von Dietze

Applying Ethical standards when creative practice causes harm.

Erich von Dietze
Research Ethics & Integrity, 
Murdoch University

Creative practice often challenges people’s understandings or values, engages people in questioning assumptions and beliefs, and sometimes brings people face-to-face with discomfort or even intentionally undermines their sense of security.  While the intention is not to harm others, occasionally things go wrong and people may become harmed or hurt; there are examples in the literature.

Creative practice as research, especially in a higher education institution, needs to meet specified standards associated with ethics, including dealing with harm or hurt that may be caused.  However, these standards were mostly developed outside the creative practice sphere and need to be carefully applied or translated.  Creative practitioner researchers are commonly aware of the need to obtain approvals (including ethics) and attach safety plans to their work before a project is conducted.   However, the standards sometimes offer particular challenges.

This paper uses case studies to explore the context of harm and hurt, and to outline in relation to the prevailing codes and practices how a creative arts practitioner could think about these elements.  It also addresses how an institution may respond to an instance where allegations of harm or hurt arise.  What happens when a participant formally complaints to the institution that they have been deeply affronted or harmed by their interaction with a project?  What happens when a practitioner finds their work reported in the media for all the wrong reasons?  Such occurrences are often dealt with as ‘adverse incidents’ but sometimes can become the subject of more formal investigations.  How might a practitioner respond? The paper will outline strategies which extend the traditional ethics application process and help creative arts practitioners minimise the possibility of such risks.