Research Ethics for Practice-Led Research Methodologies in the Creative Disciplines



Design Education Research


  • research approaches, good citizenship, accountability, collaborative research

Research in the creative arts for qualification purposes has developed since the late 1980’s to include creative practice as aspects of both methodology and outputs. The nature of the creative process, and what has been deemed as useful to artist/designer academics, has resulted in many research projects driven by a single researcher, addressing problems of practice from a subjective perspective, with the researcher and the researcher’s actions becoming both the object and subject of the research. This kind of research does not involve other participants and is therefore seemingly precluded from ethical discussion.

When applying for ethical clearance for a research project, it is usually automatically assumed  that  the  research  will  be  conducted  with  academic  integrity  and  that  the  knowledge produced will be of value to the research community. In the visual arts, however, these assumptions cannot be made without justification, because the nature of creative research is often in opposition to some of the (still dominant) mores of scientific enquiry.  

In this paper I am specifically concerned with the ethical categories of academic integrity;   responsibility to the discipline as well as the value of knowledge in relation to the communal and general good, pertaining specifically to the ethics of research  in  the  creative  disciplines.  

This  paper  aims  to  examine  frameworks  within  which  such research could be structured to adhere to specific research-ethical requirements mentioned above. While many other frameworks have been used successfully in creative research projects, I focus on two frameworks (activity theory and the participatory research paradigm) which conceptualize the interrelation of the researcher as subject and object in similar ways. Building on this discussion, I explore postphenomenology as an experimental framework, focusing on the implications of postphenomenology for research concerned with the making of objects, and the ethical implications thereof.

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