Thursday, 1 June 2017

Notes on a lecture by Claire Booth, a PhD student, Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Claire is undertaking a PhD study in connection with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the subject of Happiness and Well-Being.

Claire is a graduate in anthropology at degree level (undergraduate), and completed a Master's degree in Art and Design. She is particularly interested in how human centred design can connect. Claire's research is tying these social relations with interactive artworks to get meaningful experiences for participants.

A number of suggestions for helping to plan a research project were provided by Claire.

When considering a new artistic research project, the first stage is to try to conceptualise the project as a whole and some kind of framework needs to be constructed. In her case, she has used a number of sources that have come about since the early 80s, for example the "Happiness Turn" recognised in psychology, and the subsequent "World Happiness Report" that has been annually issued over the past few years. Indeed there is now method for General Practitioners in medicine to prescribe certain social activities that can improve happiness, known as "Social Prescribing", for their patients, such as for example to visit places like the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Another interesting source might be "The Museum of the Mind", and the Happy Museum. Also of use is "The Promise of Happiness" a book by Sara Ahmed.

The research aims:

  • To study the emotional impact of visits at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
  • Is happiness and well-being constructed at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park?
  • To provide qualitative research project.

The research design:

  • defines components and elements
  • the site
  • the stakeholders
  • the focus
  • the players, and resources

Within the research there will be various levels, layers and registers of experience. Claire likes to call this the multiplicities of experience.

Research methods:
moving beyond observation, you need to get more interventionist participation to measure experiences and not just behaviour. As an observing participant, but also a participant observer, Claire is performing different roles as a researcher and often feels that there is an "in between" space that she is existing in.

Much of her work is about getting people to talk more about their experiences on an individual level. The theory that she has been focusing on our for example:

  • The Spell of the Sensations by David Abraham (1996) a detailed discussion on the work of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
  • The Perception of Environment by Tim Ingold (2000) and Making (2013)
  • A Single Day's Walk by John Wiley.

With regards to Claire's question of how she is carrying out research, she has looked towards the theory of "Action Research". This is a method of democratising the research process. See the book "Participation Action Research" by Cahill (2007). This provides the action research cycle, similar to the one mentioned by Alysia Grassi at the previous week' s lecture.

In considering collaborative methods, these are traditional and qualitative. For example
participatory diagramming through face-to-face interviews.
Mapping through questionnaires (hardcopy, paper version)
storytelling through online questionnaires
making activities through participant observations
journalling through activities such as workshops and walking.

The "validity" of research in all cases is based on rigourousness, reasonableness, triangulation, case analysis, referential adequacy, credibility, transfer ability, dependability, conformability (see the book by Stringer, 2010)

  • Consider also the context during planning.
  • Environment
  • Creative research/design problem
  • Define clearly who are the stakeholders.
  • How can you understand their experience?
  • And finally what is your own position with regard to all of the above?


Again a very useful lecture by a practising artist and anthropologist, with distinct connections to some of the work that I have been exploring. The above framework of suggested sections and titles of the research process are valuable for my own essay. I need to consider these carefully and how they interrelate with my own work, aims and objectives.

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