A Researcher’s Account on Art, Research & Popular Scientific Writing

Fortunately or unfortunately, I do not know, but academic writing, academic reading and attempts to do research have changed my writing style, identity and personality. I use scientific-sounding words and complicated language constructions even in my everyday life in the hope that they would add value to my thoughts and to myself. But who knows, maybe all these tricks just make me boring and snobby. At the same time, I always admire people, who can talk or write about difficult and complicated things in a simple manner, and apart from that, make it interesting and fascinating for the audience. In my opinion, if you cannot talk or write about your research and ideas in an “easy language”, you actually do not understand what they are about. Highbrow words are good at hiding human stupidity and banal clichés.

For our research projects digital book ”Youth in the Media City”, the task to write an essay in popular style was challenging, but at the same time, healing. It was difficult. Above all, because English is not my mother tongue. Secondly, the difference between popular and academic writing is still not completely clear to me: is it only about avoiding using special terms and the continued inclusion of research into an academic debate?  I am not sure. I tried to write an essay that would be interesting and inspiring, at least to myself. I wanted to find a balance between simplicity, beauty and informativity of the content and writing style. Moreover, I thought that my text should be more emotional, more expressive and appeal to the senses and imagination of the reader.

In my view, a good text – popular or academic – is art. Good research is art. Good art is research. As art I define here a creative flow that can influence the audience, impress them, give the opportunity to feel and realize something about themselves and the world or (well, why not?) can cause something like Stendhal syndrome – a psychosomatic disorder, characterized by rapid heartbeat, dizziness and even hallucinations and triggered by the experience of great, significant artwork. The art of research is asking questions about the world and searching for these answers. 

A researcher should be creative in order to question something that is evident for others, their mind should work differently. Artists are also researchers. They just work with other mediums. An example is Marina Abramovic and her performance “The artist is present”, during which she was seated for 736,5 hours and looked eyes in eyes with strangers. Such great empirical material about limits of the body and mind as well as the relationship between people, is it not? 

I suggest not to separate art and research from each other because they are the same nature and have the same goal. I believe that we should take into account the experience of scholars as well as artists and activists, who all may work with the same topics. It can enrich the results and, as for me, make the process of research more interesting. Text as well as other forms of communication: public talks, performances, videos, photos etc. can all share the thoughts or ideas of artists and researchers. These alternative forms can even be methods of research. I think the format of an academic article is focused on a very narrow audience and as a result, produces ‘elite’ knowledge and increases social inequality – and make researchers seem boring. Thus, I invite you to be openminded and creative in research and communication about it!

Nadezhda Vasileva, Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg
Researcher in Digital Youth in Media City research project
She wrote about researching in the metro space and sticker artists in St. Petersburgin the research project’s experimental essay collection.