The practice of play

2017-02-25T22:56:27Z (GMT) by Tim Sherratt
<b>Keynote presentation at the Deakin University Faculty of Arts and Education HDR Summer School, Geelong, 24 February 2017.</b><div><br></div><div><div>I’m a historian. But in the past decade the nature of my research has changed quite profoundly. Instead of heading off to the archives, taking lots of notes, and writing up a book or an article, I now make things. Generally these things are online, and open to the public. I make things for people to use, to explore, to play, and to ponder.</div><div><br></div><div>I started down this track before I realised there was a name for what I do – practice-led research. The things that I make even have their own acronym – they’re NTROs, or Non Traditional Research Outputs.</div><div><br></div><div>But practice-led research is not just about making things. New knowledge is generated through cycles of creation and reflection. My aim in making is not to follow a blueprint, or check off a list of requirements, but to end up asking ‘What is this thing?’, ‘What does it do?’, ‘How does it do it?’.</div><div><br></div><div>In the past, I’ve tended to talk about my research practice as playing with data. I think there’s an important argument to be made for the role of play in research, particularly when confronted with large cultural datasets. But ‘play’ doesn’t quite capture what I do, nor does it look very convincing in a research proposal. So what do I really do?</div></div>