In the third semester we were introduced to the research method of visual ethnography through two books by Sarah Pink. Visual Ethnography is a multi-sensory engagement with empirical data on societies and cultures gained through the study of visual resources. It reveals interdisciplinary results for sociology, culture science, communication studies and many more.
Sarah Pink enfolds in her two volumes the process of using visual images, like photos, video, multimedia to understand a context from a different perspective than only using the written language. She looks at content and context, and in that same space, the influence of multivocality and multimedia by examining how images, sounds, colours, text, video are presented together. This interactive and corresponding approach is also important for Sarah Pinks general definition of hypermedia in the ethnographic research. “Interactive hypermedia publications usually consist of sets of interlinked files that contain written words, still or moving images, sound or a combination of these. The interlinages between files, or points (e.g. words and images, theoretical sections and ethnographic description) within files, support the interactivity of hypermedia” (Pink 2007, 192).
In her concept of “reflexivity,” she also reflects the special position of the researcher as the involved observer, with a strong influence of the research in general. The researchers own cultural perspective comes into play in the selection of photos, the interpretation of the photos, and the presentation of the photos. Pink also researched on the significance of digital visuals ethnographic hypermedia as modern ways to evaluate visuals in our culture used online and other new technological possibilities. Engaging visual ethnography online poses theories of place and visuality (and sensoriality) in the foreground and demonstrates how this is useful for understanding the object of study (Pink 2009, 119).
This perspective really inspired me. First as a visual field, I frequently participate and dwell in and also secondly as a clarification of what “reflexivity” means in an interactive and responsive medium like the internet. Pink encloses that the digital media has an embedding reflexivity in itself and also offers additional reflexivity through own interactions with hypermedia, the researcher undergoes called “reflexivity as practice” (Pink 2007, 192).
The interactive practice online is one of the key aspects of the Leadership and Global Perspectives Doctor of Ministry program. While the individual research work is completed under the supervision of an advisor, the collaborative work is done in public online spaces and various social media services such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, YouTube, and Flickr. Here the students engage one another collaboratively, in asynchronous and real-time meetings, discussing about the literature and other research questions.
The online Doctor of Ministry program is interactive and reflexive in itself: with regards to the content and the form. The research are results distributed publicly available for the asynchronous communication not only in the cohort but also beyond that. They are also published in a social media way to allow interaction with others. (E.g. https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dminlgp on tumblr and @dminlgp on twitter.)
It is no wonder that also a lot of posts in the asynchronous communication about the books on the semesters reading list, produced articles on internet, online related or hypermedia issues. Form and content started to melt.
In the first semester I wrote an article with the title “Only twelve followers but a high level of retweets” on the use of social media in the churches in Germany. I also posted another article on culture pessimism and media critique. In the second semester I reflected on collective intelligence and collective ethic and in the third semester I concluded with social media is filling buckets.
It is interesting how the form of online studies in the program and the interactive structure of the cohort collaboration linked form and content. It seems as if most of the students are native online residents. The internet is their natural habitat. Not only for their studies in the Doctor of ministry program, but also in their ministry field and their private life.
The presentations of research results on blogs and on twitter are characterized not only by written statements, but also in the way text, graphic elements, pictures, photos and videos are arranged. This is why Sarah Pink is not only offering an methodological tool to research phenomena exterior, but at the same time she offers a new perspective on the researchers own acting in hypermedia and online spheres.
The connection of the internet and social media in the dimensions of the “object of study”, the “methodological tool” and the “habitat” itself is visualized in a social media presentation I designed, using the visualization tool called prezi. In this presentation I undertake a self-reflection of my own reflexivity in the internet and social media but with a focus on the visual dimension, presented in Sarah Pink’s visual ethnography. All examples I used are samples of topics and visualizations I used within the last three semesters.