Crowdsourcing creative methods

Crowdsourcing creative methods.

By Helen Manchester, 27th April 2021

Our project is researching arts and culture but also drawing on creative, participatory methods in order to do so. 

The aims of the first work package of the project are to work with our community partners; WECIL, KWA and BSWN to recruit 7 co-researcher from each of the three communities we are working with and to build their trust. We will then use ethnographically inspired methods to work with them to find out more about their experiences of digital inclusion, arts and cultural participation, social connectivity, and how inequalities might intersect with the above. As we are still living with the consequences of COVID 19 we knew we needed to design a toolbox of creative methods so that our co-researchers could choose what felt right to them as we begin to build trust and relationships between the team of researchers, community partners and co-researchers.

The first phase of the research involved a workshop with researchers and practitioners interested in creative research methods and creative research design. We invited practitioners from the charity Alive who have been working digitally with older people for many years and innovating during the various pandemic lockdowns to continue and grow these connections. We invited some of the brilliant doctoral students at the School of Education to join the core research team, bringing their expertise in creative and participatory methods.

In the workshop we heard about Alive’s work during the pandemic in connecting older people in care settings and in the community through telephone meet up calls, the online dance classes delivered from Argentina into care homes in Bristol, UK and the intergenerational encounters that had been developed between young and older people through swapping poetry , artwork and growing seeds together. Drawing on these ideas and extending them we crowdsourced ideas for methods that might help us to better understand the everyday lived experiences of the co-researchers. Rather than simply interviewing them about, for instance, the kinds of devices they own or how confident they are in using them, or asking them how many people they see in a day we wanted to focus instead on how digital media is embedded in their everyday lives, routines and places (specifically in their homes). We are interested in how arts and culture might be experienced in the mundanity of the routines of everyday living, how older people from our 3 different communities experience digital media in sensory, embodied and affective ways and how these experiences might both increase and decrease feelings of, and opportunities for, social connectivity. We believe that our experience of digital technologies and the content of digital media is part of the everyday temporalities and materialities or the ‘textures’ of our homes. 

As we worked together, using a digital platform to collate our ideas, we were able to discuss in detail the kinds of methods that we thought might work well in order to research the everyday experiences of the co-researchers we will be working alongside. Methods that were suggested included: dairies e.g., video or audio diaries, written diaries or photo diaries or collages of a ‘day in the life of’ using magazines and other images; third voice poems where conversations with our co-researchers are then turned into poetry alongside local poets or secondary school students; using maps to understand how and where social connections are being made and places in the city where arts and culture are enjoyed; telephone conferencing focus groups where images are sent out beforehand to elicit responses and co-production activities already used successfully by Alive to co-design arts and cultural activities, based on people’s interests. 

The next stage in our project will be to develop these ideas and begin to pilot them with our community co-researchers.