ethical life-as-research


< back to CREW

Where are the boundaries between life and creative research?

Is research, and its ethical conduct, 
an institutional activity
or a way of life? 





Project Summary (50 words or less)

Creative Practice research offers new opportunities for considering research ethics. This project investigates ways in which creative practice researchers deal with the actualities of conducting ethical research through acknowledging and cultivating the development of ethical know-how as part of everyday life.

Project aims & justification (approx 500 words)

Creative Practice Research projects present unique opportunities to elicit awareness, new ways of looking at the world and ourselves in it, and to potentially open up 'new organs of perception'. These potential contributions are linked to the development of ethical know-how. Ethical know-how is developed through doing, and reflecting on that which has been done in moving towards the future; it is a form of tacit knowledge that occurs through acting in ways that move a given situation toward an affirmative, or best possible trajectory. This kind of knowing exceeds deliberation and can only be acquired through lived experience.

There is a growing body of research from within the academy that points to the failures of the existing ethics approval model to address the complexities and fluidity of creative practice research. (long list of refs) The collective experience of the research applicants offers further evidence that the way in which ethics approval processes tend to operate in university settings fails to address the situated particularity of research activity and the temporal frames researchers use to negotiate difference with their participants, co-researchers and collaborators. Rather than look at ways to equip the researcher with the capacity to effectively engage with the ethical quandaries generated through their research, risk adverse institutional compliance structures can lead to a focus on worst-case scenario outcomes rather than the deeper and more integral ethical dimensions operating within the research project. At times, the approval process will fundamentally shift the researchers enquiry toward ‘safer’ and less integrated approaches, which can diminish the potential contribution of the research activity.

Furthermore, when the open-ended, explorative actualities of a creative practice research project is underway, new and unanticipated potential will almost always arise. While these developments will often require the researcher to make decisions that have ethical implications, this emerging potential will not be contained or covered by any prior university ethics approval. In these situations, our capacity for acting ethically necessarily requires drawing on the ethical know-how we have at hand. This need to develop and draw upon ethical know-how becomes important for creative practice research where the direction a project will take most often cannot be known in advance. This project aims to develop a guidebook of everyday tactics for the development of ethical know-how through creative practice research that can be used to assist the researcher to navigate ethical terrain both within and outside of the academy. As such, this project aims to assist creative practice researchers to deal with the actualities of conducting ethical research through both acknowledging and cultivating the development of ethical know-how as part of everyday life.

Research design/ approach

The project was initiated through an OLT project – Developing new approaches to ethics and research integrity training through challenges posed by Creative Practice Research (2015-2017). One activity of that project was a 6 week workshop titled Creative Research Ethics Workshop (CREW) involving around 12 co-researchers who came to be involved through a call for expressions of interest process. This activity has led to this more sustained enquiry. Because the experiences of everyday life informs the ethical know-how we bring to our creative practice research, we can’t exclude the unexpected moments that arise as part of the general course of daily life. This, of necessity, involves an openness to the unknown and unexpected. [more to come...]