Accepted Paper:

Considering the performativity of our own research practices: diffraction in practice and as practice  


Davide Nicolini (University of Warwick)
Annouchka Bayley (Warwick University)

Paper short abstract:

We discuss how the notions of apparatus and diffraction can be operationalised in practice using example form video research (camera angle and movement as a performative apparatus) and performance-as-research (generating diffraction through theatre performance in an institutionalised settings).

Paper long abstract:

In our paper we address the issue of the performativity of our research practice through the notion of notion of apparatus and diffraction. Barad (1997) utilizes the idea of apparatus to argue for the ontological "inseparability of what is observed from the practice of observation" (p.147). Barad also suggests that because apparatuses are inherently constituted by specific arrangements of material-discursive practices we need to replace the traditionally discursive idea of methodological reflexivity with that of diffraction.

The starting point for our argument is that while apparatus and diffraction have captured the imagination of a large number of researchers they are used mostly at theoretical level, something that runs against Barad's intentions. Our aim in the paper will be to illustrate how these concepts can be operationalised and observed in the practice of research. We will do this in two steps. First, we will provide an illustration of the affordance of idea of apparatus in practice by showing how in video-based research specific arrangements of camera movement, positioning and angles have a performative effect as they actively constitute the phenomenon that they are supposed to (passively) capture. In the second step we will illustrate how the idea of diffraction can be pushed further and used to design interventions that produce understanding through the intentionally creation of patterns of differences. We will exemplify our argument building on our experience with the use of (theatre) performance as a way to explore the nature of a business education organization.

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Considering the performativity of our own research practices