Saturday, November 19, 2005

Creativity Technique: Track and Freeze

About this post:

Technique in a nutshell: To track a subject, follow it backwards and forwards in time using your imagination (the tracking can be either realistic, fanciful or a mixture of both). To freeze, simply stop tracking the subject ( 'stop time'), consider the subject in its context and describe its surroundings (again this can be realistic, fanciful or a combination of both).

The Track and Freeze approach can serve two functions:

1: As a free association tool it can help to find a subject for creative effort
2: It can help to list information about a subject (see attribute listing and profiling).

To track, I simply pick a subject (maybe with the help of Directed Free Association results) and follow the subject through time in my imagination. To freeze I stop the tracking and 'freeze time': I stop the time progression in order to list information about the space surrounding the subject. I can switch between the two approaches to quickly generate a lot of information about the subject or generate many possibilities for creative attention.

Example of Track and Freeze in use

Suppose I pick 'David Beckham' as a subject. I start out by Tracking him. I do this by visualising him and kind of 'fast forwarding' or 'rewinding' the image I have in my mind. I can go as far back in time as I like and I can write down any information I want that occurs to me during the Tracking. But in this example I opt to stop the Tracking at the point when David Beckham is about to kick off in a football match. Then I can either continue Tracking or apply Freeze. I opt to apply freeze and visualise the scene surrounding Beckham as he is about to kick off. There is a football, a referee, the referee's whistle, the grass on the pitch, the other players, the adverts on the side of the pitch, the fans, the stadium, the floodlights, the car park outside etc. (Of course there's no limit to how much information I can list - I could carry on listing ad infinitum.)

Now I can select something that I've listed during the Freeze and then opt to Track that. I could decide to Track David Beckham once again, but I choose to start Tracking the football. Tracking backwards I go as far as I want into the past: I could see the referee checking the ball to ensure it is inflated correctly, see the ball (and other balls) being transported to the ground, see the ball being manufactured etc. ad infinitum.

I can continue to switch between Track and Freeze and see what information results. There are no strict rules or any set order that should be followed.

It's obvious that this approach can be used either as a free association approach or to list information about a subject. The obvious question is "When is information listed relevant and when does it stop being relevant?" I don't believe there's a straightfoward answer to that. In the David Beckham example then obviously information about the ground, the players and the pitch are relevant but if I'd Tracked the referee back to saying 'goodbye' to his wife when he left for the ground would that be relevant? If the subject is David Beckham and I'm profiling him as the subject then I could always apply the referee information to him: thus I would visualise him saying his goodbyes when he left his own home.

Guessing: Guess-Track and Guess-Freeze

Guessing can play a role when using the Track and Freeze technique. When Guess-Tracking I can follow the subject into the past or into the future. When Guess-Freezing I can guess what is contained in the surroundings of the subject.

Also, as discussed in the guessing post, I can also introduce 'What if?' questions to my considerations and also challenge expectations and assumptions. If I Track David Beckham to the World Cup Final and challenge my expectations/assumptions then an initial assumption could be that David Beckham is participating in the first place. Maybe he could be injured or even retired?

Multiple Beginnings and Endings

If I am Tracking a subject then I can list multiple beginnings and endings of the subject as an aid to Tracking. So if I consider the David Beckham example I could consider multiple beginnings such as: the beginning of each football match he participates in, the beginning of his career at each of his clubs, the beginning of his footballing career, the beginning of his participation in the sport, his birth, his conception etc. If I consider multiple endings then I could consider the end of each match, the end of his contract at each club, the end of his footballing career, his death, the end of the fan's memories of his involvement etc. There is potentially no limit to the number of beginnings and endings that can be listed. If I opt to wander into the realms of 'What if?' I could ask myself "What if his career ended tomorrow?" etc.

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