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Visual Research in the Social Sciences: Key elements of a taxonomic and methodological framework
Unformatted Document Text:  Visual Research in the Social Sciences: Key elements of a taxonomic and methodological framework Extended Abstract (the full paper will include examples of each of the modes of visual research as well as a further developed typology of these research approaches, indicating their strenghts, limitations and basic assumptions and discussing the opportunities for combining them) Abstract The purpose of this paper is to critically assess of the possibilities, limitations and specific demands of the use of the camera and its imagery (photograph, film, video) within the social sciences as well as to provide a theoretical and methodological basis for the use of visuals in social scientific endeavours. The object of this enquiry directly ties in with the recent efforts of emerging subdisciplines of the social sciences: ’visual sociology’ and ’visual anthropology’, which seek to explore the potential of visual media to collect data and facilitate scientific com- munication. 1. Four Cross-cutting Typological Criteria Visual anthropologists and visual sociologists share their still marginally acknowledged pursuit of capturing and making sense of visual manifestations of society, mainly though not exclusively with the aid of visual technology. Sometimes these visuals - either found within society itself (‘the researcher as collector’) or resulting from an explicit research effort (‘the researcher as producer’) feature only in an intermediate phase of the research process, but more often, they play a more or less prominent part in the final product. The latter in fact most prominently justifies the use of the term ‘visual’ in these sub-disciplines of the social sciences, though research of visual phenomena that results in purely verbal accounts should not be discouraged in any way. In order to gain a better understanding of the wide variety of data sources and research ap- proaches currently used by social scientists, four basic criteria may help to discern the wide sweep of visual approaches in social science research: a. Origin/Production Context: images can be either collected within society itself or result from an explicit research effort, each option having its specific advantages and disadvantages. Imagery produced in a 'social scientific' context should be the result of a set of ideas specifically gathered from the social sciences and of an explicit and inter subjective method. Hence the social scientists should either produce images themselves or at least closely direct and monitor their creation. All other images, which are produced for a variety of reasons (family pictures, advertising, picture journalism...) could be labelled 'societal products' and as such would be a potential source of data or the subject matter of research.

Authors: Pauwels, Luc.
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Visual Research in the Social Sciences:
Key elements of a taxonomic and methodological framework
Extended Abstract
(the full paper will include examples of each of the modes of visual research as well as a further
developed typology of these research approaches, indicating their strenghts, limitations and
basic assumptions and discussing the opportunities for combining them)
Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to critically assess of the possibilities, limitations and specific
demands of the use of the camera and its imagery (photograph, film, video) within the social
sciences as well as to provide a theoretical and methodological basis for the use of visuals in
social scientific endeavours. The object of this enquiry directly ties in with the recent efforts of
emerging subdisciplines of the social sciences: ’visual sociology’ and ’visual anthropology’,
which seek to explore the potential of visual media to collect data and facilitate scientific com-
munication.
1. Four Cross-cutting Typological Criteria
Visual anthropologists and visual sociologists share their still marginally acknowledged pursuit
of capturing and making sense of visual manifestations of society, mainly though not exclusively
with the aid of visual technology. Sometimes these visuals - either found within society itself
(‘the researcher as collector’) or resulting from an explicit research effort (‘the researcher as
producer’) feature only in an intermediate phase of the research process, but more often, they
play a more or less prominent part in the final product. The latter in fact most prominently
justifies the use of the term ‘visual’ in these sub-disciplines of the social sciences, though
research of visual phenomena that results in purely verbal accounts should not be discouraged
in any way.
In order to gain a better understanding of the wide variety of data sources and research ap-
proaches currently used by social scientists, four basic criteria may help to discern the wide
sweep of visual approaches in social science research:
a. Origin/Production Context: images can be either collected within society itself or result from
an explicit research effort, each option having its specific advantages and disadvantages.
Imagery produced in a 'social scientific' context should be the result of a set of ideas specifically
gathered from the social sciences and of an explicit and inter subjective method. Hence the
social scientists should either produce images themselves or at least closely direct and monitor
their creation. All other images, which are produced for a variety of reasons (family pictures,
advertising, picture journalism...) could be labelled 'societal products' and as such would be a
potential source of data or the subject matter of research.


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