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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

01/03/22 - Authoethenography Within Creative Practice


‘Mountain peaks do not float unsupported; they do not just rest upon the Earth…the mountain is of the ground; of Earth, it is the phenomena of experience. We must go back to understand the interconnectivity of our experiences and the things we produce.’

- John Dewey ‘Art As Experience’ (1934)

It is that latter part of what Dewey is saying is what I believe to be the key to this conversation... 'the interconnectivity of our experiences and the things we produce.' With everything I make I say to myself that there must be a reason to what this 'thing' is or how have I gotten to this 'thing'? Because when you think about it, something within our doing or within our cognitive mind set is helping us generate outcomes through some form of acquired knowledge. That knowledge surely has come from a lived experience, whether that be from our time in academia and being taught from our teachers or maybe we have been involved in a process or happening that led us to such knowledge. Either way there is a connection between experience and knowledge production. This conversation will discuss how I consider this method of reflection, and how I have implemented it into my own learning.


I was introduced to this topic via a seminar I was involved in (I say involved, more like my lecturer was presenting it, and I kept chipping in with discussion...because I couldn't help myself) and the contents within this seminar had something in it that I could clearly identify within my own practice. There was consistent conversation being formed around reflective practice and how this method was a form of knowledge production. At this stage I must state that it is something I have been pushing into my own students with their work as it is a great tool to help aid their own developments. Knowledge production through reflection is a method that has been used in my artistic practice and that of my teaching.

Graham Gibbs is known for his work on reflective cycles and reflective cycles are the tools I have consistently used within both sets of practices. Gibbs suggested that the cycle is a form of continuous movement between action and reflection with action on reflection. That idea of consistently working within a cycle seems abit hypnotic and almost feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day,,, but I must state the cycle is not a 'flat' wheel shape, I see it as a corkscrew. The wheel is a circle that has a forward directional movement but it is on the same level and not breaking free from that cycle. The corkscrew motion (although 'broken'), has the same forward movement but over laps the previous experiences and action points, but moving up onto the next level. It passes over the past experience enabling the user to still reflect upon the experience, but giving them the action and outcome as a development that enables new knowledge and a movement further along the practice. Reflecting on the corkscrew I am able to map my learning journey and pick out pockets of knowledge. Could I state here that there is an interobjectivity happening? Is knowledge production being produced via the 'mesh' system? Are the absences between action and reflection and action and reflection (that 'and') the gap where the knowledge is forumulated? Maybe not something to answer now, but something to consider.


How do I state that the 'autoethonography' plays apart within my practice? Surely it is this reflective process of being within the work and writing through it. When I say writing through it, it is that function of thinking about not what you have done but thinking about as you are doing it... it is almost a performance of action/reflection and through the process meaning is disclosed. It is a clear embodiment of the lived experience and that would entail a phenomenological mode of knowing. Myself as I work and work through reflection I try to understand the nature of the lived experience, of the doing, of the making and being a part of it. I am in some sense understanding the self and from understanding the self it becomes a kind of form of on site field research... I am in a way collecting experiential data but this data is from the real self. Referring back to Dewey's opening quote, it is that interconnectivity of being one with action and reflection and keeping a constant state of movement to allow the practice to inform itself and also lead itself it to new knowledge or openings for new knowledge to form. This idea of leading oneself to new knowledge helps expand my thinking that is not just centralised within one area of my practice. I can use reflection to connect to the wider cultural understandings, and consider the ecology of the practice as its evolves within a network of knowledge.


It is without doubt that this conversation I keep having with myself on many different topics is an indication of my PhD evidenced through the method of autoethonography. I find myself once, twice a month reflecting on the development of my research via the lived experiences and I will continue to use that process of reflection within action to steer the research journey.




An autoethnography is like an autobiography, in that both of them are written by you, about you. But, while an autobiography is your own life story, an autoethnography is an examination of your behavior and your ideas — your personal culture'

- (W. I. O'Byrne 2018)






Ian O Byrne. (2018). Tell me about yourself in a critical autoethnography. Available: https://wiobyrne.com/critical-autoethnography/ . Last accessed 1st March 2022.

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