Research Practitioner Part 3

Doctorate of Creative Industries Project 1

research

This blog is a continuation of a series. See here for the previous blog.

Background

Continuing on from Research Practitioner Part 2 , as stated in my Project Brief submission, the topic of my Research Study is entitled: Contemporary DIY Music Practice and the Practitioner Self.
As outlined in that same document my Project 1 is to be: Through a first-person narrative of my personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, I will highlight the co-constituted nature of my music practice. As highlighted relatively recently by art’s literacy researchers (Griffiths 2010; Franz 2010; Wright et al 2010; Ryan 2014), a key aspect of a practice-led research study is to examine the degree a creative person can be both practitioner and researcher, what processes are required as a result in order to ensure a robust and interrogative investigation to occur, and the implications of this dual primary role on the music practice workflow. I intend to experiment in Project 1 to determine what is effective considering my context and workflow. It is predicted that such a mixed-method qualitative study research study would necessitate the planning of a multi-layered data collection strategy equitably across the various stages of cultural production, necessitating the conscious scheduling of time for both personas to practice – that of the creative practitioner, and that of the research practitioner (Page 2015c).

Beginnings Part 1

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“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring” [David Bowie].
I began this DCI research study on the 2nd January 2016 not having engaged in a formal academic research project previously. I admit to being somewhat lost where to start. Questions that arose in my mind included:
  • How was I to embark on this journey?
  • How effectively was I going to perform the dual primary roles of being both the practitioner as subject, and the researcher?
  • How was this going to translate into daily activities that would enable my research study to progress along the specified time line requirements of the sponsoring higher education institution?
  • How was I going to create a creative and music production workflow drawing on the methods I have outlined in my Project Brief Methodology chapter?

Step One

Given my overwhelm, I took the advice I received as feedback from my Project 1 brief assessor, ‘David, return to the Project Brief Aims and Objective often throughout your research journey to maintain your research study focus’.
excerpt from Project 1 Brief Project Aims and Objectives
The aim of my KKP59 Doctor of Creative Industries program Research Project 1 is to investigate both my DIY music practice and my self as a practitioner during the process of creating and producing a cultural artefact (EP), developing praxis of contemporary music practice. Such a multi-tiered examination will represent a significant departure from current discussion of music practice (Page 2015).
My praxis has already developed over Year 1 through a number of incarnations to the current version four (see Figure III below). My praxis version 2 (see Figure I below) outlined four elements of practice that I suspected were likely to be interdependent: music style, technology, location and process. I felt that I needed to layout these four elements to highlight their interdependency, and the non-linear order that they may be considered in the course of my practice.  I had understood my research study was to be cycling around and around the practice (Page 2015).. 
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Figure I – Praxis version 2 (Page 2015)
My praxis version three (3) (see Figure II below) then developed along similar lines to version two (2), however following the realisation of how central my self was to my practice. I realised that my attitude and my previous experience was definitely influencing my practice. The five elements of practice were now outlined in a similar interdependent relationship. Music style, technology, location and process, adding the practitioner self in the middle of the diagram to highlight the significance of self at the centre of ones’ practice.

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Figure II – Praxis version 3 (Page 2015)
Upon further observation and reflection, I described my practice and self as being two distinct and yet significant elements. As I continued to observe my practice, and reflect on my decision-making process, I realised that in many ways I had two practices: the practice of my music endeavours; and the practice of my self.
In figure III below, I laid out what was central to my study, my practice on the left (blue section), and depict that manner in which I cycle around and around that practice with the circular lines around the outside of that blue section. Acknowledging my observations and reflections that occasionally I deviate from here, questioning my motivation to practice, I drew a dotted black line from the blue section to the green section towards the bottom of the chart. Further acknowledgement of my observation and reflection immediately following questioning my motive, led me to accept that I then generally spend some time away from my practice, within my self; immersing within my self – my thoughts, feeling and emotions, considering my past, my life experience, my life decisions and my desired future. As this process is generally engaged in away from my practice, away from my practice site, I chose to depict this process in a very different colour – pink – and in a separate section, to the right of my practice section. I observed that I would cycle around my self in reflection and questioning of my self, in a relative short time compared to the time I spent in my music practice, before returning back to my practice (black line from base of self (pink) section, returning to the top of the music practice (blue) section.
Having developed Praxis version 4, I now understood that a central aspect of my research study – in addition to the practical and aesthetic choices and decisions I make whilst cycling around and around my practice – was going to be for me to observe, comment and even perhaps describe my motives and share some of the internal dialogue that I often have away from my practice, but as a direct result of having engaged in my music practice. I was starting to arrive at the understanding that whilst this journey into my self would occur as a separate practice to my music practice, it was in the larger picture, part of the same practice: an integrated, holistic presentation that necessarily included both my music practice and the practitioner self.
As this praxis developed, I developed some simple questions that related to each of the elements, that I thought may help me to maintain my focus whilst I was engaged in this research study process:
  • Music style: what I am making?;
  • Location: where am I making it?;
  • Technology and Workflow: how am I making it?;
Occasionally,  I would leave the parameters of my music practice, and consider my motive for practice.
  • Motivation: why am I making it?;
I would then tend to become quite introspective, and consider my self – my thoughts, feeling and emotions, considering my past, my life experience, my life decisions and my desired future – relative to my music practice.
  • Self: who is making it?. That is, who am I ?
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Figure III – Praxis version 4 (Page 2015)
As I delved deeper into the literature and considered my practice, I realised both the significance of the elements of motivation and self upon my practice, and the lack of conscious consideration I had made of these in version two (2) of my praxis, and the superficial consideration of the element of self I had made in version three (3) of my praxis. In terms of current literature on music practice, seldom is either motivation or self discussed relative to music practice. Rarer still are studies of practice conducted that include the practice, the motivation, and the practitioner self.
Additional to these simple focus questions, I then developed three (3) sub-questions to my research study question:
  • Research study question: In contemporary DIY music practice, what effect does motive and creative technologies have on creative production?;
  • Sub-question 1: what is the relationship of the elements of music practice within the digital virtual environment. That is, are these elements within my music practice independent of each other, or are they in actual fact interdependent?
  • Sub-question 2:  what is my motivation to practice music?
  • Sub-question 3a: how does my music practice contribute to the concept of my self?, and
  • Sub-question 3b: how does my self-concept shape my music practice?
excerpt from Project 1 Brief Project Aims and Objectives
As the contemporary DIY music practitioner, I will engage in the creation and production of five original compositions, with the theme of each composition being representative of some aspect of my life: past, present or future envisioning. The practice-led research study will allow the multiple stages of cultural production, from creation to production to release, to be tracked and captured using multiple methods, for the intended purpose of critical reflection and reflexive action by the researcher-self. I will investigate how my EP’s are uniquely shaped through the relationship that exists between: technology, music style, workflow, creative location, and motive in what most now operate within, a digital virtual environment; and, how my music practice contributes to the concept of my self; and in turn, how my self concept then shapes my music practice. Within each of the music practice projects (Project 1 and Project 2), I will be concerned with the conditions that exist, what options are available, what decisions are made, what workflows result, and what output is achieved. I will consider my motive (or motives) for music practice; the outcome (or outcomes) desired, and investigate to determine whether these are in fact typical within the field of music and sound, or whether they are typical of recent motive discussions in the developing discipline of contemporary DIY music practice. I will research, source and if required, develop valid industry-acceptable standards to measure my music practice against. On a more personal level, the research study will explore the degree to which my music practice exists as an expression of the self, and in turn, how a greater understanding of self shapes my music practice (Page 2015).

Step Two

 Of particular importance will be data elicited regarding a creative practitioner performing the dual role of both practitioner and researcher, and the implications this has on the music practice workflow. In a world with a developing DIY intent, it will broaden discussion in the field of social and cultural studies by providing both data and narrative for dual primary role-based (subject and researcher) formal research studies. It is critical that I demonstrate academic virtue, rigour and transparency of researcher as subject to avoid bias. As a researcher, I subscribe to Griffith’s view that irrespective of what research methodologies one utilises – quantitative, qualitative ethnographic or auto-ethnographic – the researcher must illuminate their “relationships, circumstances, perspectives and reactions”, making these clear to the reader (Griffiths 2011, 184). One way of addressing the separation of the self, is to ensure there are a diverse range of reflective devices and mediums in order to capture the data, so that these mixed-methods can then be used to distil the true data about my self and processes, in order to crystalize the outcomes and conclusions. It is a goal of mine to showcase the benefits and merits of such a qualitative study, particularly within a creative arts field, and therefore to have demonstrated academic virtue (Bridges 2003 in Griffiths, 2011, 183), be considered to have rigour, and guarded against bias, is a primary goal of mine for this KK59 Doctorate of Creative Industries research study.
Therefore in order to progress my Project 1, I thought it would be ideal at this point to establish a structured approach to my research study with the creative outcomes of a cultural artifact (five track EP). Starting at a place I felt comfortable, I deconstructed the creative and music production process, and established a checklist template that could guide me in the creative construction process. This template lists sixty steps across the five stages of the creative and music production process: the creative, pre-production, production, post-production, and the distribution stages. I designed it as a wall-chart quick check to check off the various steps as I progress along the creative and music production process.
I then created summary Creative and Music Production Checklist text document that I imagined would provide a place for me to journal detailed comments as I progress along the creative and music production process checklist.

Step Three – Methods

excerpt from Project 1 Brief Project Aims and Objectives
As a practice-led, auto-ethnographic study of my DIY music practice, drawing on the methodologies of reflective and reflexive practice, this project will involve the collection of multiple forms of data in various textural forms. One of the project’s objectives is to undertake a qualitative study within the creative arts field, revealing the opportunities and challenges that lie with such a dual primary role approach: how a creative person can be both the subject and researcher, and the implications of this on the practice during the production of a cultural artefact (Page 2015).
My third step was to provide some order to my project, particularly the creative aspect, and consider how I was going to substantively collect the bulk of the required data from my research project – that of critical reflective practice. I returned to my Project Brief, and noted some of the methods I had considered would be beneficial to record data for both critical reflective and reflexive practice (see figure iv below).
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Figure IV – Data collection methods (Page 2015)
These were: iCalendar, iNotes, excel documents, word and text documents, and a blog.
I set about creating a workflow using these mediums (iCalendar, iNotes, excel documents, word and text documents) to use to record as much of my daily progress as possible. These mediums included utilizing the previous constructed Creative and Music Production Checklist and journal for noting down comments and observations and reflections.
Step Three – Part A iCalendar and iNotes
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Figure V – iCal (Page 2016)
I have found that I have relied on iCalendar (see figure v above) and iNotes to maintain a record of what and when I was doing music practice, and recording data. Despite assuming I would use the excel charts and journal documents primarily, I have found that I have used iNotes as the primary data collection medium, given the accessibility of this on numerous portable electronic devices (MacBookPro, iPhone, and iMac), its syncing functionality, and the ability to copy and paste the content into other formats such word, excel, powerpoint and text documents. I have found such a medium can be very spontaneous, but as a result, the language and tone is mostly lay.

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Step Three – Part B Data Management system
As a higher education research study I need to be able to provide evidence of robust investigation; of my proactivity and application over the course of the Projects, demonstrating my engagement in this research practice to all key stakeholders. Part of my research study is to provide deliverables. Whilst this to be a five (5) track EP of original compositions, I also need to gather all forms of data created or gathered in the process of engaging in the above process over the course of the Projects.
Mediums planned to be used to gather data from this Project 1 process are:  paper/pen, notebook,  post-it notes, journals, inotes, text, word, excel, mindmaps, sketches, drawings, photos, audio memos, calendar entries, meeting notes, social media chats (eg: FB group, slack channel, msn, or skype chats, etc), blogs, industry forums (eg: Gear Slutz threads), curation and social engagement sites (Pinterest, You-tube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, WordPress, Tumblr, Instagram, etc)
I also developed a folder structure and numerous excel, word and text documents to create a electronic structure of support for my Project 1. Creating the folder structure helped me greatly to develop – to conceive and illuminate the elements and considerations I could us in my approach to my Project 1, and develop documents that I could use to gather data in co-existance with my music practice workflow. The development of these documents has been ongoing, with the development of documents considered to be in harmony with my practice workflow, to gather any form of data surrounding my music practice. These included: the development of my Project idea, group meeting minutes, discussion re gaps in my human resource portfolios, advertising for assistance where needed, Supervisor and Associate Supervisor meeting minutes, observation reports re live and virtual listening sessions, critical listening observations of other’s cultural productions, blogs re musical styles, discussion re reference tracks, examples of reference tracks, blogs of reference track critical, analytical, social and cultural analysis, scoping documents, project brief, pre-production plan brief, extensive pre-production plan (with live room stage setup, equipment required, variety of micing positions and technique options, input lists),  DAW session (PTs, LP, Ableton) with scratch tracks/compositional ideas/experimentation with samples or tracking, blogs re session reflections, evidence of research (pdfs, websites, industry texts, academic texts), blogs reflecting on my research, and gaps in my knowledge or skillset (personal/soft skills, technical/physical or virtual, application/physical or virtual), evidence of my being proactive in exploring these gaps, and increasing my knoweldge and skillset around these gaps, blogs reflecting on my experimentation and developing my practice, song or compositional development drafts, DAW session (PTs, LP, Ableton) with demo tracks, extensive post-production plan (with location and technology likely to be used – photos or console channel strip templates or DAW screenshots of likely processing methods, types, manufacturer models), blogs reflecting on my engagement as a creative media practitioner with society (peers, industry, mentors, public), blogs reflecting on my self as a practitioner as to what I have discovered or learnt about my self.
Step Three – Part C Blog site
A number of practitioners have written about the importance of using journal writing to enhance reflective practice (Boud 2001, 9; Blom et al 2011). Ghaye and Lillyman referred to the act of scribing the gathered data – the reflections – as advancing the reflective process “from talking about (it), to evidencing reflection” (2014, 26).  I decided to use blogs as a means of more formally recording the data of my thoughts, opinions and observations across the range of my music practice stages. I decided this strategy would be an effective means of crystallising my recorded data, as I went through my usual multiple draft writing process.  The practice and process of writing has always enabled me to better articulate my thoughts. This multiple draft writing process would include the following steps:
  • generating ideas – often commencing from written notes made in iCal, in iNotes, or notes taken manually on paper (usually for me, in the form of a mind map);
  • expanding on these ideas, most often developed in a mind map form;
  • deciding on the intended narrative as an aim and objective of the written outcome;
  • ordering the generated and expanded ideas into what appears to be a logical structure, at that point in the process;
  • returning to develop the central ideas as required;
  • copying the work to date into a more standard medium, be it a text document, or a word document;
  • embellishing these ideas into a structured narrative (inclusive of non-fiction- based content, self-reflective content or fictionalised content); and then
  • better articulating my intended narrative, in terms of grammar and expression;
  • Continuing to write, hone, craft the written text, until it demonstrates the atributes of re-writing:
    • continuity and coherence, and
    • the content realises both:
      • personal self-satisfaction in terms of what has been expressed within the intended narrative
      • content integrity of the narrative relative to the original aim and objective of the intended narrative.
Knowing the blog would be published for all to read was now going to be an additional motive to ensure my blogged reflective journals were well crafted, articulating my reflections succinctly and authentically,  Writing has supported me in my many forms of practice over much of my life as the vast stock of written material in my filing cabinets in my project studio office demonstrates. However, the practice of writing for me had predominantly been a very private process. A practice where I could express my self in the privacy of me, and only me, as the audience. However, I now have a more developed understanding that a key characteristic of robust reflective practice is that the data collected from my reflective practice, is shared with others. Yes, progressing “from I to us” (Ghaye and Lillyman 2014, 24), Whilst this next step brought up immense fears and insecurities of self – actually scaring the living daylights out of my private self – I knew it was an essential step for my development of practice.
A second benefit of using blogs as a medium was that I could see the writing of the blogs as being a progressive step to hone a more formal language and tone to better meet academic compliance. I accepted a by-product of me embracing the formal academic world of research would also include my need to develop my practice of writing that would be scrutinised by my academic peers, in the public arena: “from independence to inter-dependence of practice ” (Ghaye and Lillyman 2014, 27).
As I have developed a social media network over the past several years, I re-examined my blog site through tumblr. It had frustrated me over the past year that tumblr had not provided me the flexibility that I had envisioned of a fully interactive blog site. Across January I sought peer opinion as to recommended sites, with the view of engaging someone to construct a suitable site on my behalf. Due to several obstacles (mainly lack of immediate availability of valued assistance), I embarked on researching and constructing a site myself, and decided upon a wordpress site (see figure vi below). After some initial learning challenges, I have found this site is easily managed by myself – creating and editing blogs – and allowed me to easily integrate this new communication medium into my already developed social media network.
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Figure VI – DLP WordPress site (Page 2016)
This blog series is planned to continue next month with Research Practitioner Part 4. It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
References
Blom, Diana, Dawn Bennett and David Wright. 2011. “How artists working in academia view artistic practice as research: Implications for tertiary music education.” International Journal of Music Education: 0255761411421088.
Boud, David. 2001. “Using journal writing to enhance reflective practice.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2001 (90): 9-18. doi: 10.1002/ace.16.
Bowie, David David Bowie quote  Accessed 3rd January, 2016.
Franz, Jill M. 2010. Arts-based research. Researching Practice: A Discourse on Qualitative Methodologies 2: 217-226.
Ghaye, Tony and Sue Lillyman. 2014. Reflection: Principles and practices for healthcare professionals 2nd edition. Digital: Andrews UK Limited.
Griffiths, Morweena. 2010. Research and the self. In The Routledge companion to research in the arts, edited by M Biggs and H Karlsson, 167-185. London: Routledge.
iNotes image courtesy of:  iNote  Accessed 28th January, 2016.
Pace, Steven. 2012. Writing the self into research using grounded theory analytic strategies in auto ethnography. TEXT Special Issue Website Series 13.
Page, David L. 2016.  DLP iCal screen Accessed 28th January, 2016.
Page, David L.  2016.  DLP WordPress site Accessed 28th January, 2016.
Page, David L. 2015a Now Accessed 27th January, 2016.
Page, David L. 2015b Research Practitioner Part 2 Accessed 27th January, 2016.
Page, David 2015c QUT KKP603 Project Development in the Creative Industries submissioDLP DCI Project Brief  Accessed 27th January, 2016.
Question mark image courtesy of: Cool Text Accessed 27th January, 2016.
Research image courtesy of: Research Accessed 28th January, 2016.
Ryan, Mary Elizabeth. 2014. Reflective practice in the arts. In Literacy in the Arts, edited by G Barton, 77-90. London: Springer.
Wright, David George, Dawn Bennett and Diana Blom. 2010. The interface between arts practice and research: attitudes and perceptions of Australian artist‐academics. Higher Education Research & Development 29 (4): 461-473.
– ©David L Page 29/01/2016
Copyright: No aspect of the content of this blog or blog site is to be reprinted or used within any practice without strict permission directly from David L Page.

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