Critical Visual Ethnograpthy
One possibility for ethnography is to discipline to study the visual products of culture -- their production, consumption and meaning. This talk is to convince you of the value of using the tools of ethnography to study images. This talk is addressed to educational researchers but the basic discussion of visual methods is applicable to disciplines from Design to Sociology
This presentation is more words than images; it is an introduction to the works of the ethnographic theorist Clifford Geertz: “Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning. It is explication I am after, construing social expression on their surface enigmatical.
This is a further examination of using photographs and images in social science. The mainstream social sciences are remarkable in the way that they have privileged the written word over all else. Not only the founding fathers, but generally everyone who has come after spends almost all their professional time engaged in word play. Educational researchers do little more than, in the words of Bob Dylan, "Read books, repeat quotations, draw conclusions on the wall.
Only recently has visual research been demarked as a set of methods distinguished from the fundamental observations of science; this was partially due to the invention of photography which has an ambiguous function. Photographs were initially thought of as “pencils of nature”. Researchers today recognize the polysemic nature of all images that allows photographs to at once have post-positivist scientific value, while simultaneously functioning as iconic and symbolic communications.