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.

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