Replication / Innovation

Replication is one of the basic building blocks of science. The replication crisis is still ongoing: many scientific studies regarded as milestones, especially in the social sciences, cannot be reproduced. Also in natural sciences it’s equally difficult to define experiment protocols in such a way that they can be successfully replicated. Replication is also one of the basic building blocks of learning: it can be seen in animals when they imitate their parents behaviour from a young age on. The same is true for humans, also later in life when picking up new skills: In every new hobby, we first have to replicate what someone has done before us.

I have had a few different hobbies in my life that I pursued thoroughly and in most of them I never got over the step of replication. Art seems to be somewhat different: Already the first picture I took is unique. But even though I am immediately creating something novel when taking any photograph, the techniques and contents of my shot are far from innovative. Instead they are also largely influenced by what I have seen from others, what inspired me, which techniques I got thought, and so on. The two lonely counter-examples for me, where I got beyond replicating, are probably 1) route setting for climbing (at least to some extent), which I see as an art, 2) and my work.

Only after I replicated for a long time, with different role models, from different styles, with different materials, I was able to slowly move on: from replication to innovation. I could find my own style by mixing what I learned. I could create a new method by expanding on learned skills. For work, this has required over ten years of education and, hence, over ten years of replication. But slowly I feel that I am not only replicating anymore. From time to time there is some innovation. And if I keep going, the same will apply to photography some day.

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