Creativity and the Cybernetics of Self: Drama, Embodied Creation and Feedback Processes

  • Susan DavisEmail author
Part of the Creativity Theory and Action in Education book series (CTAE, volume 2)


What are the particular strengths and affordances for realising and cultivating creativity through drama and how do creativity processes work? This chapter investigates the creative system, feedback and interactions from a drama project involving young people in a performance-making program. The understandings that informed the work and analysis drew from systems theories of creativity as well as cybernetics. The understandings drawn from cybernetics included the importance of feedback processes, and how individually and collectively these might be understood as operating as what Bateson termed a ‘cybernetics of self.’ An examination of key vignettes from a dramatic playbuilding process highlights the importance of both flexibilities and constraints, and feedback interactions, including those that are individual and collective, fast and slow. The importance of immediate and embodied feedback as well as feedback that is more individual and reflective is characteristic of and integral to the development of dramatic work.


Drama Play-making Creative systems Cybernetics Feedback Fast and slow thinking 


  1. Bateson, G. (1971). The cybernetics of “self”: A theory of alcoholism. In Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology (pp. 309–337). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beghetto, R. A. (2016). Creativity and conformity: A paradoxical relationship. In J. A. Plucker (Ed.), Creativity and innovation: Current understandings and debates. Waco: Prufrock.Google Scholar
  3. Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2011). Making things hard on yourself, but in a good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning. In M. A. Gernsbacher, R. W. Pew, L. M. Hough, & J. R. Pomerantz (Eds.), Psychology and the real world: Essays illustrating fundamental contributions to society (pp. 56–64). New York: Worth Publishers.Google Scholar
  4. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice, 5(1), 7–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (2001). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Retrieved from
  6. Carless, D. (2009). Trust, distrust and their impact on assessment reform. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(1), 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chappuis, S., & Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Classroom assessment for learning. Educational Leadership, 60(1), 40–44.Google Scholar
  8. Craft, A. (2005). Creativity in schools: Tensions and dilemmas. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Craft, A., Jeffrey, B., & Leibling, M. (2001). Creativity in education. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  10. Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1999). Implications of a systems perspective for the study of creativity. In R. J. Sternberg & T. L. Lubart (Eds.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 313–335). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Davis, S. (2010). Creativity in drama: Explanations and explorations. NJ (Drama Australia Journal), 33(2), 31–44.Google Scholar
  12. Davis, S. (2012). Epiphany! A contemporary vaudevillian fairytale. TEXT Journal Special Issue: Creative Writing as Research II, 15. Retrieved from
  13. Dowden, T., Pittaway, S., Yost, H., & McCarthy, R. (2011). Students’ perceptions of written feedback in teacher education: Ideally feedback is a continuing two-way communication that encourages progress. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(3), 349–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Drimmer, F. (1973/1985). Very special people. New York: Amjon Publishers.Google Scholar
  15. Esslin, M. (1987). The field of drama. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  16. Engeström, Y., & Sannino, A. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: Foundations, findings and future challenges. Educational Research Review, 5, 1–24. Scholar
  17. Feldman, D. H., Csíkszentmihályi, M., & Gardner, H. (1994). Changing the world: A framework for the study of creativity. Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  18. Gardner, H. (1993). Creating minds: An anatomy of creativity. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  19. Gallagher, K. (2007). Conceptions of creativity in drama education. In L. Bresler (Ed.), International handbook of research in arts education (pp. 1229–1240). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Glăveanu, V., Lubart, T., Bonnardel, N., Botella, M., de Biaisi, P.-M., Desainte-Catherine, M., Georgsdottir, A., Guillou, K., Kurtag, G., Mouchiroud, C., Storme, M., Wojtczuk, A., Zenasni, F. (2013). Creativity as action: Findings from five creative domains. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 176.
  21. Harris, A. (2016). Creativity and education. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hattie, J. T., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hattie, J. A. C., Biggs, J., & Purdie, N. (1996). Effects of learning skills interventions on student learning: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 66(2), 99–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jefferson, M., & Anderson, J. (2017). Transforming schools: Creativity, critical reflection, communication, collaboration. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  25. Johnstone, K. (1979). Impro: Improvisation and the theatre. London: Methuen Publishing.Google Scholar
  26. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.Google Scholar
  27. Kershaw, B. (2007). Theatre ecology: Environments and performance events. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  28. May, R. (1975). The courage to create. New York: Bantam.Google Scholar
  29. McDonald, J., Mohr, N., Dichter, A., & McDonald, E. (2003). The power of protocols: An Educator's guide to better practice (The series on school reform). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  30. McLean, J. (1996). An aesthetic framework in drama: Issues and implications. Brisbane: Drama Australia.Google Scholar
  31. McWilliam, E. (2009). Teaching for creativity: From sage to guide to meddler. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 29(3), 281–293. Scholar
  32. O’Toole, J. (1992). The process of drama: Negotiating art and meaning. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Poulos, A., & Mahony, M. J. (2008). Effectiveness of feedback: The students’ perspective. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(2), 143–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: Learning to be creative (Rev. ed.). Oxford: Capstone Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  35. Rowe, A. D., & Wood, L. N. (2008). Student perceptions and preferences for feedback. Asian Social Science, 4(3), 79–90.Google Scholar
  36. Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Explaining creativity: The science of human innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Sawyer, K. (2013). Zig zag: The surprising path to greater creativity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  38. Spolin, V. (1983). Improvisation for the theatre (3rd ed.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Stobart, G. (2006). The validity of formative assessment. In J. Gardner (Ed.), Assessment and learning (pp. 133–146). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  40. Thalberg, I., & Sharock, H. (producers). Browning, T. (Director). (1932). Freaks [Motion picture]. USA: Warner Brothers.Google Scholar
  41. Vygotsky, L. S. (1930/2004). Imagination and creativity in childhood. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 42(1), 7–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Weiner, N. (1948/1965). Cybernetics, or control and communication in the animal and the machine. London: Longman.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education & the ArtsCentral Queensland UniversityNoosavilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations