheres of influence” sheds new light on the production of novelty in music and the social foundations of creativity more generally.
Noah Askin is Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, France. His research examines the creation and performance of cultural products and impact of network- and rankings-based status on organizations. His recent article in the American Sociological Review, “What Makes Popular Music Popular?”, was covered by Forbes, Business Insider, Quartz.com, The Times of London, M Magazine, and the New York Post, among others.