DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Ethno Vision-in the 21st Century

Written by: on September 13, 2014

What a good book to describe the time we live and the affects of social media on life and on how life is viewed. I find it very fascinating how Sarah Pink connects the way visual ethnography is so interconnect with anthropology. I like how she shows how the Internet and social media have become apart of the “hypermedia” phenomenon. I would not know what to do without my cell phone or computer. It has become not only the way we see things and view things, but it is the new medium for communication and visual ethnography for the 21st Century. I can’t wait to get into her book sensory ethnography.

In the book one of the concepts that stood out to me was how some of the critiques of visual ethnography point to the fact that media can be compromised and not really produce a true picture of anthropology because it is altered. In other words people have the opportunity to show you what they want to show you and how they want to show it to you. This is really true on face book and other media sites (Instagram i.e.). People are taking the pictures of themselves the way they would like you to perceive them and that is not always an honest picture. I can see how this is criticized when we depend on media to give us a clear picture of something relating to our life or our society. But I liked how Sarah Pink put it, “the ethnographer has to play a dual role in how something is seen and in how something is understood. [17] Our ideas come into play whenever we show a picture but we have to be aware as well of how people view it. I believe it is crucially important to not think that every thing visual that the media produces is accurately giving a true description of how things are. And I don’t think we have to get so caught up in the idea that everything has to be exactly true the way it’s shown all the time. Part of our nature is to want to paint a good picture and to see a good picture painted.

With social media being a medium that people can alter what they show you I think we have to be a little open minded about are visual perception of what we see in the media or even what we see written. Most things we see don’t come with disclaimers or anything that would even give us the remotest validation that what we see is actually true. But at least we do get the opportunity to get to see what people want to see and what they want to show you. Out of what I read I was really fixed on this idea because it’s easy to not question what you see. With this in mind I think visual perception of things has not changed much it has just been enhanced by social media. I think it helps us to form ideas and concepts but just like anything else a wise person would check the authenticity of anything. This is not say that what we are looking at is not helpful in ideas but it is just a bigger challenge now to make sure what we see is true!

About the Author


Travis Biglow

Pastor of Victory Empowerment Center. Regional Chaplain High Desert Regional Center Graduates Azusa Pacific University. Licensed General Contractor B. I am the married with one daughter, two grandsons and one step son.

13 responses to “Ethno Vision-in the 21st Century”

  1. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Thanks Travis. Whether it’s the media or how we all control our image on social media we don’t get the entire story. It is important for us to ask good questions, share our own experiences, and be critical listeners for us to keep the conversation going and grow in understanding.

  2. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    Your comment on “I don’t know what I’d do without my cell phone or computer” rings so true for me. I wish I wasn’t so hooked, but it seems to be the order of the day. By the way, another book to “talk about without having to read,” is Present Shock – it speaks quite a bit to hypermedia. Not that that you need another book to read right now 🙂

    On another note, when you talk about people posting only what they want others to see – it reminds of how Facebook/Instagram are hyper-Christmas cards: we only see what we want others to see. While there’s a certain beauty in that portrayal, it also means we lose an honesty about ourselves.

    • Travis says:

      Blessings Mary, we have to get used to the way we do the 21st Century. There have been times you don’t like the fact you use social media as much as you do. But i realize that God has us here for this season and this time. We must utilize the tools we have in this forum to the max to be effective witnesses for the Lord!

  3. Dawnel Volzke says:


    I appreciate your comments on social media. In marketing, I am very careful to position images in a manner that best conveys the intended message. With social media, this practice is widespread. Whether it is pictures of your children or an organization using beautiful people to see their product, images are typically “positioned” to the bias or desired outcome of the person posting them. Since almost everyone has some type of natural bias, how do you think an ethnographer can best avoid “positioning” images used in their research so that they capture the most true picture of the situation or scenario?

    • Jon spellman says:

      Dawned and Travis, do you think it’s possible for a researcher to ever be able to convey a “true” representation of life in a culture? What I mean by “true” is a view that demonstrates what the culture would be like if the researcher was not embedded in it? Can a researcher bi truly invisible within a culture or does his very presence taint the research?

      • Jon spellman says:

        I meant Dawnel not Dawned. My auto correct changes it. Sorry about that!

      • Dawnel Volzke says:


        I’d love to see some research on the accuracy of ethnography, however I think it’s value is represented in the fact that it does allow the researcher to better study and present the subject. This being said, it seems that a researcher would never gain 100% understanding of a culture unless they were actually a part of that culture. For example, I could study a culture where women are abused and have little rights. While I can have empathy for these women, I can’t truly understand the way these women feel and why the culture allows and believes the things that they do. Unless we have the exact same experiences and live in the same situations, I feel it is impossible to completely and accurately reflect the feelings and emotions that contribute to the development of a culture or society.

    • Travis says:

      Dawnel – I used to run a construction and when i paid for my advertising in the new paper my intended goal was to stand out from the rest. I used catchy phrases and things that made me look like I was in business longer than I was without lying. I focused building up my strengths and appealing to the market i was after. Its the nature of the beast! lol

  4. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Travis, The tension of visual perception and understanding seems huge. I like how you question this, especially the more “image-driven” our culture becomes. Your comment on people posting (I am thinking of Facebook) what they want you to see was brought up in another one of our classmates (I think Brian) illustrating how people put out an image they want you to see but it is definitely not the whole picture, if it is a true slivered picture. Thinking about, “What can we know about what we see?” is a big question that I think needs more attention than I usually give it:)!

  5. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Oops! It was Nick’s post that mentioned the “college students” cell phone and the pictures on there phone versus the pictures that get posted and the difference in the two stories told. Definitely funny to think about (personally) and definitely true.

  6. mm Brian Yost says:

    Your question about whether or not what we experience is true is a great question. People can present themselves and their environments in ways that are misleading. The ethnographer can easily reach a wrong conclusion.

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