Niyousha writes: The Creative Writing & Research Interviews are a series of interviews with writer-researchers around the world, in celebration of the publication of Researching Creative Writing by Jen Webb.
Dr. Ross Gibson is a writer, researcher and Centenary Professor in Creative & Cultural Research at the University of Canberra. He creates books and films looking at the use of narrative in everyday experiences.
I have always known that the development of a creative work gives me a complex, mysterious store of new but tacit knowledge. I used to just jump from one creative project to the next.
Then I learned that there was great value (both to my next project and to the larger scholarly community) if I paused and tried to work out and then offer for appreciation and critique exactly what it was that I had learned during the last creative project.
Then, I realised that this was the completion of an arc of research: this phase of reflection and explication led to the all-important knowledge-transfer and concomitant debate with the scholarly community. I remain convinced of the value of this process.
So, what are you working on now?
I’m working with emergency services trainers (medical practitioners, firefighters, airline pilots) to understand how improved narrative technique can lead to improved learning outcomes for trainees who undergo simulations-based training.
How is it going?
Fascinating, frustrating, exciting – how do you measure the relative ‘goodness’ of one narrative over another? One way, in the long run, is to observe whether the acquisition of certain narrative skills leads to improved cognition and improved improvisatory performance in dynamic, emergent situations: does safety get better? do fewer people suffer from poor decisions?
It’s a process of bringing soft, fuzzy, ‘human-factor’ savviness into situations where the trainers simultaneously (a) wish things were not fuzzy and (b) acknowledge that fuzziness is everywhere when human beings are involved. Which is why we still use narrative!
Can you leave us with the best piece of research or writing advice anyone has ever given you?
You learn something worthwhile only if you experience it in some way and then reflect on it in a way that lets you take charge of it as your own, readily accessible knowledge.
This interview has been edited for length. You can find out more about Ross Gibson’s work here.