Friday, 5 April 2013

Structure vs. Risk-Taking in Creation

As I read Thomas' article "Diary", about his personal research process as a historian, it occurred to me how personal writers' process is. Probably more so for historians and less for scientific researchers. As Thomas says "But no two histories will be the same, whereas the essence of scientific experiments is that they can be endlessly replicated". Which is why as a social science researcher your methods must be systematic, well documented, defended, and you must be able to talk about and justify them. 
It has been a challenge for me and a completely new way of working, being part of this class and learning to write research proposals. Coming from an arts background (literature and theatre) I am used to improvising the process and coming up with something that works for me at any given time (which can differ from project to project) without needing to discuss it or break it down systematically or defend it. I have definitely gained more respect and insight into the work researchers put into their writing and the way of thinking and approach it requires. Luker's "Salsa Dancing Into The Social Sciences" is a call to mix and match approaches and methods and make it more unique to you and take risks with this systematic process. It is tricky to do that in academia because of the concern for following rules that get you a good grade. 
From my experience in theatre school at university, I learned that it is not easy to work creatively in academic institutions because of the result-oriented nature of academia (your performance is always evaluated and value is placed on that). Because you want to do well and 'get it right', there is fear around taking risks and trying new things and experimenting because at the end of the day you have to fit into the structure, and taking risks is not synonymous with fitting into the square box. 
So it is interesting, this duality of structure vs. risk-taking and creativity, which I found to be a theme in this course from the beginning. It is definitely useful to learn as much about how to work in each of these two ways, and at some point get comfortable enough with both (from practice) that you can blend them together in a way that works for you. 

Thomas, K. (2010). Diary: working methods. London Review of Books, 32(11), 36-7.

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