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<h3>VISUAL ETHNOGRAPHY</h3>

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: 3 : Visual Ethnography Paradigms


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: 1 : Using cameras and other recording technology to gather data


Setting aside for the moment (but only for the moment) the issue about what it is that a camera records, visual ethnography suggests a whole range of methods for collecting data. In this context, the camera is analogous to a tape recorder. Film and video cameras are particularly well suited as data gathering technologies for experiments and small group interactions, classroom studies, ethnography, participant observation, oral history, life history, etc. The tape recorder preserves things that are not preserved in even the best researchers' field notes. Similarly, tape recordings preserve audible data not available in even the most carefully annotated transcripts: timbre, the music of a voice, inflection, intonation, grunts and groans, pace, and space convey meanings easily (mis)understood but not easily gleaned from written words alone. By opening another channel of information, visual recordings preserve still more information. The raised eyebrow, the wave of a hand, the blink of an eye might, for instance, convert the apparent meaning of words into their opposite, convey irony, sarcasm, or contradiction. So, regardless of how we analyze the data or what we do with the visual record, we can use cameras to record and preserve data of sociological interest so it can be studied in detail. Visual recording technology also allows us to manipulate the data. Visual recordings have long been appreciated and employed by natural scientists because they make it possible to speed up, slow down, repeat, and zoom in on things of interest. It is the same in the social sciences, recordings facilitate the study of phenomena that are too fast, or too slow, or too infrequent or too big or too small to study directly "in the life." Most importantly, through editing we can juxtapose events to

Knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterate of the future will be a person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen -- Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Photological proof is not stringent merely overpowering. -- T. Adorno

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<h3>VISUAL ETHNOGRAPHY</h3>

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produce meanings. We may also be able to put cameras in places where we would not put a researcher: where it is dangerous, or where a person would be unwelcome, or simply to remove the observer effect from particular situations, e.g., studying social behavior among school kids on a playground. I am particularly interested in using cameras in the same way we use tape recorders - to collect and preserve the record of observations and interviews. There is another technique of data gathering, photo elicitation. This methodological tool is a combination of photography as the visual equivalent of a tape recorder, and ethnography. Photo elicitation techniques involve using photographs or film as part of the interview -- in essence asking research subjects to discuss the meaning of photographs, films or videos. In this case the images can be taken specially by the researcher with the idea of using them to elicit information, they can belong to the subject, for example family photographs or movies, or they can be gathered from other sources including archives, newspaper and television morgues, or corporate collections. Typically the interviewee's comments or analysis of the visual material is itself recorded, either on audio tape or video, etc. An even more esoteric but occasionally fascinating and useful technique is "re-photography" which involves collecting photographs taken at some time in the past and making a second image at the present time to reveal how things have (or have not) changed. In any case, in this first sense visual ethnography means including and incorporating visual methods of data gathering and analysis in the work of ethnography. Again, this is not paradigm dependent - visual methods have been extensively employed by positivists running social psychological experiments, or ethnomethodologists trying to capture society as it is accomplished, or Marxists recording accounts of the exploitation of labor.

: 2 : The studying of (mostly) non-verbal data produced by cultures


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The mainstream of the social sciences are remarkable in the way that they have privileged the written word over all else. Not only the founding fathers, but generally everyone who has come after spends almost all their professional time engaged in word play. Sociologists do little more than, in the words of Bob Dylan, "Read books, repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall." While it is true that quantitative types, from time to time, gather numeric data -- it is almost exclusively responses to written questionnaires -- rarely numbers generated from social behavior observed directly. We then take the verbal self-report as both true, and as primary source. Ethnographers pay more attention than most to verbal (as opposed to written) information. But here too the decided prejudice is in favor of One of the principles of Hermeneutics is that people (the audience) pick out and decode broadcasters messages in a way different

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<h3>VISUAL ETHNOGRAPHY</h3>

http://courses.ed.asu.edu/margolis/va.html

self-report and words. Yet, every culture is composed of jillions of non-verbal images, a fact apparently more easily grasped by our sisters and brothers in anthropology who are comfortable with studying blanket designs, pottery shapes, totems, fetishes, and graven images. (Of course Anthropology's origins as a science of "pre-literate" cultures makes problematic their theories and methods) Here, in the early adolescence of capitalist society, we live in the most decidedly visual environment yet produced. Each one of us consumes tens of thousands, maybe millions, of images each day. Even if we don't want to see we cannot avoid it. Jean Baudrillard, the French sociologist, suggested that the image world is a "simulacrum" a media world of copies of copies of copies where there is not and has never been an original. Everything in the symbol world refers to other symbols - a world of allusion and trope, maps referring not to territories but only to other maps, news referring to other news, photographs referring to paintings and so on in an endless a game of mirrors. Visual ethnography attempts to study visual images produced as part of culture. Art, photographs, film, video, fonts, advertisements, computer icons, landscape, architecture, machines, fashion, makeup, hair style, facial expressions, tattoos, and so on are parts of the complex visual communication system produced by members of societies. Visual images are primary evidence of human productive activity, they are worked matter. Their use and understanding is governed by socially established symbolic codes. Visual images are constructed and may be deconstructed. They can be analyzed with techniques developed in diverse fields of literary criticism, art theory and criticism, semiotics, deconstructionism, or the more mundane tools of ethnography. We can count them. We can ask people about them. We can study their use and the social settings in which they are produced and consumed. So the second meaning of visual ethnography is a discipline to study the visual products of culture -- their production, consumption and meaning.

from the intentions of those who encoded them. Notice how e "verybody knew" how Walter Cronkite felt" " about the events of the Vietnam war. Or how everybody knows what Ted Kopples feelings about liberalism are--despite all pretenses of fairness." " P " eople read, hear, and see selectively. They pick out adapt and translate from what is before them, to fit in with orientations set in their minds beforehand; they 'decode' the messages of television, radio and the press by codes which will differ in some respects, and may well differ in many, from

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<h3>VISUAL ETHNOGRAPHY</h3>

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those used by the broadcasters and journalists who first e "ncode" the messages. -Westergaard.

: 3 : Communicating with images and media other than words


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Whether from its enlightenment roots in Comte's arguments against metaphysics and concomitant proposals for the application of a positivist social science to the betterment of mankind; or from the Marxist insistence on Praxis as the guarantor of truth; or from the influence of Heisenberg's uncertainly principle that one cannot describe without changing; or the truths brought by feminists, race-scholars and the post-modernists that social scientists can only be members of society with race, class, and gender; or even from the sort of atheoretical social welfare approach of Action Sociology; the social sciences have always emphasized practice. Yet consider the arcane and professionalized language used by social scientists or educators of whatever stripe. No matter what paradigm one adheres to we share one thing in common, a love of words, sometimes more for obfuscation -- "the painful elaboration of the obvious" -- than for communication. Visual ethnography might begin here and signal new ways of communicating not only with each other, but with T.C.P.I.T.S. herself.

Most ethnography is to be found in books and articles, rather than in films, records, museum displays, or whatever....Selfconsciousness about modes of representation (not to speak of experiments with them) has been very lacking in Anthropology.

We live in a world of multi-media communication in which the -- Geertz: The assumption that text is words is being eclipsed by notions that Interpretation of everything is text (but I will argue that text is not everything). Pictures and bullets and scents and music and fashion and the Cultures body are texts. It is not enuf to talk or write about signs. All is We must measure digital, all is discourse. Discourse is in color, 3D, stereo, our explanations surround sound -- it is virtual. Ethnography should be in living color, surround sound -- like everything else an imitation of life. against the power of We might begin by wondering what we, as a discipline or the scientific disciplines, have to say. Then we should ask to whom we want to imagination to communicate and how we might communicate better. Visual bring us into touch ethnography in this sense means straight forward things like with the lives of how to select photos and other images for school texts, and ways strangers. to assess what these images may mean to viewers. Using visual material to present sociology also includes employing films and videos made by others in teaching, e.g, documentaries, drama, experimental video, etc.. It may also mean learning how to

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<h3>VISUAL ETHNOGRAPHY</h3>

http://courses.ed.asu.edu/margolis/va.html

make documentaries - taking the tools of documentary away from communicators-without-principles, without theories or methods, and applying them from whatever paradigmatic perspective we choose. In this context, visual ethnography should also mean studying the work of Edward Tufte, whose remarkable books: Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information should be required "reading" for every educator -especially the most positivist and quantitative of us. Similarly, we should consider the logics of presentation of sociological and anthropological documentarians and Ethnographers like Flaherty, Lorentz, Mead and Bateson, and Wiseman. Visual ethnography also requires the development of new forms -cartoony things and data driven computer graphics to represent complex relationships e.g., changing social networks over time, the primitive accumulation of capital, the flow of labor, relations between theory and practice. We should also explore techniques like providing visual technology to our "subjects" to make their own documents as in works like Shooting Back: A Photographic View of Life by Homeless Children, We might also encourage students to undertake photographic, film or video projects instead of written papers.. In any and all cases the last meaning of visual ethnography is to add non-verbal "teachniques" to the presentation language of the discipline. While, like Caesar, I divided all Gaul into three parts, in truth, there is or will eventually be only one visual ethnography. Thus, I wouldn't want to privilege the "scientific" recordings of playground behavior made by the sociologist of education, or Wiseman's documentary film High School from the analyses and deconstructions to which we propose subjecting other aspects of culture. We could spend far more than one semester on any one of these possible visual ethnographies, the practical application in this course will force us to focus (and I use that term advisedly) on all three meanings -- using cameras to gather data, using sociological understanding to study visual culture, and using visual technology to communicate by producing a documentary.

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