research processesThis section revisits research methods (see ‘About the Research’ above), offering evidence of planning the practical activities in relation to the research questions and giving some insight into the complexities of the research process. Activities themselves are evidenced in the following sections (Fearful Place and Everyday Place); in this section the emphasis is on the planning.
There are three phases accounted for in the extracts:
- Initial induction or ‘training’ into the heart of the research matter
- Ongoing planning for the practice as research
- Reflection – on the planned workshop activities and on the processes
These extracts are selected to demonstrate more than simply the phases of the research activity, however. There were particular challenges that were part of the PaR, even if not entirely unexpected, and one of these is highlighted through these extracts: how does the investigator lead and guide PaR when others are undertaking the facilitation?
Challenging Place was devised with the intention of working alongside community arts organisations, recognising that such organisations already use arts with relevant community groups. Research would be most productive making use of established companies and their community links and to work directly with ‘the industry’ facilitates an impact agenda directly and usefully. One step removed from the community group ‘targeted’ for the research, however, it was important as the leader of the research that Mackey developed a high-functioning practical research process with relevant Half Moon artists and facilitators who would be working directly with the young people. As well as being present at all the Half Moon workshops, this included:
- finding ways of introducing the research context, theories and methodology to industry practitioners and artists
- maintaining an input into the choices and direction of practice and retaining a focus on the research questions
- recognising the priorities of the organisation and accommodating these within the research trajectory (e.g. that a final performance would be built)
What these extracts also evidence, therefore, is the complexity of the PaR process: how research ideas were introduced, examples of ongoing planning including how Mackey, as lead investigator, worked with the facilitation team throughout the process, and how practitioners themselves reflected upon the processes of the PaR.
- At the original two-day intensive, Mackey introduces some of the key ideas in the research. Explaining research, April planning video clip (below) and towards the end of Extracts from April 2012 intensive (pdf), there is a list of overall points that arose from our discussions that were relevant to the forthcoming practical sessions with the youth group.
It demonstrates something of an ideal in our thinking, whilst also pointing to our awareness of potential challenges in realising these with the youth group (see point 17).
- After recognising that close, research-related input would be useful as part of the PaR, Mackey set up weekly Skype meetings with Velada Billson (lead facilitator). These proved to be valuable and important for both as a mechanism for sharing, developing, reflecting and rethinking ideas and keeping the work focused on the research questions during the 10-week workshop and performance project with the youth group at Half Moon. The following are all audio recordings of those Skype discussions.
- Planning 4 profiles the dissemination of responsibilities for the practical research to, for example, Patrick (sound) and Anna (digital media) and how Mackey and Velada Billson (VVB) endeavour to ‘let go’.
- Planning 5 offers an example of Mackey returning to the research question about everyday place as it related to the practice being undertaken and how the activities engage a re-viewing.
- Planning 6 exemplifies the inputting, discussing and exchange of specific practical activities that would support the ‘everyday’ enquiry.
- In Reflecting on Cornflakes Mackey and VVB discuss the participants’ possibly limited conceptual understanding of aspects of place and deconstruct the relevance for them of cornflakes as a signifier of the quotidian, partly through the longevity of a branding.
- Reflecting on the digital profiles two ‘moments’ that were important in the evolution of interrogating ‘virtual place’. First, Mackey comments on the surprising lack of social media involvement by the youth group and, second, Mackey and VVB consider ‘performing BBM’ (the only real contender in the field of social media for these youngsters) within the project piece.
- The third research question concerned ‘special places’. Reflecting on Special/Extra-ordinary Places traces the relegation of the importance of this question suggesting it is not taken much further. This was because, first, early work on the participants’ special places had not revealed interesting material. It was felt that this might be because of their comparative youth. Mackey points out that ‘special place’ was not key to the original Challenging Place research project aims, in fact. Second, one of the youth group had misunderstood ‘extraordinary’ places in an early exercise, taking this to mean ‘particularly or “extra” ordinary’ and this had proved to be a rather more interesting a line of enquiry.
- Reflecting on fear of place shows up two points: the unusual focus and attention given to this topic through movement by two of the participants and how another was able to conceptualise fear of place without having a specific fearful place.
- This video clip shows Mackey 'pointing' discussions towards the research questions before, during or after the workshops.
- Planning via e-mail (pdf) reflects the artistic team’s commitment to the work and their thoughts for developing the research themes through different forms of practice.
- Vishni Velada-Billson (lead facilitator) and Patrick Furness (artist) discussed some of the difficulties and rewards in the planning of the activities. VVB expresses her initial desire to understand the concept of performing place, what she wanted out of it for the participants (led physically rather than narratively) and the importance of the Skype calls as part of the process. Furness discusses the use of voice as a swift way of entering into the musicality of the project and that the move from facilitating artist to sound composer had its own benefits in terms of the ‘professional’ feel to the production.
Vishni and Patrick