barthes and method

Some people speak of method greedily, demandingly; what they want in work is method; to them it never seems rigorous enough, formal enough. Method becomes a Law …. The invariable fact is that a work which constantly proclaims its will-to-method is ultimately sterile: everything has been put into the method, nothing remains for the writing; the researcher insists that his text will be methodological, but this text never comes: no surer way to kill a piece of research and send it to join the great scrap heap of abandoned projects than Method.

– Roland Barthes The Rustle of Language, 1986, p.318




The know-how truck stopped by the other day. (needed a complete reinstall).

transmission interruption: hard drives fail

Hard drives fail.
They do.
This of course has nothing to do with practice-as-research but I’ve heard so many cases recently of people working in the academy who have lost hours, days, even weeks of work simply because they have the (very mistaken) belief that hard drives are infallible.
The worst thing about hard drive failure is that often you get no indication that it’s happening. One moment all is good, the next all is not good.
There is nothing you can really do to stop hard drives failing.
But, you can have a simple backup system that builds in redundancy in case of theft, fire, digital fuck-ups, document corruption[1] or of course hard drive failure.
Here are some backup basics courtesy of the NY Times:

Other thoughts/ideas:
– make a copy of the main document (or documents) you are working on (e.g. PhD thesis) every day and then archive the old version (which will get backed up using your awesome automated backup system), give the new version today’s date and get started
– use automated backup (e.g. Time Machine on Mac OS)
– use cloud based syncing software (e.g. Dropbox) as a fall-back backup system. Services like Dropbox are really for syncing, not backup
– use at least two external hard drives for different backups (i.e. external hard drives fail as well!)
– it will happen to you (some day)

Normal practice-as-research service will resume next week.

  1. Documents get corrupted all the time, but my experience is that it is more likely the more complex (and more precious) the document is (e.g. PhD thesis)!  ↩

traces of practice

I led a workshop with C-DaRE PhD students the other day and we looked at ideas and questions to do with documentation in practice-as-research projects. One of the things that we didn’t get to was a solo activity about the traces of practice. Here it is:


Collect an (exhaustive) list of the various traces or parts of your research to date. These might be images, conversations, writings, scribbles, notes, images, videos, formal writing, audio recordings …

Reflection and questions

  • what are the traces of your practice(s)?
  • how might they be organised? (un/obvious)
  • what kinds of relationships exist between them?
  • what ideas might they be serving other than your practice?
  • what kinds of writing might make sense of and/or with these traces?
  • how might they help to change or evolve your practice?
  • what is missing?
  • what are others doing that you might steal?
  • what is un/necessary?
  • what is most/least clear?
  • who else has handled, organised, or developed similar traces?
  • what becomes available to you?
  • how do the other traces function? What if they are not other? How might a singular proposition, work, or iteration emerge from your practice?
  • how might you understand or rethink loss, gain, documentation, liveness, and originality in relation to your traces?

making the news and advocacy

On 5 March 2017 Times Higher Education published a brief article [1] about whether or not a film can be research.

It’s rehashes two old issues in practice-as-research:

  • can artistic work present (or be) an argument? (when I would think a more interesting question is should it?)
  • what are the possibilities and limitations of peer review in practice-as-research submissions?

I was frustrated at just how little we have come since the heady days of PARIP, but the article was also a useful reminder that much important work remains to be done in advocating practice-as-research at the level of HE management, in policy, and (perhaps most importantly) how its value (particularly in relation to epistemology) might be communicated outside of its bubble.

Interesting to see the Journal of Embodied Research getting a plug when it hasn’t yet published its first volume. Screenworks (that was initially distributed through The Journal of Media Practice) has been cracking on since 2006, and to a lesser extent the International Journal of Screendance (which I co-edit with Harmony Bench) are current platforms for publishing moving-image-as-research.

I particularly like the use of quote marks around the word “published” in the last sentence.

Any thoughts?

  1. Here is a PDF version of the article: film-as-research