TransCoding–from ‘Highbrow Art’ to Participatory Culture| Methodology

The project integrates methods and approaches from three different disciplines: the arts, technology and social sciences.

A) The Arts:
Following Henk Borgdorff in The debate on research in the arts, we would like to differentiate art research from current academic and scientific research by posing an ontological, an epistemological and a methodological question.
“The ontological question is: What is the nature of the object, of the subject matter, of the research in the arts? […] And in what respect does it thereby differ from other scholarly or scientific research?” (Borgdorff 2006)

Firstly, with the arts project TransCoding we embrace the final artwork as well as the process of producing art: the gathering of inspiration, the communication and artistic exploration. We understand our arts practice as performative meaning that the artwork as well as the creative process will stir us (and our participatory community) and will modify how we understand and reflect the world; thus it will do something to us, it will perform us and we will perform through it coming from a material to an immaterial level. Thus, it intrinsically has its own status in comparison to scientific,
sociological or historical facts. Secondly, artistic practices are always embedded in a context, they are never detached of society or time. In TransCoding we put an emphasis on the situation and on the community, the outcome of the interrelation between community and art will flow into the art’s body. The artwork will hold not only our experiences and beliefs but it will reflect and confront its own roots in community and society.

The epistemological question:
“With what kind of knowledge and understanding does research in the arts concern itself? And how does that knowledge relate to more conventional forms of scholarly knowledge?”

The methodological question:
“What research methods and techniques are appropriate to research in the arts? And in what respect do these differ from the methods and techniques in the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities?” (Borgdorff 2006)
First of all, research in art concerns itself with knowledge that is embodied in art be it the artwork or the process that leads to the artwork. What are the points of reference to judge creativity and art? Csikszentmihalyi’s systems model of creativity includes the environment in which the individual works. He states that creativity involves an individual (the artist), social (the field) and cultural (the domain) part; creativity happens at the point where they intersect.

In TransCoding we consciously embed the process of conceiving art into the field via participatory culture, thereby expanding the field to a much wider community than usually experienced in the domain of contemporary music. By participant observation, we will gather information on the perspectives and the interplay within and with our focus group and get an overview of issues that are of concern to our target group.
Epistemological insight into the creative process and the knowledge embodied in the artwork can also be gained by tracing what psychologist Keith Sawyer’s calls the “Four-Stages-of-Creativity- Approach”.
• Preparation–the initial phase of preliminary work: collecting data and information, searching for related ideas, listening to suggestions.
• Incubation–the delay between preparation and the moment of insight: during this time, the prepared material is internally elaborated and organised.
• Insight–the subjective experience of having the idea – the “eureka” moment.
• Verification–the evaluation of the worth of the insight, and elaboration into its complex form (Sawyer 2006, 58-59).

We will follow, document and analyse the stages of creativity in our own work basing our research on empirical experience and inductive reasoning. A qualitative research approach seems the most appropriate since it allows us to investigate different factors in the process of participation, communication (sociologically and through the arts) and dissemination, discover what they depend on and inquire into meaning. Sociology and practice based arts research will interrelate and research methods will intersect. While the project will be carefully planned and ordered, it still allows for a creative process that might lead to surprising results.

B) Social sciences applied to artistic research:

Here the main focus lies on the analysis of existing practices of participatory culture, if and how those findings can be transferred to this arts project, and in what way an “anonymous” community and artists will interact, exchange and communicate. Connected with these topics, questions of authorship, collaborational creativity and artistic identity as well as curation, hierarchy and access to technical means of arts production will be of interest to us.

  • Firstly we will analyse existing concepts of participatory culture, using instruments of quantitative and qualitative content analysis.
  • We will continuosly and systematically observe, document and evaluate the community building, the participatory activities and the artistic process itself through a process of selfreflective methodology. Material will be gained from qualitative interviews, group discussions, participatory observations and evaluation of statistics.
  • Results of the research will continuosly inform the strategies applied to the community building and community exchange, the interchange between artists and community and the actual artistic production itself.

C) Technology: Technicians contribute to the project in several ways.
Firstly, augmented reality technologies (AR) are used in the audio-visual installation that is developed out of the contributions and conclusions drawn from the joint artistic/scientific and digital community. AR would be used as a means to reflect on different realities or concepts of identity that might have evolved out of the participatory community.
AR in practise: The best way to achieve AR in an exhibition would be to base the software on an open-source SLAM-based system such as PTAM. This works by simultaneously tracking the movement of the AR device in the space and mapping out the remainder of the space. Rather than the tracker detecting individual objects, it would learn the layout of the entire exhibition and virtually ‘hang’ small ‘viewing screens’ in front of/near to the objects to be tracked; the tracking system would work by locating the device’s camera in the exhibition space as a whole and placing and playing back media as appropriate.
The system would be based on the open-source PTAM/PTAMM software, or similar. PTAM is open source but is released using a license that makes non-research usage impossible without paying for a license; I would like to re-implement the software using a free software/copyleft license (GPL) which would be much more suitable for a participatory culture use. In doing so I would adapt its user interface side to allow it to be readily used for exhibition purposes, for example:
• providing a simple way to place and edit media in the exhibition space,
• providing a simple way to create a new ‘map’ for a new exhibition space,
• providing a way to evaluate, edit and modify parts of the ‘map’ that are working suboptimally, to ensure a good audience experience.
Part of the research would be about bringing the software and algorithm from its present vulnerable/fragile research state, to a point where specialised knowledge about computer vision, augmented reality or software development in general is not necessary in order to set up and use the software.
Secondly, the “making of” (including field data, interviews, artistic work etc) and the multimedia show will be documented retracing working and development processes as part of the research. This will be part of a DVD released at the label farpointrecordings.

Back to TransCoding | Introduction
Link to Trans Coding | Key Research Questions
Back to TransCoding-What if?| The Team
Back to the blog what if?

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