Subrata Dasgupta

Subrata Dasgupta

Education

B.E., (First Class), Metallurgy, University of Calcutta, 1967;
M.Sc., Computer Science, University of Alberta, 1974;
Ph.D., Computer Science, University of Alberta, 1976.


Research

Since about 1992, my work has centered on the study of the lives of the creative mind along two different dimensions: (a) particular fields of creative work; and (b) specific cultures in which creative work is carried out. With respect to (a), I have studied creativity in the realms of the natural sciences [3], the social sciences [4], invention and design [1,2], art [7], and scholarship [9]. With respect to (b), I am deeply interested in the comparative study of the creative mind across distinct disciplinary cultures, specifically science, art and literature [5,11], and between distinct ethnic cultures, specifically those of India and the West [3, 9, 11].

My primary methodology is the cognitive-historical case study in which I try to bring together original historical and biographical research (which collectively constitute the empirical basis of my studies, coupled with cognitive and computational models (which provide the theoretical framework of my work). My work, then, is avowedly interdisciplinary and cross-cultural, and lies at the intersection of 'mainstream' cognitive science, computer science, intellectual history and biography, psychoanalytical theory, philosophy, and aesthetic theory.

The significance of the use of case studies, and original historical and biographical research as the empirical basis of this enterprise cannot be overstated. The case study implies that my interest lies in the life of the individual mind. I am interested in 'real', historically significant, creative minds and in building a cognitive science of the individual mind because the richest kind of the creative mind is highly individualistic. This is quite at odds with 'mainstream' cognitive science which, like any other 'mainstream' science deals with the general or the universal or the statistical.

Using the combination of the case study method and historical/biographical research, I have attempted to refute an influential view that the creative process is Darwinian in nature. I have claimed that contrary to this view, creativity is an important instance of purposeful evolution [6]. It is also through such detailed cognitive-historical case studies that I have suggested that creativity is not an objective cognitive feature of the creator; instead I have proposed the doctrine of the creative encounter — wherein creativity is taken to be the outcome of an encounter between a 'producer' of some object (a work of art or literature, or a scientific theory or a philosophical doctrine, say) and a 'consumer' of that object. A creative encounter is effected when the consumer's cognitive identity is altered by the produced object. It is this creative encounter which leads us to postulate that the producer has manifested creativity. I have very recently used this doctrine as the framework to study and analyze a remarkable group of creative people and intellectuals in 19th century Bengal (in India) who effected what was a cognitive revolution called the 'Bengal Renaissance' [11]. I am currently working on a book which gives a comprehensive account of the doctrine of the creative encounter and its place in elucidating the meaning of creativity [12].

Two of my recent students have completed their own cognitive -historical case studies of creativity [14, 16]. Preliminary accounts of their work have been reported [13, 15].

Very recently, I have embarked into the realm of creative writing — both in fiction and non-fiction. I make no distinction between this work and my 'academic' work, since both are concerned with creativity. This includes a novel [8] and a cross-cultural childhood memoir [10].


References

[1] S. Dasgupta, Creativity in Invention and Design, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

[2] S. Dasgupta, Technology and Creativity, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

[3] S. Dasgupta, Jagadis Chandra Bose and the Indian Response to Western Science, (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999).

[4] S. Dasgupta, "Innovation in the Social Sciences: Herbert Simon and the Birth of a Research Tradition", in L. Shavinina (ed.), International Handbook on Innovation, (London: Elsevier Science, 2003, 458-470.

[5] S. Dasgupta, "Multidisciplinary Creativity: The Case of Herbert A. Simon", Cognitive Science, 27 (2003), 683-707.

[6] S. Dasgupta, "Is Creativity a Darwinian Process?", Creativity Research Journal 6,4, (2004), 403-413.

[7] S. Dasgupta,"Cognitive Style in Creative Work: The Case of the Painter George Rodrigue", PsyArt, 2005, http://www.clas.ufl.edu/ipsa/journal/2005_dasgupta01.shtml

[8] S. Dasgupta, Three Times a Minority (A Novel) (Kolkata: Writers Workshop, 2003).

[9] S. Dasgupta, Twilight of the Bengal Renaissance (Kolkata: Dey's Publishing, 2005).

[10] S. Dasgupta, Salaam Stanley Matthews (A Memoir) (London: Granta Books, 2006).

[11] S. Dasgupta, The Bengal Renaissance: Identity and Creativity from Rammohun Roy to Rabindranath Tagore (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2007).

[12] S. Dasgupta, The Meaning of Creativity (Book manuscript, in preparation).

[13] J.S. Elias & S. Dasgupta, "A Cognitive Model of the Engineering Design Mind", in J.S. Gero & N. Bonnardel (ed.), Studying Designers '05, International Workshop on Studying Designers '05, Aix-en-Prevence, France, Oct. 17-18, 2005, 101-116.

[14] J.S. Elias, "The Engineering Design Mind: A Cognitive Model and a Case Study", PhD Dissertation, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana, December 2005.

[15] C. Comeaux, J.S. Elias & S. Dasgupta, "Creativity, Cognition and the Case Study Method", in Progress in Cognitive Psychology Research, M.A. Vanchevsky, (ed). (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2006), 105-125.

[16] C. Comeaux, "The Literary Mind: The Case of Flannery O'Connor", PhD Dissertation. University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana, May 2006.