Exploring Research as Craft
An Ongoing Workshop Series to Promote Cross-Discipline Communication by Examining Processes of Creating
Exploring Research as Craft (ERAC) is a three-part workshop series to promote cross-disciplinary communication by conceptualizing research and practice as craft. ERAC uncovers commonalities in how students, researchers, and faculty from diverse disciplines engage with questions about the world. ERAC collaboratively engages seemingly disparate disciplines through craft, material meaning-making, and critical response. Across the sciences and arts, people engage with their material and social environments to craft meaning about the world. However, academic siloing and the prioritization of jargon over communication endorse narrow understandings of science, art, research, and craft.
The consideration of research as craft through ERAC uncovers commonalities that exist among researchers and artists (collectively referred to as “craftspeople”) from diverse disciplines in how they engage with questions about the world. Additionally, ERAC’s use of visual media and Liz Lermon’s (2003) critical response (CR) method challenges the tendency to consider art as a tool used to communicate research. During ERAC, visual languages act as a method of research that cultivates greater understanding of process and materiality. The presentation of the final products of the first ERAC workshop series through a public gallery show in Athens, GA broadened conversations to the general public.
The call for participants was distributed through various listservs to reach diverse schools and departments at UGA. Nine graduate students and one post-doctoral researcher (from disciplines including forestry, anthropology, fine arts, English, and epidemiology) signed up for ERAC, while an ICE student liaison, as well as the organizers, also participated in the process. The first workshop, which took place in mid-January, involved presentations by the organizers and brainstorming sessions to introduce participants to thinking of research as craft and to discuss how individuals could reengage with their work by considering process, the role of the researcher, and the role of material. The second workshop, held a month later, was composed of several CR sessions. The organizers used Lermon’s techniques to lead CR sessions that fostered a collaborative space to provide constructive feedback on the in-progress project of each craftsperson. The final workshop, held in March, consisted of a one-day, free-of-charge exhibition at ATHICA: Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, a non-profit gallery in Athens. Organizers and craftspeople worked together to install the thirteen multimedia pieces on the morning of the show. Fifty-five people from UGA and the greater Athens community attended the three-hour exhibition, an active and conversant space.
Process and materiality form the foundation of ERAC and support the integration of arts into the practice and craft of research. The focus on the two concepts reflects the research and creative interests of ERAC’s developers, Cydney Seigerman, a PhD student in Anthropology/ Integrative Conservation at UGA and Alden DiCamillo, an MFA.
Seigerman’s interest in conceptualizing research as a process and craft stems, in part, from her research as an undergraduate on chemical reactions mechanisms under the guidance of Dr. Melanie Sanford at the University of Michigan. Seigerman's continual engagement with the sciences and arts inspires her to seek ways to foster communication and a sense of commonality among seemingly disparate disciplines.
Meanwhile, DiCamillo brought questions born from their studio practice focused on the agency of material. DiCamillo has explored themes of materiality through their idea “Imaginative History-Making,” asking what happens to histories of violence if material is used as a (re)imaginative method to (Re)history the (un)historied. Within the context of ERAC, DiCamillo’s perspectives highlight the roles of materials and researchers to create (third)spaces of meaning-making.