Just before I show my research question I wanted to set the scene.I have always been interested in boundaries – particularly in boundaries between art and science, and between mind and body – Cartesian dualism – which is closely related to the boundary between art and science.Of course there are many other boundaries that affect us all, some of which I’ve listed on the slide.
So this is the current version of my research question – which has changed quite a lot since I arrived here!The question is: Can creative process be used to investigate a personal experience of bipolar disorder?I’ve put ‘how’ in brackets because there has been some debate about it, and as I will suggest at the end of the presentation, I’m not 100% sure that this is quite the right question – I’ll welcome comments.
Why have I chosen this question?Lots of overlapping reasons I think – My background is in medicine, nowadays seen as a science not an art.I also have a psychotherapy training – a mixture of art and science.I have used both of these for treating people with mental health problems.Then on the ‘arts’ side I have studied comparative spirituality, and most recently fine art.What all of those have in common is use of various methodologies – -but – what drives my interest is my personal life experience.
Turning to the literature review – My research question and my background reading suggest that there are three main areas to address:Creative process.* Can this be defined? Possibly not, but I know that I’m talking about something art based, not advertising or business.* I’m also talking about an applied process rather than ‘creativity’.* The final thing to consider about creative process is whether I mean use of creative process in research, or as research method.2. Bipolar disorder.# I should offer a definition or diagnostic criteria, but I’m not going into that today! # I need to look at models of mental illness, which very simplistically boil down to medical/ neurobiological models versus psychosocial/ environmental models.# And finally since virtually all my literature on this topic comes from the US or UK, it is important to note that there are significant differences in definition and diagnosis and treatment between the two countries.3. Methodologies~ The third big area to look at is methodology. Hanging over my question is a big boundary between positivism and interpretivism – is there a middle way?
I’ve obviously read quite a lot in order to arrive at this version of my research question, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to put up here, so I have chosen a few texts that give an idea of what I’m looking at.Obviously the literature review is going to expand a lot more over the next few months.# The McGettigan paper is one of several in the last 5y or so debating the place of art practice as research – we looked at a different paper earlier in the module. There are arguments on both sides, and a lot of it is inevitably political.# Lieberman has written an interesting blog that encapsulates some of the current views about mental health, certainly in the US. The DSM is the American diagnostic manual for mental health and the latest edition, published last year, has caused a lot of controversy both sides of the Atlantic.# Thomas Szasz wrote the seminal book of the 70s, the Myth of Mental Illness, which remains very influential.# The last two texts are about autoethnography, which has been a bit of a revelation to me this semester, and about which I will say more.
I have some more references to autoethnography, because I have spent more time reading about this. It is new to me and seems key to my research, whereas the mental health and creative practice literatures are much more familiar.So these texts have been very important, in particular the one by Ellis and Bochner, entitled ‘Autoethnography, Personal Narrative, Reflexivity: Researcher as Subject.’The title seems to go to the heart of what I’m interested in, although it is nothing to do with visual arts.Carolyn Ellis, along with her husband Art Bochner, have been the major figures in autoethnography over the last 20y, and have produced a lot of research which tends to be extensively quoted by others publishing in the field.
Moving on to methodology, this is a good point at which to define autoethnography.Ellis resists definitions, saying that there are different ways of practicing within an autoethnographic methodology, which is evident from the literature. The analytic branch of autoethnography is more quantitative and is described well by Leon Anderson in the paper I put up a couple of slides ago.Ellis is regarded as the doyenne of evocative autoethnography, which is quite well described by Keefer in this slide:Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research where the researcher explores his or her own experience as a focus of investigation.It acknowledges the power of the researcher to explore his or her own life more closely than others are able to do.It connects the personal story to the participatory cultures while engaging the reader to share in the vibrancy of the experience.
I’m drawn to autoethnography as methodology because it has very flexible boundaries.Used as a research method it crosses academic disciplines – it can be used at the quantitative end of the spectrum or at the qualitative. It has been used in nursing and education studies as well as in social sciences.Classically autoethnography is narrative based, where narrative is produced as writing, but there have been some publications describing performance based autoethnography.I propose to combine evocative autoethnography with creative practice as research methods.
My ‘data’ are likely to be a mixture of artefacts.I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to structure the research, but I think that I’m likely to produce diaries and journals, together with writing, web-based work, and visual images using techniques including drawing, painting, collage, digital work, textiles etc.I have also been looking at the work of some untraditional artists such as WochenKlauser.It’s a bit difficult to answer a question about data analysis since neither of the methods that I propose using employ traditional data analytic techniques.
Who will be my audience?I hope that there will be several different audiences. I envisage the potential for not only academic audiences, but also psychiatrists and patient groups, and possibly a general ‘lay’ audience.For the current project there is the immediate academic audience for the MRes – I would expect to produce a written dissertation together with some sort of exhibition.I expect this project to form a significant part of my PhD proposal which will go to a funding audience.I would hope to get a publication in an ethnographic journal, and I intend to contact Carolyn Ellis for advice on developing the research.
There are ethical considerations even when doing research that involves only oneself as subject. Our existence in the world impacts others.Furthermore we have an ethical responsibility towards ourselves.These two papers discuss all the issues very well. I don’t think that I need submit anything to the university ethical committee, but should record that I have considered the issues.
This is a selection of books that I have dipped into (I have read a few properly, but most I have sampled). I really enjoyed the most recent one that I found – Taylor’s book about Beuys, Barney, Turrell and Goldsworthy. It is a lovely commentary on the commercialisation of contemporary art. I am also grateful to Mary Anne for introducing me to WochenKlauser.
This is my Gantt chart – I had to produce one last week for MJM01 and spent some time looking for a more satisfactory alternative (without success).The trouble is that this is essentially aimed at business people not artists, and it is visually unsatisfactory.
In conclusion – Can creative process be used to investigate a personal experience of bipolar disorder?Yes, obviously it can, because memoir and autobiography have been around for ages.The real question is – can the creative process be used autobiographically but with academic rigour?I think I should rephrase my question as:“Can the creative process, through autoethnography, provide new understanding of the bipolar experience?”I believe that it can.
Setting the Scene: Boundaries
Body/ mind (Cartesian duality)
Political/ economic/ class
Gender/ sexuality/ age
Ethnic/ colour/ religious
(How) can creative process be used to
investigate a personal experience of
Diana Brighouse MRes student
Literature review – background reading shows three main areas to
• Creative process
• definition (fine art based, not design or advertising or business)
• process rather than ‘creativity’ (Redfield Jamison, 1996)
• creative process in research or as research method?
• Bipolar disorder
• definition/ diagnosis
• models of mental illness (medical/biological v. psychosocial/environmental)
• geography (Western models, UK not US)
• Clash of positivism and interpretivism – is there a middle way?
Literature review – key preliminary texts
• McGettigan, A, (2011). Art Practice and the Doctoral Degree. Afterall Online.
• Vaughan, K., (2008). Pieced together: Collage as an artist’s method for
interdisciplinary research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 4(1), 27–52.
• Lieberman, JA, (2013). DSM-5: Caught between Mental Illness Stigma and AntiPsychiatry Prejudice | MIND Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network:
• Szasz T, (2010). The Myth of Mental Illness. Harper Collins
• Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic Autoethnography. J Contemporary Ethnography (35);4: 373-395
• Denzin, N, (2014). Interpretive Autoethnography (Qualitative Research Methods).
Amazon: Kindle e-book
Literature review – preliminary texts (2)
• Allen-Collinson, J, (2013). Autoethnography as the engagement of
self/other, self/culture, self/politics, selves/futures, in Holman-Jones, Adams, Ellis
(eds), Handbook of Autoethnography 281-299: Left Coast Press
• Bochner, AP, Ellis, C, (eds) (2002). Ethnographically Speaking. Amazon: Kindle e-book
• Ellis, C, Bochner, A, (2000). Autoethnography, Personal Narrative, Reflexivity:
Researcher as Subject, in Denzin, Lincoln (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research 2nd
edition, 733-764: Sage Publications
• Ngunjiri, FW, Hernandez, K-A, Chang, H, (2010). Living Autoethnography:
Connecting Life and Research. J. Research Practice (6); 1: E1
• Ruiz-Junco, N, Vidal-Ortiz, S, (2011). Autoethnography: The Sociological Through
the Personal, in Zake, DeCesare (eds), New directions in sociology: essays on theory and
methodology in the 21st century, 193-211: McFarland & Co
Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research where the
researcher explores his or her own experience as a focus of
It acknowledges the power of the researcher to explore his or her
own life more closely than others are able to.
It connects the personal story to the participatory cultures while
engaging the reader to share in the vibrancy of the experience.
Choice of method(s)
• autoethnography as methodology & method
• spectrum from analytic to evocative, crosses
academic disciplines (nursing, education, social
• autoethnography classically writing-based;
published work on performance-based
autoethnography (Ellis,C, (2002) Culture Embodied:
• combine evocative autoethnography with creative
practice as research method
• data likely to be a mixture of artefacts
• diaries/ journals
• written/ web-based/ visual images
• drawing/ painting/ collage/ photography/ video/ textile
• ‘non-art’ art (WochenKlauser)
• neither autoethnography nor practice-based research use ‘traditional’
data analytic techniques
• Ultimately several different audience groups (hopefully during and
after doctoral research).
• academics/ psychiatrists/ patient groups
• Current project:
• immediate academic audience for MRes
• dissertation/ exhibition
• publication in an ethnographic journal
• send to Carolyn Ellis/ Art Bochner for advice on developing research
• Using self as subject does not negate ethical considerations.
• Others’ lives are impacted by our existence in their worlds
• We have ethical responsibility toward ourselves
• Chatham-Carpenter, A, (2010). “Do Thyself No Harm”: Protecting Ourselves as
Autoethnographers. J Research Practice (6); 1: M1
• Ellis, C, (2007). Telling Secrets, Revealing Lives: Relational Ethics in Research with Intimate
Others. Qualitative Inquiry (13); 1: 3-29
• Etherington, K, (2004). Becoming a Reflexive Researcher. Jessica Kingsley: London, Philadelphia
• Hornbacher, M, (2009). Madness: A Bipolar Life. Harper Perennial: London, New York
• Jamison, K, (1996). Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. Simon &
Schuster: New York
Laing, RD, (1990). The Divided Self. Penguin Books: London, New York
Leader, D, (2013). Strictly Bipolar. Penguin Books: London, New York
Leavy, P, (2009). Method Meets Art. Arts-based Research Practice. Guildford Press: New York
Naylor, A.T, (2013). Art From Adversity: A Life With Bipolar. Glass House Books. Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/ArtFrom-Adversity-Life-Bipolar-ebook/
• Pascale, C-M, (2011). Cartographies of Knowledge: Exploring Qualitative Epistemologies. Sage Publications: Los
Rose, G, (2007). Visual Methodologies. Sage Publications: Los Angeles, London
Snow, CP, (1998). The Two Cultures. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK
Sullivan, G, (2005). Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in the Visual Arts. Sage Publications: Los Angeles, London
Taylor, MC, (2012). Refiguring the Spiritual: Beuys, Barney, Turrell, Goldsworthy. Columbia University Press, New York
http://www.wochenklausur.at/index1.php?lang=en (accessed Dec-Jan 2013-14)
• Gantt chart unsatisfactory but not much else available (for artists)
Can creative process be used to
investigate a personal experience
of bipolar disorder?
Yes, clearly it can – memoir &
autobiography have existed for
Can the creative process be
used autobiographically with
Can the creative process, through
autoethnography, provide new understanding of the
I believe that it can.