The use of visual research methods in the South African research context

Liebenberg, Linda (2005-04)

Thesis (DPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2005.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South African society presents a complex and diverse environment to social scientists. Within immense economic stratification; a multitude of cultures and classes; languages and their dialects; and varied racial groups, researchers attempt to produce information that contributes constructively to policy, programs and a host of services. Beneath the surface also lay complex power issues informed by both political and cultural histories. Many contexts in which researchers find themselves continue to be marginalised and oppressed due to factors such as illiteracy and low-levels of education, age, gender and poverty. These groups often include women and children, in particular adolescents. Qualitative visual methods may provide researchers with a tool by which to address many of the concerns raised in the literature surrounding research carried out under such conditions. Visual methods may remove inherent power imbalances, as well as traditional barriers, such as culture and language, that stem from more 'conservative' research methods. Images may allow participants to vocalise the taken-for-granted in their lives in an empowering manner. The recognition and use of visual images in research with marginalised and oppressed groups is being increasingly recognised by the larger research community. A preliminary overview of the available literature highlights existing disagreement surrounding the theoretical underpinnings of visual methods. This is particularly seen in the various and confusing levels of abstraction presented in the literature. The primary aim of this study is therefore, to gain clarity and understanding as regards the methodological and epistemological underpinnings of visual research methods within the social sciences. As such, a comprehensive literature review has been conducted. A second aim of the study is to set out a typology of methods that would be relevant for use in marginalised communities. The third aim of the study is empirical in nature and aims to highlight the role and/or possibilities of visual research methods within the South African social sciences research context. This is achieved by means of a case study which explores how motherhood is experienced by five teenagers in a sub-economic community outside of Cape Town. It does this by providing participants cameras with which to visually express their understanding and experiences of motherhood. Processed photographs in this case study have been analysed by means of informal discussion, directed by the images, with the participants themselves. These discussions were recorded and transcribed. The results of the interviews were then analysed using grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The results emerging from this have been compared with relevant literature. In this way, results are also triangulated, adding to their reliability (Lucchinni, 1996). Consequently, results of this case study provide a comparative component by which to assess the applicability of visual methods in the South African research context. Both the literature review as well as experiences of the case study also form the basis of suggestions for further exploration.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Suid-Afrikaanse gemeenskap bied 'n komplekse en diverse omgewing aan sosiale wetenskaplikes. Binne hewige ekonomiese stratifikasie; 'n verskeidenheid kulture en klasse; tale en dialekte en diverse rassegroepe, poog navorsers om inligting te verskaf om 'n konstruktiewe bydrae te maak aan riglyne, programme en 'n legio dienste. Onder die oppervlakte lê daar ook komplekse magstryde afkomstig van beide 'n kuitereie en politieke geskiedenis. Vele omstandighede waarin navorsers hulself vind word steeds oorheers deur marginalisasie en onderdrukking as gevolg van faktore soos ongeletterdheid, lae vlakke van opvoeding, ouderdom, geslag en armoede. Hierdie groepe bestaan dikwels uit, onder andere, vroue en kinders. Kwalitatiewe visuele tegnieke mag navorsers van die nodige metodes voorsien waarmee verskeie probleme wat in die literatuur uitgelig word aangaande hierdie navorsing, aangespreek kan word. Visuele tegnieke mag inherente magsongelykhede, sowel as tradisionele struikelblokke, soos kultuur en taal wat afkomstig is uit meer 'konserwatiewe' navorsingstegnieke, verwyder. Uitbeeldings mag deelnemers toelaat om die vanselfsprekende in hullewens in 'n opbouende wyse te vokaliseer. Die identifisering en gebruik van visuele uitbeeldings in navorsing met gemarganaliseerde en onderdrukte groepe word tot 'n toenemende mate erken deur die uitgebreide navorsingsgemeenskap. 'n Voorlopige oorsig van die beskikbare literatuur beklemtoon bestaande onenigheid met betrekking tot die teoretiese fondamente van visuele tegnieke. Dit is veral duidelik sigbaar in die uitgebreide en verwarde vlakke van abstraktheid wat in die literatuur voorgestel word. Die primêre doelwit van hierdie studie is dus om groter helderheid en insig met betrekking tot die metodologiese en epistemologiese grondbeginsels van visuele metodes, soos dit in die sosiale wetenskappe voorkom, te verkry. Met hierdie doel voor oë is 'n uitgebreide literatuurondersoek onderneem. 'n Tweede doel van die studie is om 'n tipologie van metodes uiteen te sit wat relevant kan wees in gemarginaliseerde gemeenskappe. 'n Derde doel van die studie is empiries van aard en beoog om die rol en/of moontlikhede van visuele tegnieke binne die Suid-Afrikaanse sosiale wetenskaplike navorsings konteks te beklemtoon. Dit word bereik deur middel van 'n studie wat ondersoek hoe moederskap ondervind word deur vyf tieners in 'n sub-ekonomiese gemeenskap in die buitewyke van Kaapstad. Dit word uitgevoer deur deelnemers te voorsien van kameras waarmee hul begrip en ondervindings van moederskap visueel uitbeeld. 'n Verdere analise van hierdie studie is deur middel van informele besprekings uitgevoer met die deelnemers, begelei deur die uitbeeldings. Sodanige besprekings is opgeneem en getranskribeer. Die resultate verkry vanuit die onderhoude is daarna geanaliseer deur middel van begronde teorie (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Die resultate wat hieruit afkomstig was, is vergelyk met relevante literatuur. Op hierdie wyse is resultate bevestig, wat ook verder tot hul betroubaarheid gespreek het (Lucchinni, 1996). Die gevolg is dat die resultate van hierdie studie 'n vergelykende komponent verskaf waarmee die toepaslikheid van visuele tegnieke in die Suid-Afrikaanse navorsingskonteks gemeet kan word. Beide die literatuurstudie, asook die ondervindings vanuit die gevallestudie vorm die basis vir aanbevelings vir verdere ondersoek.

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