Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Visual methods as an entry point to information practices #i3rgu

Day 2 of my liveblogging from the i3 conference at RGU in Aberdeen. Alison Hicks and Professor Annemaree Lloyd presented on Seeing information: visual methods as an entry point to information practices. The presenters felt there hadn't been extensive exploration of visual research methods in the information field, although there were examples of use. They adopted a definition "the use of images to learn about the social world" (Hartel et al., 2012) (images included multimedia, not just 2D static images). They felt there had been a move from the researcher being the one who took the images, toward a more critical and participative approach.
They categorised the methods into non-participatory (photo inventory; documentary photos) and participatory i.e. with the participant creating the visuals (drawing; mapping; visual elicitation; photo voice) and gave various examples of their use in library and information research.
They went on to talk more about photo voice (where the participants take photos in reaction to a prompt from the researcher, and then generally the researcher carries out an interview or focus groups with the photos as a focus and a way of eliciting response).
Hicks then went on to talk about how she used photo voice in her research into language-learners and their everyday information literacy. Her participants used an app called ethos and uploaded their photos to that. This provided a good project management tool, as Hicks could then share screens in skype and talk the participants through their photos. Lloyd followed by saying something about her research into refugee youth, where they were asked to take photos about their information practice (they took a very large number of photos and had to select their top 5 that were most important to them). {articipants discussed this in focus groups, and there was also active participation in creating presentations and exhibiting the photos to stakeholders. Lloyd highlighted four photos: of the women's health clinic (a photo taken by a young man, as they found the clinic useful for their own knowledge building); a football field (where a lot of information was exchanged and "you learnt about love" i.e. learning about being a young man in a rural community); a photo representing church and spirituality; and a mobile phone (which also connected them to their family).
The presenters identified some particular aspects of visual methods e.g. that can introduce richness and material that might not have been surfaced, although also it can mean that you can be drawn off topic. Visual methods enabled Hicks to get insight into the lives of participants in different countries, revealing had to reach aspects of their lives (Hicks showed a picture of a participant's bedroom and a participant's commute). Also it is valuable where the participants have limited language and literacy skills. Photo voice has become more possible because so many people carry their phones around with them all the time, and are able to document their everyday life.
There are ethical challenges: e.g. safety, confidentiality of others (this is particularly an issue), the way in which the metadata automatically attached to a photo identifies the time/location. The presenters had both talked through these issues with participants e.g. Hicks telling participants not to take recognisable photos of other people without their consent.
The presenters felt that there was more scope for participatory video. She mentioned )Bhatt (2013 who combines video and screencasting (I think that addresses the methods used there)
Photo by Sheila Webber: i3 delegates assemble at Aberdeen University Library

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