During the first semester my colleagues and me were engaged in a project ‘Art and Design Research: Where Do I Start?’ that we were to develop into a symposium and organize a presentation. The location of the symposium was the Green Room at Chelsea College of Art and Design and we had as a keynote speaker Dr Sophia Lycouris, Reader, and Director of Graduate Research School, Edinburgh College of Art. Each of us had to present something that inspired us from the research journal so we divided the subject among us as follows:
Loredana Todor: Research Organization
Helen Turner: Innovative Art Research: Digital Media
Jina Lee: Reseacher as Archivist
Lydia Parusol: Ethics in Art & Design Research
Katie Elliott: On Liveness & Theatrical Bodies
Shabnam Ranjbar and Sophia Demetriou: Studio Practice
Sharon Phelps: Exhibiting Research: ‘The Indiscipline of Painting’ at Tate St Ives
Emily Ludolf: Art research in context
My task was to make the flash presentation for everybody so the presentation would look like a whole. I chose for the first page a notice board design as we still pin down answers to this question.
Presentation page of the Symposium
For the menu page I chose to design a women’s head as all of us student in the MRes course this year are women.This head had it’s ‘wheels’ running when she thinks of answering the question Art and Design Research: Where Do I Start? All of us could start from different point. Sophia Demetriou starts from her practice as a sculptor while I start from my field of Inquiry.
The Menu page
My part of the presentation was Research Organization and I will post it here as many researchers might start from the field of inquiry as I did.
Mind Map for Research Organization
I chose to make a mind map of the Research Organization to show better a few and important sub points like:
- Know your field of inquiry
- Related disciplines
- Critical debate in the field
- Couture your methodology
- Using non-related disciplines books
- Analyze your research materials
Field of inquiry
Pictures of students
The most important prerequisite when doing research is to know well you field of inquiry (in my case is Design Psychology) and the related disciplines. By doing so, you will find unexplored areas that need further investigation.
Critical debate in the field
You have to know the critical debate in the field. What are the different positions that experts take on the latest discoveries made in your field. How they debate it and what is your point of view regarding the subject.
You have to develop the most important skill. This is the ability to think critically about your research subject and to present a well-constructed argument. It may take some time to arrive at your final position. Along the way, it may seem that there is good evidence to support many alternative points of view. You may feel that everything you read sounds right or that nothing sounds right. However, at some point, you hope to arrive at your own research question to explore further.
Large amount of information
Usually in the beginning of your research, you will find out that there are multiple ways to do your research and sometimes it can be confusing. You will have to leave yourself the possibility to follow different directions.
‘Couture’ your methodology
You will than, have to ‘Couture’ your methodology to you research. ‘Couture’ your methodology is a term I borrowed from Professor Oriana Baddeley that I loved. It means to tailor the methodology in a way that is suitable for your research.
Non-related discipline books
Orientalism and The Craftsman Book Covers
Sometimes a way to find your research path may even include discoveries while reading books from non-related disciplines.
For example, Professor Oriana Baddeley told us that for her work studying The Art of Ancient Mexico she read Orientalism by Edward W. Said to help her understand better how Europeans may have misinterpreted the Mexican artifacts when they discovered them.
Another example is that of Marion McLaren a guest we had in one of our lessons. She told us that she read a book outside her expected bibliography, a book she found in her local bookstore and that the book opened up many directions for her. The book is The Craftsman by Richard Sennett.
In my case the movie The Town (2010)* directed by Ben Affleck made me think more about the history of the youth that have problems with the law. Mostly the environments they grow in, the houses they lived in and the schools they have attended before becoming juvenile offenders.
* One blue-collar Boston neighbourhood has produced more bank robbers and armored car thieves than anywhere in the world. “Bank robbery became like a trade in Charlestown passed down father to son.” Federal agent – Boston Robbery Task Force.
“I’m proud to be from Charleston. It ruined my life, literally, but I’m proud”. Charleston Man – Boston Globe
In the film The Town (2010, 00.50 mins.)
Christopher Day wrote in 1990 in his book Places of the Soul: Architecture and Environmental Design as a Healing Art: Surrounded by harsh hardness, the aesthetic sensitivities, and with them the moral discernments are blunted. Surrounded, as most of the time, by lifeless man-made mater is no wonder that the attitude of trying what you can get has grown so strong that is even enshrined politically...It is no wonder that places like this (referring to the picture below) have become notorious for their crime rate. The issue is less that of easy opportunity, but of faceless, depersonalized, uncaring, insensitive harshness.
Explore your research material
Sometimes just by exploring your research materials you discover new relationships, or issues/key points to help you with your research.
You can do it on the computer as most of us do but sometimes is more effective to lay all the printed materials on the floor and try to reorganize them in categories. This exercise can make you spot missing links and help you come up with new associations and ideas in your research.
Mind mapping everything
To conclude, in my experience even though we may have skills for organizing our research, it is best to make mind maps* for every stage of it to make sure we are not letting out some important parts. Mind maps will change during the process of research as we come up with new ideas but we will have a base to go to, should we need to.
* Tony Buzan is the most famous proponent of the techniques of Mind Mapping. A mind map can be handmade or generated by a computer and it looks like a diagram with words, ideas, drawings arranged around a central key word or idea. All the information is intertwined.