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A. Finn

Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIA)
Research methodology in the discipline of Art & Design has been a topic for much debate in the academic community. The result of such avid and ongoing discussion appears to be a disciplinary obsession with research methodologies and a culture of adopting and adapting existing methodologies from more established disciplines. This has eventuated as a means of coping with academic criticism and as an attempt to elevate Art & Design to a ‘real academic status’. Whilst this adoption has had some effect in tempering the opinion of Art & Design research from more ‘serious’ academics the practice may be concealing a deeper problem for this discipline. Namely, that knowledge transfer within creative practice, particularly in fashion textiles design practice, is largely tacit in nature and not best suited to dissemination through traditional means of academic writing and publication.

There is an opportunity to shift the academic debate away from appropriate (or inappropriate) use of methodologies and theories to demonstrate the existence (or absence) of rigor in creative practice research. In particular, the changing paradigms for the definitions of research to support new models for research quality assessment (such as the RAE in the United Kingdom and ERA in Australia) require a re-examination of the traditions of academic writing and publication in relation to this form of research. It is now appropriate to test the limits of tacit knowledge. It has been almost half a century since Michael Polanyi wrote “we know more than we can tell” (Polanyi, 1967 p.4) at a time when the only means of ‘telling’ was through academic writing and publishing in hardcopy format.

This paper examines the academic debate surrounding research methodologies for fashion textiles design through auto-ethnographic case study and object analysis. The author argues that, while this debate is interesting, the focus should be to ask: are there more effective ways for creative practitioner researchers to disseminate their research? The aim of this research is to examine the possibilities of developing different, more effective methods of ‘telling’ to support the transfer of tacit knowledge inherent in the discipline of Fashion Textiles Design.

Polanyi, M. (1967). The tacit dimension: London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.