Room 2, Session 4 (16:00 – 17:30) [BACK TO PROGRAM]

How can we demonstrate rigour in practice research? What are your methods of documentation and analysis for researching aesthetics and process through your practice?

Each presenter’s video ‘paper’ can be viewed below – the video immediately below is the conference discussion

Andy Visser (University of West London)

This presentation focuses on the conference theme of ‘Methodology and practice’ and will outline a novel, Methodological approach to my practice research in haptics (touch) within virtual audio and music production environments. Contemporary music production can be viewed as sitting at the intersection of aesthetic composition and technical production processes. As haptic implementation in virtual audio and music production environments is primarily situated within a technical field, a positivist epistemological stance could be applied to this research. Such research is also founded on externally fixed scientific laws. However, given that the research encompasses both aesthetic and technical domains and current thinking in this arena has shifted towards a post-positivist approach, a more nuanced ‘mixed’ Methodological approach needs to be considered.  Such a Methodology might incorporate elements of a post-positivist, objective, epistemological paradigm predicated on an ontological scientific stance, in tandem with facets of a more interpretive process fully encompassing such issues as the aesthetics of reflexive music creation and production, human complexity and ethics within its bounds. It is clear, from the literature, that there is a significant level of confusion and overlap, within research communities, concerning the true definition of a mixed Methodological approach. Academic literature searches return multiple articles conflating or confusing the terms ‘method’ and ‘Methodology’. Reasons for the misuse, or lack of use, of a true mixed Methodological approach in research appear to be two-fold. First, the process is difficult, blending two apparently diametrically opposed, epistemological positions within a single framework. The second is that there is scant definition, within the literature, of what mixed Methodology research is. This video presentation will attempt to define the key term ‘mixed Methodology’, through a combination of slide presentation and discussion, while clearly outlining the differences between Methodology and methods, as applied to my practice research.

James Redelinghuys (University of York)

This paper considers the possibilities of what might be expressed in the relationship between practice and research. In particular, that if we are to situate ourselves as practitioners in historical relationship to the styles of other practitioners, or ourselves as researchers in historical relationship to our own practice, then we must contend with the differential semiotic relationship between these styles. Questions of aesthetic relationships, that is where we are distanced from an already constructed past, are flawed in their proposition in that they ignore where the signification of these practices is only meaningful once undone or even contradicted by future practice. Thus, the central question of a methodology of practice-based research becomes not how our research and writing might accurately reflect or affirm our practice but: how might our research deny such revelation, reiterating our practice only within a structure of denying final signification? In this way, any research methodology of practice is always in truth meta-methodology of practice as the production of non-meaning and research as performative practice.

This theoretical critique is presented alongside an auto-ethnography of my recent PhD experience; that the explicit and tacit expectations of practice-based research in the academy (indeed, any institution) hobble one’s being-in-the-world; that a desire for a reproduction of the neo-liberal politics of today’s university is incompatible with the differential structures in which practice-based research truly dwells. Ultimately, this paper is founded in and gestures towards an anti-disciplinary, anti-humanist mode of practice-based research; that “reflective” or “representational” methods are ethically insufficient in the twenty-first century. Certainly, while a rigorous analysis of one’s practice is desirable, such rigour cannot be conflated with a desire for clarity. Rather, it must dwell in the queer mists of non-clarity and the very silence we inhabit which is deformed into music.

Scott Mclaughlin (University of Leeds)

Researchers are institutionally bound by REF/AHRC demands that rigour be demonstrated in our work and funding applications, but does rigour look the same for us as for other disciplines? The reports by Bulley & Şahin (Research England, 2021) situate practice research as somewhat apart from ‘other research forms [that] prefer a defined, cleaner ground, a narrower area of technical rigour’, due to our tendency to embrace messy complexity and our ‘key methods’ of ‘first-hand [reports] of experience, intuition, iteration and trial and error’. (p. 12)

This presentation discusses two aspects of rigour. (1) the macro-level perspective of rigour as relating more to research context than methodological purity. Building on the model of research as an ‘articulation of what the work is contributing to the area’ (Corby, in Bulley & Şahin p. 6), I posit rigour as the extent to which the topic area is (or can be) mapped in the effort to articulate how a given research project adds to that knowledge area; ‘shifting the needle’. (2) the meso/micro-level concept of rigour in the communication of research insights to maximise clarity, access, and discoverability. This is wrapped-up in the first point, since rigorous distillation of insights emerges hand-in-hand with rigorous contextual positioning.