A Guide to our Process and
this Website

The Beauty Project originated as a collaboration. We spent a lot of time exploring how the different ways we work and experiencing each other’s processes and methodologies – including Lucy and Rox being audience members for 12 Last Songs, Sarah visiting Rox’s lab in Bristol, and Lucy leading us through an introduction to how philosophers have thought about beauty across history. 

From this exchange of practices, we developed a shared methodology for inviting audience members and scientists to reflect on their experiences of beauty.  We designed a book of questions for participants to answer about beauty, value and memory. You can find the book template here, and photos of some of the responses here. 

We researched the history of how philosophers have discussed beauty in the past, which you can find here. We also read about how the concept is approached in performance studies, and science studies – our reading list is here.

We did interviews with 16 scientists (different from those who filled in the beauty lab books) in order to investigate the way they talked about the experience, the uses, and the communication of beauty in science. Those transcripts can be read here. 

We saw that people had used different modes of description for their beauty memories. We used the ideas we’d got from the research to re-read the responses, and coded them according to different principles that have been used in ‘explanations of beauty’. You can see an example of this coding, and a compilation of sources of beauty here.

We found the work of Patrick Gunkel , and inspired by how he had spatially mapped out sources of beauty, we made our own maps of the experiences that people had described in daily life, in science, in watching 12 Last Songs, and also in the way that they would describe beauty to a child. The spatial mapping helped us see the sort of ‘spread’ that each set of answers had reached. You can explore those maps here.

We combined maps of these experiences with the way that we’d seen themes emerging through the coding to make bubble plots where the response is found in a location on the spatial map, and the fraction of each response that aligns with each theme is shown in the size of the bubble at that position. You can see those bubble plots here.

We’ve given brief overviews of our own responses to the project here. We’d really like to know what you think.