Exercise: Research Plan

We have been exploring the overall process in which both research projects and art projects develop through a series of studies and experiments. Achieving an innovative and insightful result can come from a chance discovery, but more reliably stems from developing a broad narrative to focus the overall goals while simultaneously identifying realistic steps to take along the way. If surprising discoveries do emerge then the narrative can pivot into new directions and reformulated objectives.

Until now, the reading and planning have been open-ended, but we are now ready to start applying pragmatic creative constraints for the proposed experiments and designs. In this exercise, I’d like you to continue resolving the larger narrative into a specific, articulable set of objectives while focusing concrete experiments which can take place using available resources in a short-term time frame.


This is a group exercise. Each team will work collaboratively to:

  1. focus the specific artistic or design project narrative,

  2. reflect on the results of preliminary physical experiments,

  3. detail a plan for a realistic proof-of-concept experiment,

  4. identify and read specific research papers in soft technology which inform the approach.


  1. Each group has identified an overall project narrative of mutual interest at varying degrees of detail. The next stage is to refine these objectives into highly specific outcomes. These should be artistically and technically plausible within the resource limitations of the course.

    One model for this might be to ask: what is the abstract of the paper you could eventually write? Or what is the detailed artists statement you would include in a show? Some of the kinds of questions this might answer:

    • What is the core inquiry?

    • What about this result would apply more generally?

    • What is your theory or model regarding human interaction?

    • What is the underlying physical process of the final result?

    • What is the user experience of the final result?

    • In what way would this contribute to the body of human knowledge and culture?

    • What is the final artifact? How does it work? Why is it important?

    • Where is the magic?

  2. With your refined project objectives in mind, what additional research papers can you find which would help provide insight into theory, means, and methods?

  3. Each group has outlined some immediate skill-building steps. These are not necessarily experimental results per se, but may inform possible approaches. What have you each figured out?

  4. With your refined project objectives in mind, how can you more fully resolve your first meaningful proof-of-concept experiment?

    • What, how, and why? (I.e., what will actually happen?)

    • What physical principle are you testing?

    • What concerns do you assume you may ignore?

    • What materials do you need? At this point, the Bill of Materials can be refined into an actual purchasing list with the following: Description, Quantity, Price Each, ordering URL (preferred) or Vendor/Part Number (only if URL is not possible).

  5. Deliverables: write a short collaboratively-authored blog post with your results and be prepared to make brief comments in class. Please be sure to:

    • include your revised one-paragraph project synopsis,

    • describe your proof-of-concept experiment in detail,

    • include supporting graphic material,

    • refine your bill of materials for purchasing,

    • identify and read one or more technical research papers which address the technological aspects,

    • include the relevant citations.