Research-Creation, Relational Affect, and Reimagining Ethics

“We cannot assume nor perpetuate the notion that quality knowledge is emotionally detached.”

So argued Owen Chapman, keynote speaker at the Joint PhD in Communications Conference (CODO) on February 2, 2017, hosted at UQAM. Chapman, co-director of the Community and Differential Mobilities cluster at Milieux and associate professor of Communication Studies, was one of the first to complete a research-creation project to fulfill his doctoral dissertation. In 2007, his project integrated sound-sampling with ethnography to explore how digital technology and creative productions informed academic research. Throughout his work, Chapman questions how the affective dimensions of research-creation led to it being considered “less academic.” He critiques the idea that feelings compromise the veracity of objective truths or that creative work constitutes only partial knowledge. In many ways, research-creation stands for a different way of engaging with materials based in texts, objects, or phenomena. At times embodied and at times affectively engaged, research-creation brings to the fore other ways of knowing that do not privilege objective distance. Research-creation gets closer to that which is studied. As a result, it may be one of the only ways to push beyond the confines of prescriptive ways of knowing.

Research-creation as a relational method

 Research-creation, like all processes of inquiry, originates from interest and intrigue. Sometimes these interests align with the personal — such as inspiration from a family member or an unsolved childhood mystery — that require unconventional modalities like family-as-method, friends-as-method, or (in my case) cooking-as-method.


The work of research-creation combines thinking + doing + making (and, just as well: rethinking, redoing, and re-making).


The (re) prefix and iterative nature of research-creation makes it a dialog, an ongoing methodological conversation between research subject, creative intermediates, and oneself. Research-creation requires more of me than traditional, text-based work because I must continually engage with what is happening in real-time to capture all of the ‘data’ that emerges forth. Attuned, the quality of my “data” can only be as good as my ability to participate relationally so that I can feel my way through the work.


In this relational engagement, it matters who I am and what I bring to the ontological table of knowledge production. I embody my work. My work in research-creation becomes specific to me, my body, and my affect so that my work becomes quite un-replicable. 

Research-creation as embodied ethics 

Given the degree of my involvement, I must also hold myself accountable to reflexive questioning so that I’m always aware of my positionality.


In the Haraway-ian style of situated knowledges, research-creation puts knowledge production within the researcher-self as an embodied ethics in practice. These ethics inform what/how to do work from a particular vantage point, the particularity of which places research-creation in direct opposition with objective knowledge production and institutional “regimes of truth.”


That said, I wonder if any discipline would not benefit from such reflexivity? As a philosophical musing, what if all “academic” inquiry were situated?

Or, in a Latourian sense, what if all research were grounded in matters of concern—situated, social, and diffuse—versus matters of fact that are reified in hierarchy and architectures of truths. Matters of concern cannot afford to be affectively detached.


Creation or not, how can we reimagine ethics so that all academic research simultaneously looks in, looks up, and looks out? Perhaps, it is in this “looking out” where relational affect and embodied ethics come to matter. Indeed, in his closing remarks from the keynote speech, Chapman reiterated that research-creation is about traveling together, supporting others, other voices, and other ways of knowing not traditionally vetted or legitimized in the Academy.

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