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Reviewing “Choreografish” for Ground Works

Reviewer commentary by Lise Worthen-Chaudhari

I was intrigued-but-wary when I first received Dr. Stanich’s (Veronica’s) invitation to review for a2ru Ground Works. On the one hand, I felt immediately excited about this novel opportunity. Engage with other makers in a structured academic improvisation at the interstices of dance, science, and medicine? Yes please! My heart and work lie at this intersection. I would LOVE to engage in meaningful ways with brilliant colleagues around emerging work in the space. Additionally, this invitation wasn’t a typical peer-review of work (for reference, I am asked to peer-review about one scientific or dance scholarly manuscript per month and have time to commit to approximately half of these invitations). No, this was an opportunity to challenge the dominant paradigm of how peer-review is operationalized—an opportunity to speak new transdisciplinary space into being with multidisciplinary co-creators. Yes yes, please!

On the other hand, I felt wary. What would the time commitment look like exactly? And would I be able to justify that time to my employer? As a Research Scientist in an academic medical center, I work every day to change culture and create respect for artscience innovations. This incredibly satisfying work involves a blunt reality: I must meet certain milestones, like securing external funding for my salary. Could I claim that this exciting, paradigm-changing opportunity with Ground Works would help me to get that next NIH grant? If the answer to this question was not a clear, quick “yes” then I’d need to do the work off-hours. Given these considerations, could I commit to this particular rabbit hole? I knew I wanted to engage in this experiment...but should I?

My decision came down to comfort level with the editor: Veronica and I had shared experiences from graduate school. Specifically, we had worked together to bridge dance research to human subjects research, so I knew and trusted her commitment to transdisciplinary action. Based on my positive shared experience with V, I decided to take the leap of faith with her and engage in this experiment to reimagine the peer-review process for transdisciplinary work.

I had a wonderful experience! In the end, the hardest part of the process turned out to be finding overlap in our schedules for live discussions. Not so different from scheduling a dance rehearsal or scientific collaborator meeting, really. On a practical note, once we got on the call together, our review of “Choreografish” took less time than a typical review would have taken me, but was more satisfying. Ground Works was well prepared to facilitate the experiment in collaborative peer-review. Firstly, we used their web-based, viewing platform that supported browsing between source material that took the form of scientific results (e.g., methods, data), artistic experience (e.g., videos of user interaction with the installation), and community impact (e.g., news coverage, user testimonials). Secondly, they provided clear guidance for our review discussion; this served as an effective structure for our conversational improv.

The platform took a minute to get oriented within, but then really worked for me, allowing my appreciation of the work to unfold organically, as a personal exploration rather than as a linear narrative that the authors fed to me, thus supporting audience autonomy on a fundamental level. Experienced this way, it quickly became clear that the project grew from compelling roots in dance technology, physical medicine, and health science and could have fit within a traditional journal in any of those defined disciplines. But as a transdisciplinary creative installation, the work manifested beautifully on the Ground Works publishing platform.

Our discussions about the work were invigorating and enabled our solo thoughts to grow larger than the sum of their parts when shared between us. What emerged from the process was as much curation as review; yes we clearly agreed that the work should be published but we were also able to develop concrete suggestions to maximize impact for each scholarly front that the work touched on (e.g., dance, interactive tech, science, medicine) supporting the work in an integrated manner. Sydney, Veronica, and I were able to work together to position the work in terms of dance and interactive tech. To ensure validity of the work in the clinical research domain, I stepped in with specific recommendations such as dialing back claims of efficacy, presenting supporting data clearly within the publication, and celebrating the work in terms of the clinical research stages completed therein: Phase I design and feasibility. In retrospect, I am glad that I engaged this experiment in transdisciplinary review and feel that the conversational review format served to increase my agency as a maker at the intersection of art, science, and medicine.

Lise Worthen-Chaudhari was a “Choreografish” reviewer, and is a subject expert on dance-based interventions to promote neurorehabilitation, health, and wellness

Publication Date:
July 27, 2021