Creative deconstruction

As a result of the latest intervention and my concerns about the accuracy of the ending of my research question, I have edited the question in a way that is (finally) starting to reflect the research core and the information obtained through interventions.

How can creative deconstruction of emotional objects inspire self-reflection and affective empowerment?

I have been struggling to find the right wording for the part of the question that describes the purpose, and after talking to one of my tutors and psychologist Kelly Scott-James, I have re-worded the ending in way that describes the potential objectives of the research without entering territory in which I lack expertise. I was never pleased with the concept of ‘positive change’ as this is highly subjective and not necessarily the aim of my current research. I have wanted to avoid words such as ‘therapeutic’ and ‘mental well-being’ for the same reasons, and because I consider these to be terms which require more expert feedback than I can currently incorporate in my project.

As a result of the workshop method I am developing, I chose to narrow down the idea of creative storytelling into creative deconstruction because this is the concept and technique behind the workshop process; through a process of deconstruction the participants turn an item of clothing into a written piece that reflects the feelings and memories associated with the item.

Prompted by a discussion with one of my tutors and through further secondary research I also realised I need to rethink the use of the words ‘affect’ and ’emotion’. Although often used synonymously, it is important to distinguish between these the two terms. A task that can become confusing not only because of the wide range of terms involved and a history of debate around exactly how to distinguish between them, but also because of what they mean in the first place (Flatley, 2008; Lord, 2016). Trying to further define the two terms did make me more confused, and it seems there are many views on how these two words should be used. The online Psychology Dictionary (Nugent, 2013) defines ‘affect’ as the act of feeling a sentiment spanning from distress to extreme joy’,  ‘affective’ as something ‘with regard to sentiment or feelings’, and ’emotion’ as the complex reaction pattern that involves experiential, behavioural, and physiological elements.’

Further research shows that most sources will define affect as something general that resists being signified whereas emotion is seen as something personal that holds a symbolic link. Affect can be regarded as something that lies on a continuum from undifferentiated and differentiated, with positive or negative feelings being examples of undifferentiated affect and specific emotions being examples of differentiated affect (Ortony, 2009).

My question can shift depending on how detailed my definition of affect and emotion is and which direction I choose when distinguishing between the two terms. Drawing on the Psychology Dictionary’s and a few other sources’, such as Ortony (2009), Fredrickson (2001), and Lord (2016), broader definitions, and the fact that personal objects often are associated with an array of different feelings – both positive and negative – I have decided to define affect as a ‘superordinate term for different feelings that have one out of two values’ and emotions as ‘complex patterns of subjective phenomena’. Therefore I choose to use the term ’emotional objects’ in my research question to reflect the complex nature of objects associated with memories and feelings.



Fredrickson, B. L. (2001) ‘The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions.’ in The American Psychologist, 56(3), pp. 218–226. Available at: (Accessed: 16 October 2018)

Lord, N. (2016) Thing Theory, Material Culture, and Object-Oriented Ontology Movement in the Motif: Semblances and Affective Criticism’ in Transformations: Journal of Media and Culture, 27, (Accessed: 13 October 2018)

Nugent, P. (2013) Psychology Dictionary. Available at: (Accessed: 16 October 2018)

Ortony A. (2009) 'Affect and Emotions in Intelligent Agents: Why and How?' in Tao J. and Tan T. (ed.) Affective Information Processing. London: Springer doi: 10.1007/978-1-84800-306-4_2




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