Rising Amb Lit Logo

Digital Placemaking Category

Researching Our Research

by Will Taylor

Will Taylor is a Creative Producer at Rising Arts Agency, currently co-leading BE IT along with fellow producer and research fellow Roseanna Dias. Will’s work centres on processes of transformation in the culture sector. Process informed by the needs, wants and appetites for inquisition of underrepresented communities.

Co-creating Research and Development Processes

Who here has ever been involved in the research and development of the technology they use daily?
Who here uses technology for a slightly different purpose to what it was invented for?
Who here has seen people in their community use tech in a different way to how it might have been intended?
Why is any of this significant?
Depends who you are and what you do right?

A lot of our work focuses on inclusion, access and co creation, by the nature of who makes up our community and team. And by that, we often mean managing the relationship between the social/personal impacts of being mis/under represented in the creative and cultural sector.

When the team at Ambient Lit approached us to work on some ‘pre’ R&D focused on best practice in an R&D phase and in relation to these topics, how could we say no?

The Creative Tech industry is such a fertile space for innovation, but we’d found that the limited lived experiences tend to limit authentic conversations in these spaces.

In working with a group of budding artists from Rising's community who design experiences through their own artistic practices we learned unanimously that conventional R&D models often lead to limited conclusions.

People can’t be themselves or feel like they must behave a certain way for their perspectives to be respected. Originally the priorities of the Research party are the only priorities shared in a space. The framework is rigid and impersonal.

One of the key things to have come out of this work so far is ‘sensemaking’. People should have ample time to understand how the space is designed, and therefore how they can bend the walls and decorate them. Not everyone puts a poster up as soon as they move in, unfortunately, we weren’t all raised that way. So commitment to building a flexible system together as opposed to prescribing one from the offset will allow you to find the results that really matter. As a rule of thumb, you want to spend 3 whole sessions designing the space, before you even get into any of the research you want to do.

Building an open space comes with its challenges. What does it look like and what purpose does the space serve? Who has the power, the researchers or the participants? How much more important is finding out what we thought to be true, than finding out something new? Let us tell you, that if we'd figured this out, there will be someone out there with more resources to build on this further. For now we’ll build on what we've learned from our sessions and continue to redress the power balance in research and development methods for as long as it takes.

In short.

Taking things slowly at the beginning (slower than you’d like too) creates so many more opportunities to do innovative thinking as your project develops.