Sarah Pink’s, Doing Visual Ethnography, was an interesting read. Although I did not like her writing style, I was interested to learn more about this word/term, ethnography, that I was introduced to for the very first time. As I did some research on this book and this new term, I learned a few things that got my attention and urged me to explore further: 1) There are many opinions and much debate over what makes a particular source of media ethnographic or not, 2) The method of attaining this media can be tricky when it comes to the ethical issues involved, 3) This methodology is a unique way for me to express my research from my subjective point of view. In my research, an interesting review of the book by Matthew Haught came up that will be mentioned at the end.
1) Because the method of ethnographic research is so subjective, I can see why people struggle to define what it really is. Pink even highlights in chapter 2 the fact that she disagrees with Martin Hammersley and Paul Atkinson’s definition of ethnography because she feels they “restrict the range of things ethnographers may actually do” and “their representations of ethnography as just another method or set of methods of data collection wrongly assumes that ethnography entails a simple process of going to another place or culture, staying there for a period of time, collecting pieces of information and knowledge and then taking them away.” She later goes on to describe her definition of ethnography and also highlights the most fundamental assumption of visual ethnography: “that it is concerned with the production of knowledge and ways of knowing rather than with the collection of data.” I love this concept of producing new knowledge and finding new ways of knowing that are unique and creative. I am a very visual person and believe images and video are such powerful tools to communicate a message.
2) Being a therapist, I deal with the ethics of my profession every day. Everything from informed consent to confidentiality is an extremely important and highly monitored aspect of the work I do with clients on a regular basis. So, as I learned more about the methods of visual and sensory ethnography, my mind quickly went to asking about the ethics involved when other people are included in these images or videos. I was glad to see the author devoted an entire section to discuss the ethical dilemmas involved with the practice of visual ethnography. She says, “As ethnographers, we have to evaluate the ethical implications and possible issues raised by the research practices and representations we plan before these are held up to the scrutiny of others. Similarly, we may find ourselves in situations where we are required to address questions relating to the ethics of participants in our research, and the ethics of studying and/or making moral judgments about them.” The fact that almost every person on the planet carries a high-quality camera in their pocket and takes thousands of pictures every year creates an ongoing issue regarding informed consent and how to ethically handle those thousands of digital photos. I’m curious what others think about this issue as well…
3) One of the enjoyable aspects about visual ethnography is the creative expression it brings to the world of research. A picture can truly be worth a thousand words in expressing a particular body of information or message. I often find myself scrolling through hundreds of photos on Instagram taken by professional photographers because of the simple fact that I am captivated by the images. It is interesting how people are challenging each other on Facebook to post 7 black and white images of their life in 7 days, with no people and no explanation (thanks Jason T). This is another example of how we want people to speak a thousand words about their life with a picture. We ascribe so much meaning to visual images, but I am reminded by the author how we all have our own interpretations and subjective perspectives of those images. Pink states, “I understand ethnography as a process of creating and representing knowledge or ways of knowing that are based on ethnographers’ own experiences and the ways these intersect with the persons, places and things encountered during that process. Therefore visual ethnography, as I interpret it, does not claim to produce an objective or truthful account of reality, but should aim to offer versions of ethnographers’ experiences of reality that are as loyal as possible to the context, the embodied, sensory and affective experiences, and the negotiations and intersubjectivities through which the knowledge was produced.” Learning this new word, intersubjectivities, was an added bonus.
In the process of researching this subject and the book, I discovered a review of this book by Matthew Haught worth mentioning. He introduced an aspect of the book that I missed and voiced a legitimate critique. He writes, “The field of ethnographic hypermedia, as Pink calls it, should be viewed as an incomplete cultural text. While I agree with her here, I challenge back, what isn’t? When Mead left Samoa, young women still came of age; when Geertz left Bali, men still put on cock fights. Time does not stop in online media, just as it does not stop in life. The key here is that the ethnographer knows when he or she has attained enough information and has enough understanding to make a case. Pink reiterates that online ethnography is a new and growing field, but the onus is on the researchers to innovate in ways to collect data.” I agree that any snapshot into the life of someone or an event provides a limited view of that moment in time and does not show us life before and after that moment, even though it continues on without us.
Overall, it was enjoyable learning about this method of research, knowledge and finding new ways of learning. Although the concept of using images to tell a story has been around forever, I think expanding on this concept in our storytelling is worth some effort and attention.
 Sarah Pink. Doing Visual Ethnography. (London: Sage Publications, 2013) Kindle Edition. 34.
 Ibid., 34.
 Ibid., 59.
 Ibid., 34.
 Matthew J. Haught. Review: Doing visual ethnography. http://www.mattjhaught.com/2012/07/08/review-doing-visual-ethnography/. 2012