Circle of doing research

Publication details

Over the course of six months during the 21-22 fall and winter, the Research Station talked to course leaders of the majors in the Willem de Kooning Academy and made a scan of the curriculum to learn about how research is being described and taught in the academy. The conversations fed into the Circle of Doing Research model.

The model consists of six areas: research of context, research by making, participatory research, documenting research, making public, and reflecting on research. Find some background information about the areas below. The circle will be structuring Research Station activities and the educational programmes that we develop.

RESEARCH BY MAKING is at the heart of art and design research. It is characterised by activities such as experimentation and prototyping. It involves iteration and continuous reflection on what you do, observe, and decide. Making isn’t limited to material artefacts but may as well refer to performance, language, or social and embodied practices. It can be done individually or collaboratively. Making becomes research when it is part of an articulated and shareable process.

RESEARCH OF CONTEXT entails finding and validating sources. They can be both visual and textual, artistic and theoretical, human and non-human. Research of context helps you orientate on a subject and its broader scope on one hand, and is elemental for reaching in-depth understanding on the other. It thus helps recognising open and urgent questions. It can involve studying existing literature, talking to experts in the field, or examining your own position within a project, system, or organisation.

PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH revolves around working with people. They may be collaborators in your project, have valuable information or experiences around your topic, or they may belong to a certain audience. Interaction, co-creation, and dialogue are ways to bring out their knowledges. You can use tangible materials as support, for example conversation pieces, cultural probes, or prototypes. Working with others will strengthen your research, but also calls for ethical consideration. What are you offering your participants in return?

DOCUMENTING RESEARCH findings in a deliberate and transferable way is crucial for analysis and reflection. Start with documenting right from the start and make sure to make it accessible, for example by using keywords and categories. This will help with argumentation and the representation of your research, both visually and through writing. Collecting, tagging, and structuring different types of information are important actions, both for archiving what you did and to create a narrative around it.

MAKING PUBLIC is about connecting your research to the outside world. Making public involves writing, designing, organising, and presenting your research in fitting media and spaces. This process doesn’t have to wait until the end of your project but can be an integral part of it. You might create a workshop or open a pop-up store, and then implement what you learned in the next phase of your project. Always consider who the public is and how to relate to the situatedness of knowledge and people.

REFLECTING ON RESEARCH is the undercurrent of any research project. From choosing a topic, a methodology, or documentation structure, to analysing observations, experiments, and other (material) data. Taking the next step in an iterative process calls for detailed and structured reflection. It’s also important to consciously consider your own position and role in the project. How does your perspective shape what you do? What are your biases? And what ethical considerations does your subject call forth?

The Circle of Doing Research is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

Research Station, Willem de Kooning Academy, 2022.