Picturing the Social Landscape: Visual Methods in the Sociological Imagination

Picturing the Social Landscape: Visual Methods in the Sociological Imagination

Picturing the Social Landscape: Visual Methods in the Sociological Imagination

Picturing the Social Landscape: Visual Methods in the Sociological Imagination

Synopsis

We live in a visual culture, and visual evidence is increasingly central to social research. In this collection an international range of experts explain how they have used visual methods in their own research, examine their advantages and limitations, and show how they have been used alongside other research techniques. Contributors explore the following ideas: * self and identity * visualizing domestic space * visualizing urban landscapes * visualizing social change. The collection showcases different methods in different contexts through the examination of a variety of topical issues. Methods covered include photo and video diaries, the use of images produced by respondents, the use of images as prompts in interviews and focus groups, documentary photography, photographic inventory and visual ethnography. The result is an exciting and original collection that will be indispensable for any student, academic or researcher interested in the use of visual methods.

Excerpt

Recent years have seen a significant expansion in the use of visual presentational strategies in texts, teaching and conferences, as well as in the use of visual research methodologies and their accompanying commentaries. A number of factors are driving this visual agenda, including an expanding array of digital technologies which are inexpensive and easy to use. From PowerPoint to the digital images which can be made and manipulated through still and video cameras, making everyday visual records has never been easier or more accessible. That sighted human beings navigate the social world visually is by now established as a fundamental fact of social existence. John Berger's (1977:7) famous comment that 'Seeing comes before words … and establishes our place in the surrounding world' supports the fundamental connection between visualization and the organization of human existence, of being in the world. Our knowledge of the world is shaped by our senses, and contemporary bodies in western societies prioritize the visual over other senses (Mellor and Shilling 1997:6). Non-coincidentally, mass culture is hyper-visual.

It is unsurprising that these establishing facts of social existence should influence those whose job it is to provide social commentaries. Social researchers have used visual means of collecting and recording data since these means were available. But since the mid-1990s social researchers have noticed and focused on the visual particularly. What has shifted and, in combination with other factors, supported the burgeoning interest in the visual, is the subtle shading of the intellectual micro-climates in which social research is produced. What is widely

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