An Initial Examination of Computer Programs as Creative Works
Kershaw, T. C., Clifford, R. D., Khatib, F., & El-Nasan, A. (2022). An initial examination of computer programs as creative works. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000457 An
42 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2022
Date Written: October 20, 2021
Products from many domains (art, music, engineering design, literature, etc.) are considered to be creative works, but there is a misconception that computer programs are limited by set expressions and thus have no room for creativity. To determine whether computer programs are creative works, we collected programs from 23 advanced graduate students that were written to solve simple and complex bioinformatics problems. These programs were assessed for their variability of expression using a new measurement that we designed. They were also evaluated on several elements of their creativity using a version of Cropley and Kaufman’s (2012) Creative Solution Diagnosis Scale that was modified to refer to programming. We found a high degree of variation in the programs that were produced, with 11 unique solutions for the simple problem and 20 unique solutions for the complex problem. We also found higher ratings of propulsion-genesis and problematization for the complex problem than for the simple problem. This combination of variation in expression and differences in level of creativity based on program complexity suggests that computer programs, like many other products, count as creative works. Implications for the creativity literature, computer science education, and intellectual property law, particularly copyright, are discussed.
Keywords: creativity, computer programming, copyright law, creative products
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation