Aesthetics and participatory research: Enriching the quality of our epistemology


  • Susan Goff


Aesthetics, Action research, Participatory practice, Under-determinacy, Epistemology


Aesthetics are familiar to action researchers who use arts-based methods. They are included in Heron’s and Reason’s Extended Epistemology which recognises aesthetic qualities within Experiential and Presentational forms of knowing. This essay proposes that the field of aesthetics offers a history of development and a particular understanding about human experience with which action researchers can enrich their practice beyond methodological considerations. “Aesthetic muteness”, or a cultural inability to speak of aesthetics in domains outside the field of aesthetics, significantly reduces its potential application. Through an aesthetic lens, action researchers can pay attention to momentary nuances that otherwise might not be recognized, or be significantly undervalued, but which contribute to practice in insightful and fluidly dynamic ways. They may, like silence, have aesthetic qualities within themselves, or, may offer liminal spaces within which aesthetic sensibilities may be sensed and articulated which otherwise would be invisbilised in taken for granted practices devoid of such discourses. To connect aesthetics with action research in practice, I propose a principle of “tacitly knowing distinctions through which we apprehend meaning as form”. I demonstrate this principle experientially, analytically and through narrative.



How to Cite

Goff, S. (2021). Aesthetics and participatory research: Enriching the quality of our epistemology. Action Learning and Action Research Journal, 27(1), 93–128. Retrieved from