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Dr Luke Jaaniste Research Fellow, Creative Industries Faculty, QUT Prof Brad Haseman Assistant Dean (Research), Creative Industries Faculty, QUT
The rise of the ‘practice-led’ research approach has given us a new way of understanding what creative practice in art, design and media can do in the academy and the world— it can materialise new ideas and forms into being as a form of experimental research. Yet, to date, attention around the world, and especially in Australia, has been chiefly directed at the postgraduate research degrees, most notably the PhD or doctoral equivalents. Recent mapping projects and surveys of practice-led research in Australia reveal much about the institutional conditions of higher degree researchers, supervisors, examiners and research training (Baker et al 2009; Evans et al 2003; Dally et al 2004; Paltridge et al 2009; Phillips et al 2009). Given this focus, we might well ask: is the practice-led approach destined to be a part of the higher degree ghetto only, or does it have an afterlife? What is the place of ‘practice-led’ beyond the postgraduate degree? After all postgraduate researchers do not remain postgraduates forever, and perhaps the practice-led approach to research may have benefits in wider university, professional and communal contexts. If we are to consider practice-led research in the wider world then the meta-language of contemporary innovation is an important resource; the framework of innovation and the innovation agenda emerged as a direct response to connecting research and knowledge to economic, social and educational development. For sure, innovation theory and policy has been historically locked up in science and technology, but it does not have to be, and stripped of its disciplinary biases, the expanded contemporary view of innovation is a powerful explanatory tool. But first, some backstory will help set the scene of the innovation of practice-led research.
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the three-to-four years full-time stipend that a PhD candidate receives to carry out in-depth creative exploration and presentation is far greater and more constant than that which can be gained through such avenues as arts and cultural grants. design and media. research pathways were opened up for both the academics and students who produce art. A second reason for the rise of practice-led research in arts. and more and more seen as useful and even necessary addition to tertiary-level education. diversification and accessibility of digital tools and the emergence of the internet with its ever-widening bandwidth meant that the rich-media. the further advancement. In the 1990s. For studio-based art. Besides giving students more years to hone their craft and ideas in stimulating and protected educational environments. design and media faculties within universities relates to advances in technologies for the documentation and distribution of creative rich-media works. non-print objects and events Page 2 of 15 . Generally speaking. With these amalgamations. research pathways have been driven as much by career pressures (competing with humanities and theory scholars who already had PhD-level qualifications and research acumen) as by the desire to have the time to spend on their creative practice validated (and remunerated) by the academy. design and media production is so different to the established traditions of research. Research postgraduate degrees became a growth area. surely another reason was more pragmatic. how did it gain entry into the ranks of higher research at all? A number of reasons can be identified. postgraduate research degrees are free for students whilst non-research postgraduate courses attract significant fees. MEDIA AND KNOWLEDGE: THE RISE OF PRACTICE-LED RESEARCH IN THE ARTS. design and media academics. How easily this works in practice and fits in with already heavy workloads remains a going concern for many educators. Firstly it is symptomatic of the profound changes in the tertiary education system in the late twentieth century. Strand 1998). Access to postgraduate research scholarships is an even greater financial incentive. DESIGN AND MEDIA Given that the practice-led approach in arts. and relieves many from the strain of a day job. existing specialist art and design colleges were incorporated into university faculties as part of the ‘unified national systems’ of universities that formed part of the Dawkins reforms in the early 1990s (SERCAC 1995. In Australia.SWEEPING CHANGES IN EDUCATION.
and the increasing demand for universities to commercialise the outcomes of their research often through external partnerships. worthy types of knowledge in the university that has been fueled by increasing suspicions around the privileging of logo-centric knowledge.of the creative sector could be far more effectively documented. Practice-led research in the creative sector inserts practice into research by offering creative works. Creative production is the central research activity. There is a clear practice-imperative to be found in socially-engaged research methods such as action research. and the paradigm wars looking beyond the positivist tradition of analytical written knowledge. and the processes and practices involved as core research methods. rather than something to be merely observed or assisted. This is an important point. Given this history. and what becomes of the practice-led researchers trained in this methodology? Is it bound to exist forever as a niche higher degree? Surprisingly perhaps for some. Page 3 of 15 . A third reason for the rise of practice-led research concerns its very difference from traditional academic research. Coinciding with the questioning of traditional forms of knowledge has been the recognition of professional and everyday practices within the gamut of academic research. but so much more is now possible than before in the pre-digital. since academic research involves the dissemination of research outcomes within a peer community and wider general public. pre-online past. content and events as core research outputs. the analysis and use of reflective practitioner dynamics. designs. distributed. the establishment of practice-based research centres within professional workplaces such as hospitals and clinics. one way of understanding and enlivening the future for practice-led research lies in tying it to the national innovation agenda: namely to leverage it as a core element within the larger innovation ecosystem. archived. The creative sector still has nothing like the citation indexes of scientific research community at its disposal. it is part of widening the scope of what is now accepted as useful. Over the past fifty years challenges to the established order of epistemology have come increasingly from the social sciences. what now for practice-led research? How and where will it travel. the qualitative research community. compared and measured.
however. Australia saw over 6 billion dollars committed through the Backing Australia’s Ability strategy (Commonwealth of Australia 2001. innovation is understood through the innovation policy development of national governments and multi-national institutions such as the European Union and the OECD. practices and alternative worldviews. More specifically. it has been concerned almost entirely with the STEM sector (science-technology-engineering-medicine) and in so doing it has excluded many disciplines. given the historical providence of innovation policy and theory that reaches back to the Post-War nation-building period when ‘big science’ was seen to be the key to improving the human condition (NESTA 2008: 1). That’s the big vision of innovation. While techno-science and economic rationalism has dominated the scene. manufactured technologies and their commercial application. And now there are clear signs that the innovation agenda is expanding. and similarly mainstream innovation studies are often considered a sub-set of science-and-technology studies. This is not that surprising. organisations and dynamics of innovation – the European Union is contributing 50 billion Euros to innovation programs during 2007-2013 (Kern 2007). the innovation agenda refers to the growing desire of governments and communities to change and improve our human existence through the creation and application of new ideas. we would argue that the innovation agenda has the potential to point to issues of deep importance to us all: how we all change and grow locally and globally. embracing more types of human practices than those found Page 4 of 15 . technology. and under Prime Minister Howard. In this narrow formulation. innovation policy and theory has focused on scientific knowledge. Innovation policy has emerged out of science. Innovation is what is needed to solve our current and future problems and capitalise on our opportunities. 2004). Whilst we will seek to show how the innovation agenda can embrace the creative sector. has been welcomed into the innovation agenda. It leverages billions of dollars of public investment in the people. Those writing the official innovation story (the innovation theorists and policy-makers) are looking to add more chapters to the narrative. industry and economic policy (OECD 2005: 15). those responsible for building innovation systems have seldom bothered with creative artists and researchers.THE INNOVATION AGENDA Most broadly. Not everyone. And innovation policy is big business.
which underwrite contemporary innovation policy and theory. most recently stimulated in Australia around the 2008 Review of the National Innovation System (RNIS) which led to the Venturous Australia report. and (3) knowledge diffusion – the spread of new knowledge and applications across the economy and society until it is absorbed into our evolving way of life. a discussion about the past. Heads of government (Barroso 2006a. Thus. arts and design domains. (2) knowledge application – applying new knowledge to practical situations for commercial profit (‘commercialisation’) and social development (‘utilisation’). HASS. it is important to realise that the innovation agenda is the coordinating force driving the institutional and regulatory changes around research across all discipline areas. Even if some from the research sector in the humanities and arts have been put off by innovation talk. or cycle. because research is taken to be a vitial component of innovation. The framework outlines all the major key concepts and dynamics of innovation. 2006b. Carr 2008) have made pronouncements about the need to include the HASS sector (humanities-arts-social sciences). that has its heritage in the mid-twentieth-century economic theories of Schumpeter (OECD 2005: 29). AN EXPANDED FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING INNOVATION Before developing connections between practice-led research and innovation it is necessary to map a framework of innovation. Prime Minister Rudd quoted in Cutler and Company 2008: 47.in science and technology. This is drawn from basic concepts mapped out in major innovation reports in Australia. present and future agency of practice-led research can gain much from being grounded in the key concepts that underwrite the innovation agenda. At the heart of innovation is a three-stage trajectory. whether curiosity-driven (‘pure research’) or directed towards practical problems (‘applied research’ or ‘R&D’). Innovation theorists have begun to look at inter-disciplinary innovation models and there is increasing advocacy and research by those from the creative industries. most notably the recent Venturous Australia report (Cutler and Company 2008). Page 5 of 15 . which goes well beyond commercial applications (also taken up in Haseman & Jaaniste 2008 and Jaaniste 2009a). It involves: (1) knowledge production – creating and producing knowledge.
encapsulating the trajectory-like and cyclebased diagrams of Cutler (2008: 22-23): Page 6 of 15 . which. skills and people throughout the systems. Connected to both the innovation trajectory and supporting backdrop is the innovation system itself. Innovation is also supported by the education system. from creators through to consumers and citizens. innovation systems thinking is concerned with stocks and flows.These processes of innovation are supported by a cultural and educational backdrop. We represent the various elements of the innovation framework as an expanding trajectory with feedback loops (Figure 1). The systemic support provided by government in the form of regulations and resources is also an important consideration. research institutes. by encouraging risk-taking. experimentation and enterprise. products. people and organisations that together make innovation possible (see OECD 1997 for a detailed overview of the National Innovation Systems approach). The culture or ‘atmosphere’ of innovation provides and supports the impetus for all to engage in innovation. it is hoped. businesses and commercial firms and third sector organizations. Types of organisations in the innovation system include universities. This is the complex network of knowledge. processes. fosters the skills and aptitudes of tomorrow’s innovators—educating for an innovative workforce and community. What is of interest here is not just the components of the system but also the interactions and movements of knowledge.
Strand 1998. Creative practitioners are knowledge creators. or it might be very ‘applied/strategic’. design and media producers are already playing a part in the innovation cycle and system. arts. Biggs & Büchler 2009. practice-led research contributes to the knowledge production phase of the innovation trajectory. Press 1995 and more recently Haseman 2006. Practice-led research might be ‘pure/basic’. methods and material outputs (an argument made in Australia at the national policy level since SERCAC 1995. producing new concepts. focused on esoteric and experimental issues beyond any practice consideration. Haseman & Mafe 2009. by creating Page 7 of 15 . and because of its growth in the postgraduate domain. Thus. albeit with its own paradigmatic inflections (such as Gray et al 1995. AAH 1998).Figure 1: the contemporary framework of innovation THE CURRENT PLACE OF PRACTICE-LED RESEARCH As a species of research. Büchler et al 2009). addressing practical problems and community needs.
new media arts has been argued as producing R&D around digital. practice-led research already is.) BEYOND THE POSTGRADUATE DEGREE We argue that practice-led research can play a larger role in the innovation system. (The UK situation is a little different. There is a simple reason for this: practice-led research is an acceptable model at the higher degree level. But such pronouncements are usually not backed-up by any detailed examination of what such claims to research might mean in practice. True. nor counted. 2005: 10-12) whilst other artforms discussed in terms of R&D include the small-tomedium performing arts sector. Australia Council et al. various advocates have sought to position their artform as an R&D engine for the wider arts sector (see Haseman & Jaaniste 2008: 23-24 for a summary of the Australian situation).new ideas then by documenting and disseminating them across professional and social networks. Firstly. or digital content creation. In short. designers and media-makers can contribute to the innovation ecosystem – not just as users of science-and-technology innovation. most of the energy and conversation around the specificities of practiceled research concerns the postgraduate research higher degree—to the induction of creative practitioners into the research sector at the knowledge production phase of the innovation cycle. because postdoctoral research funding for creative practitioners and the auditing of creative outputs as part of national research surveys are meditated by the AHRC—the Arts and Humanities Research Council established in 2005—rather than a single generic research council as is the case for Australia. and can Page 8 of 15 . In Australia. practice-led research has been a frontier territory for reconsidering the ways that artists. but this is only a beginning. with postgraduate scholarships flowing. the latest incarnation of ERA seeks to rectify some of this imbalance. contemporary visual arts. but as creators and researchers of innovative cultural products and processes. yet practice-led research methods and outputs are not funded. rather than merely being contained and captured within the accreditation system for higher degree research candidates. Most notably. whether linked to universities or not (Australia Council 1999. Over the last decade. at the level of national research funding for academic research staff. high-tech and science-based engagements.
and in what ways? Flows of people and skills: What do postgraduate researchers do beyond their practice-led research degree? Do they end up continuing to use practice-led research if they take up employment within universities (as teacher or researchers) or is this left behind? Are the skills and approaches developed by undertaking a formal practice-led research of any benefit to a • • Page 9 of 15 . community cultural development. In light of this. producers and citizens have long been interested in exploratory and experimental approaches to techniques. in relation to the spread of the innovative people. but what happens to researchers and their research once that have completed their degrees? Further sector-wide research needs to collect and analysise evidence around: Flows of methodologies: What ways is practice-led research being used alongside other research traditions and paradigms. Likewise. force within the arts. examiners and research training (Baker et al 2009. and the spread of the practice-led methodology itself. Evans et al 2003. Paltridge et al 2009.become a far greater. We now know a good deal about the institutional conditions of higher degree researchers. market-driven. and media activism can fuel social innovation. applied arts and design. The research practice-led discourse can help to highlight and give agency to these innovative developments in culture. User-led design. supervisors. A certain proportion of makers. as has been championed by those who have mapped and advocated for the creative industries over the last decade. design and media professions. presentation formats and distribution platforms. Thirdly. further scoping studies and sector research projects need to move beyond issues of higher degree research. the practiceled approach has a strong potential for social and commercial application. Dally et al 2004. commercially engaged work can fuel economic development. user-centric. across both the STEM and HASS sectors. forms. arts therapies. the diffusion of practice-led research also needs to be considered. Secondly. Phillips et al 2009). within and beyond universities. and how are these different research traditions inflecting one another? Is the practice-led approach developed by the creative sector being taken up in other disciplines and domains. Such applications can occur through those working in the ‘creative sector’ as well as those ‘embedded’ within other sectors and professions (cf Cunningham & Higgs 2009). products and processes developed through practice-led research.
such questions could also be asked of innovative activities and practitioners within professional and underground contexts of arts. and are such skills and capacities of any benefit to non-academic collaborators. design and media to be measured and harnessed alongside other research traditions and paradigms.research candidate’s professional practices after their degree. A number of components in the innovation system need to be targeted. professions and communities – or do practice-led research outputs remain locked up in the vaults of library and digital theses archives? Clearly. that will get creative production its proper. colleagues and the profession as a whole? Flows of knowledge and new ideas: What happens to the specific knowledge contributions. We need to find ways for practice-led research in arts. giving practice-led researchers access to: 1. dedicated and fully-funded research centres and institutions based around practice-led research. place. we need to build some innovation systems for practice-led researchers at the postdoctoral. senior academic and expert practitioner level. we cannot just think about and track the wider innovation system. across both the STEM and HASS sectors and within both university and industry settings. • Page 10 of 15 . insights and outputs generated through the completion of hundreds of practice-led research degrees around Australia each year? Are there any flow ons. 4. To achieve all this. 2. a HASS-specific. design. 3. like the AHRC in the UK. media and all their hybrids. spin offs and applications for other practitioners. rather than marginal. which specialize in practice-led research. national research funding body. university faculties. functioning as hubs that support innovative people and practices and their connection into professions. postdoctoral opportunities and distinctive competitive research grants and fellowships available for practice-led researchers and studio-based academics. commerce and communities. both within and beyond universities.
workable definitions and measures of creative sector R&D and a pragmatic theory of creative sector innovation that includes all forms of creation. Run by Deakin University. 6. media and communications fields. shared vocabularies that connect across the different research traditions and approaches.5. Material Thinking: the theory and practice of creative research (2004) is also important in this regard. interdisciplinary and industry applications of creative research” (Deakin Creative 2009). academic Page 11 of 15 . We have already raised such points in previous papers (Haseman & Jaaniste 2008. at least matching if not bettering the resources and energies poured into arts and cultural heritage and archives. 2009b) and there are signs that others are engaging in a much wider conversation beyond the postgraduate degree. but all these are only beginnings. and this should be of no surprise given the expansive series of activities and components that fall within the innovation cycle and system. design. slow-moving. Material Inventions: Applying Creative Research aims to “explor[e] the collaborative potential of creative research. Of course. much more needs to be done. because of the depth of professional (non-university) contexts it covers within its half-a-dozen case studies. This was evidenced in the sorts of debates at the ACUADS conference 2009. there would be other sources that share an expansionary vision. and 7. then discussions around this form of research will continue to be dominated by compliance issues—attempting the ‘best fit’ between practice-led research and traditional. It is also part of the specific ambition of at least one conference late this year. cultural policies that support R&D in a systemic comprehensive way. Paul Carter’s book. Jaaniste 2009a. in both university-based and extra-university projects” including “the broader. CONCLUDING REMARKS Many questions and directions for future research and action have been outlined in this paper. application and diffusion across and between the arts. Where will the practice-led research debate and projects take us into the next decade? If practiceled research remains primarily a postgraduate concern.
research protocols. might just be the key. Page 12 of 15 . documentation and archiving. In this view. But the practice-led community needs to sets its sights higher and wider. research methodology. we can use it to unlock our horizons and impact. diffusion. use of theory. The innovation framework and agenda. At the very least. education and culture. and the articulation of knowledge claims are framed around appeasing institutional requirements. linking research to application.
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