Forming knowledge with new shapes : what arts-based research methods can offer
conference contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Alison BlackAlison Black
There is an increasing recognition that the future requires a ‘conceptual and creative workforce’ where ‘artistic and aesthetic ways of knowing’ are highly valued and where creativity, innovation, design and meaning are cherished aptitudes. As a result, many industry leaders, organisations and researchers are also starting to recognise the potential and significance of the arts and creative forms of knowledge. Especially as they seek to fully understand and address the complex realities and dilemmas that constitute educational, business and everyday worlds, and that face individuals and communities. There is a growing awareness that knowledge can be developed and formed in new shapes, and that these new shapes allow us to think and therefore see in new ways. Arts-based inquiry (research inquiry which embraces the language, practices and forms commonly employed in the arts) is offering new shapes and innovative opportunities for learning and meaning-making, and for shedding light on the particular experiences, dilemmas and situations we care about. Arts-based research methods and practices are increasingly being recognised for their transformational and unique ability to both ‘access and represent’ knowledge and multiple personal and professional meanings. As well as encouraging a creative inquiry process, arts-based methods can make visible the way knowledge and meaning is constructed while simultaneously offering representational shapes, forms and products for reflection and action. They can be used during ‘all phases’ of the research endeavour from data collection to analysis as well as continuing to serve as a subject of inquiry and a pedagogical tool. Arts-based methods have enormous potential for engaging and transforming the lives and work of both individuals and communities and for opening up public discourse. For individuals, arts-based practices support inquiry into personal and professional meaning-making with products of reflection capturing aesthetic responses, revealing previously held tacit knowledge, communicating stories of experience and offering new possibilities for action and agency. For researchers, arts-based methods are proving to be a legitimate and robust research methodology that transcends the limitations of traditional approaches to investigate and explore educational and social questions in personal, engaging and connected ways - ways that reach, and are accessible to, wider, diverse and non-academic audiences. For communities, arts-based methods support research that cares about who people are, what they know, how they experience their world and how they make meaning. Arts-based methods support the telling and understanding of human stories - stories of identity, knowledge, context, place, experience and relationships.