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Career Curation: Curativity Theory for Personal Innovation

A brief of a short book

The Career Curation project

Why did I start the Career Curation book project?

On July 4, 2021, I finished a 64-page thesis titled The Epistemology of Domain which offers a brand new theory about Domain. On July 5, 2021, I sent an email to a friend with my draft. At the end of the email, I used the following three keywords to summarize my three major theoretical creations.

  • Opportunity: The Ecological Practice Approach
  • Objective: Project-oriented Activity Theory
  • Outcome: The Epistemology of Domain

Later, I used the Tripartness diagram to re-organize these ideas. I also adopted the pair of concepts “Lifeway/Lifeform” to the diagram. Finally, I made a new framework for discussing career development.

This led to a new book! I added the new diagram to the Career Curation board and started writing! I have written 106 pages for the first draft in Chinese. However, I stopped the project on July 17, 2021.

The first draft of Career Curation has six chapters:

Chapter 1: The background

  • 32 pages

I introduced my three theoretical creations: a). The Ecological Practice Approach, b). Project-oriented Activity Theory, c). The Epistemology of Domain.

Chapter 2: Lifeway, Lifeform, and Lifeworld

  • 6 pages

This chapter introduced “Lifeway/Lifeform” which are core concepts of the Lifesystem framework. I also adopted the concept of Lifeworld from Alfred Schutz. Thus, I used “The Lifeworld of Career” as the name of the above diagram. It means the Lifeworld is the Container of Career.

Chapter 3: Opportunity, Object, and Outcome

  • 22 pages

I adopted ideas from the above three theoretical accounts to discuss these three keywords. It is a hard task of deep conceptual inquiry. Eventually, I discovered nine insights about the Lifeworld of Career. See the diagram below.

At the end of Chapter 3, I introduced a new diagram as a summary of the discussion. I noticed that the difference between “the process of achieving objectives” and “the process of transformation of objects” is significant because it challenges the traditional concept of “object” in Yrjö Engeström’s Activity System model which is an established branch of Activity Theory.

Later, I confirmed this insight from the perspective of the iART framework in Sept. From the perspective of the iART framework, it’s clear that we have to use two terms because Objective (what is motive about) is about the Future while Object (what is acted on) is about Present. Moreover, for the iART framework, the Objective is related to Anticipation while the Object is related to Performance.

I used the diagram below to expand the original three keywords into five keywords: Concept (Opportunity > Objective > Object > Outcome). I didn’t give a name to this diagram. Later, I realized that it could be considered a new version of the Life-as-Activity framework.

Eventually, I destroyed “The Lifeworld of Career” diagram and rebuilt a new diagram. However, this is just the beginning.

Chapter 4: Lifesystem

  • 20 pages

I did not stop on the above “Life-as-Activity (v1.5)” diagram, but went further and found a deep structure behind the diagram. I called the new structure Life Coordinate.

This chapter introduces the Lifesystem framework by conducting a diagram blending. You can find the details about the Lifesystem framework in a previous article: Lifesystem: Modeling Ice Skating and Other Social Practices. In fact, I forgot to mention the following Life Coordinate diagram in the article.

Chapter 4 started by building this new diagram from the above “the Life-as-Activity framework (v1.5)” and blended it with the diagram of “Lifeway/Lifeform”. Also, Chapter 4 contained a case study of the Lifesystem framework.

Chapter 5. The Landscape of Lifeworld

  • 10 pages

The Career Curation project is about applying the ecological practice approach to study career development. Thus, I started looking for a theoretical approach to define the concept of “Career”.

The purpose of the Lifesystem framework is to develop a framework for discussing work-related design innovation and career development. It is close to Alfred Schutz’s concept of “The World of Working” which is the opposite of the world of fantasy and dream. I think the concept “The World of Working” is perfect for defining the concept of “Career” in order to consider paid work and non-paid work as a whole.

Chapter 5 is a draft. It aims to claim that the basic unit of Lifeworld is Lifesystem. I planned to review the historical development of the concept of Lifeworld. In fact, I wrote a short version of the chapter as a section of the article Lifesystem: Modeling Ice Skating and Other Social Practices. I consider Lifesystem as a basic unit of analysis of the World of Working. In order to understand the structure and dynamics of the World of Working, I developed a typology of the Lifesystem and the diagram below.

Chapter 6: The Method

  • 6 pages

These pages are just notes about methods. I mentioned Ecological Interaction Analysis and other ideas.

I stopped writing the book in July because I realized that I need to read more about Alfred Schutz’s ideas and books. Thus, I changed my plan from writing to reading. This journey led to the discovery of the concept of “The World of Working” from Schutz’s writings.

Schutz’s Creative Life

Moreover, my primary interest is a creative career or the career of creative people. I found the Austrian philosopher and social phenomenologist Alfred Schutz’s ideas and his career are perfect for the Career Curation project.

Schutz is a creative theorist whose work applied phenomenology to sociology. His works are recognized as creative projects. However, his life can be considered a creative life too. Though Schutz had a very short teaching career at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, he was not a formal scholar who had a job in a research university during most of his intellectual career. We can say that he was an extremely excellent independent researcher.

According to Helmut R. Wagner who is the author of Alfred Schutz: An Intellectual Biography, “In organizing his time, Schutz gave priority to four sets of relevant interests. Each of them belonged to a different area of concern, each had its own primary relevance, and each formed a relatively self-contained sphere of life. ” Schutz’s four life spheres are family life, business activities, theoretical-philosophical activities, and music.

Moment, Project, and Life

In a previous article titled D as Diagramming: The Path of Creative Life, I mentioned a significant insight that connects my research on creative actions and the Life-as-Activity framework.

I recently added a small piece to my framework about Creativity: The NICE Way and Creative Actions. I realized that there are three timescales for the 3i model which is a part of my framework.

Moment: creative action
Project: creative work
Life: creative life

The NICE Way framework goes beyond traditional view which focuses on creative products. It considers creative actions as products. From the perspective of timescales, a person can produce a creative action at a particular moment. A person also can run a creative project for a short period of time or a long period of time. Finally, we can consider the whole life of a creative person as a creative product.

I used Schutz’s career as an example of Creative Life, “For example, the Austrian philosopher and social phenomenologist Alfred Schutz is a creative theorist whose work applied phenomenology to sociology. His works are recognized as creative projects. However, his life can be considered a creative life too. Though Schutz had a very short teaching career at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, he was not a formal scholar who has a job in a research university during most time of his intellectual career. We can say that he was an extremely excellent independent researcher.”

Schutz’s life is a creative life of intellectuals. I’d like to point out that there are many kinds of creative lives. For example, Steve Jobs, Neil Alden Armstrong, Martin Luther King, and Malala Yousafzai. Moreover, we should notice that there are many creative lives that are not “Big-C” such as famous figures. Scholars have offered us a 4C model of creativity.

  • Big-C: famous creative achievements such as music, paints, inventions, theories, etc.
  • little-c: creative behavior in everyday life. For example, making waffle art, using cardboard boxes for sliding, decorating a place for a birthday party, etc.
  • Mini-c: the novel and personally meaningful interpretation of experience, actions, and events.
  • Pro-c: “amateur” creators and professional creators who are successful, but have not reached a level of prominence as eminent creators achieved.

Later, I used “Moment > Project > Theme” for the diagram of the Life-as-Activity framework (v2.0).

Now, I want to claim that Creative Work is a special type of Activity from the perspective of the Life-as-Activity framework. We can also consider Creative Work as a unit of analysis for discussing a creative person’s career and work.

The term Creative Work also echoes Howard E.Gruber’s theoretical approach: The Evolving System Approach to Creative Work. However, Gruber focuses on Big-C and his method is based on the biographical study. My approach expands his ideas to all types of creative workers and considers anticipation and the future.

The Creative Work Canvas

On Oct 22, 2021, I designed a canvas for discussing Creative Work.

What is the major difference between a framework/diagram and a canvas? A simple answer is that the former focuses on expressing the relationship between several concepts while the latter primarily offers spaces for posting notes which can be considered as data about concepts. In other words, a canvas is a situational application of a framework/diagram.

A good canvas matches visual areas and conceptual spaces with a simple and unique style of spatial configuration. I used a special approach to design the Creative Work Canvas. In addition to naming visual areas with normal words (bold text), I added theoretical concepts (grey text) for reflection.

You can find more details about the above canvas here.

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Oliver Ding

Founder of CALL(Creative Action Learning Lab), information architect, knowledge curator.