Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 24


Prepared by J. N. Abletis, M.A. Sociology student for the Qualitative Research Method class at the University of the Philippines, Diliman January 24, 2013

Visual Sociology

Concerned with the visual dimension of social life "How humans 'see' is part nature part nurture being governed by perception that, like other sensory nodes, is mediated by physiology, culture, and history. Visual researchers use the term visible ontologically in referring to imagery and naturally occurring phenomena that can be seen, emphasizing the physiological dimension and disregarding their meaning or significance. Visual, however, is not about an image or object in of itself but more concerned with the perception and the meanings attributed to them. The terms visualize and visualization refer to researcher's sense-making attributes that are epistemologically grounded and include concept formation, analytical processes, and modes of representation." (Prosser, 2011, p. 479)

Representation and the visual dimension of social life

Nothing stands outside representation. Research involves a complex politics of representation. This world can never be captured directly; we only study representations of it. We study the way people represent their experiences to themselves and to others. (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p. 415)
Representation is a very slow moving area for us, hence we dont like the idea of being sound recorded. We want video, we want movement and we want color and facial gestures, we want the full thing, the full...representation of visual culture. (Prosser & Clark, 2010)

Representation and the visual dimension of social life

A photograph [or any visual recording] both includes, as well as excludes. (Meethan, 2010) Photography [or any visual recording is] both empirical and constructed. (Harper, 2005, p. 748) Visual methods involve using photos, videos, drawings, paintings, posters, comic strips, advertisements, magazines, the internet and social networking sites (e.g. Facebook),maps, playing lego and other arts-based activities and computer generated images (e.g. MRIs) in generating and communicating knowledge.

Historical background

Late 1800searly 1900s. Anthropologists and ethnographers had a long tradition of using pictures as evidence in studying exotic cultures. Many were realists then [documentarians], arguing that pictures dont lie and that they were useful in maintaining objectivity and eliminating the observer-bias. (Meethan, 2010; Wikipedia; Harper, 1988)

Community studies in sociology in the 1930s largely ignored the use of photographs. Their use was relegated to the lesser status of mass communication. (Harper, 1988, pp. 58-59).
Radicalism in the 1960s led many to critique conservative theories and methods in the academe. They changed their theoretical orientations and used photographs for documentation and activism. (Ibid, p. 59) In the 1960s, there was a broad agreement that the type of media, mode of production, and context... are important in determining the meaning ascribed to imagery (Prosser, 2011, p. 479). Inclusion of film-makers kit (behind the scenes) and use of sub-titles instead of voice-over translations (Banks, 1995). 1970s to 200o, disparity between empirically oriented researchers (traditional, pictures as tools in theory building/testing) and symbolically inclined researchers (cultural studies, critical theories, popular culture and mass culture studies) (Ibid) 1984, Society for Visual Anthropology (section of the ASA) and the Visual Anthropology Review 1986,Visual Sociology Review(journal) and the establishment of the International Visual Sociology Association

Historical background

Technological advancements and ease of access to these resources (e.g. Invention and proliferation of digital cameras, portable computers, cellular phones, improved internet connectivity etc.) 2001, Contexts (journal) of ASA 2002, Visual Studies (journal) of IVSA 2000-2002, the Economic and Social Science Research Council began conducting visual methods training for local and foreign social researchers in UK. Visual Evidence: the Use of Images in Social and Cultural Research seminar series. (Ibid) 2006-2009. The Building Capacity in Visual Methods program, part of the ESRC Researcher Development Initiative, was the first nationwide integrated program aimed at teaching visual methods to a cross-section of qualitative researchers. (Ibid) 2009, 1st International Visual Methods Conference held at Leeds University, UK on September 15-17 (Ibid)

The four Rs of visual research methods (Prosser & Clark, 2010)

1. Researchers found visual data

Imagery in magazines, facebook, comic strips, advertisements, cave paintings, maps and other elements in the visual culture of the people.

"Photography is especially helpful in studies of social change because photographs can be matched with earlier images to reveal extraordinarily detailed renditions of changes in human habitation, landscape, and/or traces of human interaction." (Harper, 2005, p. 749)

Quiapo in the early 1800s

... early 1950s

... at present

The four Rs of visual research methods

2. Researcher created visual data
Includes taking videos and photographs for documentation and data gathering ( with least to nonparticipation of the respondents; scientific mode and narrative mode [Harper, 1988, pp. 61-64)
MAXQDA, a qualitative data organizer software

This website aims to invite others to come into a dialogue with the ethnographer regarding his findings and interpretations.

Use of pictures to add texture to statistics

The four Rs of visual research methods


Respondent/Participant generated visual data (Participatory Visual Methods; also reflexive mode [Harper, 1988, p. 64 )
a. Visual/Photo [& Film] elicitation (image/artifact elicitation)

using photographs, drawings, or diagrams [that belong to the participant or that may be brought by the researcher] in a research interview to stimulate a response. Interviewees comments are then video/audio recorded for analysis (Posser, 2011, p. 484; Wikipedia). Involves decentering of the authority of the author [researcher] in favor of the subject ( Harper, 2002, p. 14) ).

The four Rs of visual research methods


Respondent/Participant generated visual data (Participatory Visual Methods) b. Photovoice (participant video, video diaries, photonarratives and photo-novella) entails providing participants and collaborators with digital video or still cameras... An overtly political form entails giving participants cameras as an act of empowerment to generate changes in personal or community life or to influence policy directly... Such work tackles the power inequalities that create crises and sustain poverty and injustices through the suppression of marginalized voices. (Posser, 2011, p. 485) Participatory video aims to create a narrative that conveys what respondents want to communicate in the manner they wish to communicated. (Ibid)

The four Rs of visual research methods

4. Representation and visualization of data

Representation of visual research is in a depressingly stagnant state because mainstream dissemination in academia remains hard copy text-based and conservative. (Posser, 2011, p. 480) In spite of the visual nature of the data that inform this chapter, I am left to represent it using only text and a few still images. To capture the flavour of the diaries in the text is extremely difficult and takes up an enormous amount of writing space... The nuances available in an audiovisual text are such that many simultaneous interpretations are possible... The diarists and their views are foregrounded in presentations, and the audience is similarly skilled at reading video diaries due to their near-constant use in lifestyle and reality TV. -Ruth Holliday (2007. Quoted by Posser, 2011, pp. 485-486).

Representation and visualization of data

In making the case for making pictures I am suggesting that pictures can offer us ideas and an irreducible experience that cannot be restated or translated into linguistic terms. Articulations produced through photographs can offer us insights based on spatial and compositional arrangements, they can convey moods and emotions. They can generate novel ideas and inferences... In the sciences, the idea of "productive ambiguity" with multiple readings giving rise to innovations that would have been unimagined had not a plurality of readings been possible. -Dona Schwartz (2009. Quoted by Posser, 2011, pp. 481).

Authoring blogs, creation of websites, photo exhibits, production and distribution of VCDs/DVDs etc.

A Strength of Visual MethodsThe Capacity to Create and Innovate

Images make us pay attention to things in new ways... Images are likely to be memorable... Images can be used to communicate more holistically, incorporating multiple layers, and evoking stories or questions; images can enhance emphatic understanding and generalizability... Through metaphor and symbol, artistic images can carry theory elegantly and eloquently.. Images encourages embodied knowledge... Images can be more accessible than most forms of academic discourse... Images provoke action for social justice.

-Sandra Weber (2008. Quoted by Posser, 2011, p. 488).

An example would be Gaunletts use of lego to explore participants embodied experience, of creating identity (Posser, 2011, p. 489), of making connections and bridges in working creatively (Gaunlett, 2011, p. 2.).

making is connecting... I mean this in three principal way: (1) Making is connecting because you have to connect things together (materials, ideas, or both) to make something new; (2) Making is connecting because act of creativity usually involve, at some point, a social dimension and connect us with other people; (3) And making is connecting because through making things and sharing them in the world, we increase our engagement and connection with our social and physical environments. David Gauntlett (2011, p. 2)

An Opportunity for Visual MethodsPostcards from the Edge

Conventional methods favor the articulate (Posser, 2011, p. 490).

Disabled people make sense of their lives through the interplay of sensory relations not accessible through discourse; words are mere proxies for their direct experiences. Text and verbal-based approaches are limited because they fail to move beyond inherent psychophysical characteristics to reveal taken-forgranted, embodied, sensorial lives. -John Posser (Ibid)

An Opportunity for Visual MethodsPostcards from the Edge

Conventional methods favor the articulate (Posser, 2011, p. 490).

...visual methods can reveal important information that text or word-based methods cannot. Hence, any attempt to disguise people [such as assumptions of their inability to speak for themselves] without careful reasoning and due cause can remove the very point of data and the moral rights of participants who wish to have their voices hear. -John Posser (Ibid)

Why use visual methods?

Prof. Sarah Pink, Ph.D., Social and Visual Anthropologist at the RMIT University, Australia

In practice, decisions are best made once researchers are in a position to assess which specific visual methods will be appropriate or ethical in a particular research context, therefore allowing researchers to account for their relationships with informants and their experience and knowledge of local visual cultures. (Pink, 2001, p. 29) [You have to consider] how visual methods, images and technologies will be interpreted by individuals in the cultures where research will be done, in addition to assessing how well visual methods appear inappropriate. (Ibid, p. 31)

...evaluations [of appropriateness] should be informed by an ethnographic appreciation of how visual knowledge is interpreted in a cross-cultural context. Therefore decisions about the particular methodologies and modes of representation to be used should pay attention to intersections between local visual cultures, the way in which the visual is treated by wider users or audiences of the research and ethnographers' own knowledge, experience and sensitivity. By thinking through the implications of image production and visual representation in this way ethnographers should be able to evaluate how their 'ethnographic' images would be invested with different meanings by different political, local and academic discourses. (Ibid, p. 33)

[one] should also account for how the equipment one uses will become part of one's identity both during fieldwork and in academic circles... (Ibid, p. 35)

Photographs and video-tapes themselves become commodities for exchange and the sites of negotiation...among informants, between researchers and informants, between researchers and their families and friends 'at home' and among researchers. In short, the visual technologies and images associated with ethnographers will also be implicated in the way other people construct their identities and thus impact on their social relationships and experiences. (ibid, pp. 35-36)


Because ethics are so embedded in the specific research contexts in which ethnographers work, like decisions about which visual research methods to employ in a project, ethical decisions cannot be concluded until the researcher is actually in the field. (Pink, 2001, p. 37) If a researcher considers the very act of recording covertly a violation of the integrity of their informants, and thus unethical, then covert work will be ruled out. In other situations an ethnographer may feel that to record or photograph an activity secretly is ethical because he or she will be able to take personal responsibility for the images and not to violate the integrity of those covertly recorded. (Ibid, p. 40)

It is good practice to ask permission to photograph in any public context or event, as well as seeking the consent of the individuals photographed, and in some situations official permission is required. (Ibid,. 41) Collaborative approach between researchers and informants often reduces harm and anxiety. (Ibid. P. 42)

"ethics of care" approach... [in which] ethical decisions are made on the basis of care, compassion, and a desire to act in ways that benefit the individual or group that is the focus of research rather than following the universalist principles or absolute norms and rules that may govern ethical decision making. (Posser, 2011, p. 494)

Banks, M. (1995, Winter). Visual Research Methods. Social Research Update, Issue 11, Guildford, England: University of Surrey, Department of Sociology. Retrieved January 30, 2013 from http://sru.soc.surrey.ac.uk/SRU11/SRU11.html Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2011). Part IV. Methods of Collective and Analyzing Empirical Materials. In. N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., pp. 415-419 Gaunlett, D. (2011). Making is Connecting: The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to Youtube and Web 2.0, Cambridge: Polity Press, chapter 1 Introduction. Retrieved January 20, 2013 from http://www.makingisconnecting.org/gauntlett2011-extract1.pdf Gaunlett, D. (2009, July). Lego landscape of ideas, at Reboot Britain [Video webcast]. Retrieved January 20, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEaXi3SbBoY Harper, D. (2005). What's New Visually. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 747-762. Retrieved January 21, 2013 from http://www.sfu.ca/~decaste/867fall08/867pdfs/what's%20new%20visually.pdf Harper, D. (2002). Talking about pictures: a case for photo elicitation. Visual Studies, 17(1). Retrieved January 20, 2013 from http://www.nyu.edu/pages/classes/bkg/methods/harper.pdf Harper, D. (1988, Spring). Visual Sociology: Expanding Sociological Vision. The American Sociologist. Retrieved January 20, 2013 from http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~pms/cj355/readings/harper.pdf Meethan, K. (2010, November). Visual Research, Presentation in a Social Research Class at the University of Plymouth [Video webcast]. Retrieved January 20, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrfXHvVF9Sw Pink, S. (2001). Doing Visual Ethnography: Images, Media and Representation in Research, London: Sage Publications, pp. 29-46. Retrieved January 21, 2013 from http://www.sfu.ca/~decaste/867fall08/867pdfs/whyvisualmethods.pdf Posser, J. (2011). Visual Methodology: Toward a More Seeing Research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc., pp. 479-495 Posser, J. & Clark, A. (2010). NCRMWhat are visual methods? [Video webcast]. Retrieved January 23, 2013 from http://writingcenter.waldenu.edu/624.htm Sage Publications (2009, September). SAGE Methodspace Sarah Pink [Video webcast]. Retrieved January 21, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcO2JlsyZvY Wikipedia (2013, January 7). Visual Sociology. Retrieved January 20, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_sociology