Call for Papers : Visual Methodologies

Drawing on John Berger’s (1997) argument that ‘Seeing comes before words and establishes our place in the surrounding world,’ Caroline Knowles and Paul Sweetman (2004) highlight how as ‘sighted human beings’ we ‘navigate the social world visually’. This underlines a ‘fundamental connection between visualization and the organization of human existence, of being in the world’. Yet, while visual methodologies have always been an integral tool in the behavioural sciences, it is only since the 1990s that the use of visual methods has become widespread across the social sciences for engendering new knowledges, new ways of thinking about topics and understanding the life worlds, experiences and perspectives of our research participants (Knowles & Sweetman, 2004).

Such an approach recognises, as Knowles and Sweetman (2004) argue, that the subjects and locations of research may ‘demand visual representation as researchers struggle with the methodological means of imparting what they’ and, indeed, their participants experience and ‘see in more than words’. However, as Sarah Pink (2001) argues, it is not simply enough to fit images into existing methodologies; instead we must develop new – visually specific – methodologies for deploying this analytic tool and source of data, so that these may open up new ways for conceptualising the social.

The forthcoming March 2013 edition of the GJSS consequently explores the new pathways being carved out by postgraduate researchers and early career academics for the deployment of visual methodologies in the social sciences. The issue draws particular attention to the theoretical contributions made to the social sciences through the use of visual methods.

We therefore welcome papers on topics including, but not limited to:

  • Why and how do we effectively integrate visual methodologies into our research agendas and designs, epistemological approaches and methodological toolbox, to invigorate our approaches? What practical, epistemological and theoretical questions or problems do the use of visual methodologies raise? Using visual methods for data gathering, generating rapport, gaining access, theoretical analysis and data (re)presentation.
  • How do visual methodologies contribute to the theorising of disciplines/topics such as identity and embodiment; intersectionality and (in)equalities; power and positionality; privilege and precarity; private and public and domestic and institutional spaces; social and geographical landscapes; affects, intimacies, relationships and interactions; everyday life and memory; performance; aesthetics; fashion and (sub)cultural spaces.
  • Exploring different mediums of visual methodologies: spatial, emotional and relationship mapping, collages, photographic images, video diaries, websites, physical landscapes, sculptures, bodies, performances, art, objects, clothing.
  • Theorising the visual itself. Conceptualising the 'visually driven thinker' (Chaplin 1994). Debating empiricist/constructivist perspectives of the visual. How can we expand our perception of what constitutes the visual?
  • The relationship between words and images; talk, narrative and visual representations. The use of the visual as a mode of communication. Ways of reading, interpreting and analysing the visual, both by researchers and research participants. How do we develop our visual literacy skills?
  • Reflections on dynamics between researchers/research subjects: Can images help to circumvent the researcher/participant divide and facilitate interactions across various intersections of identity/positionality? How can images open up and close down doors of enquiry or rapport?
  • Interrogating the affective dimensions of using visual methodologies. Theorising visual (dis)pleasures.
  • Implementing visual methods with an intersectional sensitivity to power, difference and diversity, and for the purposes of projects deploying intersectional approaches, regarding, for example, 'race', ethnicity, sex, gender, sexuality, age, class and disability. When and how do visual methodologies help/hinder researchers' attempts towards inclusivity and accessibility? The benefits and limitations of deploying visual methodologies. What or who is included/excluded? What practical/ethical considerations are raised by our use of visual methods? How can the use of the visual strengthen/weaken our methodological/epistemological approaches? New technologies and the intersection between virtual and visual methods. How developing technologies impact on researcher/participant construction, deployment and dissemination of visual images as research data.