Research Methods: Phase 1


We've had several inputs on practice as research, however Dr. Sally Mackey's lecture helped clarify my ideas on the topic. Besides talking at length about the praxis between theory, reflection, action and practice she also mentioned creating a laboratory; an ideal set-up that would help answer and clarify the key questions of the research. The lab I have created is an installation space that allows the audience to interact with the work and each other. By continually experimenting in this interactive space I am able to clarify my key questions and focus my research topic further.

Currently I am attempting to transform a range of questions into one key point. Below is a list of possible topics of enquiry: How does the user's interaction with the space help add meaning to the work Mumbai+Bombay? How can an interactive space illustrate the conflict between the ideal elsewhere and the here in Mumbai? How does audience behavior and expectation affect the perceived meaning of the work Mumbai+Bombay? What is the perceived difference between an "insider" and "outsider" in viewing the work Mumbai+Bombay?

Dissemination and Application: Another important factor to consider is the dissemination of the final work. The web is the most easily accessible form the final work can take. Additionally, the work can be set up in a gallery or informal space as a more immersive experience of changeable dimensions.

Theoretical Framework:

Post Digital Age: As mentioned in my preliminary Study Plan the concept of a post-digital age introduced by John Maeda made a significant impact on my philosophy as a designer of interactive media. The terms clarifies the 'distinction between those that are passed their fascination with computers, and are now driven by the ideas instead of the technology (John Maeda, 2006).’

Heterotopia's and 'Other' Spaces:

Michel Foucault (1967) describes heterotopias as "places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society - which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality." Thus all cultures and civilizations contain such places. Foucault goes on to describe several different kinds of heterotopias, of which the following were most relevant to my practice.

Heterotopia of compensation: Especially relevant to colonies, these places are contrary by way of compensation and function between two extreme poles (Foucault, 1967):

"...their role is to create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled. This latter type would be the heterotopia, not of illusion, but of compensation, and I wonder if certain colonies have not functioned somewhat in this manner. In certain cases, they have played, on the level of the general organization of terrestrial space, the role of heterotopias."

Another example of a heterotopia is the "persian garden," where several plants and flowers from around the world co-exist in a small place which is like a microcosm of the larger world; "the garden is the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world. The garden has been a sort of happy, universalizing heterotopia since the beginnings of antiquity..." Similarly by constructing a limited cityscape which includes as many landmarks and symbols as possible, I will attempt to explore this "other" space within Mumbai.

Research Methods

Qualitative Research: Systematic study of Mumbai and the ways the city is represented in popular media and art. Typical of qualitative research, this included looking at chosen media and art works in a case-based method. Each film, artwork, architectural style or documentary chosen for study was reviewed in detail. Thus the method encouraged looking into each case study in-depth rather than covering a broad overview of every possible representation of the city.

Interviews: Sudhir Patwardhan is an important artist within the Indian contemporary art movement, and his practice centers on Mumbai and it's people. Deeply influenced by his work Silent Town (2007) I contacted him by email in the beginning of Phase 1 for pointers on which artists and books I should study, since I found the lack of information of Indian contemporary art challenging. Here is an excerpt from his email which answers some of my questions:

Atul Dodiya is a major artist you may have heard off. Jitish Kallat is another. Krishnamachari Bose has done some interesting work connected to the city of Mumbai. In my generation, Gieve Patel's work - both as painter and poet is inspired by the city. You can try and see more of Nalini's work. Tushar Jog and the collective 'Open Circle' is also something to look at.
There is no book on art in Mumbai to recommend. Mostly scattered articles. Look for writings of Ranjit Hoskote and Girish Shahane, where ever you find them. Girish has a blog. 'Art India' edited by Abhay Sardesai is a quaterly magazine with lots of material.  'Art Concerns' is an on line magazine.

Reflexive Journal: Commonly used as part of qualitative research, a regularly updated reflexive journal of my thoughts, comments and ideas helped document my progress. The journal or blog is a complimentary annotation to the work.

Analysis of documents and materials: A continuous process of reviewing the cases studies, and their importance in answering the research questions. An important factor was reviewing the source itself, it's reliability and validity.


In trying to maintain a "polyphonic conversation" between my practice and my research I have fallen into a method which is similar to a communication design process. The cyclical process-driven method of research Sally Mackey calls "praxis" is another way to describe the "design process" - a rigorous method of study and design followed by reflection, study and more design. One main difference is the stage of user-testing that most often precedes another round of reflection.

Phase 1 consisted of a similar cyclical research method. Creating a lab, or in this case an installation space where I can test the limits of my key questions, and then going back to the drawing board based on the results. This cycle of experiment, reflection and experiment helped clarify my theoretical framework as well as my practice. An important aspect of my reflection was discourse, relevant conversations with peers, faculty and artists.

Data collection and analysis of what was relevant to the project was challenging due to the significant amount of information available. Process involved choosing case-studies based on relevance to the project, and discarding information that did not fit within the required parameters such as visual style, architecture, historical significance, concept and theoretical framework. At the same time the lack of information within certain areas proved difficult. The information on the development of contemporary art in India was limited and in some cases contradictory. The history of Mumbai itself is long and complicated, a series of conflicts with contrary histories. Some of these issues resolved themselves in time through action. Others clarified when I drew on six years of personal experience, living as a Mumbaikar.

Another hurdle is my limited access to Mumbai itself. To overcome this, I will be travelling to Mumbai for ten days to collect information, visit artists, shoot films and record street sounds based on my findings in Phase 1.

Despite the above mentioned limitations, maintaining regular blog entries of my progress allowed me to pinpoint and correct events that were most influential or most detrimental to the development of my practice, and critically review the leaps I made from research to practice or vice versa.


John Maeda. (2006). No Crackle Pop [online]. Available from: [Accessed 21st October 2010]

Foucault, M. (1984) Des Espace Autres. Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité. [online] Oct. 1984. Translated from French by Jay Miskowiec. Based on a lecture by Michel Foucault on March 1967. Available from: [Accessed 5th Jan 2010]

Mackey, S (2010). Practice as Research: Performance, Place and Documentation. Arts University College at Bournemouth. 9th November.

Patwardhan, S. ( 18th October 2010. Re: Questions from an art student. Email to A.Kulkarni.(