Thinking Through Research
For me, research has always been related to an attempt to solve some problems. This is something that is addressed in J. H. Rolling’s essay on Arts-Based Research in Education. He mentions that research can create new knowledge that can solve a problem, or reconfigure a query surrounding that issue which leads to more research. The purpose of research, according to Rolling is, to “calibrate” our position in the world as well as our focal points, that can unload our preconceptions and turn them into future prospects.
This made me recollect my undergraduate thesis project, which was designing a rehabilitation center for distressed children. One aspect of that project was to design play spaces of various scales for the children. While reading this text, I looked back on that design, and realized that the project had no influence of my childhood experiences in a playground. As someone who grew up in a densely populated city with little open spaces, and even fewer playgrounds, I never had the opportunity to play in a neighborhood playground with other children my age. This made me question that, how differently would I have designed the play spaces for my thesis, if I had grown up in an area with an abundance of playgrounds? Rolling’s essay also mentions this recollection and refinement of meaning of “our collective data” as an aspect of design and arts-based research.
Another realization about my past thesis was prompted by Yin’s book Qualitative Research from Start to Finish, where he mentions assessment of both single and multiple realities while conducting research. In my thesis, I assessed the multiple realities of the user of my proposed design, namely the distressed children, who had faced various kinds of adversities in life. What I did not consider was my objective reality, and it made me wonder how that may have also affected my design proposal. The same can be said about the interpretation of lived experiences in phenomenological studies, also mentioned by Yin in his book. Had I involved myself in the lives of children who had led such difficult lives, it would have widened my perception of understanding them and their needs.
All of this inspired me to write a poem about my lack of knowledge about play spaces and what was missing in my undergraduate thesis project. I’m also including a 3D rendered image of my designed playground, and a picture of me as a child in front of a housing complex. From the polarity between the two images, one can perhaps understand the point I was trying to make in my poem.
In the pursuit of a concept,
So large and wide,
I abandoned my wisdom,
And let it slide,
Setting up a play space,
Where children can play and run,
I envisioned a haven,
Beneath the glowing sun.
Yet, I failed to untangle,
Childhood memories of a concrete jungle,
The one with no swings or slides,
Just a bustling metropolis full of car rides,
Never did the absence of a playground register,
A city planning flaw so entirely sinister,
The havoc it can wreak,
On a young child’s psyche,
So when it was my turn to decide,
Where the children will play seek and hide,
I followed the masters from far and east,
While my own experiences continued to resist,
For how do I add my stories of the playground,
When they do not even make a sound,
In a childhood devoid of playsets that engage,
I found myself involved in a book’s page,
And so I learned from the urban landscape,
How to make something out of a simple shape,
If only I had a chance to run around,
There would have been more ideas abound.
When I look back on my younger days,
I feel a sense of absence in the playful ways,
For how can I conceive a ground of play,
When the International Style popped up midway,
Planners getting rid of all the open spaces,
Housing demands covering all bases,
Where does that leave the youths to go?
Off to bad habits and what else, who knows?
And so my design of a playground was empty,
Because memories of engaging in play had left me,
Without swings, slides and sand to dig into,
How can I envision what a child has been through?
Leavy, P., & Rolling, J. H. (2019). Arts-Based Research in Education. In Handbook of Arts-Based Research (pp. 493–495). essay, The Guilford Press.
Yin, R. K. (2016). What is Qualitative Research— and Why Might You Consider Doing Such Research? In Qualitative Research from Start to Finish (pp. 3–20). essay, The Guilford Press.