a sneak preview of the fourth edition of Visual Methodologies

I’ve been working on the fourth edition of Visual Methodologies on and off since January, squeezing it in the gaps between way too many other projects. As a result, it’s rather hard to have an overview of the beast (also because I seem to find it impossible to delete any more than a few sentences and a handful of references from each new edition). But I’m now facing the final run-through of the whole thing, when of course it will be lovingly burnished into a seamless whole, cough cough.

So I thought it might be interesting to note down a few of the things that I have learnt so far in preparing this new edition.  More may follow as I reread things I’ve forgotten that I’ve written.  (Yes, yes, I know, I need a holiday.)

1) one big change (for me at least) is that I’ve added a fourth site to the framework that structures the book. Editions one, two and three were based on the idea that there are three sites at which the meaning/affects of images are made: the site of the production of the image, the image itself, and its audiencing. The fourth edition adds the site – or, better, routes – of an image’s circulation to that list. This was so discussion could focus on how different methods might approach the online platforms that now host and distribute so many images, and through which so much of social life is mediated and performed.

2) adding the site of circulation to the book also gives a framework for introducing debates about ‘convergence culture’ and whether it deals with questions of power adequately or not. It seems to me that one way that ‘power’ in a largely digital visual culture can be thought through is by asking about the ‘power geometries’ that structure its circulations: what sorts of patterns are there in those circulations and how to they structure certain forms of agency while mitigating against others? The Guardian’s recent report on the languages of the Internet is a great example of mapping those circulations to show their situatedness and partiality.

3) the book also now has two chapters, not one, about methods that deal with large numbers of images. The first remains content analysis, which now also includes a discussion of Lev Manovich’s cultural analytics. The second is a chapter on digital  research methods, based on Richard Rogers’s definition in his book Digital Methods. Again, this seemed a necessary response to contemporary digital visual culture – how long can we go on looking at handfuls of images when everyday is mediated by thousands?

4) having said that, digital research methods don’t seem to work as tools for analysing the images carried by social networks – yet. It also seems very difficult to track the patterns of images’ digital circulations.

5) the whole data visualisation thing – so popular in newspapers and on coffee tables – doesn’t really seem to have hit the social sciences yet, either as an interesting thing to study or as a way of presenting data. (Though there are some exceptions to this, including lots of exciting mapping projects by geographers – yay GIS. I never ever thought I would be saying that, having been trained as an undergraduate to see GIS as the epitome of postivist, empiricist tech designed at the behest of the US military, but there you go.)

6) visual research methods people continue to swither between claiming photographs are useful because they carry loads of accurate information, and that they are useful because they evoke nameless affects beyond words. I can’t help thinking that there’s bit of a contradiction here, that somebody somewhere should really think through, particularly in the light of Johanna Drucker’s polemic against visually seductive data visualisations… on the other hand, as I argued in my Sociological Review essay, perhaps this indecision doesn’t really matter – images do all sorts of things in contemporary visual culture, including the small corner of it constituted by visual research methods, so I probably really shouldn’t expect consistency.

7) I am still not sure about keeping the chapter on psychoanalysis in the book. While many social researchers remain interested in psychoanalysis (see the recent collection Psychoanalytic Geographies, for example), it no longer has anywhere near the sway that it had in film studies scholarship twenty years ago, I think. So it seems to have lost some relevance as a method of analysis. On the other hand, it’s the only chapter in the book that systematically pursues feminist insights, and a version of Mulvey’s male gaze actually seems central to the recent resurgence in popular feminism. Plus, why follow fashion. Any thoughts, dear readers?

How to be an academic on social media

profgillian:

There’s an interesting discussion here on blogging, between Sam Kinsley and Jeremy Crampton. I’d add to Sam’s list of reasons to blog, the ability to respond quickly to current events. And I fully agree with Jeremy that twitter is where things seemed to be shared most effectively.  Clive Barnett has also responded, on his blog, here.

Originally posted on Open Geography:

Sam Kinsley has been compiling (academic) geography bloggers, and in a recent post asked why it is that blogs don’t take advantage of social media more often:

It was a surprise to me how quite a few of those blogs, with some honourable exceptions, are tightly focussed conduits for personal research and are not participating in wider online/offline conversations. One of the big claims made for blogging in the noughties was, of course, that ‘social’ media precisely enable broader conversations. While the majority of those active geography bloggers I found use wordpress.com for their blogs they do not seem to use the ‘social’  functions such as ‘reblog’ and other conversation tools on the platform.

My immediate reaction to this is as follows. First, I do occasionally use the reblog function. This works very well within the WordPress ecosystem, but have you noticed how infrequently this option comes up on blogs or news stories…

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Mad Max and its feminist fans

Of the many reasons to be grateful for the journalist Laurie Penny, her review of the movie Mad Max: Fury Road now ranks pretty high for me.  Thankyou Laurie – and Jessica Valenti – for tipping the guilty pleasure of the film much more towards the pleasure than the guilt, by writing fantastic reviews that suggest it’s a really feminist movie.  There’s also a great Tumblr site giving Max new lines, all feminist-y too.

FURY ROAD

The bit I would add to support this reading of the film is when Max sees the five scantily-clad women escaping the mad patriarch washing themselves in the desert haze – I know, I know, but bear with me – whereupon he kind of blinks, like this is a totally stupid hallucination (like his others), entirely irrelevant to the task at hand, which is dealing with the woman who’s engineered their escape.  He doesn’t ogle, doesn’t look, doesn’t even think such a vision can be real.  Woo hoo.  (Unfortunately, not all viewers may share my interpretation of this scene; my 17 year old son among them, who pointed to it as evidence that the film was indeed sexist.)

Ultimately, though, the burning Mad Max question is: how does a professor get to be listed in a Mad Max film credits?!  I swear I saw two profs thanked as the credits rolled.  Who are they, what did do they do to get thanked, and (depending on the answers), can I do it too please?

interesting project website on selfies

Thanks to my colleague Rose Capdevila, I’ve just spent a while browsing a site called making selfies/making self, which is both a research project about selfies and about a research project on selfies.  If you see what I mean.

selfie

Created by Katie Warfield, it’s an interesting mix. There’s some information about the research project, an online quiz enabling participation in the research, a gallery of images that might be related to selfies (according to the internet, as Katie describes it), links to talks Katie’s done, and links to other networks, including the Selfie Research Network and a Zotero library on selfies.  Katie also curates a related Tumblr feed.  Seems to me to be a really neat example of how to do a research project online, which is both open – sharing resources, inviting comments and contributions – but also offering a scholar’s particular take on an issue.

Gillian Rose and Clive Barnett on cultural objects in the digital age

profgillian:

And another, this time from Jeremy Crampton, speaking to a specific form of contemporary power(s): “neoliberalism”.

Originally posted on Open Geography:

Is the map a stable cultural object?

Gillian Rose (OU) has a new paper at Progress in Human Geography (PiHG). The key quote from her abstract is:

This paper argues that [cultural geography] must begin to map the complexities of digitally-mediated cultural production, circulation and interpretation. It will argue that, to do this, it is necessary to move away from the attentive gaze on stable cultural objects as formulated by some of the new cultural geography, and instead focus on mapping the dynamics of the production, circulation and modification of meaning at digital interfaces and across frictional networks.

This raises the question of what is a “stable cultural object”? For example, is a map a stable cultural object, or more precisely do studies of “the map” treat it as such? If Rose is correct, then she is pointing to a different understanding of the map, one which is not a…

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Cultural Geography is Dead! Long Live Cultural Geography?

profgillian:

Here’s a great critical discussion of my recent paper by Clive Barnett, from his blog. Some of which I agree with (particularly his comments that the ‘auratic cultural object’ was as much a product of the theoretical and methodological work done by the ‘new cultural geography’ as it was ever something in the world, and hence my emphasis on the change enabled by digital technologies should be more nuanced) and other bits I don’t (mostly his final comments on subjectivity and power). Thanks to Clive for paying such careful attention to my piece.

Originally posted on Pop Theory:

I’ve been pondering a new paper in Progress in Human Geography by my former OU colleague, Gillian Rose, which addresses the conceptual and methodological challenges presented to cultural geography by the emergence of digital modes of cultural practice. The paper is entitled ‘Rethinking the geographies of cultural “objects” through digital technologies: interface, network and friction’. Here is the abstract:

This paper addresses how geographers conceptualize cultural artifacts. Many geographical studies of cultural objects continue to depend heavily on an approach developed as part of the ‘new cultural geography’ in the 1980s. That approach examined the cultural politics of representations of place, space and landscape by undertaking close readings of specific cultural objects. Over three decades on, the cultural field (certainly in the Global North) has changed fundamentally, as digital technologies for the creation and dissemination of meaning have become extraordinarily pervasive and diverse. Yet geographical studies of cultural objects have thus far neglected to…

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new online training module on image elicitation methods and digital technologies

I’ll be running the third of The Open University’s online modules on advanced image elicitation methods between 15 and 26 June. The module explores just a couple of the directions in which the use of digital technologies might push image elicitation methods: i-documentaries, and the analysis of huge numbers of social media images. We might think of i-docs as embedding audience elicitation into their participatory structure, and social media as a sort of mass elicitation. It’s open to all academics everywhere and is free.  Pre-registration closes on 15 May.  You can find out more about it here.

Rethinking the geographies of cultural ‘objects’ through digital technologies

I’ve come back from a few weeks of being (relatively) offline to find that I have a new paper published!  It’s titled ‘Rethinking the geographies of cultural “objects” through digital technologies: interface, network and friction’, and it’s available online from Progress in Human Geography.  Here is its abstract:

This paper addresses how geographers conceptualize cultural artifacts. Many geographical studies of cultural objects continue to depend heavily on an approach developed as part of the ‘new cultural geography’ in the 1980s. That approach examined the cultural politics of representations of place, space and landscape by undertaking close readings of specific cultural objects. Over three decades on, the cultural field (certainly in the Global North) has changed fundamentally, as digital technologies for the creation and dissemination of meaning have become extraordinarily pervasive and diverse. Yet geographical studies of cultural objects have thus far neglected to consider the conceptual and methodological implications of this shift. This paper argues that such studies must begin to map the complexities of digitally-mediated cultural production, circulation and interpretation. It will argue that, to do this, it is necessary to move away from the attentive gaze on stable cultural objects as formulated by some of the new cultural geography, and instead focus on mapping the dynamics of the production, circulation and modification of meaning at digital interfaces and across frictional networks.

The paper benefited a good deal from some very constructive criticism from a number of readers on its way to publication – thankyou again to them.

some essays that are good to think smart cities with

My last post promised a few references that I’ve found useful for thinking about smart cities with.  This is absolutely not comprehensive, and also reflects a) my definition of ‘useful’, which includes both ‘critical of’ but also ‘engaged with’ digital and/or smart stuff, and b) my interest in (to use two extremely shorthand terms) social difference and cultural practice. Thanks to Olly Zanetti who put me on to several of these.

I’m going to be offline for the next month, but I hope this provides some food for thought in the meanwhile… Continue reading