Building the research design and collecting data

The second research question of the 33,000 Everyday Artists research project focuses on the process of introducing and embedding ‘an everyday culture of creativity’. By process, we mean what does it actually take in concrete terms to embed a creative culture in a university environment and, importantly, is it even possible?

It is challenging to answer this as the project is fraught with methodological difficulty. There are multiple stakeholders in the project so getting everyone on board and understanding the aims and philosophy behind the initiative can be problematic. Issues such as limited time and resources (one day a week) are also significant factors to juggle in terms of what is realistic and achievable.

Another pressing issue is the grassroots aims behind the project. Can we embed something counter-cultural that won’t get swept up and appropriated by King’s and the organisation’s branding? Basic practical issues like emailing students and staff means getting permission from senior faculty members which undermines the grassroots ethos. It seems we need a degree of ‘top-down’ involvement to get the project off the ground, as well as ‘bottom up’. However, we need to always be mindful not to instrumentalise the project, nor close down the very ‘play space’ that we are trying to open up.

In practical terms, as there as so many people involved – from Jo and David from 64 Million Artists, the Cultural Institute, the researchers and of course everyone at King’s we’re trying to reach – then it’s extremely difficult to document and measure all the activity that is happening around and towards the project.

To capture the messy and complicated but extremely important process behind the initiative, we have developed a range of different strategies to collect data and record developments. One way is through Jo and David writing reflections at the end of each day so they record significant conversations and also personally reflect on them. Laura, the researcher, is writing field notes and documenting the meetings she attends. Various iterations of documents (research, comms, copy to be sent to departments/Deans) that have changed over the course of the project, as well as developments in terms of activities that will be offered from January onward, are being collected in a dropbox folder.

Another strategy for documenting the process is through a master excel file that ‘evidences’ the activity that has happened around the project. Excel screen grab

The above screen grab shows the information that is being collected mainly around the meetings that have taken place across the university with multiple actors. ‘Critical incidents’ refers to ideas that have changed or moved the project on in some way, or a point of clarification that is useful to note. This method has proved useful as a way of keeping track of the regular changes to the project as they occur, and also to see the sheer number of meetings that have to take place to get an initiative like 33kEA off the ground – 47 thus far!

As we go forward, we are continuing to think about the conditions that constrain, motivate and enable the embedding of an everyday culture of creativity and the best way of capturing and documenting them.

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