Friday, October 29, 2010

Image-Based Research, Visual Representation & Stuart Hall

©2009 Uscreates Point of View

This week's reading includes a short discussion by Knight of "image-based research," which is an overly brief and (in my humble opinion) not at all complete introduction to what is actually a very compelling and complex set of methodological approaches. I especially urge you to disregard the part where he says that the method is "so new in social science that there is little to guide the researcher" (p.102). As a former student of communication/media studies, and current colleague of a number of excellent people here at the iSchool doing visual research (e.g. Jenna Hartel and Matthew Brower), and an extended circle of faculty and students doing image-based research across UofT, this sentence nearly sent me into convulsions ;)

As this is just one among many methods we will be looking at this week, I wanted to make sure that I sent those of you who may be interested in visual research in the right directions for further readings, theories, etc.  You've already been introduced to David Gauntlett, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

A great place to start is to pour through back issues of the Journal of Visual Culture (e.g. pay special attention to methodology and research design).  Or visit the website of the Centre for Visual Methodologies and Social Change (esp. the work of Claudia Mitchell), or the International Visual Sociology Association, or track down the proceedings of the International Visual Methods Conference. Or you might consult the Handbook of Visual Analysis (co-edited by Theo Van Leeuwen & Carey Jewitt), or the Sage Handbook of Visual Research Methods:

Sage also publishes a four volume set called Visual Research Methods that covers everything from the history of visual methodologies and theories, to issues of objectivity (another issues that was not handled all that well in the Luker text). Here's the table of contents - prepare to be amazed by the number of familiar names.

In addition to Visual StudiesVisual Anthropology, Art History, Museum Studies and Image Studies, a key forum for this type of research is the interdisciplinary (and oft-misunderstood) field of Cultural Studies. I point you in the direction of Stuart Hall, a leading scholar on the topic of representation in the media (thereby adding some much needed discussion of "signifiers" to Knight's remarks about "signs"). Here's a clip of a fairly accessible introductory lecture Hall gave several years ago:

I should also note that we'll be using some visual research methods in both of the courses I'm teaching next semester. If any of you are interested in applying elements of this approach (in terms of critically analyzing images, aesthetics, representation, etc.) to children's digital games, cultural texts and artifacts, you're more than welcome to join in!

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