Archives For visual ethnography

Eyes to See? I Doubt It…

November 16, 2011 — 3 Comments

Have you ever been reading a novel and you come to a passage that is riveting? It seems like the protagonist is on the verge of connecting the dots, having the breakthrough that the reader had only a few pages before. Your eyes dart over the pages and you turn them with authority, compelling the narrative forward to see if the heroine will have that “A-HA!” moment. I have an experience like that when I read the eighth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. 

The passage opens with Jesus teaching to another large, hungry crowd. Just a couple chapters before, Mark recorded Jesus feeding 5,000 people. In both stories, the people become hungry and Jesus miraculously multiplies loaves of bread and fish, producing enough to feed everyone present, plus some leftovers for the disciples. In the chapter eight instance, the crowd is 4,000 and the number of leftover baskets of food is 7 instead of 12. 

After everyone was full, Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and went to Dalmanutha (scholars aren’t sure exactly where this is, but some guess it is close to Magada or Magdala). The Pharisees there wanted him to perform a sign so they could test to see if he was all he was cracked up to be. I can imagine Jesus rolling his eyes and sighing. I mean, he’d just miraculously fed a huge crowd of people on only a few loaves and a couple fish. Again. He gives them no “sign” and just gets back in the boat. As the reader, we feel like the insiders at this point, like his disciples. We’ve witnessed the miracles that the Pharisees demand to see. We’re feeling pretty good about this Jesus guy. Continue Reading…

The past few weeks, my doctoral cohort has been studying the use of visual ethnography as a qualitative research method. This was in preparation for work on a project that utilizes photo elicitation interviews to explore our different ministry contexts. Photo elicitation is, most basically, the use of photographs in conducting a research interview (see Douglas Harper’s “Talking about pictures: a case for photo elicitation” in Visual Studies Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2002). The method falls within the larger field of visual ethnography, which looks at images and symbols as cultural texts and “sites of cultural production,” to use Sara Pink’s language (Doing Visual Ethnography, 1). 

But more specifically, the kind of photo elicitation we were asked to engage in is more appropriately termed photo self-elicitation. Instead of producing or selecting photographs around which to conduct research interviews, we solicited submissions from people within our ministry context and asked them to submit to us photos that represent some aspect of our respective ministry contexts. Now, if you know me or have been following this blog for the past few months, you know that my ministry context has changed dramatically since I began this doctoral program a year ago. I no longer work for the mega-church that previously employed me. I’m now part of the support staff for George Fox Evangelical Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry programs. Yup, the same place where I’m working on my own doctorate.

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Researching Through Seeing

October 7, 2011 — 4 Comments

We’ve just started a mini-unit on visual ethnography in my doctoral coursework. I’ve got to say, it’s fascinating stuff. Ethnography is the study of people and culture. Visual ethnography is the study of people and culture through the collection, examination, and curation of images. The book we are discussing this week is Doing Visual Ethnography by Sarah Pink. In it she argues for a “reflexive” approach to visual ethnography as a research method within the social sciences (p. 5). In contrast to the expected researcher-subject objective distance, Pink leans into the post-modern philosophical turn which acknowledges the inherent subjectivity within any research method. So instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, she argues that ethnographers in general, and those using visual methods in particular, ought to recognize from the outset that they “are members of societies in which photography and video are already practised and understood in particular ways” (39). Continue Reading…