Picturing the Social Landscape

Book dispenser at Gatwick Airport, 2009

Visual Sociology offers researchers the opportunity to re-think the form and conduct of social research and to experiment with the forms that sociological research and writing take in the 21st Century.

“Visualizing the social world, what we see and how we see it, is like social theory itself. Both seeing and social theory are acts of interpretation: selection, abstraction and transformation (Jenks 1995: 4, 8). Both are socially constructed and culturally located (Jenks 1995: 210). When we write or picture the social world we reformulate it. The new prominence of visual strategies in social research, then, is about new theoretical and technical possibilities, a re-enchantment among social commentators with the texture of social life, the shifting and fragmented frameworks of knowledge in which we all operate and a determination to reach beyond words in producing accounts of the social world.” (Knowles and Sweetman, Picturing the Social Landscape, 2004: 2).

“Visual research strategies comprise a set of techniques which – in concert with others – activate the sociological imagination in the broad sense in which Mills intended it. Visual techniques, in other words, are an analytically charged set of methodologies which incline researchers towards the tracing of connections between things of quite different social scope and scale.” (Knowles and Sweetman, ibid.: 8).

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