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Assessment is the process of evaluation or estimation of value of the creative act or the creative product. It is an explicit or suggested element in many definitions of creativity. A few reservation should be made about this concept.

Who decides what is original and useful and who can tell creative phenomena from non-creative ones? Three typical agents of assessment and corresponding procedures may be distinguished: 1) the creator himself who evaluates his work by his own internal standards; 2) the audience that accepts the creative work and popularity (often expressed in terms of attention or in money equivalent); 3) the experts (gatekeepers, field) who "have the right to add memes to a domain" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999: 324) and thus define the author's reputation. Historically, all three types have been used, although the predominance of a particular type varied depending on the period or social context.

Creativity research tends to focus on expert assessment. Usefulness presupposes an external evaluation, hence the social nature of creativity. This factor has been recently emphasized in the framework of the system approach, which regards creativity as a process at the intersection of individual, social and cultural factors (Amabile, 1983; 1996; Hennessey and Amabile, 1999; Csikszentmihalyi, 1988, 1996, 1999; Woodman and Schoenfield, 1989).

The partisans of this approach tend to regard creativity as a product of social consensus, rather than a result of personal differences. As Czikszentmihalyi (1996: 29) put it,

[W]e don't need to assume that the creative person is necessarily different from anyone else. In other words, a personal trait of "creativity" is not what determines whether a person will be creative. What counts is whether the novelty he or she produces is accepted for inclusion in the domain. This may be result of chance, perseverance, or being at the right place at the right time. Because creativity is jointly constituted by the interaction among domain, field, and person, the trait of personal creativity may help generate the novelty that will change a domain, but it is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for it.

However, the emphasis on the social aspect of creativity, narrowly understood as the evaluation by the field (of experts), logically leads Czikdzentmihaly to a rather absurd conclusion (ibid.: 30):

According to the system model, it makes perfect sense to say that Raphael was creative in the sixteenth and in the ninetieth centuries but not in between or afterwards. Raphael is creative when the community is moved by his work, and discovers new possibilities in his paintings. But when his paintings seem mannered and routine to those who know art, Raphael can only be called a great draftsman, a subtle colorist - perhaps even a personally creative individual - but not creative with a capital C.

He maintains that "creativity can be constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed several times over the course of history" (ibid.). Although this is generally true, the particular interpretation of the causes ascribing the leading role to the experts is biased. It seems a projection of the ideology of elitist managerialism and technocracy; a historically transient phenomenon characteristic for late capitalism as described by Roszak (1969: 6-7):

In the technocracy, nothing is any longer small or simple or ready apparent to the non-technical man. Instead, the scale and intricacy of all human activities - political, economic, cultural - transcends the competence of the amateurish citizen and inexorably demands attention of specially trained experts. <...> The technocracy is ... the regime of experts - or those who can employ the experts.

Although the experts play a significant role in the social processes of creativity, they are not the only agents of assessment. Creators and creative audiences also have their means to evaluate creativity. Their assessment can significantly diverge from that of the experts. Moreover, the field itself is not a united but a highly diversified entity and often lacks unanimity in assessing the value of a creative work.

Assessment. Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny., 2007.
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