My master’s thesis proposal is entitled ‘Investigating the impact of Outlandish Theatre workshops on participants’. Outlandish Theatre is a participatory arts project led by Maud Hendricks and Bernie O’Reilly who facilitate workshops in the Rita Kelly Theatre at the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital. The company place an emphasis on creating work that directly emerges from the Dublin 8 community. Social issues that are pertinent to workshop participants are explored through a ‘theatre of enquiry’. Performers are encouraged to develop solo pieces around a given theme. Towards the end of the process earch solo performance is ‘stitched together’ to create a montage that is then presented as a public performance. My thesis explores the subjective experience of workshop participants as they engage in this creative process in order to reveal the presumed impact and value of arts participation.
This proposal was developed for the DL916 Business Research Methods module with Dr. Christine Horn from September 2018 to June 2019. This online resource is my Eportfolio forming part of my grade for the Business Research Methods module. Here you can explore how I developed my research project by reading the reflection on this page. In the reflection I evaluate my learning throughout the process. This evaluation is hyperlinked to different windows with the Eportfolio which documents the process and provides more in depth analysis of the topic. A general summary below and project timeline to the right are also presented to give a general overview of the research project.
Before arriving at my final thesis topic there were three previous proposals that I was considering; The Green Party Ireland: Developing Green Cultural Policy, Assessing the Impact of the BespecACTive! Creative Residency on Participants and Dave Kelly’s Laying The Foundations: Creativity and Theatre. Each proposal marked a gradual refinement of my thinking, a continued synthesis of the relevant literature and greater clarity of the research design before arriving at the Outlandish Theatre proposal. During this process a host of learning techniques where employed to arrive at the final research design. These methods included presentations of my proposal idea, attending events that gave a greater insight into the literature, conducting skype meetings with experts, visually representing information as mind maps, subscribing to NVivo software training, continually revising the annotated bibliography and making multiple submissions of the final proposal. This learning process can therefore be be described by the following themes: Persistence, Experiential, Social and Visual Learning and Understanding the research design.
Persistence was an essential attitude that I adopted in-order to realise the final thesis proposal. It was this quality of persistence that allowed me to respond to constructive criticism and adapt to the challenges of the module . It enabled me to rewrite multiple versions of the final proposal, dig deeper into the literature in order to clarify my research questions and to maintain the level of rigor demanded by the module. In retrospect it was this attitude that allowed me to overcome disappointment when one project failed and drove me on to seek a new case study. It is likely, however, that a more calculated strategy of finding a case study may have saved time and effort in the initial stages. Yet, the accumulated literature reviews from each of the proposals ideas provided me with a strong background knowledge of the topic for the final project. Each submission on Turnitin illustrates a synthesis of my learning and the continued clarification and simplification of the research design. This continued synthesis of information through the persistent rereading of literature and redrafting of the proposals, is also highlighted in the diffrence between my first presentation in late November 2018 for the BeSpecACTive! project and the screencast proposal of the Outlandish Theatre case study on April 29th 2019.
Experiential learning by attending public events and participating in creative workshops, allowed me to understand what I was reading on a deeper level. For example, by attending The Make Culture, Make Europe Seminar in Torino, Italy on December 5th 2019, I understood the political dimension of the BeSpecACTive! project and truly grasped the concept of cultural democracy. Participating in the Helium Arts focus group facilitated by Creativity, Culture and Education on February 12th & 13th 2019, illustrated to me how creative workshops can function as a form of participatory action research. By taking part in this workshop I was able to ‘act out’ the key concepts of creativity before reading the literature. In this way I first understood these ideas practically before grasping them intellectually by reading the literature. Unrelated but relevant to this research project is the internship I completed with the 2019 Bealtaine Festival between May 1st and June 3rd. Not only was this internship an opportunity to practice a similar procedure of interviews and thematic analysis as stated in this thesis design, but regular encounters with festival goers and artists allowed me to articulate the presumed themes of cultural value in simple terms.
A key element within this research process was visually representing the connections between different literature using A3 sheets of paper and coloured pens. Through this process I was able to become more familiar with the literature and decipher their degree of relevance to my proposal. Moreover, I became aware of a different learning process taking place when I wrote out information in large with colored pens as opposed to when I tried to type things out on my laptop. For me, there is a difference between the digital medium of a word processor and the tactile sense of pen and paper. I require the later as a way to clarify my thoughts first before using the former for the final write up. The relationship between the written mind maps and the annotated bibliography demonstrates this process.
Similar to experiential and visual learning is social learning. In this case, I hosted skype conversations with Megan Friel on January 29th 2019 and with Dave Camlin on February 5th 2019. With Megan we discussed a key text during the initial stages of the research entitled Assessing the Intrinsic Impacts of a Live Performance (2007). While Dave and I discussed his research The Value of Group Singing (forthcoming). These conversations with experts allowed me to clarify what I had read. In this way, social learning is similar to experiential learning in that an idea or concept read about in the literature is understood practically.
The most significant technical learning from this process was understanding the differences between quantitative, qualitative, inductive, deductive and interpretivist research methodologies. To begin with, this enquiry is a qualitative research. Therefore I am not interested in the objective line between cause and effect but the subjective texture of experience. The ethnographic interview was chosen as the simplest and most effective data collection method that would allow the researcher an insight into the presumed personal value of arts participation. At one point, I was considering a triangulated data collection method of participant interviews, participant observation and analysis of audio transcripts recorded during workshop feedback sessions. However, this methodology was too complex and beyond the scope of a masters thesis. It is important, however, to note that the majority of research projects within the literature employ a triangulated mixed methodology. This is because capturing artistic ‘value’ is elusive and requires the researcher to approach the subject from multiple angles. One of the main developments of the project was to switch from an deductive to an inductive textual analysis. As noted in my reflection upon the skype meetings with Megan Friel and Dave Camlin the choice was eventually made not to pre determine measures of artistic impact but to allow themes to emerge organically through thematic analysis. This was a late development in the process, both the BeSpecACTIve! and Dave Kelly proposals suggested determining presumed measures of impact. Intellectual Stimulation, Emotional Resonance, Social Bonding and Aesthetic Growth in the case of BeSpecACTIve!. Collaboration and Imagination in the case of Dave Kelly. The decision not to predefine artistic outcomes was taken following the rational that every cultural project is unique and produces subjective impacts relative to its context. Camlin’s research counters this argument by presenting key themes of artistic impact synthesised from large data sets, while the literature groups artistic impact around generic themes. Yet it was important to for the purposes of this project to remain flexible to the research outcomes and not to place any expectations on what these outcomes may be. In doing so the theoretical limits of the project are bordaly defined within The New Framework (McCarthy et al :2005). An NVivo webinar that I attended on the 1st of May 2019 with Dr. Silvia di Gregorio, highlighted the difference between positivist and interpretivist approaches to textual analysis. Theoretically I am using a interpretivist approach to complement the chosen method of an interview. Theoretically the context in which an interview takes place affects the way it is interpreted. Transcripts from mico - interviews conducted at the 2019 Bealtaine Festival are revealing the contextual nature of audio transcription, however, it remains to be seen whether or not this interpretivist approach will have a significant impact on the way I perceive the Outlandish Theatre interviews. From June 3rd to 7th 2019 I attended a fundamentals course in NVivo 12 for Mac, this training along with the initial analysis of transcripts from the 2019 Bealtaine Festival have allowed me to become more familiar with the procedure of thematic analysis
At the time of writing this reflection I have submitted my final proposal and now I am awaiting assignment of my supervisor. The strategy going forwards is to establish a study schedule that will allow me to comfortably conduct the research in a timely fashion for final submission on December 2nd 2019. There are three aspects to this that include, deepening the literature review, data collection / management / interpretation and writing up the report. Over the next few weeks this is my priority, but learning from the process so far shows that persistence, planning, organisation and attention to detail are key elements of a well executed research project.
September - October: 2018
Meeting with Katie Lowry
Development of Green Cultural Policy Project
Development of BeSpecACTive! Project
November - December: 2018
Early November: final visit to Green Party: change of topic to BeSpecACTive! project
Late November: Initial Presentation
December 5th: Make Culture, Make Europe Seminar
Mid December: BeSpecACTive! draft proposal submission
January - June: 2019
January 1st: BeSpecACTive! draft proposal feedback (switch from fast to normal track)
January 29th: Skype with Megan Friel
February 5th: Skype with Dave Camlin
Communication breakdown with Maria Fleming
February 12th & 13th: Creativity, Culture & Education focus group with Helium Arts (case study & topic change)
February - Early March: development of Dave Kelly Laying The Foundations proposal
Correspondence with Dave Kelly: (case study & topic change)
March 14th: Final Proposal Submitted : Outlandish Theatre Case Study: (continuous resubmission)
April 29th: Screencast Presentation of Outlandish Theatre Project
May 1st - June 3rd Bealtaine Festival
May: 5th NVivo Data Workshop
May 17th: Feedback from Christine
May 24th: Resubmission of proposal
June 3rd - 7th: NVivo Data Workshop