Finding Your People
Video-based Ethnography Blog #6
Every once in a while, in this academic space in which we live and work, we get a small ray of hope. Being an academic researcher often feels like living on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean — you and your ideas are floating in the sea, and it can be challenging to draw connections and find commonalities with other researchers and producers with your own ideas. This set of reading gave me hope that I am not alone on a deserted island with my ideas; rather I am very, very good company in believing that audiovisual materials have a place in the academy.
Riviera’s (2010) review of Sarah Pink’s work on visual ethnography was a useful reminder of how much anthropology and visual methods work hand in hand as methodologies and structures for qualitative research. As Riviera (2010) notes of Pink’s work, “Pairing narrative with photographs and video assists the researcher in documenting and symbolizing the self -representations of the participants. Photography and video also afford the researcher the ability to present a visual sequence of a particular chronology” (990). Combining words with film, photographs, hypertext, and other media offer a researcher multiple avenues by which to present information in a novel way.
Taylor (2015) provides an excellent example of using film to provide an dynamic look into a unique situation — a community of competitive gamers “in flux” (118). Straddling the unique role of both promoter/marketer and ethnographer, the author acknowledges the uniqueness of the challenges of reframing (mentally and literally) what the camera focused on in order to accomplish the task at hand to be mutually beneficially to both parties. As Taylor (2015) notes, “…distinctions between what was ‘good for ethnography’ and ‘good for videography’ diminished” (121). This is key in establishing relationships as a researcher but also managing different roles within an organization.
Levin and Cruz (2008) provide an additional example of video ethnography in practice with their work in Chan Kom and Cancun. The authors accept that “goals, approaches, and audiences for academic documentary film directors differ widely from those of anthropologists who principally disseminate their scholarship in articles and books” (61). I find this to be an incredibly important distinction as I’m considering future options for research. What is the end game? Where will be published/distributed? As Levin and Cruz (2008) demonstrate, their film was distributed as a part of the article, but their experiences and decisions regarding the film were captured in written form.
Shrum and Scott (2017) also provide multiple avenues for distribution, including their own festival, Ethnografilm. Their discussion of distribution left me hopeful that my work has a space and place in which to reside both professionally and academically. I appreciate additionally their acknoweldgement that film should not live in a siloed environment separate from public engagement and activism (6). Research and activism can work hand in hand to produce change.
I’ve felt for a long that my desire to make things like films is a little out of place in this academic space, and in many ways, it still is. However, to see video ethnographers able to make their work, share it in a variety of formats and bring out about social change truly, deeply brings me joy and gives me hope for the future of my work.
Levin, M. C. & Re Cruz, A. (2008). Behind the scenes of a visual ethnography: A dialogue between anthropology and film. Journal of Film and Video, 60(2), 59–68.
Riviera, D. (2010). Picture this: A review of Doing visual ethnography: Images, media, and representation in research by Sarah Pink. The Qualitative Report, 15(4), 988- 991.Retrieved from http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR15-4/pink.pdf
Shrum, W., & G. Scott (2017). Video ethnography in practice: Planning, shooting, and editing for social analysis. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Taylor, N. (2015). Play to the camera: video ethnography, spectatorship and e-sports. Convergence. DOI: 10.1177/1354856515580282.