tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

Visual methods


We’ve heard several arguments on how the role of photos and video will increase the views, likes and hits our project gets, if we manage to use such visual methods that is. We understand these arguments even though they are rather instrumental. Feels like we’re on “the market of research projects”, fighting for attention. See us, read and view us, pick us!  But of course, to be honest, see us, read and view us, pick us, are important for this project and to us. Why else be on social media, why bother writing music and lyrics, taking and working with photographs, shooting and editing short movies.

However, visuals contain other effects than instrumental ones, which demand other arguments and views, especially methodological ones. And of course such arguments and views exist from the start of this project (see some of the references at the bottom of this post). One of our favorite sociologists, Zygmunt Bauman, has paid attention to how the increasing production and consumption of images add to the development of a liquid society (the increasing production and consumtion of images Bauman picks up from others’ work – a theme that is rather well explored; it is mainly the connection of this to his analysis of liquidity that is novel). Just think about how visual media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, and so on) are changing human relations (swarm like behaviour, coordinated but not integrated, I am seen and therefore i exist), structures (big-brother or weakest link style and function, individual solutions to collective problems is the only offered way to move forward), networks (no stationary panopticon to attack, until further notice relations), time (zero-time in his conceptualization), spatial mobility (deterritoralization), geopolitics and wars, and resource struggles and fights.

Bauman primarily focuses on what happens to human responsibilty and collective political efforts in times of increasing production and consumtion of images, concluding that self-interest and consumerism are on the rise. But he also – as many others as well – concludes that visuals and social media make the heart and belly come into play, that is: all kinds of human emotions ‘outside’ the rational part of the brain. This view is important to us and to this project. Social science is, however, still very much focused on the rational part of the brain, trying in vain to stay unconnected from the heart and the belly. And therefore the discourse is still strong – rational conversations and analytical writing dominate. But visualization is a way of provoking and analytically take into consideration other types of human reactions and sensations.

A few examples suffice perhaps.

DSCF2231

House of Science, Luleå, November 4, 2015

After a presentation of our project at the House of Science in Luleå on November 4, in which video interviews from the homepage were shown, a person from the audience concluded that: “The interviews went straight to my belly”. Visual methods, that is, might play an important role when sharing context-sensitive case studies of complex phenomena (such as a labor process in a changing mining industry) in that it also reaches the heart and the belly. What do you feel when seeing the video of Ronja or of Göran (see earlier blogposts)? And what did the video-making do to Ronja’s and Göran’s storytelling about their working-life and life in general?

Visuals also trigger our analytical imagination. Take the pictures below. The first – we think – is raw, almost brutal, like a mutant insect, waiting to attack. This is how we experienced parts of the operations underground and we searched for ways to somehow get a grip on this, through working with this picture, but also through combining still and moving pictures with a song and lyrics (the music video Spaceland).

DSCF9225

The second picture aims to give a different view on how we also experienced life underground that is much more characterized by caring, mending, servicing, feminity.

DSCF9218

These examples and our brief interpretations are admittely a bit simplified, but hopefully they help revealing how still and moving pictures (with music) can add to the stories we craft about life underground (in this case).

The picture heading this post, by the way, is of the platform where the workers wait for the bus to take them to their workplace before every shift (morning and afternoon).

 

Bramming, Pia, Hansen Birgitte Gorm, Bojesen, Anders, Gylling Olesen, Kristian (2012) “(Im)perfect pictures: snaplogs in performativity research”. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal 7(1): 54-71.

Green, Nicola (1999) “Disrupting the Field: Virtual Reality Technologies and “Multisited”’ Ethnographic Methods”. American Behavioral Scientist 43(3): 409-421.

Murthy, Dhiray (2008) “Digital Ethnography: An Examination of the Use of New Technologies for Social Research”. Sociology 42(5): 837–855.

Van Maanen, John (2006) “Ethnography then and now”. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal (1)1: 13-21.