Learning from experience: approaches to the experiential component of practice-based research
This paper is about models of research and knowledge. In particular it addresses the implications of so-called practice-based research in art and design as a method or as a mode of communication for experiential content. The investigation is pursued by contrasting the way in which we use linguistic modes of argument and communication with the possibilities offered by non-linguistic modes. Three principal types of experiential knowledge are identified: explicit, tacit and ineffable. Explicit content is expressed linguistically. Tacit content has an experiential component that cannot be efficiently expressed linguistically. Ineffable content cannot be expressed linguistically. It would therefore be necessary to prove that practice-based research only generates ineffable content in order to substantiate the argument that practice-based research necessarily demands non-linguistic modes of argument and communication. This idea is rejected. An ontology of practice-based research is introduced which argues that experientially led research questions are context-dependent, and this affects both the framing of such questions, and the methods for their investigation. It is concluded that the appropriateness of methods is to be judged in terms of satisfying the audience for whom the questions have value. This has consequences for the provision of methodology training in doctoral programmes.