‘The Research Catalogue: Publishing Art in Academia’ by Henk Borgdorff

Another day in academia with my ECR (early career researcher) hat on. Another acronym and role for wordgirl’s existence.

This morning, I attended a two-hour workshop ‘The Research Catalogue: Publishing Art in Academia’ at Birmingham City University led by Professor Henk Borgdorff. Apparently, he’s a secret weapon for practice-based research across the UK. As an ECR, I have to think about how my practice is placed, shared and “impact” worthy (the questionable word) for the REF 2020 and beyond. It’s a whole new world…

Borgdorff‘s disciplinary background is in music and music theory, studying sociology and philosophy in Leiden from 2002 onwards, a time when research made its way into Higher Education in the Netherlands. This became a key research focus for Borgdorff. He is now chair of the international ‘Society for Artistic Research’ and has co-developed a new online and digital environment called ‘Research Catalogue’.

What is this Research Catalogue and how can it be useful?

NOTE: A PDF download link for a similar presentation from 2012 can be found here. It is a pinch outdated but holds similar phrasing and explanations.

practice-based research BCU Henk Borgdorff 1

History and Rationale:

In 2009-2010 to create a research platform fitted to artists needs – we had to invent new software. It is a rich-media database. The initial rationale was to create a publication then developing with other functions. March 2011 trial version, November 2011 beta version, March 2012 ‘final’ version. Now used by 7,000 artists worldwide. The version is never final and always under development. Borgdorff asks:

“What kind of instrument for the documentation, dissemination and discursive signification of artistic research projects can meet the interests of professional artists, art institutes and art students engaged with forms of art practice as research? And how to build an instrument, which, at the same time, is inclusive towards the specific needs and demands that originate from the different art disciplines?” – Henk Borgdorff

“In the context of RC, artistic research is double defined: in so far as it is research, it enhances knowledge and understanding; because it is artistic, however, the mode of presentation is essential.”

  • (Assisted) SELF-PUBLISHING

“In the RC, art works & artistic practices are ‘exposed’ as research. RC enables artists to deviate from the standard format of journal articles; because images and sounds are not subordinate to, but fundamentally on a par with the text; because of the opportunity provided to break out of the linear narrative structure.”

4 interconnected qualities and functions of the RC:

  1. An archive, as repository – database which stores works of different kinds, e.g. media files (a group that is growing), rich media, metadata, compatible with national/local research databases, sustainable, Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs);
  2. A publication platform – enhanced multi-media publications (articles as ‘expositions’), journals/proceedings, master and PhD thesis, project an event documentation and dissemination, personal websites, management of submission (peer review and dissemination process), advanced editing and commenting process;
  3. A collaborative workspace – facilitates collaboration between artists and share work-in-progress, “making public is something different to publishing”, collaboration between student and supervisor , collaboration between editor and author (permissions, workflow), Web 2.0 features/interactivity;
  4. An application system – student application, research grants, project funding, registrations, submission, archiving, communication, reviewing, administration…still a work-in-progress (Norwegian Artistic Research Programme).

Henk Borgdorff BCU workshop 3

Project and project partners:

Used by journals (Journal for Artistic ResearchRUUKU – Studies in Artistic ResearchJournal of Sonic Studies), HEIs, funding agencies and project programmes, membership organisations. At this point, Borgdorff talked through specific examples…then moving onto…

RC development and management structure:

It is owned by the ‘Society for Artistic Research’, data hosted by the Royal Institute of Technology, University of Stockholm, software development is done in Karlsruhe, RC managing officers (Berlin, Amsterdam), RC steering group, RC helpdesk (Berlin) and RC portal partners meetings.

Questions raised from the session included:

  • Potential to download as a PDF portfolio?
  • Links to other platforms when content is live?
  • Who is responsible for the technology support and is this sustainable? – Royal Institute Technology, Stockholm contracted to sustainability.
  • Limits to how much you upload?
  • Is there a way to create communities of practice?
  • Is there are a way to see how many people are accessing your work, where from, etc…?
  • Open source – how common is it for others to host their own RC? – In principle everyone can use the code and create their own platform – Is RC fully open access?
  • The issues of ethics and copyright. How content can and cannot be used…
  • The issue of the move from in-print to online…publishers better watch out. There will always be a market for the print quality of the book.
  • Potential of the platform for Undergraduate students as producers…think about how students might use RC. They currently use Tumblr and don’t think about the copyright aspect of the site.
  • How much of the platform allows for live interaction? I see there is the option to comment…
  • Can you draw on the pages?
  • How is your work definitely understood as research – is this the answer?

The final question was a very important one for us all in the room. I immediately saw the potential to develop ‘Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)’, teaching sessions especially for the new MA Contemporary Arts China course I’m co-developing and for future learning and teaching opportunities. It does raise the question of curriculum design, how learning and education is delivered and also ultimately the  role of education itself (online?) linking directly to the MEd in Academic Practice I’m studying, more specifically the Technology Enhanced Learning and Teaching (TELT) module. More academic food to chew on tonight.

“Academia is science in action, it is changing all over. This platform will eventually have the same respect at Oxford University Press or Routledge…What do we need as artists? There are limitations for artists to profile their work…the value is that RC meets the demand of artists.” – Henk Borgdorff

Finally, whilst writing this blog post, I came across a few articles/digital book downloads by Borgdorff that are worth reading (and funnily enough I’ve read before):


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