Art is long, innovation is short: lessons from the renaissance and the digital age

Jonathan Sapsed, Feichin Ted Tschang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Creative processes are partly stable over the ages, and partly influenced by their techno-­‐historical contexts. In this paper we examine the effects of technology on creative effort in two historical periods separated by five hundred years: the early Italian Renaissance and the contemporary Internet age with the production of art for digital products such as video games and animation. We examine how human creative processes, or more broadly, creative work, can be conceptualised as a general nature within a complex framework of evolving practices, technologies, and social norms. Commonalities emerge by comparing these two ages. In particular, creative work can be thought of as a combinative activity, operating on motifs in culture, and bounded by their social acceptance. Second, creative work involves techniques that expand the frontier of creative output. Third, creative work involves much iteration, facilitated by the media, techniques and technologies. We examine the constants in human combinative creativity by comparing these ages, as well as how this combinative creativity and iterative activity is mediated differently by the technologies of the time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-141
Number of pages15
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • Creative process
  • Artistic innovation
  • Renaissance
  • Digital art
  • Video games


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