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Video in Research Introducing the video ethnography process Sarah Pink What will this presentation cover?. Background to video in qualitative research Overview of theoretical and methodological issues

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Video in Research

Introducing the video ethnography process

Sarah Pink

what will this presentation cover
What will this presentation cover?
  • Background to video in qualitative research
  • Overview of theoretical and methodological issues
  • Outline of the different methods used for the production of visual data and examples of practice
  • Analysis, storage and logging
  • Representing and communicating visual research
about you
About you...
  • Who is doing purely academic research?
  • Who is doing research which might have policy implications?
  • Who is doing research that might impact on recommendations for new/changing practice?
1 introducing video research

1. Introducing video research

From Visual Anthropology to Visual Methods

early scientific visual research
Early scientific visual research
  • Colonial photography and film - scientific study of ‘the other’

  • Early anthropological uses - e.g. the Haddon project (Torres Straits Project)

ethnographic film
Ethnographic film
  • Scientific Film
  • Observational Cinema
  • The importance of reflexivity
2 issues in visual research

2. Issues in Visual Research

Objectivity, subjectivity and reflexivity

art versus science
Art versus Science
  • Can video/film research be objective? - isn’t it inevitably subjective?
  • Mead and Bateson’s debate sums this up very well:

‘B: I’m talking about having control of a camera. You’re talking about putting a dead camera on top of a bloody tripod. It sees nothing’

objectivity or subjectivity
Objectivity or Subjectivity
  • Mead argues that by leaving a camera filming on a fixed tripod one can get an objective view of what is ‘really’ happening
  • Bateson argues that by following the subjects around with a camera one can get a closer understanding of what is really happening and that this is inevitably subjective
contemporary approaches
Contemporary approaches
  • When we use an observational method we are now aware that it is inevitably selective and subjective
  • Therefore we try to be aware of how selections are made and to reflect on our own subjectivity
  • This enables us to understand the nature and meaning of the visual material we produce
  • Reflexivity is a key term for contemporary qualitative researchers
  • It is essential in video research: reflecting on the way in which our video tapes were produced provides us with vital information about what they mean
  • Reflexivity is not just about ‘researcher bias’ but about analysing your own research practices and relationships
different levels of reflexivity
Different levels of reflexivity
  • Deep reflexivitycan be achieved in video as the video tapes record our research encounter as it happened and allows us to reveal this to others
  • Explanatory reflexivityis common in written texts - it involves writing about the research experience after the event
  • These terms were coined by David MacDougall (1998)
collaboration and ethics
Collaboration and ethics
  • It can be argued that all visual research is by nature collaborative because we need the collaboration of the people being videoed
  • If it is not collaborative and overt then it might be unethical
visual ethnography and visual methods
Visual Ethnography and Visual Methods

Context: since the 1990s it has been accepted that objectivity is impossible to achieve in written or visual work, so the visual has once again become an acceptable method of research and representation across the social sciences that use qualitative research

since the late 1990s visual ethnographic methods are increasing popular
Since the late 1990s visual ethnographic methods are increasing popular
  • Visual Anthropology
  • Visual Sociology
  • Cultural Geography
  • Education research
  • Health research
  • Consumer research
  • In Applied as well as Academic contexts
methods include
Methods include
  • Video research
  • Photographic research
  • Drawing and illustration
why use video
Why use video?
  • There are ‘understandings that may be accessible only through non-verbal means’ (MacDougall 1997: 292).
  • This applies to communication and understanding both during the research and when representing the findings of that research to others
3 how is video used in contemporary research

3. How is video used in contemporary research

Observation, collaboration and subject’s own images

1. Observational research

2. Collaborative Research

3. Subject/informant videos

4. Academic and social intervention projects

what can we learn from video observations
What can we learn from video observations?
  • We can create visual records of observed behaviours and activities
  • These might later be scrutinised by the researcher (and/or viewed by the research participants)
  • These representations might later be used for purposes of reporting or as examples in training packages
john collier s education research
John Collier’s education research
  • The first known use of film in applied education research in the 1950s. Still a useful case study.
  • Demonstrates how researchers can use film (video) to visually record aspects of behavior and later analyse these
alaskan eskimo education
Alaskan Eskimo Education
  • Collier filmed teacher and student interaction and behavior as an observer in a good number of remote and urban Alaskan schools
  • He did not work alone as a film researcher but with a team of researchers who were using other qualitative methods (it is important to combine visual and other methods)

Collier and his colleagues undertook a comparative analysis, across the schools of factors such the physical relationships between pupils and teachers, the materials that decorated the walls of the classrooms and the body language of the pupils and teachers.

  • These visible aspects of behavior and interaction showed them how and why different social and cultural approaches to teaching did and did not work in Alaska
  • For more examples of Collier’s visual research see an on-line exhibition at:
video observation in contemporary business research
Video observation in contemporary business research
  • The Everyday Lives consultancy

what can we learn from this type of research
What can we learn from this type of research?
  • Visual detail of the visible material contexts people live in
  • About people’s everyday routines and activities and the social relationships they involve
  • About the choices and decisions they make during the course of the day
  • About how they use their homes and the objects that form part of their everyday lives
  • This must be qualified by a reflexive approach
fixed camera to record behavior in the home
Fixed camera to record behavior in the home
  • The Mead and Bateson debate showed us the limits of placing a fixed camera to record continuously
  • This approach can produce useful footage as long as we understand the role the camera will play in the research process
open university programme about the home
Open University programme about the home
  • Analysis of footage shot by a continuous fixed camera in a family to understand how gender roles are played out within one family
  • View video clip
2 main ways to develop collaborations
2 main ways to develop collaborations
  • Working with an informant or a group of participants over a long period of time (parallel with long term participant observation)
  • Developing a structured collaboration with one or a group of participants in which all are working towards the completion of the research task within a circumscribed short term time frame (parallel with an in-depth interview)
long term video ethnography
Long term video ethnography
  • Might combine video recording with other methods - e.g. interviews, analysis of visual culture and other materials etc
  • Has parallels with ethnographic filmmaking - the idea that the filmmaker immerses him/herself in the culture for an extended period
what sort of video materials does this method produce
What sort of video materials does this method produce?
  • Example of an ethnographic video that was based on long term participant observation:
  • Domov by Rosie Read
  • Long term fieldwork can allow you to video record a wide range of events and activities and to develop close relationships with the video subjects
  • The data you produce will be connected with other data sources
  • The visual recordings can be analysed in relation to your own continuous observations and experience of the social context you are studying - they are not simply ‘one off’observations
the video interview
The video interview
  • Will be based on a short term and structured encounter with the participant
  • Might be combined with a tape recorded interview and the collection of relevant visual and other materials lent to the researcher by the participant
  • Multiple or repeat video interviews might take place
example the video tour method
Example: the video tour method
  • A study of gender identity, housework and home decoration
  • An applied project that has also been written up as a academic book
the process
The process
  • Participants were first interviewed and tape recorded
  • The video tour then commenced: they were asked to show me around their homes discussing each room and the objects in it as we progressed through the house
the limits of this approach
The limits of this approach
  • We do not learn from our own long term observations but learn about our informant’s own representations of their homes and their experiences in them
  • We are therefore analysing videos that are representations of representations
  • This means we need to reflexively analyse the research context and the relationships we develop with informants as much as the content of the tapes
advantages of this approach
Advantages of this approach
  • Researchers can cover a number of informants and their experiences in a shorter period of time
  • The most suitable method for researching and comparing indviduals’ experiences of intimate places like home, or learning contexts requiring minimal disturbance
  • This approach is collaborative and not observational so it allows us to hear the ‘voices’ of research subjects
  • It generates an intimate context in which to produce knowledge that is uniquely visual and cannot be expressed in spoken or written words
analysing video tours
Analysing video tours
  • View example from the OU film - Paula’s story
video diaries
Video diaries
  • A popular genre on TV now - began in the early 1990s
  • Also increasingly established as method in social science research
chalfen and rich via
Chalfen and Rich - VIA
  • Rich M, Lamola S, Gordon J, Chalfen R. (2000)‘Video Intervention/Prevention Assessment: a patient-centered methodology for understanding the adolescent illness experience’. Journal of Adolescent Health. 27(3):155-165.
via video intervention prevention assessment
VIA (Video Intervention/Prevention Assessment)
  • A method developed by Chalfen and Rich to work with the sufferers of chronic Asthma
  • A medical research project using methods originating in visual anthropology
advantages of this methodology include
Advantages of this methodology include:
  • Ability to find out about aspects of people’s lives that they might not think to mention in spoken interviews
  • The tapes can be viewed in interview contexts with the informants to elicit further data
  • The tapes can be used to represent informants’ experiences to relevant others and can later be used in teaching and training (with correct permissions and consent of course)
working with digital video
Working with digital video

Digital video is recommended - the importance of this will become especially clear once you reach the post-fieldwork stage

  • Digitalisation can be very costly after the event
  • Working with digital materials brings a wide spectrum of advantages
caqdas computer assisted qualitative data analysis software
CAQDAS (Computer assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software)


  • NUD*ST
  • Atlas- ti
  • Others…
how useful is caqdas
How useful is CAQDAS?
  • Recent versions of CAQDAS allow you to store and log video within their systems
  • Might be useful for organising and logging large amounts of video data
  • The same advice for any user of this software stands - only use it if you potential benefits from the software outweigh the time you will spend setting it up
other methods of archiving digital video data
Other methods of archiving digital video data
  • Set up your own archive using Quick-time pro and your own logging system
  • Use logging systems that come with video editing software
sharing digital video data
Sharing digital video data
  • Share clips with your informants- e-mail then clips for feedback and comment - do e-mail interviews focusing on these clips
  • Share digital video clips with your research team - cut relevant clips and e-mail to your research team or post them to your discussion board or intranet
  • Involve other colleagues in your research process - send them clips and other research materials to comment on
8 representing video research

8. Representing Video Research

Reporting, Arguing, Advocacy, Training…

digital video materials allow us to
Digital video materials allow us to:
  • Combine audio visual and written data (knowledge) in our reports
  • Create different texts for different audiences
  • Make the most of different media (documentary video, hypermedia, printed documents with video stills in them)
documentary video
Documentary video:

An edited documentary video for

  • TV
  • academic audiences
  • a public awareness campaign,
  • use within an organization
video clips
Video clips


  • with a conference paper
  • as part of a presentation
  • to accompany reports

Advantages of using hypermedia:

  • Can combine audio-visual and written knowledge
  • Can combine theoretical and ethnographic knowledge
  • Makes video more meaningful in a reporting context as it is combined with written words
  • Can share work on-line
examples of hypermedia ethnography
Examples of hypermedia ethnography
  • On-line reporting of project progress (academic Ruby, Commercial Lovejoy & Steele)
  • CD project representing a range of work (Coover)
  • CD ROM development for different audiences project (my own CD projects)
  • Chalfen and Rich - their informants’ research video was used in training CDs
on line reports jay ruby s work
On-line reports: Jay Ruby’s work
  • The Maintaining Diversity Project in Oak Park, USA
  • The first web site: using Flash Software - ambitious and complex
  • The current web site on-line reports and images
  • Using video on-line needs technological expertise
coover s cultures in webs
Coover’s Cultures in Webs
  • A CD ROM project produced by a documentary artist with anthropological interests working with multimedia.
  • Combines moving and still images and words
  • Web sample available at

video tour cds
Video Tour CDs
  • Gender at Home - academic CD project and a commercial series
books articles cited
Books & articles cited

Collier, J. Jnr. (1973) Alaskan Eskimo Education, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston

MacDougall, D. (1997) 'The visual in anthropology' in M. Banks and H. Morphy (eds) Rethinking Visual Anthropology London: New Haven Press

MacDougall, D. (1998) Transcultural Cinema, Princetown University Press

Pink, S. et al eds (2004) Working Images, London: Routledge

Pink, S. (2001) Doing Visual Ethnography, London: Sage

Rich M, Lamola S, Gordon J, Chalfen R. (2000)‘Video Intervention/Prevention Assessment: a patient-centered methodology for understanding the adolescent illness experience’. Journal of Adolescent Health. 27(3):155-165.

useful links
Useful links
  • Working Images
  • Visualising Ethnography
Historically connected to the search for objectivity
  • Now accepted as a subjective and reflexive form of qualitative data production
  • Video methods: observation; collaboration; informants’ videos
  • Combine with other methods
  • Use digital forms of storage and analysis and share data
  • Options for representation: documentary; report clips; hypermedia