Urban Youth and Photovoice: Visual Ethnography in Action

Urban Youth and Photovoice: Visual Ethnography in Action

Urban Youth and Photovoice: Visual Ethnography in Action

Urban Youth and Photovoice: Visual Ethnography in Action

Synopsis

The past decade brought forth a wave of excitement and promise for researchers and practitioners interested in community practice as an approach based on social justice principles and an embrace of community participatory actions. But, effective community practice is predicated on the availability and use of assessment methods that not only capture and report on conditions, but also simultaneously set the stage for social change efforts. This research, therefore, serves the dual purpose of generating knowledge and also being an integral part of social intervention. Research done in this way, however, requires new tools. Photovoice is one such tool - a form of visual ethnography that invites participants to represent their community or point of view through photographs, accompanied by narratives, to be shared with each other and with a broader community. Urban Youth and Photovoice focuses on the use of this method within urban settings and among adolescents and young adults - a group that is almost naturally drawn to the use of photography (especially digital and particularly in today's era of texting, Facebook, and Instagram) to showcase photovoice as an important qualitative research method for social workers and others in the social sciences, and providing readers with detailed theoretical and practical account of how to plan, implement, and evaluate the results of a photovoice project focused on urban youth.

Excerpt

The early part of the 21st century brought forth increased excitement and promise for academics and practitioners interested in community practice with a foundation based on social justice principles and an embrace of community participatory actions (Brueggemann, 2013; Burghardt, 2013; Cnaan & Boehm, 2012; Gamble & Weir, 2009; Hardcastle, Powers, & Wenocur, 2011; Sites, Chaskin, & Parks, 2007). The ushering in of innovations in practice resulted in the need for comparable innovations in research. Effective community practice is predicated on the use of research methods that capture conditions and the social determinants surrounding them, and it sets the stage for social change efforts that are embraced by the community (Vaughan, 2014; Wang, 2006).

Research serves the critical dual purposes of generating knowledge and being an integral part of a social intervention. This connection between community participation in research and the social change resulting from it has generated its share of rewards and challenges (Stoecker, 2013). It has also prescribed a role for researchers as discoverers of new knowledge, but with the responsibility of ensuring that this knowledge translates into purposeful social action, particularly in the case of those researchers focusing their efforts on the marginalized of society.

This duality has raised provocative questions about both the objectivity of the research being conducted and the role of researcher as a social activist. Is objectivity possible? Ethnographers and arts-based researchers would argue that it is not. Some would go so far as to say that it is simply an illusion (Goldring, 2010). Although an expansive view of the role of community research is certainly not new, its prominence is unprecedented and it has ushered in what can be considered a “golden age” of community research, even when its “objectivity” is questioned by those who can be categorized as “positivists,” as addressed in Chapter 2.

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