By Jessica Bradley
Border image created by Charlie Wells, Faceless Arts, from the silk paintings made in the local festival workshops
I’ve been reading about the different outputs of co-produced research in the Connected Communities report, Creating Living Knowledge (2016 – link here). The authors detail six different categories of ‘research outputs’ from projects funded under the Connected Communities umbrella.
It’s a very comprehensive and useful report, and one which works to shed light on the complexities of conducting research of this kind – collaboratively.
The six different kinds of outputs are summarised as follows (I’ve also written about these on my own blog). I’m going to discuss each kind of output in this blog post – these are very much my own personal musings and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the wider project team.
Described by the authors as ‘tangible outputs’, these are, for example:
‘material objects, software, exhibitions, artworks, booklets, guidelines, performances, reports and papers’. (p.122)
For our project, therefore, these are the tangible outputs. The artistic products – the paintings, the film, the composition, the performance, the book. There are the workshops too, which take place next month. The preview is on the University of Leeds campus on 22nd June and the festival itself is 24-26 June.And of course the papers, the conferences, and the publications. I’m speaking about it at the Language, Literacy and Identity Conference in Sheffield in July. I make reference to our work in a book chapter I’m currently drafting.
The film is travelling too! It will be included in a showreel for the Yorkshire Festival as part of an event called ‘God’s Own Country’ and projected onto Weston Park Museum in Sheffield. The idea is that the projections will ‘create a contemporary utopia’. We’re delighted that our film is going to be part of this.
The authors describe the ’embodiment’ of research in ‘participants’:
‘this includes legacies for community members, as well as community and university partners. Such legacies relate to learning, to capacity building, to confidence and capabilities, to feelings and emotions, to the development of careers and personal security’. (p.123)
The second category is in many ways less tangible – it can’t be quantified. How can it be measured? It’s difficult. This relates also to the groups we’ve been working with and will continue to work with. What will the legacies be? And how will we gather this information? Some of the groups with whom we’ve been working are very transient. Many of the participants from one site will have left the city now and will be housed elsewhere. We can stay connected to the organisations with whom we’ve been working and collaborating. We are inviting the participants from one group onto campus for the preview and we’re looking forward to seeing them again and talking more about ‘welcome’ and what it might mean in contemporary utopia.
These refer to the ‘communities’ that co-produced projects bring into being. These ‘new connections, relationships and networks’ are a significant outcome of the research. According to the authors:
‘these networks have the potential to produce a form of what Danny Burns calls ‘systemic action research’ that leads to ‘wider structural changes’ (Burns, D. (2013). Systemic Action Research: A strategy for whole system change. Bristol: Policy Press). (p.123)
I’ve written about the community that has gathered around this project before. Researchers have got in touch to find out more about what we’re doing. People have travelled to observe and take part in the workshops. We gathered together a community to start the project in the first place. Is this a community that can work together – that has the potential for research that can lead to these ‘wider structural changes’?
Do co-produced research projects produce new ‘concepts’? According to the report,
‘a number of projects are beginning to develop new languages, tools and ideas for understanding community that are beginning to gain currency in academic, policy and practice fields’. (p.123)
The word ‘languages’ here is interesting, of course, given the focus of the TLANG project and given the way that we are researching this in one way as a linguistic project. What is the language of ‘welcome’? In the film, Bev talks about the language of visual arts in facilitating discussion and for articulating understandings. The multiplicity of the ‘outputs’ allow for not only different ways of expressing ourselves but also for different ‘things’ to be expressed. In song we expressed the sadness of exile – in a language many of us didn’t speak – Arabic. But the melody and the emotions that we expressed through singing – together – enabled us to share.
What are the legacies for institutions? All kinds of participating institutions. What are the implications for those who collaborate and co-produce? (p.124)
What does this mean for all the institutions involved – from large to small? We hope that it leads to further collaborations and partnerships. We would like to continue what we started. To perhaps do things slightly differently – to grow the project from this initial starting point. But it will also necessarily diverge into different offshoots. In the Centre for Language Education Research, a group of us are working together with researchers from a number of other institutions to consider different ways of what we are calling ‘transcreating knowledge’. The arts organisation wants to build on this initial research project. To create something from the prototypes they are putting together for this project. To take it into different places and into interactions with wider communities. The two community organisations have silk paintings which they can display in their buildings. A tangible legacy. But what are the intangible legacies? And for the individuals who participated in the workshops – who took home the small silk paintings they created – will this project mean a slight change in the way that they think about the institutions involved?
The research landscape
How do the effects of these projects affect the research landscape as a whole? (p.124)
This is a small project – and how it affects the research ‘landscape’ is not something that we can consider at this point. But at a ‘micro’ level it’s affected my own doctoral research. It’s given me a different way to consider translanguaging in visual arts settings – not solely as the interactions around the creative activity, but also as multimodal, as ‘within’ the paintings. The paintings as facilitators of translanguaging space (a place for ‘criticality’ and for ‘creativity’), following Li Wei (2011) and Ofelia GarcÍa and Li Wei (2014). It’s also given me new and more comprehensive understandings of co-production (following Lassiter 2005) and how collaborative projects across sectors can provide a space for developing empathic research relationships. These new understandings I take back to my PhD ‘project’, and although not the focus of my research, this side-project definitely feeds into it.
Of course, this side-project links to larger research projects. The TLANG project, of course. And therefore to the AHRC’s Translating Cultures theme. It’s part of the Utopias Festival which includes a variety of different artistic research collaborations. It’s also part of the Connected Communities programme. So it slots into and aligns with a number of different ‘communities’ research wise.
There is another arts project connected to the TLANG project that started in the Spring. Professor Zhu Hua at Birkbeck is working with a visual artist, Ella McCartney, to consider the ‘visual turn’ in translanguaging, (see, for example, TK Lee, 2015). It’s an exciting time to be researching these topics and to be able to contribute to this area. There will be a blog post on the TLANG Project blog very shortly about this (www.tlangblog.wordpress.com). There is also an event which will take place in London at Senate House on 13th June (details here) on Translation, Translanguaging and Creativity, organised for the AHRC theme of Translating Cultures.
As a framework, therefore, the description of the six kinds of outputs in the report enables me to consider the different threads of the ‘welcome utopias’ project and how they weave together as a whole. It’s useful to think beyond the traditional academic outputs, and also to consider how outputs function for a group brought together for a short period of time to work on a specific project. At a meeting this week with a colleague from the TLANG team, Emilee Moore, and Lydia Catterall from East Street Arts (we looked round the newly opened Art Hostel), Lydia talked about a ‘collaboration of experts’ in co-production and how each individual is needed to perform a specific role. It struck me that this was the ideal way to describe a team working on a project of this kind.
Facer, K. and Enright, B. 2016. Creating Living Knowledge. [Online]. [Available from: https://connected-communities.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Creating-Living-Knowledge.Final_.pdf].
GarcÍa, O., & Li Wei. 2014. Translanguaging: Language Bilingualism and Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Lassiter, L.E. 2005. The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press.
Lee, T-K. 2015. Translanguaging and visuality: Translingual practices in literary art. Applied Linguistics Review, 6(4), 441-465.
Li Wei. 2011. Moment Analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics. 43(5), pp.1222-1235.