All thread hijacking aside, this is very interesting discussion and I have enjoyed, for the most part, reading everyone’s thoughts. Here are my own, coming from the point of view of a) an amateur “creator” in the realms of the photographic arts and music, and b) a professional archaeologist who is paid to study and think about why humans are human.
As an archaeologist, I will say that art and the ability to create art is one of the foremost items on a short list of traits that we can point to when asked what separates behaviorally modern humans from simply anatomically modern ones. We know anatomical modernity goes back at least 300,000 years old, but behavioral modernity does not become widespread until only perhaps 60,000 years ago. The very fist inklings of behavioral modernity we know of come from Blombos cave in South Africa, and they are, frankly, not much to look at: some sctratches on a piece of ochre.
Nevertheless, this piece of ochre is one of the very first instances of artistic creativity that we know of. What does it mean? Well, who knows. What it meant to the artist will never be known, which is kind of the point of art. It means different things to everyone. Behind it, however, is the knowledge and cognitive ability to create and abstract representation of something one experienced or thought, and pass that on to others. A phenomenal capability not widely found in the animal world, and certainly not found even at even this simple level of geometric scratches outside our own species.
Now, from the view point of an amateur creator in the photographic arts, I see photography, whether digital or analog, as no different than the painters brush. My pixels or my silver halide crystals are activated to form shades in a different physical process than the pigments on a brush (or indeed as ochre smeared on a cave wall), but the concept is the same: take a small slice of my experience and pass it on to others. Often, in photography, that slice of experience is visual. Pictorial in nature. Sometimes, it is not (check out a Flickr user named Dream Art Photography. But the creativity for us lies in the way we choose to abstract this scene to convey to others our experience, whether real or concieved, of the scene we see before us. We make choices such as what angle of view to use, and what field of view. What will be in focus, and what will not be. How out of focus will the out of focus parts be? What will we obscure in shadows or blind in brilliant light? How saturated will our colors be? How will we use light (natural, artificial, burning and dodging) to direct the eye? What will the subject be, and how will it be framed? How will the background relate to the subject? What aspect ratio and orientation will we use? Will we print it on paper? Canvas? Metal? or display it on a screen that glows? And numerous other creative decisions. In the end our specific choices will determine much of what our audience will see. We will derive some pleasure from sharing this with them, and it is enjoyable to witness what they make of the scene we crafted. Will they feel the same as we did when we created it? Or will they come up with a new and interesting interpretations. Ultimately, it is this sharing of our creation that lets us get to the heart of the human experience. Yes, there is a lot of scientific knowledge involved in creation, even going way back to that scratched piece of ochre (one needed to know what ochre was, and what it’s physical properties were), but in the end, it is the experience of creating, sharing, and learning in return that marks us, not the technology, the medium, or the physicality of it.