Researching the visual. Week 7 || 182MC

Making photographs as a part of a research project: Photo-documentation, photo-elicitation and photo-essays

As much as I admire photography, I did not think it was highly used in doing research nonetheless that there are even three main methods such as photo-documentation, photo-elicitation and photo-essays. Before reading I asked myself ‘How can a successful research be based on photographs?’ but apparently I am not the only one in doubt as besides people who say that ‘photographs are the evidence of the real’ there are still people who believe that ‘the interpretation of photos is always context-specific’ which I totally agree with.

At first glance the reading looked a bit scary because it is 30 pages of plain text but as soon I started reading it got me engaged because the writer did a great job introducing the readers with the main differences between all of the methods as each of the chapters are really descriptive and written in a very understandable language. However, I would prefer if the analysis about photo-documentation was a little bit more detailed because that one didn’t look as informative as the other two.

I found the chapter about photo-elicitation the most interesting because this way of research seemed very unusual (even though the text stated that it is a really widely used research method). As there is a full description of how to do a proper photo-elicitation research interview, it got me really curious and made me want to actually try it out as I have never even heard about this method before.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that I strongly agree that ‘images can present the things that words cannot’ and that pictures can make research a lot more informative/entertaining. However, these research methods require a lot of creativity of the researcher because you have to be able to see things from a slightly different perspective, notice details that might seem too ordinary to notice, and interpret casual things in a new way.

visual

*  Rose, G. (2007). “Making photographs as part of a research project: Photo-elicitation, photo-documentation and other uses of photos.” Visual Methodologies. London [2007] Sage Publ. 237-256.

 

Reading response. Week 5 || 180MC

This week’s reading is an article “In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective” by Hito Steyerl which, at the first glance, did not seem the most understandable. From the first read, it left me confused because the text is in some ways metaphoric and it can be understood both literally and interpreted.

In the text Hito Steyerl talks about the meaning of two binary oppositions such as the horizon and verticality. It is explained that our traditional sense of orientation has always been focused on one line which is the horizon line thus it has been a vital element for communication and understanding from a long time ago. Horizon suggests stability in an unstable situation. It acts as the light at the end of the tunnel because, back in the days, it was used for guiding and orientating in general. Taken as an example, Arabs and their technique of “sighting”/“shooting” the object and sailors using quadrant, astrolabe and sextant to guide them while on a ship.

The text explains how people’s orientation in space and understanding of space and time in general changed in time with modernity. It is not a secret that prompted by new technologies, our sense of orientation has changed drastically. Thanks to smart inventions and constant improvements, we see the world differently. We have the power to view the world from God’s perspective (as the author states, we have a “God’s eye”). This is all because of inventions such as GPS, drones, Google Maps, Google Earth, etc. which allow us appear in places without physically being there. We are at the point where we are not dependent on the linear perception anymore. The horizon does not necessarily exist because if we describe the horizon as a dividing line between earth and the sky, in a vertical perspective the horizon disappears.

In addition, the quick advancement of technology gives us the opportunity to see the world from different perspectives that would have been seen as impossible centuries ago. Taking 3D movies as an example. Thanks to multiple special effects, the viewer is no longer restricted by traditional understanding of space and time and can see different perspectives of reality which are not linear.

Hito Steyerl explains that when in a free fall, a person’s “sense of balance is disrupted”, the horizon either disappears, multiplies or shatters. There is nothing to feel besides the feeling of inversion when “people can sense themselves as being things” and vice versa. Therefore, the development of modernity puts us in a “free fall” where we don’t have to be attached to one horizon and one time/space and we are allowed to experiment.

*Steyerl, H. (2012) The Wretched Of The Screen. 1st edn. Berlin: Sternberg P.

 

Researching people. Week 6 || 182MC

The Great Interview: 25 Strategies for Studying People in Bed

First of all, I found the name of the article intriguing because it does not really explain a lot and it is not clear what the article is going to talk about. Before reading I wanted to find out if it is actually going to be a study about people in bed or if it is a twisted and smart metaphor. After getting into the text it became clear that getting in bed and sleeping with people is almost an equivalent of a successful genuine interview.

I found it interesting how the author used the metaphor of sleeping with an interviewee which he calls a ‘date’. At the very first pages it did not make much sense to me but then it became clear that in order to get the most honest answers and best interview you need to build trust and intimacy, you cannot jump right into it, gradually building a strong connection, making the interviewee trust you is a must, almost as if you were planning to get in bed with somebody. In the text it was nicely said that ‘Great interviewing is not pure sex; it’s a romantic-like dialogue that progressively moves through stages’.

It is not a secret that it is very difficult to become a good and successful interviewer because it is an acquired skill which takes a lot of effort and time to develop. As it was stated in the article, people are like nuts. They have their own protective shell which does not allow everybody and anybody to get to their core (inner personalities) thus it is not easy to make a person open up to you, be candid, honest and feel comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics especially if they are not your friends or family members and if you just met them a few minutes ago. The article suggests 25 tips on how to get a better interview outcome and how to ‘tame’ and interviewee and make them ‘crack’ the shell. I could say that the majority of the tips such as ‘Listen’, ‘Word the questions clearly’, ‘Be candid’, ‘Show respect’ are way too obvious and most of the people use them without even knowing but overall, the text was interesting and engaging.

In conclusion, interviewing is one of the most popular and effective research methods and I like how the author looked at it from a little bit different perspective, with a unique metaphor in mind. I love how he kept the symbolic meaning of ‘having sex with your interviewee’ throughout the whole article which got me rethinking what the text is actually about.

people

Hermanowicz, J. (2002). The Great Interview: 25 Strategies for Studying People in Bed. Qualitative Sociology, 25(4).

 

Reading response. Week 4 || 180MC

The reading is a chapter from Katherine Hayles’s book “How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis” and it discusses how digital media affects humanities. To be more exact, it looks into how students’ reading changed over the last decades.

The author is not biased and offers two points of view providing enough valid research evidence. On one hand, by looking at the research which shows that novel reading has increased she states that print reading can still be alluring. On the other hand, it is mentioned that the millennials do more digital reading than ever thus the reading skills have been declining since.

I agree that our way of reading has changed because of the rapidly evolving technologies and it is definitely taking over the print but that does not mean digital reading is evil by any means. I think it is the opposite. Even though it has affected the way our attention functions, we get distracted a lot easier than ever and we are in constant crave of continuous stimulation, technologies make reading quicker and more productive. It links to the part where Hayles explains a recent phenomenon called hyper reading which allows the reader to filter the text and move through a bunch of material to find the most relevant bits by “filtering by keywords, skimming, hyperlinking, “pecking” (pulling out a few items from a longer text), and fragmenting”.

I strongly believe that the main concern should not be how the digital reading is almost making print reading history. It should be about increasing reading/learning ability in general no matter the format of the text. I think it all depends on the person. Somebody might find it easier to read in a “traditional” way (printed text, with a pencil I their hand), some see hyper reading as a more productive technique. As it is sated in the text, ‘The two tracks, print and digital, run side by side’ which I totally agree.

The fact that millennials use less printed material to read does not mean that people read less in general. Nowadays, when technology is so advanced, the news not necessarily have to be written in a newspaper, a book does not have to be written on paper pages. In my opinion, the fact that one Kindle stores thousands of books, makes reading more accessible and convenient than ever. We have the accessibility to all of the information in a swipe of our finger but it is up to us to choose the type which will improve our literacy and knowledge in general.

*Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis, 2012, pp. 55-68

 

Researching space. Week 5 || 182MC

Analysis of ‘Reality’ and Space

First of all, when I hear the term ‘Space’, I immediately start thinking about the Moon, planets and rocket ships so I was highly intrigued to find out what ‘Space’ means in the context of research.

From the text I found out that this type of research focuses on identifying  main theories about how the world actually is and how it ‘stands at the end of the second millennium’. Also, I learned that not only are we all surrounded by some kind of space all the time but also, as Manuel Castel in his trilogy states,  there are two main types of space known as The Net or ‘space of flows’ and the space of Self (‘space of places’) and it can be studied/researched from different points of view such as political, economical, cultural, depending on the discipline of the researcher.  In addition to that, people of the world are also divided in three different groups constructing identities which include legitimising, project, resistant identities. Furthermore, another theorist Edward Soja suggest another way of devision and argues that space is three-dimensional. ‘First space’ focuses on the material qualities and positivist/realist mode of analysis. ‘Second space’ fevers on different images we have on space (‘popular, political, intelectual) and can idolise certain spaces but also demonise others. ‘Thirdspace’ suggests to understand space as real and imagined at the same time and ‘aims to undo the oppositional nature’

 The majority of the text was talking about feminism but I found it irrelevant and could not figure out how it links to this research method on my own. I hope that in my upcoming lecture and seminar I will be able to join the ends.

In conclusion, I would like to say that this reading was the most confusing so far because the language is in fact really academical which was arduous to understand what space in research means.

space

Saukko, P. (2010). Doing research in cultural studies. 1st ed. London [u.a.]: SAGE, pp.155-175.

Researching media discourse. Week 4 || 182MC

Discourse analysis

To begin with, I would like to mention that I have never heard of discourse analysis let alone used this method to do research which is weird because according to the text, there are 57 varieties of discourse analysis which left me surprised how I have never got the taste of it. That is why I was interested from the very start.

After doing the reading I found out that ‘discourse analysis is a careful, close reading that moves between text and context to examine the content, organization and functions of discourse’. The fact that you can analyse literally any speech (either it is in the video or on paper) is really mesmerising. By the second the speech is laid down on the paper, highlighted and underlined, it becomes so easy to notice the aspects of the way people speak that we can’t usually hear because we are just too familiar with them (these include pauses, jargon, slight topic changes, etc.) In my opinion, rendering the familiar strange and changing our own perspective to language is one of the strengths of this research method because you get to see the unsummarized, ‘uncleaned’, raw version of somebody’s speech which might shift our way of interpreting it. This is a result that you probably could not get in an ordinary interview.

The author stressed quite a bit that not only reading the text itself is a key point in doing discourse analysis. Interpreting the context matters too. In order to fully understand the text, a good discourse analyst must be aware of things that are not said too. I liked the example of how one sentence such as ‘My car has broken down.’ can have various meanings. It just depends whether it was said to a friend or a person who sold the car. This means that a researchers must interrogate their own assumptions, and be able to make sense of things, also have a analytic mentality.

In conclusion, after reading the article, it did not attract me into wanting to try discourse analysis myself. It looks extremely complicated even after Rosalind Gill guiding through the main steps on how to be a discourse analyst which included choosing the texts, transcribing, coding, analysing them and a couple more. I think that in order to be a good discourse analyst you need to have a lot of patience as there are many steps of the process to go through.

digitall

* Gill, Rosalind. “Discourse Analysis” in: Bauer, Martin W. and Gaskell, George, (eds.) Qualitative Researching, 2000.

 

Reading response. Week 3 ||180MC

Communicating and reaching out to each other has never been easier and it is all thanks to technology and social media. Despite the fact that social media might come across as an innocent platform for expressing our thoughts and sharing our experiences, it actually is known to be a threat for people’s privacy. Constant updating on Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter is almost a wilful exposure of our daily lives to the whole world which leaves us with no privacy whatsoever. The young generation who grew up not knowing what life without computers or the Internet means might not be aware that their personal life is in danger because they have been involved in social media since the very young age and they do not know any better.

After reading Ringrose and Harvey’s article “Boobs, back-off, six packs and bits: Mediated body parts, gendered reward, and sexual shame in teens’ sexting images”, it seems like the teenagers are used to openly talking about the topics that were considered as taboo a couple decades ago and they are not ashamed of doing things such sending revealing pictures and sexualizing somebody else’s body parts. When it comes to sending naked pictures, the boys see it as a competition, a game which proves their masculinity and fulfils the heteronormative expectations (the more pictures of half-naked girls you receive, the manlier you are, the more valuable you become among your peers) but for girls is the complete opposite. Young girls not only get bullied after posting/sending “revealing” pictures but they also get slut-shamed. It also proved how women’s body parts such as breasts or butts are almost considered as separate objects (not attached to a human being) which are overly sexualized, always commented on and compared to somebody else’s. It looks like the teens are familiar with the idea of losing privacy but it does not stop them from exposing themselves. Both girls and boys know that they have a power of exposing the person they received a revealing picture from so they have a power in their hands of destroying somebody’s reputation.

In the article it was nicely said that “digital bleeds into the material space of peer culture” because we are constantly surrounded by social media and technology to the point when sometimes it is difficult to separate what belongs to be online and what should stay in real life. The quote could be converted and reconstructed to “the material space bleeds to the digital space” because this way it explains how we willingly choose to put a lot of our personal, private information online without even thinking about the consequences.

In conclusion, it is important to point out that it is our own responsibility to keep the private information to ourselves because we are the only ones in charge. Considering the saying that whatever you post online is going to stay there forever no matter if you delete it or not is essential as well because some things might ruin our reputation or career without us even knowing.

*Ringrose, J. and Harvey, L. (2015) ‘Boobs, back-off, six packs and bits: Mediated body parts, gendered reward, and sexual shame in teens’ sexting images’, Continuum 29(2): 205-217

Researching culture. Week 3 || 182MC

What is ethnography?

Before reading Hammersley and Atkinson’s article I was familiar with ethnography and at least had a clue what that meant so it was interesting to look at it in more depth. Even though the article states that the meaning of ethnography can vary and it is difficult to label it, I would simply describe it as a study on certain people culture.

The majority of the text was an explanation between positivism and naturalism which I wasn’t familiar with. I found out that the main difference is that naturalists do their research in “natural” settings, they choose to stay aside and try not to intrude people’s natural space and habitat which helps not to affect people’s usual behaviour. On the other hand, positivists are completely different and they get the outcomes by doing their research in “artificial” settings.

When it was mentioned that “ethnography is not far removed from the means that we all use in everyday life to make sense of our surroundings, of other people’s actions”, it immediately made me think about fandoms. People who are obsessed with bands, actors, dancers become ethnographers probably without even knowing it. They observe the idols in the interviews, shows, try to analyse their behaviour and come up with their own assumptions about the particular personality. In addition to this, all of us are ethnography researchers on the daily basis. We either “stalk” people on social media and consume information about them or we try to get as much data about new friends we meet in order to get to know them.

In my opinion the authors did a great job explaining the origins of this research method but when it came to reflexivity and realism if found it hard not to get distracted and was rather confused about how it links to the main topic. Overall, the article has a lot of important information to the point where it is difficult filter the text and choose the most important and relevant pieces.

digitalll

* Hammersley, M., and P. Atkinson. “What is ethnography?” in Ethnography: Principles in Practice, Routledge, 1995.

What is research? Week 2 || 182MC

What is research?

I do not think there is a student who is not familiar with a term ‘research’. Everybody does this while writing essays of preparing for the exams but after reading the text it made me realise that all of us are familiar with research without even being aware of it. We cannot stop from constantly making choices. It is either something new we want to buy, study, or a new place we are choosing to live. For example, before investing in a camera we will look for information online, magazines, ask our photographer friends and so on. This is called everyday research but there is another type known as scholarly research which, according to the text, is more systematic, objective and careful rather than based on common sense or being selective.

In the majority of the text the author talked about binary oppositions such as active-passive, good-evil, Yin-Yang, nature-history, etc. but the most important and relevant to the topic is the opposition of quantitative and qualitative research. I have never heard about these terms before but did not want to assume from the names as well. After reading, I learned that quantitative research asks questions such as ‘how much/many?’ and focuses on the statistical data, ‘numbers, magnitude and measurement’ where qualitative method asks ‘of what kind?’ and looks into text’s properties, characteristics, focuses in finding opinions, underlying reasons. As everything in life, both of the methods have their pros and cons. Quantitative is usually accused of being too narrow and quantitative is sometimes seen as making odd interpretations.

In conclusion, I found the text relatively easy to read and understand. It was not boring at any points and the diagrams/charts made it even more entertaining. It seemed like Arthur Berger was just unofficially chatting with a reader (me) and casually explaining complicated theory.

research

* Berger, Arthur. 2014, ‘What is research?’, in Media and communication research methods : an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, 3rd ed., SAGE, Los Angeles, pp. 11-27

Random thoughts during short term insomnia

Hey, long time no see.

I have one question for you. Does it ever happen when you just can’t fall asleep? No matter how hard you try to keep your breathing as even and as deep as possible, how may sheep you count.. Nothing. The eyes are just wide open, ready for a new day even thought the last one isn’t finished yet. Yeah, this is what’s been happening to me for the last three days and it drives me insane. I’ve tried holding my thumb between my eyebrows (the smart friend, named Internet, told me it should help) for hours, sipping some peppermint tea, humming to myself, listening to the weird/relaxing music… NOTHING. And you know what the worst part is? Seeing how close the alarm is to going off. “9 hours of sleep sound just great! 7 hours should do too. Ummm.. I feel like you can rest completely in 6 hours, right? 5 hours? I better fall asleep faster. Man, 4 hours aren’t enough. C’mon…’ Soooo, I decided to occupy myself and write something instead of rolling in my bed for hours.

Whenever I can’t sleep, I always tend to think about the most random things. It’s embarrassing. For instance, yesterday I spent quite a bit of time figuring it out how it’s like to be a celebrity. No that I know that life, but…Do famous actors go to the cinema and watch their own movies with everybody else? Would Justin Timberlake be able to go to Tesco in his PJ’s and buy a loaf of bread? Is it common for artists to go and see other bands/singers perform? I told you, it’s weird. I also tend to think about something more I may say important such as love (which teenager doesn’t, right?), today’s society, creativity, friendships. Talking about that one, how do you know when a person becomes your friend? I couldn’t figure that out yet. Honestly, I don’t know the answer. I find it funny how people want to be your friend after 20 minutes of talking. Not just a person you know, but a friend already. I don’t think it’s how that works. I don’t know you, I’m not sure whether I can trust you or not yet, how are you my friend then? Complicated. Also, how does your friend become your best friend? Is it after a certain amount of secrets she/he tells you or the amount of time you spend together? Even more complicated. “A friend”, “a best friend”, “a course-mate”, “a person you know”. Do we need those labels anyway and is it even relevant anymore? I could go on and on…

Do you see where I’m going? It’s all about the questions but not the answers. That’s how I’ve been feeling for a couple of weeks now. Lots of questions, zero answers. Can’t find the right place for me. I think this might have something to do with my quality of sleep. Hopefully, I don’t go insane. I think I should be more aware of this simple yet genious quote:

 “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss

I have a feeling that it’s enough rambling for tonight, isn’t it? It’s 2:30 am and I might go and try to fall asleep. This blog post might not make sense when I wake up and read it but… Oh well. tumblr_npy7mrfwqz1tqtfrjo1_1280

I’ll leave you with this chill song MICHL – Kill Our Way To Heaven that’s been on repeat as I was writing this down and is perfect for calm evenings.

If you read it all, thank you!

Best wishes,

Sleepy Akvilė ♥