Practice based research

I’ have been awarded a small pot of funding from the BSEEN project (a local project developing entrepreneurial skills in graduates) to develop some resources to be used in enterprise education. My initial idea and proposal is simply to interview various cultural entrepreneurs and capture their story through an interview and a short video or audio recording. But after a discussion at Birmingham’s School of Media Research Centre, when a few of us started to discuss the opportunities of exploring practice based research, I decide to rethink my project. Given that many colleagues are media practitioners and keen to undertake research projects, this is an obvious area for us. Many colleagues are deterred by the idea of having to pursue traditional academic research and could make full use of their professional expertise by producing artefacts rather than conventional papers. And I thought I could explore this in a small way.

My project aims to capture the entrepreneurial behaviour of several cultural and media workers, in order to develop a resource and case studies to be used in class or for students to access. The funding is limited but I now see this as an opportunity to test some of the methodological issues I have been grappling with for my PhD and to produce the results as both the artefacts, in this case videos and podcasts, as well as a paper.

My concerns are to explore entrepreneurial activities and behaviour in cultural and media workers; attempting to reveal the specific characteristics of entrepreneurship as it is expressed in the cultural and media industries. Much entrepreneurship research is not industry specific and therefore has a tendency to offer generic findings. As feminist entrepreneurship theory has revealed, it can reflect typically male attributes associated with the archetypal entrepreneurial personality, the Alan Sugars of this world. In contrast, I am attempting to investigate the entrepreneurship as it is lived and experienced, bringing together several contextual elements: firstly, the policy environment; secondly, the individual cultural workers background, aspirations and activities; and finally the industry context.

For this project, I will attempt to capture all three contextual elements although I suspect that the focus will be on the individual, as the work will be reported through the form of interviews with cultural workers. The challenge then, will be to see how much an interview format more usually associated with PR and promotion, can be utilised to capture an  ‘authentic’ narrative. The interview should emulate a documentary style revealing off guard moments rather than prepared and well rehearsed naratives.

The theoretical framework will combine my research on Paul du Gay’s work on identity and Fairclough’s interpretations of discourse analysis. I am interested in theories of identity, as a means of exploring the persona associated with cultural work to identify motivations, certain practices such as the importance of networking and as a result, how this determines or influences entrepreneurial behaviours and activities.

I still need to do a lot more research to create a more focused framework but equally, and in a truly entrepreneurial way, I also need to just get on with it and learn through doing.

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