Ardis Storm-Mathisen: Visual Methods in Ethnographic Fieldwork – On Learning from Participants Through their Video-accounts

Written by Ardis Storm-Mathisen, published in Forum for Development Studies, 14 Mar 2018.


This article reflects on the value of engaging with visual methods in a fieldwork situation. It portrays various forms of visual methods used in a recent research in Botswana and discusses – by using a concrete example – how video-accounts produced by participants and subsequent video-dialogues came to complement insights gained from observation and interviews in fortunate ways. A theoretical value was that the video-recordings – as they represented a ‘thicker’ description of ‘practice in practice’ than interview audio recordings or notes from observational situations – helped to build insights into the non-linguistic, embodied and socio-material aspects of practices. A methodological value was that the use of video-recordings assisted in bringing out participants perspective and thereby helped to produce more relevant data. When participants communicate by recording practices in private spheres this gives an inlet into situations of significance in the everyday that usually are inaccessible for observation and ungraspable through interviews. The video-recordings also had analytical value as they could be used to facilitate a common point of reference for dialogical and collaborative interpretation between the participant and researcher on concrete events. When participants decide what to discuss with the researcher and they together reflect on and put into words what is the meaning of concrete events, this improves the validity of interpretation and fosters a more symmetrical understanding between researcher and participants – hence also of donors and recipients – about what is significant and at stake.

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Published Apr. 6, 2018 11:35 AM - Last modified Dec. 17, 2020 10:01 AM