Scattered Reading Needs Visual Aids
It has been years since I read a book that had such great substance and yet, I did not want to keep reading it. Whenever a book is written where the author chooses to make each chapter independent of itself, I know it is trouble for me. In this review, I chose to write how my brain interpreted the author’s thoughts. It interpreted the contents in a scattered way (probably because I couldn’t see the big picture).
“This book is primarily for researchers from across ‘ethnographic’ disciplines and interdisciplinary fields who wish to incorporate audiovisual media into their research practice.” Pink also suggest that her book targets visual media practitioners seeking an understanding of how ethnographic research may inform their work. Visual ethnography incorporates photography and video so Pink focuses on this form of visual analysis.
Pink suggests something that I can never understand to this day. She states that, “books are not necessarily to be read directly from start to finish, and it will depend on the reader to decide whether to read this chapter first or last.” I love action movies so when a movie is moving too slow for me, I fast forward to the parts that I may like. The problem is that I miss the story line and never grasp an understanding of the direction of the movie. It doesn’t matter how great the action is, if the story line is missing, I can no longer enjoy the movie unless I watch scene by scene. I understand the willingness to give us options but sometimes it makes sense to leave things as is and that is the reason we have an introduction and a conclusion. We want the reader to understand the flow of things.
It was difficult for me to read the bible as a child because my church leaders tried to tell me that the books were not listed in chronological order so everyone had an approach as to which books to read first. Since Pink provided a background of the methodology in chapter one with everything in a chronological order, it made sense to read that chapter first. Understanding the background will help us understand the basis for the book and Pink confessed that fact by stating that chapter one “will offer a historical and disciplinary narrative of how the visual ethnography approach discussed in later chapters came about.” Imagine if we read the book of Genesis right after Revelation and Deuteronomy before Exodus. It would definitely make a difference in how we interpret the bible.
This book also focused on subjectivity, creativity and self-consciousness. Hence, we see the combination of anthropological ideas and an exploration of consumption and material culture. Honestly, this book has a meaningful purpose but it is not geared for the average reader in terms of understanding. We all learn differently and I understand culture plays a lot in how we interpret different writings. I understood that Pink was trying to show us that photography, video and hypermedia are convenient tools in ethnographic research. I also understood the examples used in the book although I did not always understand their purpose. Outside of that, I was mostly lost and confused because I could not get a rhythm or flow. Since Pink writes in such a way where each chapter is not dependent on the other, my brain felt scattered trying to gain clarity. If you asked me, did Pink accomplish her purpose in writing this book? I would say sure, because she intended for this to be a resource tool rather than a guide. Well, here I am using this book as a supplement in a degree program.
Visual ethnography is not simply combining words for a desired result but combining narratives with photographs and video, helps us create meaningful presentations. There is no doubt that visual aids are a necessity based on clarity for research. However, the narratives need to be creatively structured to keep the audience engaged. “A picture says a thousand words” but I am sure there are specific words you would like it to say. My wife has a creative imagination. In fact, she completed her internship at DreamWorks in California. She is always seeing things with her creative mind and I am often lost and she is frustrated but when you add some words, we are on the same page.
I am not analyzing Pink based on substance but more so the flow of the overall book. She does offer validity in how we provide quality research with visual aids.
9 responses to “Scattered Reading Needs Visual Aids”
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In reading your post, it was obvious that you were quite frustrated while reading Pink’s book, Doing Visual Ethnography. You have to remember that Pink was writing for academia. This is summed up in your quote from the book, “The book is primarily for researchers from across ethnographic disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.” Pink never gave a concise or meaningful definition of “ethnography” nor did she unpack the complex definition that she provided. You indicated that she made a valid statement in correlating quality of research with visual aids. That notion should be profitable in your personal research.
You are correct that there was some level of frustration. As an anthropologist, Pink gives several hints throughout the book for a definition of ethnography. My challenge wasn’t simply the definition, it was more her suggesting a technique while trying not to take ownership of it. She believes that researchers should use visual aids but be open to the diverse results of the audience. Is it possible that while the researcher is using visual aids, he/she is hoping that the audience arrive at a favorable answer? If this is the case, the audience doesn’t have the power. The more I read the different blogs, my understanding of the book increases. I definitely appreciate the book even more so I think my understanding is tied to my cultural upbringing in Jamaica. Thanks for the feedback.
I like the Garfield’s blog, it gives your true revelation, I too have never studied or heard a about Visual Ethnography, even though we have all used it in some form. Your blog was very interesting filled with element of raw truth of emotions; but you made a profound point, “Visual Ethnography” is not a book you just pick up and read from cover to cover; because it is a book of reference ,that can be used in your research as an added tool. As we look around, there are images everywhere; but how are they used, for, just beauty , making a statement; but I can clearly see that visual ethnography is a great tool which we can used in many different fields of study.Example: cultural studies, it use as representation and visual cultures which is identified with participant observation which gives a true effect. I think this is a tool we all will use in our research. You did a great job, thanks for sharing from the point of “Scattered Reading Needs Visual Aids, which is excellent topic , and well said.
Thanks for the feedback. We never stop learning so I know as we continue with this journey, there’ll be more books that will challenge us culturally and our leadership styles. I never heard of ethnography but I’m definitely learning to appreciateit even more.
I hear you Garfield. I think this book is for the serious ethnographer. After I read it I told my family that I think there is a huge percentage of the book I just don’t understand. Hopefully we can put what we did get out it to practice and arrive at some new knowledge together as a cohort.
Great contribution! It’s interesting that you perceived that the book lacked cohesion. I found the topics interesting and engaged with many of Pink’s points throughout; however, I too, felt that the format was episodic in design. I enjoyed the way she skipped around to various points, but I did have trouble following her train of thought in some instances. I perused through her text, my eyes focused on this one sentence – this one statement that tied all ethnographic aids into one purpose: Communication. Pink suggests, “Ethnographic texts, be they books, videos or photographs, are not usually released for public consumption without some consideration of how they communicate” (Pink, 190). Pink seeks to question the reader throughout the pages, “Will this video engage? Will what I’m doing convey the story? Will it connect others and shape their view?” Her disjointed text was simply a purposed design to question our ability to communicate.
I identified with your frustration (what does ethnography mean? When is she going to tell me? Why is she taking so long? Why is the book so technical and subjective? Does she have to analyze every single view on the topic?) As I said in my blog, my journey with this book was one from confusion to relevance. The academic and postmodern tone mixed with the lacking of a clear definition of ethnography made the read difficult. Yet, the fact that this book was written like a dissertation, provided some key sections that facilitated my interaction with Sarah Pink. As with many academic books, they include a summary at the end of each chapter. Also, the introduction of each section normally summarizes the previous sections. Both elements helped me move from frustration to partial understanding. I started reading the summary first, then the intro and then the main points of interest. Otherwise, the book felt confusing; I did not know where she was taking me. So, despite my frustration with the book, I must give Sarah Pink credit for including reviews of her main points at the beginning of each major section and also a clear summary at the end of each chapter. I agree with you too, that the book would have been nicer with more images, and perhaps color images. I find it ironic that a book about visual ethnography was rather lacking on the visual side. Thank you for the honesty in your blog.
I agree with your desire for a clear thread through a book. It’s easier to track along a consistent line, and frustrating if I lose hold of the thread. I will confess, though, that in Pink’s book I paid more attention to the chapters on photography, simply out of personal interest.
Reading this book I also found myself in Google a lot, seeking good definitions for a number of the words/terms she used. This slows things down quite a bit, but as I got a better handle on the terms things made more sense and reading moved along more quickly. We’re traveling up a steep learning curve, aren’t we?
I’m with you on this one. Reading Pink was like following a blind man through the desert at times. If repetition is the greatest teacher…she just “schooled” us. I felt there were times that she repeated herself from previous chapters. That is the technical side from my perspective of the way she thinks and writes.
Content really caused me to stop and see things radically different. There were some real “ah ha” moments when you finally track with her mind in regards to the participant that you are studying. When it was all said and done I can actually l say that I am glad I did read it.
See you LA,