Researching the work and background of Lewis W. Hine led me to look at sociology. Hine’s use of photography to examine a social issue was definitely influenced by his training in sociology. So moving forward I decided to look at sociology, which is defined as:
The science of society, social institutions, and social relationships; specifically: the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings (Merriam-Webster, 2018)
An associated term that kept coming up when looking into the definition of sociology was social science, defined as:
A branch of science that deals with the institutions and functioning of human society and with the interpersonal relationships of individuals as members of society. (Merriam-Webster, 2018)
As the focus of my MA and specifically this semester is exploring creative research I combined the keywords: creative research, social science, sociology and photography to explore the online library via StudyNet (our research portal at IDI and Hertfordshire). This gave me a plethora of material to review specifically on visual and creative research methods.
The first text was Visual, Narrative and Creative Research Methods : Application, Reflection and Ethics by Mannay. This book, as the title so aptly states, explores visual narrative and creative research methods. Planning on employing a text based questionnaire when interviewing the migrant narrative subjects I was interested in what visual tools could be used instead. Two very interesting techniques were discussed, participant collaging and the use of the photovoice technique.
The collaging and photovoice techniques were presented in the same way and participants could select the mode, or modes, that they wanted to work with from these options, although one chose to be interviewed without taking part in any visual data production. Collages were constructed from everyday objects, magazines, photographs and printed online images, while the photovoice activity was facilitated with disposable cameras. (Mannay, 2015)
What was interesting to me about these methodologies is the interviewee has more of a participatory role in the process.
One principal objective of such research, then, is to eliminate the conceptual and practical filters applied both literally and metaphorically by researchers; and to engender access to more authentic views. (Mannay, 2015)
This added dimension of exploring their world further by examining the images and not just relying on the interview is very interesting. Critically reflecting on these methodologies there is some concerns I have specifically could a researcher interpret the images based on their own bias to positively reinforce their own research outcomes? This could apply to a verbal interview or text too, however images can be very subjective. In chapter 6 of the text Mannay does address this concern.
Therefore, just as images are open to misinterpretation, the reader will often produce a different interpretation of the text from that which the author intends; in this manner the need for clarification is extended to all modes of data. (Mannay, 2015)
I believe, as does the author, that these methodologies work best in tandem with other methods, one helps reinforce another. When structuring my process I would like to employ an interview, photovoice or collage and a collaborative image creation.
Mannay, D. 2015, Visual, Narrative and Creative Research Methods : Application, Reflection and Ethics, Routledge, London.
Merriam-Webster. 2018. Definition of sociology. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sociology. [Accessed 6 April 2018].
Merriam-Webster. 2018. Definition of sociology. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20science. [Accessed 6 April 2018].