Entwining the Data
Presentation at the Electronic Literature Organization, 2020
Rachel Horst and Esteban Morales
Arts-based research methodologies are gaining momentum in qualitative inquiry across the disciplines. These diverse methodologies incorporate artistic practice and media as a way of engaging in both inquiry and the interpretation of data generated from inquiry. Among the enumerable reasons to utilize arts-based methodologies are they can: promote and enhance public engagement with academic research, trouble the idea of representation and interpretation of data, expand the research/inquirer’s encounter with and response to data, and shed light on artistic and creative practice itself as an important contributor to knowledge creation and being in the world. While these methodologies are increasing in traction across the academy, the range of practices taken up still tend to focus on more traditional media such as textiles, painting, photography, and the written word. Arts-based literature reveals that the vast and eclectic world of digital art has been less explored in this context. This work is part of an evolving digital arts-based inquiry that began as a multimodal digital reading and writing workshop entitled the Patch. The Patch was designed as a series of processes connected in a circuit/flow from the initial input of a text (in this case a story by Jorges Louis Borges) to its diffracted modalities of poetry, midi sonifications, and poetic performances. The Patch workshop maps the generative flow of idea forms through digital and analogues processes, enabling rich collaborations among the humans and other-than-humans in the generative space of event. We participated in and facilitated this arts-based workshop with 80 teacher candidate students, gathering a rich corpus of data in the form of: creative word lists, cut-up poetry, human and algorithmically generated textual networks, audio and video-recorded poetic performances, and sonic midi transformations of the poetic string data. Presentation of this data in the form of an academic paper was a useful exercise but seemed ultimately constrained by: its narrative and explanatory linearity, the confines of the digital page, and the rhetorical form of the social sciences research paper. In this presentation, we share the process of representing our data in the form of an interactive narrative artifact. Re-mapping the data in this digital space enabled new encounters and elaborations with the theoretical ideas underpinning the research, as well as the data itself. The affordances and constraints of interactivity in the Twine platform are under consideration here, as well as the aesthetics of re/presentation in this digital space. We suggest that this digital medium, with its affordances of layering, non-linearity, interactivity, and the topographies of html, provide a rich resource not only for engaging interactive narratives and game design/play, but also for scholars looking for innovative platforms for analysis and representation of research. Further, we question the culminating artifact itself and whether it has inherent pragmatic or artistic merit and/or use beyond the confines of this inquiry. In the presentation, we will invite interactive exploration of the artifact and share it in the collaborative annotation space of the hypothesis platform, inviting creative and critical engagement with the theory and data embedded therein.