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  • Writer's pictureDarren Woodland

ABR, PBR, and Experimentalism Methodologies


Research methodologies in the fields of arts, design, and digital media have evolved, embracing innovative approaches to understand and generate new knowledge. This blog post delves into the realms of Arts-Based Research (ABR), Practice-led Research (PBR), and Experimentalism, examining their characteristics, potential contributions, and drawbacks/considerations. By contrasting these methodologies, we can unveil how they offer unique avenues for uncovering new insights and understanding within the realms of creative inquiry and the field of digital media.

Part 1: Arts-Based Research (ABR)


Arts-Based Research (ABR) is a qualitative methodology that investigates human experiences and phenomena by employing artistic practices such as visual art, music, dance, drama, and creative writing. ABR emphasizes the experiential and sensory dimensions of research, recognizing the complexity and interplay of cognitive, emotional, embodied, and aesthetic factors.

Methods and Research Activities:
  • Engaging participants in artistic workshops, performances, or installations to explore their experiences.

  • Employing visual art, music, dance, drama, or creative writing as means of inquiry.

  • Conducting interviews or reflective sessions with participants to delve into their subjective experiences.

  • Using artistic techniques to represent and communicate research findings.

  • Artistic creations such as paintings, sculptures, music compositions, choreographed dances, or theatrical performances.

  • Reflective journals or narratives capture the researcher's observations and reflections.

  • Documentaries or audiovisual presentations that convey the research process and outcomes.

  • Uncover nuanced understandings of phenomena and human experiences.

  • Illuminate the sensory, emotional, and embodied dimensions of research topics.

  • Foster participatory and collaborative engagement between researchers and participants.

Common Methodologies:
  • Phenomenology: Emphasizes the subjective experiences and the lived realities of individuals.

  • Constructivism: Views knowledge as actively constructed by individuals.

  • Critical Theories: Challenges existing power structures and promotes social change through artistic expression.

Drawbacks and Considerations:
  • Ensuring validity and reliability in artistic interpretation.

  • Addressing concerns of generalizability and transferability of findings.

  • Developing rigorous criteria for evaluating the quality and trustworthiness of research.

Part 2: Practice-Based Research (PBR)


Practice-Based (or Practise-Led) Research (PBR) places the creative practice itself at the core of the research process. It involves the production of artistic or design artifacts and their critical analysis to generate new knowledge and contribute to the advancement of the respective fields.

Methods and Research Activities:
  • Engaging in creative practice, such as painting, sculpture, design, or performance.

  • Documenting and critically reflecting on the creative process.

  • Analyzing and interpreting the produced artifacts in relation to research questions or objectives.

  • Engaging in peer discussions, critiques, or exhibitions to gather feedback and insights.

  • Artistic or design artifacts, including paintings, sculptures, digital designs, architectural models, or performances.

  • Reflective documentation of the creative process, including journals, sketches, or video recordings.

  • Research papers or publications that articulate the findings, insights, and contributions of the creative practice.

  • Pushing the boundaries of art and design disciplines.

  • Generating new knowledge through artistic or design practices.

  • Contributing to the advancement and innovation of the respective fields.

Common Methodologies:
  • Reflective Practice: Encourages critical self-reflection on the creative process and outcomes.

  • Autoethnography: Combines personal narrative and analysis to explore the researcher's experiences.

  • Critical Analysis: Applies theoretical frameworks and perspectives to interpret and evaluate the creative artifacts.

  • Autoethnography: Seeks to understand the researcher's practice and self through cultural, social, and lived experiences.

Drawbacks and Considerations:
  • Balancing the tension between practice and theory.

  • Ensuring rigor and academic contribution in articulating the research outcomes.

  • Evaluating the impact and significance of the artistic or design artifacts.

Part 3: Experimentalism


Experimentalism involves an exploratory and iterative approach, embracing experimentation and innovation as central to the research process. It fosters interdisciplinary collaborations and encourages the pursuit of new ideas, methodologies, and techniques.

Methods and Research Activities:
  • Designing and conducting experimental studies or interventions.

  • Exploring novel technologies or materials to create interactive and immersive experiences.

  • Collaborating with experts from different disciplines to blend diverse perspectives.

  • Iteratively refining and iterating experimental approaches based on empirical findings.

  • Interactive installations, immersive environments, or prototypes.

  • Research papers or conference presentations on innovative methodologies or findings.

  • Collaborative artworks or performances resulting from interdisciplinary collaborations.

  • Pushing disciplinary boundaries and exploring new frontiers.

  • Fostering innovation, experimentation, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

  • Creating novel experiences, technologies, or methodologies.

Common Methodologies:
  • Design-Based Research: Integrates design processes and empirical investigations to explore new solutions.

  • Participatory Design: Involves users or stakeholders in the design process to foster collaboration and co-creation.

  • Iterative Prototyping: Develops and refines prototypes through multiple iterations and user feedback.

Drawbacks and Considerations:
  • Managing uncertainty and the lack of established frameworks.

  • Balancing risk-taking with meaningful outcomes.

  • Navigating ethical considerations in experimental interventions.

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