Imagination as ideas, empathy and yearning

In June I’ve been asked to do a talk about ‘imagination’ at the University of Winchester, UK. Attentive viewers may notice that I tend to talk about creativity and don’t usually really talk about imagination. But you might think that they are probably more-or-less the same thing.

Or you might think that ‘creativity’ is a better focus because it probably has more of a focus on actually doing things, rather than just dreaming.

I may also have thought those things.

But having considered it a bit – in order to write the blurb for my talk – I see that ‘imagination’ brings in a nice thoughtful and emotional dimension that ‘creativity’ doesn’t necessarily evoke.

Here’s the blurb that I ended up writing for the talk. The conference overall, by the way, is about learning, so there’s that angle too. Here’s what I wrote:

Imagination is the warm beating heart of everything that is good about learning and engagement and community. Imagination can be about little insights that brighten a seminar. It is also the key ingredient in overcoming vast global challenges such as climate change – along with passion and determination, as is often the case. Crucially, imagination is also about empathy, about trying to imagine a moment in someone else’s shoes. Drawing on many years of research around creativity, self-expression and identity, David Gauntlett will talk about the learning power that can be unlocked through the combinations of ideas and emotional connections that are central to imagination.

I guess I always thought that creativity is made up of both imagination and doing things, and so is better than imagination alone. And that makes sense.

But if imagination is about thinking about what life is like for others, and empathy, and thinking about what other people might want and how to help them to feel supported and comfortable and engaged . . . then imagination is absolutely key.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *