Art-based Knowledge Mobilization

Noa Yaari, CRRS 12/30 (detail), 2021. Mixed media. 21 x 28 cm. Toronto

I’m currently participating in a course in Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) at York University, which is run in collaboration with the University of Winnipeg and Memorial University. Titled MobilizeU, it’s excellent. One of the things I appreciate most in it is the opportunity to delve into “Art-based knowledge mobilization” (ABKM) and its potential to engage diverse audiences with academic research.

KMb is a field that examines and develops methods of sharing academic research with non-experts. These can be academicians from other fields, organizations, communities, and the general public. KMb uses communication methods such as describing research in clear and engaging language, visualizing information, and disseminating research on social media. It aims to enlarge the audience of the research as well as to enable stakeholders to become co-producers of its impact. Hence, collaborating with community members, industries, and policymakers is essential to KMb.   

For researchers, moving from a professional discourse to engaging non-experts with their research may be challenging. It requires the development of new habits, which entails learning and creativity. The expectation of research funders to see researchers involved in KMb activities adds pressure to that challenge.  

AKMB, which is also called art-based knowledge translation (ABKT), offers solutions to making research accessible to broad audiences, and it’s also fun. For example, as a Fellow at the Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies (CRRS) at the University of Toronto, I create an art installation in the hallway that leads to its library. For the installation, I paint on 30 double-spreads that I scanned, which include both words and images and which I found inside the books of the CRRS library. While this project continues my academic research on the creation and communications of knowledge through combinations of words and images, it provides the viewers a sensorial experience and several “visual jokes.”

The freedom that art instills in research through KMb activities may effectively connect diverse audiences with the content of the research. One thing to consider is the format; it can be any kind of architecture, rather than a book or journal article. The physicality of the space and the artworks, on the one hand, and that of the viewers, on the other, can turn the knowledge into sensorial vibes.                                            

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