Week 7: Critical Research Journal

Lecture: Martin Hosken, lecturer in critical theory at Falmouth

The aim of the lecture was to unpack research itself and the difference between method and methodologies and to place an emphasis on instinctive curiosity rather than spending too much time unpicking academic lexicon.

The exercise this week is to encourage us to explore an find out more about a subject, join information and draw analysis from data not previously joined, and to promote new understanding of a subject. I’ve thought a lot about making new connections between data and situations and hope to use this in this week’s task.

Hosken posed interesting questions, which I paused the lecture to quickly answer:

  • Is research a science, an art or a craft?

My first instinct is science, because research as I remember it was usually conducted in science and technology lessons at school. However, that wasn’t the case, as we researched artists, musicians, composers, writers, throughout school, and at university, I spent a large amount of time researching and studying for philosophy, social anthropology and English studies, albeit in a less structured form. It took art and instinct to push the boundaries into unexplored areas, however, there was a method that I developed and learnt. In conclusion, a craft seems the best fit out of the three.

  • Is it primarily an academic exercise or an activity of life?

I feel we all naturally research every day, through living, and our decisions are based on either conscious research and looking outside ourselves, or based on our empirical experiences, whether we realise it or not?

  • When was the last time I had to engage in research? (I am assuming outside of this course!)

Formally, it was when I was designing a book cover for a recent book, and I explored what already on the market for a book for a similar age group and with similar themes. I also looked into Pictish and Celtic art and typography to give the aesthetic an authentic feeling. Though, as I type this, I am beginning to recognise many other occasions at work where I have deployed research for design and creative purposes.

Hosken asked us to stop the lecture and to spend then minutes looking around the room to engage with my environment. This is similar to a grounding exercise that I sometimes do: name five sights, four sounds, three physical feelings, two smells and one taste. Like John, I wrote out my experience as a way to engage further. This can be considered a primary source of material because although I am typing it up later, I am not editorialising from the original written words.

I feel cosy sitting in a big blue chair with a blanket Cassie knitted. It’s peaceful, through the washing machine is annoying. The room has been repainted for us, an off-white. True white would be cold and cheap-looking but the magnolia adds warmth. There are already some marks on the wall from moving in. The alcoves on either side suggest a covered up fireplace, and the corner to the left has marks as if someone has rubbed against it. The ceiling is very high, which means the room doesn’t feel overly small, and we’ve hung some pictures up high. The furniture is mostly wood, not Ikea white like in my room. There are brackets up high to hand a washing line, or so we thought, but we talked to the neighbours and found out that it was because the lead tenant crammed in as many people as possible and the brackets held a privacy curtain. Laurel the cat has walked in and shaken her head, sounding the tiny bell around her neck. The window is pretty large for most rented property, and couldn’t be smaller else it would feel dismal in here. The room isn’t quite square, which is annoying for putting furniture in. The cat gives a pitiful miaow.

The etymology of the word research can be traced back through French and Latin roots, and I’m interested that a word primarily associated with mental activity has the Latin root meaning “to wander through”: a physical activity.  The crossover between mental and physical space is a subject I have explored in depth as an English student and would like to continue studying from a design perspective.

I’m not going to repeat the rest of the lecture, instead, I will add what my response has been. I knew the difference between qualitative and quantitive data, but because I learnt the difference from a scientific point of view, I have always favoured quantitive research because the results are measurable. I’m not entirely sure why this viewpoint has held, though, because I have conducted so much research for my BA English that was entirely qualitative rather than quantitive. It was useful to hear that the different academics could approach research from different points of view; the example given was that a sociologist might approach a research question from a psychoanalytic methodology and a linguist from an anthropological one. Both can be useful, but one may be more appropriate than the other.

Hosken’s Guide to What Makes a Good Research Question:

  1. It is of academic and intellectual interest
  2. It is a full and nuanced question
  3. It is substantial
  4. It can be assessed
  5. It is clear and simple
  6. It is interesting: not too convenient, or too questionable.

Lecture – with Yuki Kappes

This was a fascinating lecture, and I was really taken by Yuki’s drive to play and to push one thing further. The Ace & Tate Saffron campaign where they used everyday objects into the shoot was great because it really showed me that you don’t need amazing sets and props to really make a stellar piece of work.

“Humans are absurd and amazing” – probably a paraphrase somewhere there!

Thanks, Ella for the Harvard referencing system guide!

  1. Laurel, B. (Ed) (2003) Design Research: Methods and Perspectives (Links to an external site.). Massachusetts: MIT Press.

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