Research to Connect

To measure and act upon impact the Research Centre of the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts will use ethnographic and anthropological methodologies to conduct in-depth qualitative research to assess the impact of partner organizations’ activities or the organizations themselves.

This will enable the network to better understand the dynamics of the ecology of relationships we produce (the impact on our environments and our stakeholders). And allow us to take these findings into account when planning further artistic activities.

Here we will post research news and findings of the Research Centre of the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts.

The Introduction

The main objective of the research team is to find out how different stakeholders involved in creative process in participating institutions – from artists to managers and administration – collaborate to create impact on audiences and on a broader scale, i.e. beyond the stage and outside the institutions. Therefore, we intend to take into consideration the broader local community in which the performance is embedded, the impact of the oral transmission and media promotion on the ones deciding to visit the performance and on those who do not choose to attend the performance. On the basis of research findings, we will prepare recommendations and strategies for supporting co-creation processes on different levels and between different stakeholders and provide advices for establishing contact with people on local scale and making stronger impact on different levels.

From participant observation to engaged learning

An important novelty of the research, carried out by three institutes of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), is the “engaged learning” as defined by anthropologist Michael Carrithers, which will be used throughout the research processes. Unlike interviews and focus groups, where researchers’ questions guide the answers and, consequently influence the results of the research, the engaged learning emphasizes constant observation and inquiry about what is being observed. This approach is a way to be acquainted with people in an unbiased fashion and frequently provides glimpses or implicit or surprising behaviours and insights. In this way, the researchers will try to become – at least temporarily – a part of different stakeholders in art production, from artists on the stage, administration and management behind the stage to the audiences and other groups of people, directly and indirectly connected to the art production. The researchers will attempt to see, understand and interpret the same production from various angles and in this way make a more complete picture how the same performance influences different actors and stakeholders. This research aims to overcome strictly defined roles of actor and spectator, as is proposed in Jacques Rancière’s notion of “emancipated spectator”. The notion of transmission of superior knowledge from artist to supposedly ignorant and passive spectator will be abandoned in favour of viewing each spectator as already active protagonist in his or her everyday life and microcosm. From that point, we will research processes that enable artists and spectators to create and act together, learn from each other and break the surface of established perceptions of what can be said, performed and experienced.

Ethnographer as a primary tool of data collection

In our research, we will rely on ethnographyas the trademark methodology of anthropology. Its conventional primary method is participant observation, in which the researcher takes part in the daily activities, rituals, interactions, and events of a group of people. The ethnographer thus serves as the primary tool of data collection, living or staying in a context for an extended period of time. She or he participates in a wide range of activities that are both routine and extraordinary, along with the people who are the full participants in that context, carries out informal observation during leisure activities as an important part of data collection (sometimes called “deep hanging out”), in addition to formal observation of work, uses everyday informal conversation as a form of interviewing, records observations and thoughts, usually chronologically, in fieldnotes in a variety of settings, and – most importantly for the project – learns from and builds on the perspectives of the people in the research setting.

Approaches for understanding people

In the research process, we will use the three most relevant ethnographic techniques for collecting information and understanding people: participant observation, interviews, and focus groups. Participant observation is, as explained, a central anthropological research technique that consists of recording and interpreting information acquired through participation and observation. Participant observation is not only relevant because it helps the researcher recognize what is happening in an investigated group; in addition, it relies on something more fundamental. The researchers who cooperate with others engage in symbolic transactions with them leading to insights derived from actively co-operating. This cooperation helps researchers to partially assume the role of others and thus share something of perspectives that are intrinsic to their social worlds.

Interviews are conversations or debates on a certain topic, which usually take place face to face and in person. Interviews are often taped and later transcribed or at least interpreted, allowing the interview to proceed unimpaired of note taking, but with all information available later for full analysis.

Focus groups are a form of group debate that capitaliseson communication between research participants in order to generatedata. This means that instead of the researcher asking eachperson to respond to a question in turn, people are encouragedto talk to one another: asking questions, exchanging anecdotesand commenting on each others’ experiences and points of view.The method is particularly useful for exploring how people’s knowledgeand experiences are produced and can be used to examine not only what peoplethink but how they think and why they think that way.

These qualitative techniques will be used for understanding better people who are involved in art productions and also for studying the network of project partners: how do they communicate and connect throughout the project and what do they think and feel about the impact made on people and the world.