Advances in Visual Methodology

Edited by Sarah Pink (2012)

I read this in one day, the weekend after my final classes as a MA student in Visual Anthropology, so I was looking for a book that would give me hope for the future of academia and adaptation to new media. If you’ve seen some of my vlogs you’ll know I have major issues with academia’s refusal to adopt new media quickly enough to stay relevant and engaging. This book has a wide variety of essays covering various aspects of visual methods, but I felt a disconnect between the editor’s purpose and the collective attitudes expressed by the writers.

The introduction seeks to make visual methods a more accepted, less contested in method within academia, yet some of the authors seemed to discuss it as if it was still speculation as to whether these were accepted methods. Visual methods should have been discussed as if the authors already believed these were legitimate forms of research and presentation (there were a few that did so, but not the majority). Many also still seemed hesitant to adopt new media and stressed having to prove that incorporation of such tools in a project should be justified.

No. Nope. Stop that right now.

If they believe the stance the intro laid out, then they shouldn’t also be questioning the very USE of other media. New media is facing the same speculation and critique as visual methods in academia, we should be striving to open up the minds of researchers to better use all the tools available. And I feel that “justifying” the use of a media in terms of a project should really be determined by the researcher. I use wordpress for fieldnotes and my topic is on fieldworkers. They are not related topics, but I’m not trying to make them so, I’m using a tool available to me. A tool I believe will be the very near future of academic endeavors (at least by younger generations who grew up alongside these advances, and are therefore less resistant to them).

I think that Sarah Pink’s efforts are admirable, but overall this proves that academia is still playing catch-up. Even the design of the book itself showed a lack of proficiency in visual design. The main headline font was Impact. Come on. Basic design lessons teach you to use a unique font (unless making an office flier). And the small percentage of visuals actually produced in this volume also screams contradiction. No, not every essay in this book was about a distinct visual project, but still, when trying to make an argument FOR something at least back that up with action.

I appreciate the effort put forth by some of the authors, but I can’t help but be very disappointed that even recent publications on visual methods are falling short, and in my opinion, hurting the overall argument to make it a legitimate form of methods.

Quotes

“This is not to suggest that journalism does not have its own code of ethical conduct, but rather to recognise that journalism and social science research are not the same. It is important to question whether attempts to pass visual research as some kind of (imitation) journalism may cause others to question its social science credentials.” Andrew Clark, chap. 2, p 24

As a journalist/anthropologist I’m really over the journalism bashing in social science. At least Clark acknowledges that we have ethics. And every time an academic makes a distinction between journalism and their field I want to add, “We do the same kinds of research, but journalists are more employable and generally paid better for the hours they put it.”

“This is not to suggest that visual researchers are engaging in naive ethical practices, but rather hints at how ethical practice is as much about questions of epistemology as it is about the research method and technique. Viewed from this perspective, it may be more appropriate to consider ethical issues part of an ongoing process of negotiation and reflection.” Andrew Clark, chap. 2, p 25

PREACH.

“The Internet is more than a context that helps to explain the meaning of the images; it shapes the images in determinate ways, because the technology contributes significantly in how the visual object is created, manipulated and shared.” Elisenda Ardevol, chap. 5, p 82

She essentially argues for understanding data with context (something academia has always done) but extending that to the online world (which academia is still shunning).

“… we might rethink the status of doing visual ethnography on the Internet.” Sarah Pink, chap. 7, p 114

Just doing her job of defending the method like a boss.

“If Rouch and Morin had to overcome people’s uneasiness in front of the camera due to the lack of familiarity with media broadcasting in 1960, today the problem is a diametrically opposite one. For me, the question is still how to document conversations naturally, but – due to expanded media being here, due to the technology – for me the questions has become: What is natural?” Pat Badani, chap. 11, p 197

Not only did you reference Rouch and put him in context, you used him to prove a point. I salivated over the beauty on this page.

“For example, there’s no reason to expect that they have closed their email, chat or Facebook windows while they are encountering your work, any more than that they stop answering their phone when they are walking through your city (or locative media narrative).” Mark Marino, chap. 11, p 207

An academic that doesn’t live in the fantasy world in which you aren’t in competition with new media. LOVE IT.

“… it doesn’t suffice for visual scholars to have a superficial knowledge of visual technologies and of the specific formal and meaning-related aspects of the visual media, as almost every technical or formal choice is bound to have epistemological (and various other) consequences.” Luc Pauwels, chap. 14, p 252

Standing ovation for you! Next time a well-known academic gives a lecture on audio-visuals and uses NO audio-visuals I will throw this essay in their face.

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