Thought Experiments in Agency

Artists’ Personal Impacts Survey Data Analysis Process Notes

My practice is always shifting, and right now it looks like data analysis.

Artist's Personal Impacts Survey response spreadsheet

Artist’s Personal Impacts Survey response spreadsheet

I’ve celebrated nerding out in my art practice. I seem to be reaching a new zenith now.

Thanks to everyone for taking or sharing the Artist’s Personal Impacts Survey. I am now trying to get a handle on 112 survey responses. There were 40 questions in the survey.

Thirty-one questions were quantitative. Those questions used Likert scales of 5 or more options. To tally the data, I’ve been using Google forms with formulas cobbled from my experience with Excel (thanks to my first internship), Google searches, and M’s coding knowledge. I’ve translated the data into percentages, which I’ve drawn as bar charts in my sketchbook. (This is one of those rare occasions in which Moleskin’s 5mm gridded paper is coming in handy: 1mm=1%.) Stacked bar charts seemed like the best bet, and M, who studied with Nicholas Felton, agreed. I’m making my stacks via good old cut-and-paste. I hope that physically manipulating the information will help me understand it better.

Stacked bar chart, attitudes towards four sectors of the art world; work in progress.

Stacked bar chart, attitudes towards four sectors of the art world; work in progress.

Nine questions were qualitative, asking for open-ended responses. Many respondents took the time to carefully reflect and elaborate upon their answers, or articulate new distinctions to my survey questions. I’ve exported these answers, and they total 65 pages, or over 22,000 words. I’ve started categorizing the answers, and am encountering interesting findings.

Here’s one surprise from the process: A few respondents argued with the questions in their responses, or disagreed with assumptions underlying the questions. I was surprised and somewhat miffed, at first. But then I realized that it’s a good thing that respondents felt empowered to maintain their own perspectives. I take it as a sign that the survey questions were not “priming” them (at least, those contrarian respondents) to submit answers biased by my own interest in positivity.

My practice is shifting… I’m considering how working like this is experimental (in both senses of the word: trying new things, and akin to psychological experiments and studies), and experiential (taking participants or viewers through a process, or inhabiting a process through which I discover my own practice). It seems to be both oftentimes. The outcomes are yet to be determined, but I’m feeling good about the process. It’s challenging my skills and abilities. I’m learning new things. It’s concordant with my interests. That the process may not look like a typical studio process is relatively unimportant to me.


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