Technology has transformed the way we live our lives. From the way we interact with others to the way we connect and share with those around us. It has informed the way we engage in understanding other cultures and therefore expanding our worldview. With this great transformation comes new ways and methods by which we are able to adapt and learn about the world around us.
With the introduction of technology, it has given way to the “information age” being driven by the adoption of the internet. The internet which was once seen as a disruptive technological advance has now not only been adopted by most people in the 21st century but has become fully integrated into the daily activity of how interact in our daily lives. Since this technology came on the scene it has continued to change rapidly. What may have been relevant in the context of technology today will not be as relevant and useful in the future. Therefore, navigating this space within a research context presents a challenge. This challenge encompasses the fundamental basis for why the theoretical understanding of the discipline of Ethnography must be understood in order to be able to be applied to the practical interpretation of the methodological practices within a constantly changing digital environment.
The emergence of technology has impacted the way we look at traditional methods of research. Ethnography, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the study of human races and cultures. Sarah Pink would emphasize that Ethnography is a methodology. “Ethnography as practiced is shaped and formed by disciplinary theories and priorities that inform the work it is required to under take” (Pink,18). Ethnography as a research method has been adopted not only by noted written works but through the incorporation of contemporary and newly accepted visual formats such as photos and video. Visual Ethnography has illuminated the pathway for greater collaboration and dynamic exchange of conveying pertinent researched information. Questions in regards to validity of digital visual ethnography research still remain as the digital environment continues to evolve. Despite the questions, Pink is an advocate for the use of digital visual ethnography as a valid research method. This was highly noted when she wrote “Finally I would stress the we should not disregard digital visual ethnography as something different or disconnected with the wider practice of using visual method and media research. To start with digital media tend to become part of most visual ethnography practice in some way or another, and for this reason alone it is important to attend to their affordances and qualities. Yet there are more continues“(Pink, 138). There is definitely a space where a formal discussion within the discipline can occur to discern how and where this method warrants the best intended results when addressing how best to collect research within the anthropological context.
There is an old English idiom that says “a picture is worth a thousand words”(regardless of this quotes origin), I do believe that visual images do convey more than words can at times communicate. I find it very intriguing to engage in a dynamic form of ethnography from not only a visual perspective but a digital framework. Legitimizing the methodology in a visual way opens the door to the nuanced possibilities of how we can best understand humanity and cultures within our world.
In further exploration of how others are using visual ethnography, I found this is an example of a comic that is intended to provide a visual ethnography of the medication condition of depression. This image was created by Coleman Nye from Brown University, in his blog post entitled Teaching Comics in a Medical Anthropology and Humanities Class. He chose to use comics as a means to explain depression through the lens of medical anthropology. Sarah Pink as a professor of Design and Media Ethnography would be able to appreciate Coleman’s attempt to provide a visual component to his anthropological research in which it is encouraged by the UTP to allow students to be “EthnoGRAPHIC”. Although Pink did not address a satire approach to visual ethnography one can infer that when you dive deeper into this methodology it can inherently lend itself to the evolution of visual creativity as a methodological avenue of disciplinary academic research.