The project brief included writing a short critical reflection as part of the essay. I allocated around a thousand words when planning. I have never written one before, and initially found this difficult, below is the first draft of the second attemp.
Before writing this reflection, I researched different models of critical reflection, which led me to take an online test to understand my learning style as per Honey & Mumford. The test determined my dominant learning styles were Pragmatic and Activist. With this knowledge, I then read through the descriptions of each model of reflection and I decided to use The Kolb Model, based on David Kolb’s experiential learning theory, as the framework for this critical reflection. As reflection was my least scored learning style it was important to address this through a better understanding of the critical reflective processes and its practice.
This section offers a critical reflection on the methodology used to research the question, ‘What role can contemporary art play in campaigns to save at-risk heritage sites?’ and how theories supporting its arguments were applied as the research progressed.
I began working at Moseley Road Baths in April 2018 in a freelance business development role. In early summer 2018, an opportunity arose to project manage a Trust New Art project. Since a citizen-led campaign had been ongoing for 15 years, and the baths had a legacy of high-profile arts activity, I decided this was an interesting research topic. I felt researching the benefits to The Campaign of contemporary art activity, how artists became involved could provide useful context to inform the planning of future community engagement and programming at the site.
When initially working on the Gala Pool Arts Project I was struck by people’s reactions to images of the derelict pool, especially those who had not visited the space. This provided me with a good starting to point to begin to research theories and I was particularly interested in the power of images to evoke emotional responses. I had also observed, while working at the baths, a very high number of requests from photographers to access the building, either as individuals or groups.
One of the more difficult aspects of this paper was devising and selecting the research methodologies for Question 1. When reflecting on The Campaign, my reflexive assumption was to think quantitative data might be available, such as web and social media analytics, which could evidence tangible impacts of contemporary art activity. However, limited quantitative data was collected and due to the length of The Campaign; and it was difficult to find information online, most likely due to the transient nature of the digital realm, and the change internet landscape over the 15 years of the campaign.
Development of Ideas
Initially, I researched how to measure the impact of campaigns in the charitable sector, this led me to read up on qualitative research methods. I then mind mapped and devised a research methodology. I also began to develop a reading list to gain an understanding of the emotional power of images and theories underpinning digital networks, digital dissemination and its use in social activism. I also read up on audience development and current debates on arts and regeneration and followed lines of enquiry that were most relevant to understand the social activist campaign at the baths. I was intrigued by the frequency of request by photographers and this led me to read up on ‘Ruin Photography’ and Urban Exploration.
Testing ideas in practice
Based on the reading I undertook, I devised a research methodology primarily using interviews, as I had access to people involved in The Campaign from the beginning, along with surveys, informal conversations, and desktop research. I developed a case study using the ‘100 Swimmers’ project, due to its subversion of the ‘Ruin Photography’ genre and profile. I contacted organisations involved in arts and heritage research, as well as contacting a local regeneration scheme to compare their experiences. The lack of quantitative data led me to think more laterally and deeply when researching and led me to theories to support the arguments I wanted to make. To test one applied theory, Bathes Punctum, an assertion in Question 1, I developed a sentiment survey.
In reflection, it has been useful for me to not to have analytical data to rely on in making arguments, allowing me to employ a more exploratory and interpretive approach to research. This new perspective on research and skills will be useful in my future career.