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DAY 2: hello arts-based research!

February 25, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

And…Assignment 2 has begun.

I’d say that there is no rest for the weary doctoral student, but in all actuality I did get plenty of rest the last several days on my own self-proclaimed “step away for personal sanity” break. Good news is that the break actually worked and I’m excited to get back into things, fire up Google Scholar, hit the digital library, and see what amazing journal article rabbit trails I can follow and eventually put together yet another project.

For this assignment, I don’t have to conquer any mega monsters of the 6,000 word variety, but I do have to conquer a 20 minute presentation. Lucky for me (and all the attendees at said presentation) I have a sidekick to help get me through, bounce ideas off of, and generally make the experience way way better in a synergistic manner. Me and my stellar partner are going to give an overview of arts-based research methodology. Neither of us knew what it was about when we partnered together over a month ago and in the ensuing month I’ll admit I’ve done nothing to remedy that. But…we present on March 11 and so between now and then it’s nose to the grindstone time and I have a feeling it’s going to be a fabulous foray into something kind of tangentially related to the virtual studio (where my head has been for way to long) but not quite so intense or abstract or un-researched.

So…you might ask, “Lisa, what in the world is arts-based research? Is it research into art? Is it research where the researchers take notes in crayon or brush rather than with pens or typing? Is it only for artsy people? Is it even legal in the academic world or is it one of those fringe activities that are only for pseudo-intellectuals?”

All good questions. Research into art? Not so much. That’s more art history and criticism. Research where the researchers take notes in crayon or other “artsy” mediums? Again, nope. (Though as soon as I get a decent stylus I totally plan on taking notes via iPad and my Paper 53 app…and I might use the brush.) Is it only for artsy people? Yes. If you’re not artistic, if you don’t wear a lot of black, if you don’t have funky glasses….it’s not for you.

Ha. Just kidding.

Is it legal? Who really knows…I’d say at least in the States almost anything is beginning to be legal, so I’d say arts-based research probably is as well. That said, like any methodology…don’t do it if it doesn’t suit your style. And arts-based researchers are inherently cool and totally don’t care if people in the quantitative world might not get them.

But seriously…for a good definition here’s what the experts say:

Arts-based research is an emerging mode of social inquiry, uniquely situated with roots in postmodernism and participatory forms of research.  –Susan Finley, Arts-based inquiry: performing revolutionary pedagogy

The ethos of arts-based inquiry is to eliminate the separation between researchers and the community being researched by eliciting the free and conscious voice of research participants. –Foster, Ways of knowing and showing: Imagination and representation in feminist participatory social research

…and my own very limited synthesis so far is that arts-based research is using art methods (be they dance, drama, writing, drawing, etc.) to tap into research subjects in ways that would be otherwise impossible given language or power relationships or even comfort levels. In addition arts-based research seems to use art methods to illuminate things that might be beyond speech for participants. Cool stuff indeed, and I have a feeling this is going to be a blast to study and maybe make art as I study it!


One Comment

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  1. May 26, 2014

    ☺ The chatty sidekick who wouldn’t have gotten through this without the artistic genius of her partner! We made a good team. We’ll have to pair up again!


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