[Viewpoint] ‘Avatar,’ iPad help define creativity

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[Viewpoint] ‘Avatar,’ iPad help define creativity

In the 21st century, creativity decides the fate of a nation, a company and an individual. But what is creativity?

According to the dictionary, it is the power or ability to create something new. We, however, are too obsessed with the last part of the definition. An old saying holds that “There is nothing new under the sun,” but we often forget this. Our best proposals are often snubbed by others who say, “We’ve already seen it.”

The ability to restructure already available materials is also creativity. “Avatar” by James Cameron and the iPad tablet PC developed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs are two such examples. Avatar was first shown on screen in December and it has since broken box-office records. At the same time, it has received praise for reshaping the framework of movie production from esteemed directors such as Steven Spielberg and Michael Moore.

The iPad was introduced on Jan. 27, and the product will be available in March. Its fate is still unknown, and some are skeptical about it. However, more and more experts believe that the iPad will change the landscape of the electronics market.

Many film critics predicted the failure of Avatar, yet the movie has become a must-see. We wonder if the iPad will become a must-buy.

Avatar and the iPad, which have become the new phenomena in the film and IT industries, are actually nothing new.

Avatar took its inspiration from subjects such as indigenous peoples, the United States’ wars in Vietnam and Iraq, capitalism, imperialism, environmentalism, the Gaia hypothesis and the fall of the Aztecs. Some critics have said that Avatar and “Dances with Wolves” are basically the same movie.

The iPad, being made by Apple - whose nickname is “the factory of creativity” - is also based on already existing functions. Even the name was taken from a similar product by Fujitsu, launched in 2002.

It is, however, never possible to dazzle customers by simply wrapping already available things into a new package. Restructuring is the key.

What’s the secret of Steve Jobs and James Cameron? The two are gifted perfectionists and they both invested enormous amounts of money and time. Cameron completed an 80-page script for Avatar in 1995 and invested in developing technologies necessary to realize his plan. Jobs has routinely improved the prototype of the iPad over the past decade.

We can also analyze their successes with the psychological concepts of deja vu and jamais vu. The term jamais vu - “never seen” - is used to describe any familiar situation that is not recognized by the observer. Deja vu - “already seen” - is the opposite, describing the feeling that a new situation has been experienced before.

When there is too much deja vu, we feel bored. When there is too much jamais vu, we feel repulsion. Avatar and the iPad, however, do not evoke extreme emotions.

Cameron and Jobs exquisitely mixed the two. Those who have watched many movies and have more knowledge about world history are likely to love Avatar. The movie gives viewers jamais vu, the feeling that they are experiencing something new, although the plotlines are old stories. Yet the advanced visual technologies such as face capture are so enjoyable that viewers don’t recall the themes they have heard before. At the same time, first-time viewers of Avatar feel deja vu, because much of the movie tells familiar stories.

The iPad is another proper mixture of jamais vu and deja vu. Consumers who have more experience purchasing and using electronic appliances are likely to feel jamais vu with the iPad, as its distinctive design and simplicity of function guarantee the sensation of a new experience. At the same time, it is familiar enough to evoke deja vu.

While practicing Buddhist asceticism, one sometimes feel jamais vu and deja vu. Jobs is a Buddhist. Cameron, after completing the movie, said he felt like he was experiencing Zen meditation. It is interesting to note that Asian religion and philosophy are contributing to two Western geniuses’ creativity.

*The writer is an editor of the JoongAng Sunday.

by Kim Whan-yung
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