From the President: Messy methodologies: a human approach to creative research

By Professor Clive Barstow

On a recent visit to the Tate Modern in London I noticed the slogan on the entrance “Art Changes - We Change”. It is a poignant and timely reminder that whatever we have achieved in terms of establishing practice-led creative research degrees here in Australia, they are only relevant if they can shift and adapt to reflect the time and place in which they operate.

A recent Deloitte report on skills for the future[1] points to the problems we might face in a mechanised workforce for a generation of future graduates who have been weened in the digital age. While it is anticipated that advances in technology will present breakthrough solutions in areas such as medicine, automation and sustainable environments, research suggests that our designers could struggle to persuade us to adopt new technologies on a more human and everyday scale.

To this end, Toyota are now training their automotive designers to work first with materials, clay, wire, plaster, the messy element of creativity that all artists know so well. Tacit knowledge gained through material handling and open-ended experimentation better reflects how the artist, musician and performer embarks on their imaginative and creative process, an essential form of play from hand to brain and back again. This hand to brain shift, as a way to connect ideas to the consumer recognises an approach to research that will be in great demand in an increasingly simulated world.

Creative research therefore may need to further embed such human traits as failure, chance, intuition and risk as underpinning methodologies to establish a unified understanding of the unbounded power of the imagination, and as a definition of what it means to be human.

Academic leaders across Australia should be proud of what they have achieved in placing creative research degrees in a system that has over time favoured traditional STEM approaches to research and new knowledge, a paradigm that presents limitations in its approach to creative and open ended thinking. The “hand to brain” approach is now an understood and accepted approach to research in our Universities, but one that has been hard earned.

This edition of NiTRO presents a number of positions about how the research degree is relevant now and in the future. Our executive member Professor Craig Batty has co-edited this edition and has done a wonderful job in bringing together diverse views across the sector. Craig is an award-winning educator, researcher and supervisor in the areas of screenwriting, creative writing and screen production, and is an expert in creative practice research methodologies.

I hope you enjoy the excellent contributions in this important edition of NiTRO.       

[1] Deloitte Insights : Skills Change but Capabilities Endure. 2019.