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Artist as Researcher, Collaborator, and Agent panel discussion and recommended resources

Research workshop handout PDF by Kristin Fowler and Marie Cieri

Readings compiled by Kristin Fowler and Marie Cieri

Additional Research Resources

Theory | Research | Collaboration | Production | Technology | Sustainability

Artist as Researcher Collaborator and Agent

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Tuesday April 24, Rochambeau branch of the Providence Community Library. Panel includes:

Jennifer Liese, Director of the RISD Writing Center, Rhode Island School of Design. Jennifer is interested in how artists and designers reinvent and redefine traditional, fact-seeking research practices.

Ellen Petraits, Research & Instruction Librarian, Rhode Island School of Design. Ellen works with artists to help them integrate research thinking, skills and sources into their practice.

Anne West, writer, theorist, and independent curator with interests in phenomenology, poetics, and interpretive human studies.

Ellen Driscoll, Professor of Sculpture at RISD as well as an AIC Prospectus artist.

Art Research – Recommended Sources
Ellen Petraits, Research & Instruction Librarian
Fleet Library @ Rhode Island School of Design

Art & Design Research Bibliography
Research in Art & Design: Selected Readings
A guide to the recent literature of research in architecture, art & design

Professional networks 

Concept mapping tutorial -

Online International Catalogs (literature review)
Worldcat - 
a global search interface of 10,000+ library catalogs (10s of millions of records)

Artlibraries -
a search interface combining 42 European and American art library catalogs (12 million records)

Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

Tool for Managing & Organizing Information
Zotero - 

Biggs, Michael, and Henrik Karlsson. The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. New
York: Routledge, 2010.

Gray, Carole, and Julian Malins. Visualizing Research: A Guide to the Research Process in Art
and Design. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate, 2004.
Also online:

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier. Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information
Services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.

West, Anne, and Katarina Weslien. Mapping the Intelligence of Artistic Work: An Explorative
Guide to Making, Thinking and Writing
. Portland, ME.: Moth, 2011.
In this book West describes a technique she calls “mapping through writing” that encourages visual artists to ask strategic questions, approach problems, and catalyze creative thinking. The book is structured as a series of exercises and prompts that define the mapping process and introduce methods for artists to develop, articulate, and disseminate ideas.

Wood, Denis, and Ira Glass. Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas. Los Angeles, CA:
Siglio, 2010.

Research Workshop presented by Radical Reference Librarian Kristin Fowler, and Artists in Context Co-Director Marie Cieri

June, 11, 2011, Northeastern University as part of the AIC Greater Boston Connected and Consequential Conference.

Research Workshop Handout
Click here to view as a pdf.

Excerpts from RISD Graduate Studies Syllabus for “In the Field: Research
Methods for Artists and Designers”
Marie Cieri, 6/11/11

How do we generate data to address our research questions? What methods are best? What are some of the advantages and pitfalls of specific approaches? This course is designed to explore these and other questions about how we generate and interpret data from the “field” – that complex social, environmental and political space in which we learn firsthand about the world. In this course, students will learn about and practice an array of research methods that are variously used by geographers as well as artists and designers who derive inspiration and content from human and/or nature-society interactions in space and place. Through readings, discussion, work “in the field” and practicum presentations, students will explore issues of how to generate and interpret research data within the history and ethical challenges of field work in a variety of disciplines and how these issues might impact their own research for their art and design projects and beyond.

Students will critique and apply a variety of methods including interviewing; questionnaire surveying; participant observation and ethnography; visual techniques (e.g., video, photography, drawing); locative media (GPS and cellular communications, etc.);
cognitive and other types of mapping (yes, mapping can be a research method!); archival research, landscape interpretation and participatory action research. Many of the methods we will review are inherently cross-disciplinary. Emphasis will be placed on qualitative methods, though we will frequently explore the added value that hybrid qualitative/quantitative approaches can bring to many research endeavors. Throughout the seminar, we also will discuss several relevant, overarching themes such as reflexivity, positionality, representation, power and ethics as well as activist roles that conscientious researchers can play.



Readings: Short List
Behar, R. 1996. “The vulnerable observer.” The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks
Your Heart. Boston: Beacon Press, 1-34.
Cieri, M. 2003. “Between being and looking: An investigation of queer tourism promotion and
lesbian social space in greater Philadelphia.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical
Geographies ( 2(2),147-166 ( + midway through the reading, make sure
to look at the visual/textual project that goes with the paper).
Cieri, M. and McCauley, R. 2007. “Participatory Action Theatre: ‘Creating a Source for Staging
an Example.’” In Participatory Action Research Approaches and Methods: Connecting People,
Participation and Place, eds. S. Kindon, R. Pain and M. Kesby. London and New York:
Routledge, 141-149.Cloke, P., et al. 2004. “Changing practices of human geography: an introduction” and “Part 1
Introduction, Constructing geographical data” in Practising Human Geography. London: Sage, 1-
Crampton, J.W. and Krygier, J. 2006. “An Introduction to Critical Cartography.” ACME: An
International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 4(1), 11-33. (available online).
Dowler, L. 2001. “Fieldwork in the trenches: participant observation in a conflict area.” In
Qualitative Methodologies for Geographers: Issues and Debates, eds. M. Limb and C. Dwyer.
London: Arnold, 153-164.
Kearns, R.A. 2000. “Being there: research through observing and participating.” In Qualitative
Research Methods in Human Geography, ed. I. Hay. South Melbourne and Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 103-121.
Kindon, S., Pain, R. and Kesby, M. 2007. “Participatory Action Research: Origins, approaches
and methods.” In Participatory Action Research Approaches and Methods: Connecting People,
Participation and Place, eds. S. Kindon, R. Pain and M. Kesby. London and New York:
Routledge, 9-18.
McSweeney, K. 2008. “Portrait, landscape, mirror: reflections on return fieldwork.” GeoScience
and Man. 1-17.
Meinig, D. 1979. “The beholding eye.” The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes. New York
and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 33-48.
Richardson, L. and Adams St. Pierre, E. 2005. excerpts from “Writing: A Method of Inquiry.” The
Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3
ed. Eds. N. K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln. Thousand
Oaks, Sage, 959-978.
Sacco, J. 2001. “Author’s Forward” and “Chapter 1.” Palestine. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics
Books, vi-24.
Stein, A.H. and Preuss, G.B. 2006. “Oral History, Folklore, and Katrina.” There Is No Such Thing
As a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Hurricane Katrina, eds. C. Hartman and G.D. Squires.
New York, Routledge, 37-58.
Tufte, E.R. 1983. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT, Graphics Press.
Valentine, G. 1997. “Tell me about…”: using interviews as a research methodology.” In Methods
in Human Geography, eds. R. Flowerdew and D. Martin. Harlow, England: Longman, 110-125.

Research Resource Handout
Click here to view as a pdf.

I’ve provided some additional resources and information below that may be of interest to you as socially engaged artists and activists looking for authoritative information to incorporate into or support your work. Also included are some hints and tips for searching the web effectively for information.

Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability -
The Alliance for research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS) is a partnership among academic institutions created to provide data to facilitate research on corporate sustainability. ARCS was launched in January 2009, by a consortium of institutions at leading universities: Dartmouth College, Duke University, Harvard University, university of Michigan, university of Virginia, and University of Western Ontario.

Boston Public Library –
Amazing local resource with amazing librarians ready, willing and able to help you access information of all kinds. There are many specialized collections and subject specialists at BPL Copley location for you to take advantage of free of charge.

To sign up for a library card online, please visit:
To access electronic resources, please see:
For a list of local branches, please see:
For research and specialized services, please see:
To ask a reference question, please submit here:

Bureau of Labor statistics -

Great source for reliable information on employment/unemployment, some economic information related to labor, pay and spending information, earning by industry information, import/export information, international issues and links to regional offices.

The government offers a ton of free information and data on a variety of topics. A great place to look for government information is Docuticker. Docuticker collects ‘grey literature’ - including PDF reports by various government agencies, think tanks, NGOs, research institutes and other public interest groups.

Environmental Protection Agency –
Provides information on critical environmental issues including – acid rain, climate change, drinking water safety, eCycling, lead, mold, Radon, laws & regulations and more. Also see their “Learn The Issues” section on their website to get up to speed on a variety of topics that impact the health of the environment. -
The FedWorld website is a “gateway to government information. This site is managed by the national Technical Information Service (NTIS) as part of its information management mandate.

Food & Water Watch -
Is an organization that envisions “a world where all people have access to enough affordable, healthy, and wholesome food and clean water to meet their basic needs. Food & Water Watch provides some free, quality research including – fact sheets reports, case studies, corporate profiles and issue briefs that can be found on their site.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research -
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to
address the needs of women, promote dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.

MapEcos -
MapEcos is a “map of US facilities with information on pollution and improvement efforts. We present a
balanced view of industrial environmental performance.”

Printed Matter -
Printed Matter is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of publications
made by artists. Founded as a for-profit alternative arts space in 1976 by artists and art workers, Printed
Matter reincorporated in 1978 to become the independent non-profit organization that it is today.
Recognized for years as an essential voice in the increasingly diversified art world conversations and
debates, Printed Matter is dedicated to the examination and interrogation of the changing role of artists’
publications in the landscape of contemporary art. Check out their research room:

Skillshare -
Skillshare is a community marketplace to learn anything from anyone. We believe that everyone has
valuable skills and knowledge to teach and the curiosity to keep learning new things. This means our
neighborhoods, communities and cities are really the world's greatest universities. Our platform helps
make the exchange of knowledge easy, enriching, collaborative, and fun.

Think Tank Directory -
Harvard’s Kennedy School Library & Knowledge Services provides a directory to a list of US based and
International Think Tanks that often provide free research and data.

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) has recorded ongoing violent conflicts since the 1970s. The
data provided is one of the most accurate and well-used data-sources on global armed conflicts and its
definition of armed conflict is becoming a standard in how conflicts are systematically defined and studied

Wal-Mart Watch -
Wal-Mart Watch literally monitors the activities of Wal-Mart. They “seek to hold Wal-Mart accountable for
its impact on communities, the American workforce, the retail sector, the environment and the nation’s
economy. Provides links to other resources like sprawl-busters, American Rights at Work, and Good Jobs

Watchlist -

Watchlist monitors and reports on violations against children in specific country situation. They offer free
reports by country with information that they collect with local and international partners