Early on in our project, we decided to ask miners if they could tell about their relation to work, mine and community in front of a camera as well. We produced a couple of interviews on our blog, but once we were rejected by top management, the idea of filming interviews became more sensitive. Eventually, we abandoned this part of the project, although we did produce interviews with academics as well as a couple of simple music videos later on (click here to see all our videos). So, the research-as-film idea did not vanish, although we felt that our initial idea of producing a lengthy documentary towards the end of our project wasn’t pursued. Other scholars go all the way, though. One film that we were recommended is the research documentary called Black Snow about a mining disaster in the UK. It is written and directed by management professor, Stephen Linstead. Watch it! On YouTube, the film is described like this:
Winner of the Best Research, Black Snow looks at the explosion at the Oaks Colliery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, which despite being the world’s worst industrial loss of life in the 19th century, was a tragedy that remained relatively unremembered until 2015, when a group of ex-miners, trade unionists, and local historians attempted to raise money to erect a memorial for its 150th anniversary. The film tells three interlocking stories: the story of a historical community devastated by the disaster, struggling to survive; the story of a contemporary community, decimated by the loss of industry, rediscovering itself in the struggle to remember; and the story of a sculptor, struggling to make one last masterpiece. It features an original score by BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominee Jed Grimes and Mercury Music Prize winner Robin File.
On his trip to Canada, Johan took the chance of placing professor Greg Poelzer in front of the camera (arranged and managed by Max Poelzer) to talk about the challenges to the mining industry in northern Saskatchewan. The emphasis on capacity building in the north, particularly in aboriginal communities, is strong and not something that we experience back home in the north of Sweden.
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.
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).
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.
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.