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Visual Innovation: A Methods Workshop #Visual16

A joint event by the BSA Postgraduate Forum & Visual Methods Study Group

22 November 2016
Staffordshire University

Being innovative and original is a fundamental part of what we strive for and do as postgraduate students.  We all seek to create new knowledge- be that through method or design.  This event is for us to share, try out and discuss imaginative ideas and practices with each other in a productive, interactive workshop.

This event is co-hosted by the BSA Postgraduate Forum and the BSA Visual Methods Study group and offers a practical and exciting opportunity to see the generation, communication and dissemination of participatory and visual methods.

Venue: Staffordshire University, Stoke on Trent Campus, Room L410 Flaxman building.

(£15 BSA members / £25 non-BSA members) Book here

Please note: This is a bring/buy your own lunch event!


10.30 Welcome
10.45 Session One: Using Space & Place

Walking Tour Interviews as a Psychosocial Method

Dr. Alastair Roy, University of Central Lancashire

Walking has been adopted as a research method in several areas of qualitative social science including anthropology, cultural geography and applied fields such as social work, as well as being used as a mode of artistic practice. Interest in walking as a research method has been driven by the ways it productively alters the research relationship (from face to face to side by side), because of the kinetic affordances of movement (the relaxation of mind and body making for more open forms of dialogue) and because of the ways in which walking brings place and space into the research encounter. This paper examines these propositions from a psychosocial perspective drawing on a project conducted in Manchester, England, that explored the lives of vulnerable young men surviving in the city. In this research walking tour interviews offered insight into the routines, habits and everyday practices of young men, in relation to city centre sites including car parks, public parks, statues, canal sides and services. I will discuss how the act of walking together allowed for a collective reimagining of the city as young men escorted us imaginatively and physically through the scenes and settings of their everyday lives. Drawing on the work of Alfred Lorenzer, Linde Wotton and Tim Ingold I show how these walking interviews helped produce an associative form of thinking, dense with scenic and visual references. The paper argues mobile methods are a valuable addition to psychosocial research because, by harnessing the multi-sensory relationship between humans, movement and place, they offer insight into the spatial and kinetic dimensions of subjective, social and cultural experience.


A holistic evaluation of delivering the community based ‘Master Gardener Programme’ in a prison setting with substance misusing offenders

Dr. Geraldine Brown, Coventry University

In 2013 a research team from Coventry University was commissioned to evaluate the Master Gardener programme, a gardening intervention at a local prison with substance misuse offenders. The Master Gardener programme is led by Garden Organic, ‘the UK’s leading organic charity’. The core Master Gardener programme launched as a pilot programme in 2010 and was based on Garden Organic’s successful ‘Master Composter’ programme. The extension of the programme – from a community to a prison setting – is in recognition of research evidence both national and international that shows a range of positive outcomes in terms of the role of horticulture in supporting physical, emotional, behavioural and social well-being.

Our approach to evaluation, over a period of 1 year, utilises a framework which allows the research team to capture data about the long term outcomes associated with a range of health, wellbeing and social benefits. An aspect of the evaluation includes capturing participant’s self -perceptions about offending and ‘desistance’; through exploring their views on the extent to which engagement in the Master Gardener programme may also facilitate consideration of ‘long term’ abstinence from crime. The team adopt an interpretive framework in order to qualitatively capture the experiences of those managing, delivering and participating in the programme. In this paper, I detail the methods and discuss some of the challenges of this participatory approach to evaluating within a prison setting, including my own reflections on the value and strengths of using such methods.

12.15 Lunch Break
13.00 Session Two: Creative Methods & Practice

Innovations: experiments in qualitative longitudinal research

Rachel Thomson, University of Sussex

In this paper I reflect on the way that longitudinal studies provide the stage for experiments in methodology and the development of methods that are collaborative and and reflexive. Starting with the the ESRC funded Making Modern Mothers project which developed into the NCRM funded ‘Face 2 face: mapping the real and the virtual in childrens cultural worlds’, I outline 3 methods that have been adapted with children first encountered before birth, which capture the different kinds of ‘timescapes’ of family life and generation. These methods include the favourite things interview, the day in a life observation and the reflexive workbook.



Thinking visually: making a space for reflection through participant generated artefacts

Nicola Ingram, Lancaster University

Abstract to follow


Creating Hackney as Home: The potential and pitfalls of participatory video research with young people

Melissa Butcher, Birkbeck, University of London

The London Borough of Hackney has become iconic of the intensity of change in contemporary cities, marked as it is by high levels of mobility into and out of the area, urban regeneration, and high levels of cultural diversity and social inequalities. Young people in the area are embroiled in debates about social inclusion, crime and media representations of the borough. Within this context, Creating Hackney as Home was established as a collaborative project, developed with the estate-based youth theatre company, Immediate Theatre, to work with young people using participatory video. Peer researchers, using film, diaries and online platforms, explored their experience of space and space use, and in particular, the formation of ‘home’ in which they have a stake. This ‘presentation’ will examine the potential of working with such creative methods in academia by opening up some of the challenges to discussion within the group, including: the effectiveness of participatory practices in enabling the research team as a whole to critically reflect on questions of cultural change, power and identity, and encouraging participation in wider debates on urban and social transformation.

14.30 Break
14.45 Session Three: Innovative Communication & Dissemination

‘Telling About Society’ for Public Sociology.

Daniel Silver, University of Manchester

Back & Puwar (2012) identify the need to imagine a new political purpose for sociology and to consider ‘learning new strategies for telling about society and for affecting and persuading audiences’.

Responding to this, my research aims to develop an approach to democratic evaluation of community projects that provides a systematic framework and methodological orientation to learn from alternatives that are rooted in everyday life and support public debates about the type of society that we live in. In order to do this, it is important to create research that is accessible to different publics, to enable what Burawoy (2005) identifies as a process of ‘mutual education’.

As Howard Becker writes in ‘Telling About Society’ (1995), the reports we produce are the result of deliberate choices that we make in terms of how we represent lived experience and analyse structural forces in society. None of these forms of telling about society are inherently better than one another according to Becker. Different forms will reach different audiences. This encourages experimentation with a different way of communicating research and reaching people to support local debate and social action as a form of public sociology. This builds upon lessons from work done by Beebeejaun et al (2014) on ‘beyond text’ approaches to include inclusive forms of dissemination.

Through this paper, I will introduce some approaches to presenting research that I have been doing as part of my PhD research with anti-poverty organisations in Greater Manchester.


Visual Storytelling: A Tale of Research Translation for Wider Engagement

Katy Vigurs, Staffordshire University

Abstract to follow

15.45 Session Four: Ethics and voice

Participation in practice: Ethics, analysis and voice in creative visual research

Helen Lomax, University of Northampton

Janet Fink, University of Huddersfield

Dawn Mannay, Cardiff University

This workshop is informed by the emerging critique within the social sciences that some of what passes for participant involvement in participatory visual and creative research is limited to data collection and that research participants are much less likely to be involved in the generation of research questions, analysis and dissemination. Practical constraints are understood to include: lack of time and financial resources to fully involve participants in the research process as well as the demands of the academy for particular forms of REF-able output which may also limit the time and scope to engage participants in more creative methods of analysis and dissemination. There are, in addition, ethical, as well as theoretical and methodological challenges for including participant voice in the various stages of research.

This workshop offers the opportunity to consider these participatory challenges and the implications for individual research practice. Delegates are encouraged to being an item (e.g. text, photograph or object) that illustrates one or more of these challenges. Small group activity will focus on personal experiences of ‘participation in practice’ and will be followed by facilitated discussion in which we share our own insights, drawn from multiple research projects with diverse research participants. This will include our reflections on what worked, what didn’t and what we can learn from this. There will also be opportunities to share resources and invite responses and commentary from the other speakers. We suggest the need for attentiveness and planning from the earliest stages of the research as well as the importance of being vigilant to the challenges of working ethically and participatively as these emerge during the course of the research.


Group Activity

17.00 Close

*Timings TBC

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