Thinking Through Making: a practical approach to research and knowledge creation.

Photo Ryan Collins

Photo Ryan Collins

In recent years, Tim Ingold has articulated and asserted the importance of making as a methodology in anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. His work adds to a growing discourse on how practice-based research operates and what this method offers to a number of fields. Ingold’s Thinking Through Making describes how learning takes place through a direct, responsive engagement with physical materials. For example, using wood as a material, a good craftsman requires a practical and physical responsiveness to create a well-crafted object. This analogy can be extended to apply to sound design and sonic art, and how sound is considered through its materiality and therefore a process of understanding its properties. This is evident in the work of Pierre Schaeffer who developed theories around Musique Concréte in the mid 19th Century.

Christopher Small’s earlier work Musicking argues that historically music has been defined by individual static works or composers, rather than experientially as an act of listening, making or performing. Small’s concept of musicking, like Ingold’s thinking through making, is an active, practice-based understanding of what music is and does.

Both Small and Ingold contribute to a growing interest in research that is based on fluid forms of understanding that are acquired and changed through processes of making, in reciprocal relation to materials, places and people, rather than static notions of knowledge more familiar to western academic thinking. This expansion of how research is carried out and conceived is changing the nature of study in a number of disciplines. One example of this is a growing interest in new models of PhD research, which are practice-based and carried out in collaboration with non-academic organisations and ‘outside’ practitioners.

In parallel, or possibly in conversation, with the increased interest in making within academic communities there has also been a wider rise in the popularity of making in domestic and non-academic contexts. Since the late 1990s this movement has gained momentum and followers, as can be seen in the huge increase in ‘Hackspaces’ and ‘Makerspaces’ internationally.

As an artist, my practice is situated within sound art and draws upon soundscape and electroacoustic composition, performance, making and DIY technology. My work aims to open up alternative listening experiences through constructing (or heightened awareness of) sonic environments and attempts to engage participants in experiencing new aural contexts. Through a critical yet practical orientation and building upon the work of Ingold and Small, my work will be a multi-faceted approach to researching within the field of making, sound art and knowledge production through creative practice.