Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Visual ethnography part 1

Recently I began the visual ethnography part of my data collection, where I become a participant observer of some of the visual cultures accessed by the young people I am working with in school. Based on what they tell me of the places and activities they engage in, I am developing or enhancing the photo and image collection I have asked the young people to do, by also taking and collecting some of my own images that I find in the areas of Leicester or media/online visual cultures that the young people use. Partly this was a practical issue based on previous experiences of students not bringing back many photos, so a sort of insurance policy in the event of having nothing to work with, but I can't just put that in my methodology so I'm trying to think of the best way to explain why I am also taking photos – after all, I am not a 14 year old, nor a resident of the city, so why would the ways that I view and experience the city be important?

Sarah Pink in her Doing Sensory Ethnography argues that ethnographers can use the senses as a way to access the sensory experiences and perceptions of participants in a field, so that we can begin to imagine some of the ways in which senses provide meanings and experiences for the participants. Or something. Also, given that photo elicitation will be heavily used in the second interviews, any photos I bring still depend on the responses of the young people to them. This means too that I am not sure whether I need to get all my ethnography done before the second interviews, or whether I can continue afterwards, despite getting no further responses from young people. If so, I have this week and maybe two days next week in which to get it all done, visiting a few different places in Leicester with my camera and notebook.

Any way, so the first day of ethnography. I went round two of the major shopping areas in the city. The big thing that struck me was a sense of feeling drab in my own clothes and needing to buy new things! I suppose that is the point of shops, to make you want to buy. But living in a little village where I rarely visit malls like this, I don't often get that feeling. I wonder whether young people who maybe got to town frequently with their friends also experience the physical culture of the shopping mall in the same way. This is only partly relevant to my study but I think it's important to know whether young people feel pressures on their bodies and appearances, and this might have an impact on the way they engage with PE and physical activity. How to tap into that in interviews, might be tricky. Need some advice on that.

Recently at the Forgotten Bodies conference in Exeter I asked how Fat Studies etc. can offer alternative ways of valuing bodies in PE and other school physical cultures? What can PE learn from advocates of non-normative bodies in order to offer more empowering and inclusive experiences and learning environments? ...

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