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Visual Methods DTC Qualitative Research Methods Dr Alice Mah Department of Sociology

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Presentation on theme: "Visual Methods DTC Qualitative Research Methods Dr Alice Mah Department of Sociology"— Presentation transcript:

1 Visual Methods DTC Qualitative Research Methods Dr Alice Mah Department of Sociology

2 Lecture Outline Visual sociology and visual methods Discussion (10 minutes) I. Analysing existing images II. Producing visual methods during fieldwork Ethnography Photo-elicitation interviews Spatial visual methods Discussion (10 minutes) Conclusions

3 Seeing comes before words… and establishes our place in the surrounding world. (John Berger, 1977, Ways of Seeing, p. 7) Visual material is a central to the social realm, not simply a way we can study. We cannot understand social life without considering the visual aspects of social life. Brief history of visual methods: 19 th- 20 th century: photo-journalists and documentary photographers, use of film and photography in social anthropology, social investigators and social reformers as photographers; visual sociology established in 1980s, developed in the 1990s, and is now increasingly popular (digital age). Visual methodologies produce rich data, are open to a range of interpretations, and can provide insights into producers of visual material, consumers of visual material, and social contexts of image production and consumption. Visual sociology

4 Visual methods Three types of visual methods (Banks, 2001): 1.making visual representations (studying society by producing images) 2.examining pre-existing visual representations (studying images for information about society) 3.collaborating with social actors in the production of visual representations Different types of visual material two-dimensional pictures- drawings, maps, diagrams and charts, photographs, paintings, etc. moving or electronic images, for example TV, video and film, websites material objects themselves, such as toys, homes, streets, signs Visual methods can be used as stand-alone methods or as complementary with other qualitative methods such as interviews and participant observation.

5 Discussion: 10 minutes What insights can the production and/or analysis of visual materials contribute to our understanding of the social world? What disadvantages does their use have?

6 I. Analysing existing images (e.g. from an archive, a family album) What we seek to do is to place photographs in the social world, bringing them to life (McAllister 2006)* Some suggested methods of analysis: Banks- analyse the internal and external narrative Rose- meaning is produced at three sites, so need to explore all of them Chalfens events Numerous other concepts and methods, e.g. memory work (Hirsh 1999, Kuhn et al 2006) Think which works better for your picture, use to set yourself questions, focus your vision. *K. E. McAllister (2006) Locating memory in A.Kuhn and K.E. McAllister (2006) Locating Memory, NY: Berghaus Books, p. 1.

7 Analysing existing images: Banks To understand the meaning of an image, need to find and use clues to produce two stories: The external narrativethe social context that produced the image and the social relations within which the image is embedded at any moment of viewing. The internal narrative… its content, the story that the image communicates. Identifying the external and internal narrative: The materiality of the picture may provide many clues; you can derive clues from the photograph by considering it as an object as well as an image. Helpful to know what is written on back, whether postcard or snapshot, etc. If the picture is in an archive, it will help to know which file it is in (Which other pictures? Whose documents are they? How were they used?). You may need to do further research (Can you identify the people in the picture through other sources?) (Marcus Banks 2003, p. 11)

8 Analysing existing images: Rose The sites at which the meanings of an image is constructed: The site of the production of the image The site of the image itself The sites where it is viewed by various audiences, who are reading and using it in various ways. (Rose, 2001, p )

9 Analysing existing images: Chalfen Think of photograph as a series of events that went into its making and use- for instance planning the picture behind the camera when taking it, what was happening front of the camera, what was happening at each different times of use. Then we can ask questions ask about each state the following questions: Who were the participants? In which setting did the events take place? Which topics were addressed? (family relationships, for instance) What message form does the image take? (Christmas card) What code is it embedded in? (realistic, romantic, etc) (Chalfen 2000)

10 Analysing existing images: compositional analysis Content--what story does the picture tell? Colour -- hue, saturation (vividness, depth), value (lightness, darkness) Spatial organization Focus-what position are we offered as a viewer? Light- type and intensity of light (candlelight, daylight, etc) Expressive content--the feel of the image

11 Example: Family albums and domestic photography (Rose 2003; Chalfen 2000) Interest originates with feminist sociology and art studies in the 1980s Brings social character of the private sphere into the picture (Changing) character of gender relations is illuminated by family snaps Cultural variability of family photography and its uses, including their display in albums, in domestic space, etc.

12 II. Producing visual data during fieldwork taking photographs or videos from field research to illustrate/reveal research themes photo-elicitation interviews participant photography or video recording spatial visual methods (ethnographic and site observations: body language, streets, buildings, public places, movements, gestures, social interactions, walking methods) drawing maps and diagrams discussing photographs, images, or other visual materials with informants visual diaries (your own or your informants) * We will focus on just a few of the many possibilities here…

13 Photographs in fieldwork Elizabeth Chaplin (2002) The Residents of South London Road

14 Photo-elicitation interviews Photo-elicitation interviews: researchers introduce photographs into the interview context Photographs may be researcher-produced, existing photographs, or produced by research participants Three main uses of photographs (Harper, 2002): 1.As visual inventories of people, objects and artefacts 2.As depictions of events that are part of collective or institutional paths (photographs of schools or events) 3.As intimate dimensions of the social (photos of family, friends, the self, the body) Advantages: ease rapport, provide structure, prompt questions, richer data, greater balance of power dynamics Challenges: confidentiality, ethics, trust, technical skill, sensitivity to context, power relations

15 Example of photo-elicitation auto- driven interview instructions, Clark- Ibáñez

16 Clark-Ibáñez: photo-elicitation images


18 Byrne and Doyle: photo-elicitation with focus groups, using existing mining images


20 Les Back: participant street photography, Brick Lane, East London


22 Spatial visual methods Spatial visual methods: concerned with relationships between people and places/spaces (communities, cities, neighbourhoods, homes, public spaces, parks, rural spaces, natural spaces, confined places, policed places, political places) Diary-photo diary-interview method (Latham), time-space diagram, diary, photo and interview as complementary Material culture studies (Miller) peoples relationships with objects, photos, materials Site observations (drawing maps, photographing areas of research; spatial part of ethnographic lens) Mobile methods: researching while on the move (participant and/or researcher), conducive to spatial research

23 Spatial visual methods: walking methods and psychogeography Walking whilst talking (or driving or on public transport): research participants guide researchers through places: city streets, neighbourhoods, shops, churches, parks, and talk about meanings, memories and ideas related to places. Informal, good for rapport, multi-sensory, rich material. Psychogeography: researchers explore the social and psychological impacts of places on people; primary method through researcher walking and observing. Earlier antedecents: Walter Benjamins flaneur and George Simmels Metropolis and Mental Life, 1903; founded by Guy Debord 1955, contemporary example: Ian Sinclairss London Orbital). Criticisms: spectator/voyeuristic/detached/popular.

24 Driving tours with research participant in Ivanovo, Russia: Mah

25 Driving tour with research participant (taxi driver) in Walker, Newcastle: Mah

26 Discussion (10 minutes) What are some key ethical issues that relate to using visual methods in fieldwork? How might these ethical issues be addressed?

27 Conclusions Visual methods capture multi-dimensional, rich data. Analysing photographic images gives us insight into the social institutions, like the family, and social practices in which they are produced and viewed. The production of visual images is itself a social practice which helps to define and constitute social life. We can use images to gain a vivid view of how people see themselves and their environments, and how they locate themselves within them. Participant photography can give us greater access to marginalised groups and to sensitive topics (but risk of power imbalance and using vs. empowering /giving real voice). Ethical issues of confidentiality, informed consent, trust and power relations.

28 References Anderson, J. (2004) Talking whilst walking: a geographical archaeology of knowledge, Area 36(3): Banks, M. (2001) Visual Methods in Social Research. London: Sage. Chalfen, R. (2000) Interpreting Family Photography as Pictorial Communication in J. Prosser, ed. Image-Based Research, London: Falmer Press. Chaplin, E. (1994) Sociology and Visual Representation. London: Routledge. Clark-Ibanez, M. (2004) Framing the Social World with Photo-elicitation Interviews, American Behavioral Scientists, 47(12), Hirsch, M. (ed.) (1999) The Familial Gaze.Dartmouth College Press Knowles, C. and P. Sweetman (eds) (2004) Picturing the Social Landscape.London: Routledge Kuhn, A. and K.E.McAllister (eds) (2006) Locating Memory: Photographic Acts. NY: Berghaln Books. Pink, S. (2001, 2007) Doing Visual Ethnography. London: Sage. Prosser, J. (ed) (1998) Image-based Research. London: Falmer. Rose, G. (2003). Family Photographs and Domestic Spacings: A Case Study Transactions of the institute of British Geographers 28 (1): Rose, G. (2001) Visual Methodologies. London: Sage. Sinclair, I. (2002) London Orbital: A Walk Around the M25, London: Penguin. Wright, C.Y. et al (2010). Visual research methods: using cameras to empower socially excluded black youth, Sociology, 44 (3):

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