All posts tagged Methodology

  • Using Video in Research

    As part of my methodology, I am making video recordings of pilgrimage practices and events. These videos will be used alongside other records, such as my own notes and photos, to described and understand the activities I am researching. Similar to my previous comments on the use of audio recordings, I feel that video can capture a real sense of what is happening in a place, especially since my work includes a focus on the actual movements and corporealities of these performances.

    My readings on qualitative research methods and the use of video, within the social sciences and the discipline of geography, have revealed several prominent themes that emerge around video as a research technique. Following a common trope in academic writing, any purposeful discussion of video mentions that the topic has been given little proper scholarly attention. However, it is still possible to identify a number of key points within the discourses, which I have briefly summarised.

    The good

    • It allows for comprehensive documentation of an event, place or scene which can be edited and enhanced, and can be returned to time and time again for analysis
    • It combines focused visual and audio elements, giving a greater sense of events and place
    • It can be used to convey complexities than text or even photography may find difficult, if not impossible, to represent
    • When used in conjunction with other more established research methods, it can increase our potential to understand places, people and activities
    • It is highly suited to the study of action, movements and momentary encounters/events
    • Recording devices and editing software are becoming increasingly available, user-friendly and affordable

    The not as good

    • Despite its multimedia nature, the criticisms surrounding visual methods – such as the power dynamics, objectification, the masculine gaze – are in some relevant to the use of video
    • Recorders are technological objects which have the capacity to not function at key moments and can be fragile and awkward to carry around
    • There are certain ethical issues raised by the making of video recordings in public spaces, and even more in private spaces
    • There maybe issues around copyright, difficulties over distribution and control, and a reluctance in the academy and publishing companies to integrate video in scholarly publications

    Suggested reading:

    Crang, M. and Cook, I. 2007. Doing Ethnographies. London: Sage.

    Garrett, B.L., 2011. Videographic geographies: Using digital video for geographic research. Progress in Human Geography, 35(4), pp.521–541.

    Luff, P. & Heath, C., 2012. Some “technical challenges” of video analysis: social actions, objects, material realities and the problems of perspective. Qualitative Research, 12(3), pp.255–279.

    Pink, S., 2007. Walking with video. Visual Studies, 22(3), pp.240–252.

    Spinney, J., 2011. A Chance to Catch a Breath: Using Mobile Video Ethnography in Cycling Research. Mobilities, 6(2), pp.161–182.

  • Radio, Podcasts and Place

    I listen to radio frequently, with one always on at home and when I drive. I also listen to many podcasts, mainly as I walk. I subscribe to different shows, some of which are radio station content that is recorded and made available for download and others which are exclusively produced as podcasts.

    Form a geographic perspective, I am struck at how radio shows and podcasts can convey a very rich sense of place. I feel that podcasts/radio are powerful and under-appreciated tools for describing the world. The limitations of the medium require presenters, reporters and producers to compensate by combining thick description with high-quality sound recordings. Podcasts, and audio more generally, can play a significant role in exploring, understanding and presenting places. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this point.

    The first, is an episode of the NPR programme Hearing Voices, which is a weekly show that presents a series of segments, mostly collected from radio broadcasts, documentaries, podcasts and found-sound, relating to a single theme. The episode, Sacred Places (HV079), presents a selection of short pieces that really capture the essence of the places, and the people and practices involved. You can experience the Hindu holy city, Vrindavan through ‘talking notes’ and a the background track of the ambient sound, and get a sense of a Lutheran Church in Montana through an interview intermixed with sounds from services at the Church. It is a really fascinating episode, which I find myself returning to time and time again.

    The Royal Canal is a beautiful piece that uses the qualites of good radio/podcasting to portray a journey down a waterway. It is an episode of the Curious Ear, a short radio documentary series that is produced by RTÉ Radio 1, the Irish national public broadcaster. It features “Six miles of canal; six miles of stories”, as it follows the presenter/producer Ronan Kelly as he canoes along the Royal Canal in Dublin city. The use of recordings of the water and paddling is particularly evocative.

    This final example is more meta, in that it is a podcast that is about making or understanding/analysing radio and podcasts. How Sound is a very interesting short show, from PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, that explores the world of audio and radio/podcast making. The episode, Show, Don’t Tell, looks at how sound and recordings can be effectively used to demonstrate a topic to listeners, such as recordings of the presenter walking waste deep into ocean water and the difficulties of a man in a wheelchair trying to exit his car in an unsuitable disabled parking space.

    Radio, podcasts and the use of audio more generally raises questions about how researchers present their work, especially geographers. Ultimately, most academic work is conveyed in text, which is supported, sometimes, by illustrations, diagrams and maps.  However, audio is rarely used. The potential that it offers is considerable, especially in examinations of place. In my research, I frequently make audio recordings, even if it is just of the ambient sound. The use of such recordings are an important component of my methodology, which tries to gain a deep appreciation of the places being studied. I would encourage other researchers to consider the role that audio can play in their research.

    Audio version of this blogpost