October’s ILT Research Reflection

To meet team Ziggy Stardust’s research goals, I pushed to critique all four scholarly articles by October 18th. This tactic was very helpful in order to have enough content for the literature review that was due November 1st. I am grateful for my team, La Dawna Wert and Wes Aker’s organization and commitment to our research. By working together on our literature review, I have a greater insight on what my final four scholarly reviews should gear towards.

With regard to our class discussions, I found the samples of my peers’ organization of references very helpful. In fact, Jason Dunbar and Tiann Vetter said I could copy their scholarly review template for helping in the synthesis of my literature review. I found this tool to be incredibly helpful in identifying trends across my scholarly reviews. Aisha Jackson also offered insight on my survey disclosure statement. She reminded me of Stringer’s guidance around consent and participation. Therefore, bullets around confidentiality and participation have been added to my survey headings.

lady mirror

The biggest lesson learned about consuming scholarly research was from Remi Holden’s video on research tips and tricks. By quickly determining the year of the article and scanning the references for relevancy and timeliness, I have been able to locate research articles faster. I believe that in our field of education technology it is especially important to focus on articles that are from recent years.

There is profound value in peer reviewed literature. The whole review process allows for the baton to be handed-off between researchers. An effective literature review can save a great deal of time in research and research methods. My literature review has helped me shape my methods into a survey that fits my participants’ lives and mull over what questions will elicit the most beneficial information.

The main question I keep working with is how to ask the right and truest questions of my participants. Writing effective survey questions is an art form. I am continually asking myself, “Is this question biased?” and, “Will that question get to the marrow of my research?”

In broadening the research question of how art engagement impact participants in a spiritual settings, I have to continually remind myself, that responses are going to be equally broad. Of course, art impacts a community, but how. The how of it, is what I find to be the most challenging piece to elicit from my questions. Currently, I have the following questions:

1) What are the affordances and limitations of engaging with music at A Center?

  • How do you define or describe your participation with music at A Center?
  • What is your favorite type of music offered at A Center?
  • Can you describe any benefits your feel by of engaging with music at A Center?
    • Can you describe any emotional responses you feel to the music?
    • Can you describe any connection your might feel to the music?
  • Does anything prevent you from engaging with music at A Center?
    • Can you describe any emotional responses you feel when you cannot engage with music?
    • Can you describe any disconnection your might feel when you cannot engage with music?

2) How do the Sunday practices allow for the creation and sharing of the music?

  • How does the practice of attending Sunday services at Althea help you engage with music?
  • How do the musical practice of Sunday services make you feel?
  • How does listening allow you to engage with a musical performance?
  • How does singing allow you to engage with congregational song?

Per guidance from Pastor J, my best bet for participation would be paper surveys, versus electronic surveys. I agree because I can stand up at a service and ask people to consider completing the surveys. By letting them know I’ll be posted-up at a certain table to collect the surveys and answer questions will also help people follow-through. My gut is also telling me to keep the surveys to one page. People on their way out of church will not necessarily want to answer a pamphlet of questions.

Photo Credit: https://studiojoslizen.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/mirrored-reflections/

Research in ILT Review 8: Listening as Religious Practice (Part Two): Exploring Qualitative Data from an Empirical Study of the Cultural Habits of Music Fans

The article Listening as Religious Practice (Part Two): Exploring Qualitative Data from an Empirical Study of the Cultural Habits of Music Fans by Clive Marsh and Vaughan S. Roberts offered insight for qualitative data analysis on my research topic of engaging with music in a spiritual setting. I appreciated how the authors were able to distill the data from a variety of responses into a theoretical map. I found it helpful to see how they made sense out of complicated and immeasurable topics like emotional experiences.

headphone halo

Marsh and Roberts were able to create a framework for mapping the qualitative data from 231 listeners of music. The surveys’ findings identified eleven words that occurred consistently:

  • uplift (23 mentions)
  • relax (29)
  • inspiration (16)
  • memory (14)
  • energy (12)
  • calm (13)
  • joy (24)
  • happiness (27)
  • sad/sadness (13)
  • moods (27)
  • emotions (29)

From this data, the authors then determined four axes around a central hub of moods/emotions.

  • uplift—relax
  • inspiration—memory
  • energy—calm
  • joy/happiness—sad/sadness

Finally all the pieces are put together to form the Mood/Emotion map as seen below in  Figure 1, (Marsh & Robert, 2015, p.293).

emotional axis

The authors continue to frame their study around how participants make meaning in their lives through these emotions. However, not concrete data was provided to back up their framing around the term coined by Charles Taylor, social imaginary. Marsh and Roberts explained,

“Taylor understands this term as the way in which people imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others, how things go on between them and their fellows, the expectations which are normally met, and the deeper normative notions and images which underlie those expectations,” (2015, p. 292).

Explaining how moods and emotions play into the social imaginary model would have been the perfect ending to the study, but again, there was no data collection or analysis around this concept. Therefore, I will not include the social imaginary map.

In my study I plan to ask about emotions felt when listening to music at the spiritual center. This will help in the concept of how participants draw meaning from music as suggested from a previous article critique on The Role of Popular Music in the Construction of Alternative Spiritual Identities and Ideologies. Mapping emotions provides a helpful example on how to quantify the idea of how music affects a person’s beliefs and perceptions of the world. 

For my larger team’s literature review, this study can relate to all the after effects of arts and engagement. My teammates continue to see identity and community as emerging themes of our research. Mapping may also help with our larger literature review.


Marsh, C., & Roberts, V. (2015). Listening as Religious Practice (Part Two): Exploring Qualitative Data from an Empirical Study of the Cultural Habits of Music Fans. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 30(2), 291-306.

Photo Credit: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/05/how-headphones-changed-the-world/257830/

Research in ILT Review 7: When the Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance

The article When the Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a huge boon (thank you La Dawna Wert) in my research in music and art engagement. The NEA sponsored the 2012 General Social Survey (GSS), which is known as “the most frequently analyzed source of information in the social sciences, second only to U.S. Census data,” (National Endowment for the Arts, 2015, p.5) The data from this study is the most thorough, reliable, and accurate information I have found to date.

cover page

The most fascinating piece about the GSS 2012 study is that non-attendees were accounted for. This has been a major gap in other articles I have critiqued. It seems that gathering data from attendees seems easy enough, but the GSS 2012 sought out the interested non-attendees to get a better understanding of why people are not participating. In 2012, visual art exhibit and performance attendees included 126 million adults and 21 million interested adults that did not attend. Please see the summary of findings and exact percentages listed below. (All the images and graphs in this critique have been taken directly from When the Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance.)

summary of findings

summary graph

The GSS 2012 uncovered interesting information around the “why” for each group: attendees and interested non-attendees. The attendees’ motivations and interested non-attendees’ barriers are listed in Table II-1 and II-2 below.



It appears that not finding anyone to attend an artistic event with was a barrier, but it was not the number one reason to miss an event. However, socializing with family and friends was the number one motivation to attend an art exhibit or performance. Lack of time was the number one reason to not attend, followed by costs, difficulty getting there, not attending alone, not liking the event location, and simply lack of interest in the given event. I appreciated that the GSS 2012 continued to delve deeper into the barriers of attendance by further distinguishing between the reasons for not attending visual art exhibits versus performance events. The exact percentages are listed below in Figure II-5.

visual or performance graph

In addition to showing differences in barriers between visual arts and performances, it appeared that trends emerged based upon self identified social classes, which tie back into education and annual earnings. I found Figure III-3 below to be interesting because it accounted for a group not mentioned before: “other” non-attendees. These are the people that fill in the gaps and paint a picture for 100% of each class: lower, working, middle, and upper.

other non-attendees graph

It seems that class and education directly correlate to attendance of the arts. Beyond these interesting class findings, there are more overall key findings listed below.

Key Findings

In my research, I want to know if musical engagement at a spiritual center can be enhanced by these GSS 2012 key findings. I plan to include the following topics in my surveys:

Baseline Information

  • Self-Identified Class

Do Motivations include any or all of the following:

  • Socializing
  • Desire to learn new things

Do the barriers include any or all of the following:

  • Lack of time
  • Difficulty getting to the location
  • High cost
  • No one to go with

Exploring why people behave certain ways around the arts has been incredibly helpful. One of my previous article critiques on The Role of Popular Music in the Construction of Alternative Spiritual Identities and Ideologies stressed that more needed to be known about “how” people experienced spirituality through music, while When the Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance explores the “why” people attend the arts. Finding the GSS 2012 has filled a huge gap in my literature review and I can see it starting to refine my research plan. I also see how GSS 2012 shines light on my team’s broader research question around art engagement in any setting. The extensive data creates a good baseline.


National Endowment for the Arts (2015). When going gets tough: Barriers and motivations  effecting arts attendance. Research Report #59. Retrieved from: https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/when-going-gets-tough-revised2.pdf

Research in ILT Review 6: Homeless adults engagement in art: First steps towards identity, recovery, and social inclusion

This review studies the methods used in the article Homeless adults engagement in art: First steps towards identity, recovery, and social inclusion by Yvonne Thomas, Marion Gray, Sue McGinty, and Sally Ebringer. The aim of their exploratory study was to gain an understanding of the ways art engagement helped benefit homeless people. I found this study’s dissection of data collection and analysis helpful in the efforts to better understand my research topic on art engagement across a variety of settings and mediums.


Though their participant pool of four homeless adults was small, I appreciated their ethical decision to exclude certain participants. The authors wrote,

Initial plans to include up to eight participants were modified when it became clear that the level of disability experienced by the participants, specifically acute psychosis and cognitive impairment, meant that some intended interviews were neither appropriate nor ethical, (2011, p. 431).

Additionally, measures were taken for triangulation, which meant the inclusion of three stakeholders: the Facilitator, the Drop-in Center Manager, and a nurse. Their plan is making me question how I will triangulate my data.

Semi-structured and conversational interviews were conducted to explore the four participants experiences. Questions revolved around participants’ artwork, how participants became involved and the perceived benefit of art. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim.

Data were coded into key concepts per each participant’s interview. Then coded data was compared and contrasted to be grouped into categories. Each author reviewed the data for accuracy and reliability. Finally, three themes and sub-themes emerged.

Beginning to engage and participate

  • Getting started
  • Attendance and motivation
  • Continuity through doing artwork

Seeing the benefits

  • Process of discovery
  • Decision making/moving forward
  • Diversion from alcohol and other addictions
  • Relief from mental health issues

Respect and public recognition

  • Mutual respect and recognition
  • Cultural inclusiveness and respect
  • Public acceptance

In regard to my research theme and questions, our goal is to show how our questions can be answered through a variety of art forms and in any setting. I am looking for trends across a variety of cultures and demographics to see how art affects people’s involvement in various capacities. Our research questions:

  • What are the affordances and limitations of engaging with art?
  • How do the tools and practices allow/contribute for the creation and sharing of the art?

Art engagement with the homeless group in Australia, demonstrated many benefits and the only limitation was not having a larger participant pool. The results showed that the creation of art forms for display and sale was allowing the participants to not only share their art, but learn to reintegrate into and begin to trust society. This study was helpful in that it can be applied across all the settings of my larger research team.


Ebringer, S., Gray, M., McGinty S., & Thomas Y. (2011). Homeless adults engagement in art: First steps towards identity, recovery, and social inclusion. Austrailian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58(6), 429-436.

Photo Credit

Meek, Begging for change 2004

Research in ILT Review 5: Older People learning through Contemporary Visual Art—Engagement and Barriers

The article Older People learning through Contemporary Visual Art—Engagement and Barriers by Anna Goulding offered insight into data collection and analysis for my research topic on the affordances and limitations of engaging with art. The author’s research questions echoed the art and engagement components in my topic. She asked the questions:

  • How do older people understand and engage with art in the art gallery?
  • How can psychological barriers to engagement be overcome by pedagogical approaches?

The differences from our topic questions is that an older participant pool is used and the setting is an art gallery. My participant pool is not limited to a particular age range and my setting is a spiritual center. However, the methods for data collections were very similar to what I plan on using.

contemporary art

Goulding clearly defined the participant pool as 43 elderly participants from a variety of backgrounds and physical abilities. The group was given three guided art tours, which ended with discussions around the art pieces. For data collection purposes a baseline interview was performed, followed by semi-structured interviews after each of the three guided tours. All the interviews were sound recorded and transcribed, then coded for analysis using NVivo 8 software.

Baseline Interviews

  • age
  • gender
  • partner status
  • parental status
  • housing
  • previous occupation
  • educational qualifications

Semi-structured Interviews

  • participant led discussion based upon art interests
  • captured subtle shifts in affect over the course of the project

Goulding’s findings tend to mimic larger trends from my previous scholarly critiques; art engagement is largely motivated by the desire to be social and to learn something new. To explore trends in limitations it seems that fear is a major factor. To be more specific about Goulding’s research, here are summarized answers to the research questions as related to my topic of art engagement affordances and limitation.

When asked, “How do older people understand and engage with art in the art gallery?” participants responded that they:

  • valued discussing the ideas presented
  • expressed strong reactions to the exhibitions
  • thought support from peers was important
  • were stimulated to reminisce and self reflect
  • engaged with art in order to keep stimulated
  • noted the problem of relatively short research timeframes

When asked, “How can psychological barriers to engagement be overcome by pedagogical approaches?” some participants responded that they:

  • did not feel intelligent enough to understand exhibitions
  • were reluctant to take part in the project due to preferred isolation
  • felt the research format increased their confidence to participate
  • commented on the effectiveness of personal interpretation

Ultimately the largest challenge with data analysis in the arts is that it is hard to truly understand the complex web of motivation and barriers. I plan to further explore the arts council and “why” people are motivated or limited by art engagement. 


Goulding, A. (2013) Older People Learning through Contemporary Visual Art—Engagement and Barriers, International Journal of Art & Design Education, Vol. 32, Issue 1, pp. 18-32

Photo Credit


September’s ILT Research Reflection

bloodmoon reflection

Course Participation

Participation in ILT Research required reading and discussing texts, writing peer reviews and scholarly critiques, and developing a team research proposal. Of the texts by Stringer, McNiff, Sagor, and previous INTE 6720 students, I appreciated how Stinger laid out the groundwork for my action research process.

In peer discussions around the text, I have benefited from all my classmates’ input. It has been an opportunity to learn and bounce ideas off my peers. An excellent example of peer-to-peer help is when my classmate Becca Argenbright explained an idea that I was struggling with.  On the discussion board Becca wrote, “This approach doesn’t necessarily help with ‘narrowing down,’ but I think it does help to pinpoint great sources for the ‘valuable input’ we need.” This little bit of guidance was exactly what I needed to decipher between data quantity over data value.

Writing peer reviews has been a great way to learn about my own research. It made me challenge such things as my research questions, participant pool, data collection and methods. The scholarly critiques also made me look at my research more deeply. Each of my scholarly reviews has offered a new way to view my research on music’s impact on community identity.

In collaborating on my team’s research proposal I have relied on all the required participation of the course: texts, discussions, peer reviews and scholarly critiques.

Education Technology Participation

The role of research in educational technology is really tough to define. I have learned through the Craft of Research that with so much information available today, those who do not research well or are not able to evaluate that of others will be sidelined. The explosion of elearning as a profession and mainstream educational method requires sound research to back the industry’s viewpoint. Research can answer the question of what are the best pedagogical methods for applying educational technology.


The text, The Craft of Research dispelled many preconceptions I had about research. I learned to stop narrowly defining research in my own mind and take a chance in understanding it. The scholarly reviews have also been great tools for dispelling misconceptions around research. 


My research team has been a big part of my educational network. We spend about two hours every couple weeks refining our research agenda and proposal. Bouncing ideas off each other has taught me keep questioning and refining my research plan. 

I was able to locate, Professor Gordon Lynch, one of the authors of a scholarly critique on Twitter. He responded to my tweet saying he liked my article, but I have not pursued more conversation since then. I am not sure what to ask him from here. Perhaps as my research continues, I can reach out with questions as they arise.

Personal Q&A

My personal question regarding my research is, “How are my literature reviews benefiting my action research?” With each literature review, I have learned from skilled researchers about their methods and what has worked for them. I rely on the critiques to generate more leads on the next scholarly articles to pursue.


I am really curious to see my action research truly engage my participants. The timing of choosing my action research topic and the unveiling of Minister “J’s” goals for the “A” Center lined up perfectly. I feel like Minister “J” holds the key to unlocking the next level for this research, so I have set up an in-person meeting with him for next week. Both Minister “J” and I really want to execute action research in a meaningful way at “A” Center.

Photo: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/531917405961803765/

Research in ILT Review 4: Dreaming Across the Oceans: Globalization and Cultural Reinvention in the Hmong Diaspora


Dreaming Across the Oceans: Globalization and Cultural Reinvention in the Hmong Diaspora” by Gary Y. Lee, Ph. D. has been a great resource for my research topic on how art impacts a community’s identity. To find this article, I searched the key terms, “music, community, identity” in the directory of Open Access Journals, which pulled up the Hmong Studies Journal. My scholarly critique of this article is the forth of twelve necessary in my Information and Learning Technologies Research course at CU Denver.

I am researching how music creates and fosters a spiritual center’s communal identity, while Dr. Lee explores music and videos made by the Hmong diaspora community to identify and remember their culture.  To understand community, I believe individual identity must be explored first. The author writes that Hmong’s media productions allow individuals to acknowledge the loss of their homeland in Laos, provide anchors to their Hmong identity, and help remember their past in order to move forward in new cultures and lands.

For the larger Hmong community, the media productions unite the global community. The videos are very nostalgic and create a longing for the old way of life. Now, the Hmong diaspora is spread all across the world in such countries as Vietnam, Thailand, The United States, France, and some still remain in Laos. Artistic expression helps keep old traditions alive, while each new Hmong home influences the diaspora’s cultural evolution.

There were no forthright research questions within the article, but the main question gleaned was, “How are Hmong media productions connecting the global Hmong community and changing their identity?” These productions are expressions from the larger Hmong diaspora that allow the community to stay intact. With modern technologies most every member of the Hmong diaspora can learn about and identity with his/her culture and a homeland s/he may never be able to visit.

The objects, rather than objectives, of this study were several Hmong or Hmong-inspired productions: music videos, documentaries, and films. The art form of Hmong music is intricate and sentimental. By producing music videos that spread around the world the culture can continue to grow. Documentaries made about the Hmong diaspora and their extreme hardships have elevated the worlds understanding of their situation and helped unite Hmong in various countries to act on behalf of the larger Hmong population. Hmong films allow cultural stories to reach the next generations, while working-out the painful past. On the flip side of each production, there is no real way to prevent the producer’s interpretation or perhaps distortion of the Hmong’s truth today. The Hmong community continues to buy the productions, so there must be a niche to fill.

The research was a literary exploration of how artistic productions united the Hmong diaspora. Although, this design was not action research, I learned a great deal about the power of art in defining a community’s identity. Music and video acted as tools to elicit emotion, nostalgia and belonging. Many of the first generation, displaced Hmong people rely on imagery and song to remember their culture.

Within my research team, we are studying art’s influence on community in a public space, classroom, and online space. This article connects the public or physical space to the online aspect. The Hmong music and film productions have been traveling all around the world, uniting the Hmong diaspora. The next logical step for the Hmong community is an online space that allows for immediate cultural connection and collaboration. From cyberspace, the Hmong community could continue to redefine itself. However, the challenge lies in a less nostalgic second and third generation. They have no real connection to the homeland aside from their parent’s or grandparent’s stories. The Hmong media productions might be the only way for the Hmong culture to survive and perhaps evolve into a new identity.

This article has shown me the importance of art in developing a cultural identity. Rather than pursing more articles on spiritual community identity, my efforts will shift to cultural and ethnographic community studies.


Lee, G. (2007). Dreaming across the oceans: Globalization and cultural reinvention in the hmong diaspora. Hmong Studies Journal, 7(1), 1-33.

Diaspora photo: http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/tZMirXwQIrs/mqdefault.jpg

Globalization photo: http://tnx.lv/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/globalization.jpg

Research in ILT Review 2: The Craft of Research (Ch. 1-2)

The Craft of Research by Booth, Colomb, and Williams opened my eyes to the increasing importance of research in an information-saturated world. Remi Holden, my professor of Research in Information and Learning Technology at CU Denver, suggested the text in order to better align ourselves with what it means to be a researcher. Chapters one and two stripped away the facade I believed research to portray. I used to think that research was only for working in the academic world. The text taught me to stop narrowly defining research in my own mind and take a chance in understanding it.

craft of research

The authors explain that research is currently the world’s leading industry (1995, p. 9).  This fact blew my mind. I previously believed research was exclusive to academia, and never thought it mingled with government or business. The authors go on to say, “Those who cannot research well or evaluate that of others will find themselves sidelined in a world increasingly dependent on sound ideas based on good information produced by trustworthy inquiry and then presented clearly and accurately (1995, p. 9)” This statement made me realize that I did not want to be sidelined: I wanted to play ball with everyone else.

The Craft of Research continued to enlighten me on the topics of commitment, intention, and understanding. It seems to go without saying, but committing to one’s research will affect the results. The authors say, “Nothing contributes more to successful research than your commitment to it, and nothing teaches you more about how to think than a successful (or even unsuccessful) report of its product” (1995, p. 14-15). Prior to reading the text, I had one foot in the research boat and one foot on dry land. Now, I have both feet in the research boat, and am ready to make this journey.

The next important building block for successful research is intention and how it defines a researcher’s role (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 1995, p. 20). In relation to my chosen research topic, my intention is to help Minister “J” and help the congregation explore what music means to the “A” Center’s identity. I find it fascinating that music was the only common thread that kept the congregation together for a year and a half as they searched for Minister “J”. Without beginning any research at all, it appears that music is the glue and life of the community.

The final and most challenging aspect of research is imagining my reader’s role. Of course, my peers and professor will read my research paper, but my ideal reader is the “A” Center congregation. Booth, Colomb and Williams say,

In this case, the old advice to ‘consider your audience’ means that you must report your research in a way that motivates your readers to play the role you have imagined for them (1995, p. 21).

This is a group of people working to intentionally grow their community and create meaningful, life-long relationships at the “A” Center. I believe they expect me to help them understand how music defines the community and perhaps help elevate music from a pleasant experience to a sacred one. The audience will need a bit of background in “A” Center’s history and the language of sacred music will need to be explained as a new concept. I expect responses to reach the gamut of possibilities: some will resist change, some will argue the solution, and some will want to know the next steps. However, if my action research is executed thoughtfully and accurately, I imagine the majority of my audience will want to know the next steps and forego arguing the validity of the research.

The Craft of Research has completely transformed my view of research in my graduate program. This is an invaluable opportunity to test the research waters under the safety of academia in order to grow my professional skill set. In the game of research, I no longer want to sit on the sidelines; I am excited to take on the role of researcher.


Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (1995). The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Photo Credit 


Research in ILT Review 1: The Role of Popular Music in the Construction of Alternative Spiritual Identities and Ideologies

Now that I determined my research topic, engaging with music to form community identity, what is next? As a newbie to action research, who can I look to for guidance on my topic? According to Remi Holden, professor of my INTE 6720-Research in Information and Learning Technologies (ILT) course, the next step is to critically consume others’ scholarly research related to my topic. As I learn from similar research projects, I hope to improve my action research technique.

Becca Argenbright, my ILT Research classmate, taught me to access Auraria Library, apply filters (scholarly/peer-reviewed and full text online), and search key words. With the key words spiritual, identity, and music, I located Gordon Lynch‘s article “The Role of Popular Music in the Construction of Alternative Spiritual Identities and Ideologies” from the Journal for Scientific Study of Religion. I chose this article because of its close relation to my research topic and its potential to enrich my study.


My specific action research topic is, “How is community identity impacted through engaging with music in the spiritual space known as “A” center?” I am a stakeholder at “A” center and often times we sing nontraditional hymns such as “Rocky Mountain High” or “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”. Granted these songs are not current songs, but most people recognize them in American culture. I wonder how the music performed and sung at “A” center impacts the community and their identity-formation.

In the article, Gordon Lynch compares the work of Christopher Partridge’s “The Re-enchantment of the West” and Graham St John’s “Rave Culture and Religion” and “Culture and Religion” through the following questions:

  • How popular music “audiences” use pop music as a source of religious identity and ideology?
  • How does music function as a medium for shaping religious identity?
  • What specifically does music do to people?
  • What do people concretely do with music to shape religious identity, belief, and experience?

In the work of Partridge and St John, Lynch finds that both researchers demonstrated evidence that alternative spiritual beliefs affect popular music and culture. However, Lynch says there is a gap in the explanation of how people physically or mentally use music to create new spiritual identities or meanings.

Lynch’s study consisted of 39 semistructured interviews with “clubbers” outside their dance club environment. In this study, the night club is identified at the religious center for the clubbers. The results were not clear, nor listed. Lynch explained the results as the exploration of cultural discourses through which “clubbers”  sense their experiences, but did not address the role of music as a source of identity-formation. Lynch concludes that the study had significant limitation much like Partridge and St John’s research.

It seems the questions Lynch asked did not stress the importance of how music specifically and concretely shaped community identity. I plan to explore the following questions that Lynch outlined above, while paying special attention to his previous limitations:

  • How does music function as a medium for shaping religious identity?
  • What specifically does music do to people?
  • What do people concretely do with music to shape religious identity, belief, and experience?

Lynch suggests his research along with Partridge and St John, is lacking the cultural, familiar importance individuals attach to music as studied by Tia DeNora in Music in everyday life.

Arguing against the view that the meaning and influence of music lies in its structural and semiotic properties, DeNora has engaged in extensive fieldwork to explore the significance and meanings that music can have for people in lived, everyday settings (Lynch, 2006, p.486).

DeNora’s study explored the sociology of music’s impact on identity. I found Lynch’s summary of DeNora’s questions to be insightful beacons for my research. DeNora’s research addressed the following questions (Lynch, 2006): 

  • What are the different social settings in which people listen to music?
  • How does one’s musical taste differ between waking up, going to church, driving a car, etc?
  • What was the aesthetic and affective aspects of the experience of listening to music?
  • Are there certain kinds of emotion that are important for absorbing ideas from music?
  • Is the process of religious identity-formation through popular music actually as much a process of learning to feel about one’s self and the world in particular ways, as one of learning to think about it in certain ways?
  • What is the specific aural quality of music?
  • In what ways might religious identity-formation through listening to popular music be different to religious identity-formation through, for example, watching film or visiting websites?
  • Are there particular ways in which alternative spiritual ideologies are encoded and decoded through the aural properties of different genres of popular music?

In my research, I plan to take Lynch’s limitations and suggestions to heart. Even though the results of Lynch’s research were inconclusive, I learned the terrain of my action research topic. If I can implement De Nora’s insights into my research agenda and data collection, then I may be able to avoid the gaps others faced.

I have the utmost respect for Gordon Lynch’s work and appreciate his contribution.


De Nora, T. 2000. Music in everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lynch, G. (2006) The Role of Popular Music in the Construction of Alternative Spiritual Identities and Ideologies. The Scientific Study of Religion. 45(4): 481-488

Photo Credits

  • Banner: http://www.hrwallingford.com/images/research%20network.jpg
  • Embedded Photo: http://www.baylor.edu/content/imglib/1/6/9/3/169310.JPG

Research Agenda–Engaging with Art: Identity, Community, & Opportunity

Engaging with Art: Identity, Community, and Opportunity
Team Ziggy Stardust is comprised of Wesley Akers, Susannah Simmons, and La Dawna Minnis, based upon a common curiosity for and appreciation of public art. After initially connecting on social media, we soon found that although we have different professional backgrounds and are in different ILT tracks our common passion for creative endeavors united our efforts. Each one of our diverse research topics shares a common thread of designing, creating, or engaging with art; moreover, the impact on individual and community identity, civic engagement, and future economic opportunities.

bowie sheet music

Q#1: How is community identity impacted through designing/creating/engaging with music in public spaces?


The “A” Center for Engaged Spirituality has been evolving and reinventing itself for the past 116 years. Its roots in Christianity have expanded to meet the needs of broader beliefs and  accommodate those looking for a more inclusive spiritual community. At “A” Center, music is being used as a tool to take people to places that exist beyond words. The World Music Program Director organizes stellar live music to promote connection and higher awareness every week at “A” Center. Hence the question, “How does community identity occur through designing/creating/engaging with music in community groups?”


The words church and religion detour many people from such community places like “A” Center. How is “A” Center promoting community identity by engaging members through music, which indirectly increases membership, affords financial stability, and influence the larger community? Creating new possibilities for members to design, create, and engage with music could contribute to growing community identity, increasing civic engagement, and developing future economic opportunities.


Participants will include musicians, members of the congregation, and any social media connections made in this process.

Data Collection:

Interviews will be conducted with, videos taken, and surveys will be given to

  • Members of the congregation
  • Musicians

about their beliefs around

  • “A” Center community identity, engagement, ownership, and pride
  • their economic future in Capitol Hill
  • music
  • tools for designing, creating, and engaging with music


Positive impacts of exploring “A” Center’s engagement through music could broaden awareness of the music program, higher attendance, and more financial stability. Negative impacts could include that focusing on the music only will detract from other programs at “A” Center as well as potentially distracting members from worship through surveys, videos, and pictures during musical performances.

Q#2: How does learning occur through designing, creating, or engaging with public art in schools?


Graffiti can be seen all over a subsect of the larger Denver community in Colorado, including School “A”, being used to vandalize buildings and to identify gang territory.  In the spring, School “A” sixth graders participate in a 9 week instructional unit focusing on the impact of graffiti art and vandalism on communities.  At the end of the unit, students create a blueprint for a graffiti mural they believe would have a positive impact on their community and/or school and justifying it with an written artist’s statement.  


Stigmas attached to graffiti vandalism limit it’s use as a learning tool for fostering identity as a school community and negatively impacts school ownership and pride.  Additionally, graffiti stigmas limit possible future economic opportunities for students in Denver area.  Teaching about public art and graffiti presents an opportunity for students to develop positive individual and school identity and increase sense of ownership in their life and community.  


School “A” students, faculty, and staff will participate by sharing their beliefs about the impacts of designing, creating, and engaging with public art.

Data Collection

Interviews will be conducted with and surveys will be given to

  • 7th and 8th grade students who have completed the graffiti unit in sixth grade
  • 6th graders who will take the graffiti unit in the spring
  • School “A” faculty and staff

about their beliefs around

  • school community identity, engagement, ownership, and pride
  • their economic future in this Denver subsect
  • public art
  • graffiti art and vandalism
  • tools for designing, creating, and engaging with art


Ideally positive impacts will emerge around learning how to create public art that encourages positive school identity development, engagement, ownership, and pride.  Negative impacts could present themselves because graffiti is illegal in most cases.  As students learn more about graffiti, there is also a concern that the amount of illegal graffiti vandalism will increase.

Q#3: How is individual identity impacted through designing/creating/engaging with art in online spaces?


Designing/creating/engaging with art has a big impact on developing individual identity and . Through the use of new technologies, designing/creating/engaging art is happening online more frequently.  New technologies also allow for collaborative production of designed online spaces and artworks.


Low accessibility to traditional cultural institutions limits opportunities for citizens in rural and underserved areas for designing/creating/engaging. Creating new opportunities for designing/creating/engaging in the arts through shared online spaces could minimize this lack of opportunity.


The participants in this study will include members of online affinity spaces that feature activities for designing/creating/engaging with art.

Data Collection

Interviews will be conducted with and surveys will be given to

  • members of online affinity spaces

about their beliefs around

  • how designing/creating/engaging in the arts has impacted their individual identity, sense of community, and economic opportunities
  • what tools are commonly used in their processes


Inclusion of data collection from online affinity spaces will allow for a more diverse demographic in data collection and potentially yield a wide breadth of responses. While the diversity of response could be helpful, it may also be difficult to identify trends and themes. In addition, due to the anonymity of online spaces there may be a portion of responses that are incomplete or off-topic.