Volume 9, No. 3, Art. 36 – September 2008

Mobilising Visual Ethnography: Making Routes, Making Place and Making Images

Sarah Pink

Abstract: This article builds on the earlier notion of a visual ethnography (PINK, 2007a) to suggest the idea of a visual ethnography in/of movement. Recent anthropological discussions have drawn attention to the importance of studying other people's "routes and mobilities" (LEE & INGOLD, 2006). Following this work I examine what visual ethnographers might learn from an analysis of how routes and mobilities are represented in local visual culture. Drawing on my recent research about the Cittàslow (Slow City) movement in the UK, I analyse a series of locally produced experiential, audiovisual and photographic narratives. I propose that such a focus can provide visual ethnographers with significant understandings of how place is made.

Key words: visual ethnography; place-making; walking; mobility; routes; senses; Cittàslow

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Visual Ethnography and Place-Making

3. The Research Context: Cittàslow Places

4. The Research Idea

5. A Stroll around Diss on the Town Trail

6. A History Walk

7. Something About Diss and Something Else About Diss

8. Converging Routes

9. Obstructed Routes

10. Entangled Routes

11. Conclusion: Treading a Place for Visual Ethnography in Movement

12. Coda

Acknowledgements

References

Author

Citation

 

1. Introduction

This article explores the value of using a visual ethnography approach to explore experiences and visual representations of movement in urban contexts. Drawing a series of parallels between walking and anthropological fieldwork practice Jo LEE and Tim INGOLD have noted how "Walking around is fundamental to the everyday practice of social life" and "to much anthropological fieldwork" (2006, p.67). Arguing that the "locomotive (or getting around) aspect of walking allows for an understanding of places being created by routes" they propose that anthropologists also need "to understand the routes and mobilities of others" (2006, p.68). In this article, I suggest how LEE and INGOLD's proposition might be applied to a visual ethnography that attends to the routes and mobilities of ethnographers and research participants. Thus I propose that a focus on urban mobilities and routes might also be developed through a visual ethnographic methodology. Going beyond questions of how place is made and experienced through everyday walking practices, I focus on how people' routes and mobilities are both invested in, and produce, local visual cultures. Thus examining how place is also constituted through the representation of routes and mobilities using (audio) visual media and techniques. Using my visual ethnographic research in UK Cittàslow (Slow City) towns I demonstrate how this approach can inform academic knowledge of how local urban issues are articulated and contested. [1]

Visual Ethnography involves an approach that engages with audio-visual media and methods throughout its processes of research, analysis and representation. It is inevitably collaborative and to varying extents participatory. This might involve analysing the existing visual cultures in which one is researching and collaboratively producing audiovisual materials with research participants—and usually entails understandings such sets of materials in relation to each other. A visual ethnographic methodology (see PINK, 2007a) also involves the ethnographers' reflexive engagement with the ways of what LAVE and WENGER see as "knowing in practice" (e.g. WENGER, 1998, p.141) produced at all stages of the ethnographic process. In two recent articles (PINK, 2007b and 2008) I have developed some of my initial ideas about visual ethnography (e.g. in PINK, 2007a) to interpret the visual ethnography process in relation to theories of place and place-making (CASEY, 1996; FELD & BASSO 1996). I have made two main suggestions. First, that the method of video recording research participants while "walking with" them creates place on different levels: in a phenomenological sense during the research encounter; in the form of the video representation of that encounter; and again through the subjectivity of the viewer of that video (PINK, 2007b). Second, that place might be constituted similarly through a wider range of "shared" and multisensorial experiences and collaborative productions (between researcher and research participants) of (audio) visual ethnographic representations of urban contexts (PINK, 2008). Although this article is written as an independent piece that can be read alone, it builds directly on the approach outlined in these earlier texts (2007b and 2008a) by examining how local visual culture might be implicated in a visual ethnography focus on mobilities and routes. [2]

My focus here is on the role of visual ethnography in the process of exploring other people's (diverse) representations of their experiences of the same urban context. I am concerned with what the visual ethnographer might learn from an analysis of how people create, use, narrate and visualise routes of movement around urban contexts in order to represent ways of experiencing a town. There are multiple ways of moving around urban contexts, using different technologies both for mobility and for its (audio) visualisation. This implies two main research tasks: The first is to examine local productions of routes and visual cultures by focusing on local mobility and media practices. The second involves using (audio) visual media to collaboratively produce contexts of "knowing" (WENGER, 1998) and ethnographic knowledge (including the production of images/audiovisual texts) with local people. Here I address both these elements of the visual ethnography process to explore how urban "places" might be made through, on the one hand, local visual practices, and on the other, the ethnographer's visual practices. Of course these experiences and practices are not simply visual, rather the visuality of them is embedded in multisensorial experiences and contexts and is inextricably tied to the use of verbal, tactile and other forms of communication. [3]

2. Visual Ethnography and Place-Making

The work of the philosopher Edward CASEY has already been used to frame discussions of ethnographic research about place and place-making (see FELD & BASSO, 1996). The implication of CASEY's ideas is that for visual ethnographers the primary context for our research activities is place. CASEY argues that "place" is not "carved out of space or superimposed on space" (1996, p.46), but instead space and time are contained in place (1996, pp.43-44). He sees place as central to what Maurice MERLEAU-PONTY called our way of "being in the world"—we are inevitably and unavoidably "emplaced" (1945/2002). This means that for the visual ethnographer place can be used to describe the dual context of research in that it is both the place we inhabit and the place we investigate. We ourselves are emplaced, but at the same time we are both seeking to understand the emplacement of others and the practices through which the places they form part of are continually reconstituted. If place is seen as "event" (CASEY, 1996) or process—something that is constantly being made and remade—then one task of the visual ethnographer is to understand this process, and in particular the roles of audio-visual experience and media in it. Thus visual ethnographers are dealing with the making and living of place on a series of different levels: first we investigate how the participants in our research make place themselves; second we reflect on how we collaboratively make place with research participants through research practice; third we consider how in representing our research we reconstitute place; and finally we anticipate how audiences/readers of our work in turn create place as they follow and add to its narratives. [4]

Here I employ this understanding of the relationship between visual ethnography and place to explore a visual ethnography in and of movement. Above I noted that LEE and INGOLD have stressed the need for anthropologists to "understand the routes and mobilities of others" (2006, p.68). Their point is equally applicable to visual ethnography across social science and humanities disciplines. A focus on routes and mobilities permits an understanding of the role played by place(making) in the visual ethnography process. The relationship between the making of place and urban walking is already clearly established in the social science literature. A starting point for understanding movement as a form of place-making can be found in Michel DE CERTEAU's work on the practice of everyday life (1984). DE CERTEAU suggested that amongst other things urban walking is "a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian" and "it is a spatial acting-out of place" (1984, pp.97-98). Although DE CERTEAU's point is important, his ideas have not gone without criticism, mainly because he situates urban walking within a system of binary power relations. Drawing from their own research with urban walkers in Aberdeen, LEE and INGOLD point out that "it is not simply a question of 'domination' from above and 'resistance' from below, as de Certeau tended to suggest. [Because t]he lines and routes of walkers are made through everyday choices and actions" (LEE & INGOLD, 2006, p.76). My own approach to urban movement is slightly different to the focus on walking as an everyday practice taken by DE CERTEAU (1984) and by LEE and INGOLD (2006). In am interested in urban routes that are self-consciously constructed and documented (audio) visually by individuals and groups. I also extend the idea of urban walking to other forms of urban mobility, which as I show below might contest the assumptions implied in the study of urban walking. To understand multiple self-consciously constructed urban routes, rather than simply thinking in terms of two competing forms of place-making—that of the powerful and that of the weak—I suggest thinking in terms of simultaneous, multiple, parallel, perhaps competing, and sometimes interwoven forms of place-making. This can be understood in terms of Margaret RODMAN's idea of multi-locality. Multilocality implies (amongst other things) "seeking to understand the construction of place from multiple viewpoints" and recognising that "a single physical landscape can be multilocal in the sense that it shapes and expresses polysemic meanings of place for different users" (RODMAN, 2003, p.212). Therefore although a town can be identified as a particular physical urban place, phenomenologically it can be experienced as many types of place simultaneously, depending on who is experiencing/making place. These multiple, and sometimes intersecting subjectivities are of course not divorced from local politics and power relations, and indeed can themselves represent shifting and complex power contexts. [5]

One of the tasks of the visual ethnographer seeking to understand other people's place-making practices is to also try to understand their "emplacement"—defined by David HOWES as "the sensuous interrelationship of body-mind-environment" (2005, p.7). As I have suggested elsewhere (PINK, 2007a) audiovisual representations offer us possibilities to empathetically imagine ourselves into the places occupied, and sensations felt by others (following the work of David MACDOUGALL, 1998, 2005 and Laura MARKS, 2000). We may not feel precisely the same sensations as those represented did, nor understand these through the same culturally and biographically informed narratives. Nevertheless it is important not to undervalue the potential of visual images to invite us to imagine ourselves into other people's worlds, and in doing so to empathise with their emplacement—both physical and emotional. As I shall suggest below, this capacity of audiovisual media and techniques might also have persuasive potential. [6]

3. The Research Context: Cittàslow Places

Between 2005-7 my research was focused on the development of the international Cittàslow (Slow City) movement in the United Kingdom (see http://www.cittaslow.net/ and http://www.cittaslow.org.uk/)—a project inevitably concerned with how places are made. Cittàslow is an international urban social movement founded in Italy in 1999. It practices a form of indirect activism which involves demonstrating, by example and in practice, the benefits of its model and principles for urban governance. The aims of the movement promote "the use of technology oriented to improving the quality of the environment and of the urban fabric, and in addition the safe-guarding of the production of unique foods and wine … [that] …contribute to the character of the region" (http://www.cittaslow.net/sezioni/Rete%20Internazionale/pagine.asp?idn=1236, accessed 22nd September 2008). It links with several contemporary themes in that

"[w]ith the overarching ideas of environmental conservation, the promotion of sustainable development, and the improvement of the urban life, Slow Cities provide incentives to food production using natural and environmentally-friendly techniques" and "Slow Cities [themselves] seek to promote dialog and communication between local producers and consumers" (http://www.cittaslow.net/pagine.asp?idn=996, accessed 12th January 2007). [7]

To join, member towns have to score at least 50% against almost 60 criteria and once they are members they continue to work towards improving their scores. Cittàslow UK was established in 2004, and is based in Ludlow. It is actually the Town Councils of Cittàslow towns that become members of the movement in the UK. Their work is organised by the town council's Cittàslow committee. At the time of writing there are five UK Cittàslow towns, one of which is Diss, the town I discuss in this article (for some locally produced images of Diss see http://dev.dissconnected.net/about-diss/diss-photos). Diss, a market town in South Norfolk, is the first train stop in the journey from Norwich (the regional capital) to London, and in 2008 has a population "approaching 7,000" (http://www.diss.co.uk/local_history.asp, accessed 13th February 2008). Diss was awarded Cittàslow membership in 2006, after an application process led by a group of key local actors most of whom were town councillors. In 2007 Diss successfully applied to the EU Leader+fund, which has helped to develop Cittàslow related projects, establish the town's Cittàslow Centre and employ Cynthia Schears the Cittàslow Diss co-ordinator. New media are also part of Diss's development. One example is the www.dissconnected.net web site, described as "a 'connected community', now forming, for enhanced quality of life and local sustainability" (http://dissconnected.net/about-us, accessed 15th February 2008).



Figure 1: The Diss Cittàslow Centre in the town centre combines the Cittàslow Office and a shop that sells local produce and crafts. Note the Cittàslow Snail—the symbol and logo of the movement to the left of the banner. To the right is the logo of Diss Community Partnership, which is also very involved in the projects associated with Cittàslow. © Sarah PINK (2007) [8]

4. The Research Idea

My visual ethnography research in Diss began in the summer of 2006. Initially, once the town was granted membership I carried out audio-recorded interviews with its Cittàslow leaders and kept in touch with the funding application process and the development of selected Cittàslow projects throughout 2006-7. In the spring and summer of 2007 I developed a closer focus on how the town was represented in audiovisual media. Diss is particularly interesting in this respect since historically it was represented in poetry of John Skelton who was "poet-laureate and rector of Diss in the early 16th century" and Sir John Betjeman who was also poet laureate in the 1970s (Diss Town Guide 2005-7). Betjeman also made a television film Something About Diss in the town in 1964, which I discuss below. My visual ethnography study of movement around Diss was a serendipitous outcome of my learning about these activities. It was inspired through a combination of my reflections on methods I have used in other towns, and my growing awareness of existing local approaches to representing the town. [9]

My initial idea was to build on the video tour method (PINK, 2004, 2006, 2007a, 2007b) I have used to research people's relationships to their sensory homes (PINK, 2004, 2006) and a community garden project in another UK Cittàslow town, Aylsham (PINK, 2007b). The video tour is a collaborative method that involves walking around a specific place with a research participant. The research encounter is video recorded, by the researcher, and amongst other things might focus on aspects of the physical and multisensorial environment as ways of exploring material/sensorial practices and meanings, and place-making. In this case it had occurred to me to use this video tour methodology to create a semi-structured research event which would build on an experience I had in another Cittàslow town, Mold in Wales (PINK, 2008). There, when I requested to visit the town, the Cittàslow leaders participating in my research, led by Andrea Mearns, produced a Cittàslow tour of Mold for me. I was met by and passed along a series of Cittàslow leaders between 10.00 in the morning and 4.00 in the afternoon one December Saturday in 2006. Each person walked me to a different part of the town that was associated with Cittàslow, including the farmers' market, café's, a Club House project, the site of a future skate-board park and more. In Diss I planned to ask local people involved in Cittàslow to take me on a video recorded tour of the town that would incorporate what they felt were the key characteristics of Diss as a Cittàslow member-town. However, as becomes evident below, this is not what happened—methods developed in one context are often not transferable to another (PINK, 2007a). [10]

Early in 2007 I met two Diss Cittàslow Leaders, Tony Palmer and Gary Alexander at Gary's home to talk through recent developments in the town's Cittàslow process. There I first suggested the idea of a Cittàslow video tour of Diss. They recommended that I approach Bas Abbot, who I arranged to meet at his office. Once we had met I soon realised why Tony and Gary had proposed that I speak with him. Bas is involved in Cittàslow and a good number of other things in the town. This includes being the Director of the Museum, the editor of the town guide and responsible for the town's festivals and cultural programme. He is a local historian and leads tours of the town including his "murder tour". Bas also represents Diss externally, for instance in the summer of 2007 he was interviewed as part of a television programme concerning one of Diss's historical buildings. We discussed the possibility of a video walk around the town later in the year, but before doing so Bas recommended two related existing documentary films to me: Something About Diss was made by John Betjeman for the BBC in 1964. The second documentary, Something Else About Diss, made by Bas with a local production company in 2003 brings its audience up to date with developments in Diss since its precursor was made. I agreed to view these films and from that basis consider how we might develop the video tour. As such I was undertaking one of the first tasks a visual ethnographer should attend to: to investigate and analyse the existing local visual culture. This can provide ways into understanding local people's expectations of audiovisual media. Moreover in this particular case the routes created in these films highlight significant emotional, sensory and material aspects of the town, as well suggesting how documentary film can become involved in place-making. [11]

5. A Stroll around Diss on the Town Trail

After meeting Bas, and before viewing the films, I walked to Diss museum where I found another example of local visual culture centred on movement: a leaflet outlining the Stroll Around Diss on the Town Trail. Through a combination of written instructions, a map with numbered points that are cross referenced in the text as well as drawings of the key sights and landmarks that one should encounter, the leaflet guides its user through the town on foot. Of particular interest is the relationship between the written and visual text of the guide. The walker is instructed not only about the route to take around the town, but also about where she or he should look and what she or he should see. In my own experience of the walk, I felt one of my tasks as a walker was to seek out the sights represented in the leaflet. The leaflet both becomes part of the physical environment in which the walker is participating (following the phenomenological approach of INGOLD, 2000), and also directs the way in which one participates visually in this environment. As such the written text and visualisations can be seen as a technology for place-making. As an example I take a small section of the walk which starts near the Mere (six acres in size). The Mere is one of the deepest natural inland lakes in the country (http://www.disscouncil.com/about-diss.php, accessed 28th August 2007) and a distinguishing feature of the town (see also http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/funstuff/360/diss_mere_360.shtml). The walker traverses Mere Street and is invited by the written text to seek a particular visual perspective─to "stand back to notice the variety of buildings on either side of the road". As she/he progresses the text continues to provide information about local architecture and historical building techniques, before pointing out "the fine 15th century oak corner post, with a carved angel …". The walker continues into the Market Place where she/he is invited to gaze on the Dolphin House, the Post Office and the Church. Many of these material references points are also cited in Something About Diss. Indeed later the walker is reminded of Betjeman on turning right into Mount Street where it is noted that "Mount Street was described by John Betjeman as a 'Charming Street'". The leaflet directs both the feet and the gaze of the walker to create a place with certain characteristics, defined verbally towards the end of the text as a town that has "prosper[ed] into modern times, yet without drastic rebuilding. In this way it has retained its historic character". Nevertheless simultaneously the leaflet offers the walker a tool and framework through which to make place her/himself. This place-making is not simply a visual practice, since one is not simply invited to match up correspondences between the visualisations in the leaflet and the sights encountered on the walk. The walker is also invited to imagine her or himself as walking the same routes that were part of the everyday rout(ine)s of historical personages. For when walking along "THE ENTRY" which was "formerly the 'Parsons (or 'parsonage') Entry' i.e. the way from the Rectory to the Church". By following in other people's footsteps one is not just imagining what they saw, but feeling the ground underfoot, the weather all around and smells and sounds that might be similar (historical change accounted for) to what others experienced in the past. My interpretation of this tour is that it uses visual and written forms to guide the user's/walkers participation in their environment and as such the way they make place, it invites the walker to see, to sense and to imagine others' experiences of the route and the sights it represents. The tour depends on the individual's (or perhaps a group) experience-based engagement in this framed place-making process. Using visual and written representations it offers a framework for place-making but also requires that the walker participate in making place her or himself. [12]

6. A History Walk

After walking the Town Trail I felt I needed to link my solitary experience and imaginings from my town trail experience to more social encounters. During Diss's history festival in May 2007, another walk of the town was advertised in the festival programme—the History Walk. As I suggest elsewhere (PINK, forthcoming) in a more detailed analysis of my participation in this walk as a sensory ethnography methodology the history walk was not simply a walk but also a lesson in how to see. It required us to acquire something similar to what Cristina GRASSENI (2004) has called "skilled vision" (in her analysis of her "apprenticeship" in the visual evaluation of cattle). The walk created the town through a route that connects a series of key sites, including the museum, the church(es), historical houses, the alleyway that Betjeman walked up (but we walked down it), historical carvings, pathways that were the everyday routes of the past. However on the walk we learnt not only what we were meant to look at, but what to look for when looking, and the meanings of what we saw. The walk was thus instructive of a particular gaze on the town which appreciated the detail, historical value and local meanings of its material environment. It also asked us to gaze critically on the town as we walked along Mere Street where we could see the "visible evidence" of change. [13]

7. Something About Diss and Something Else About Diss

The following evening I viewed the television documentary Something About Diss made by John Betjeman in 1964 for the local BBC based in Norwich (the regional capital). Betjeman himself chose Diss for the programme and made the film with one day in Diss and another for other shots (Malcolm Freegard, introduction to the film). This film, along with Betjeman's poem "A Mind's Journey to Diss" have had a lasting impact on local public culture, demonstrated by the Betjeman centenary celebrations held in Diss in 2006. Without synchronous sound the film has a voiceover narrative spoken by Betjeman accompanied by readings from the Diss Town Guide of the time spoken by a non-local woman's voice. Unlike the walking tours discussed above the documentary is not based solely on a circular walk around the town. Rather its main narrative follows Betjeman as he, starting from the railway station, proceeds by car, and then by foot through the town. This route on foot allows him to explore a set of material landmarks/places in the town. This narrative is inter-cut with historical photographs of the town comparing past with the present in 1964, and the readings from the town guide. A second device of the film involves thematic edited sequences of key landmarks of the town. For example, one series of images represents the different denominational churches in the town, and another shows old and new buildings in different states of repair. Together these two filmic strategies create the town as place. The first by creating routes through it that connect the markers of its uniqueness and history. The second by compiling narratives of sets of images that draw together material features of the town that are similar and comparative to stress particular characteristics of the town. These strategies might be understood in terms of CASEY's (1996) idea of the "gathering" process that is part of place-making. The film itself gathers and represents the town through these narratives. In doing so Betjeman gives the film a critical edge, and in fact for reasons discussed below the film has been referred to locally (in the later documentary Something Else About Diss) as timely propaganda. I suggest the walking of routes and creating of place through narrative play a role in this. [14]

The film starts at the railway station, from where Betjeman takes a taxi to the town, driving through the (now pedestrianised) Mere Street to the Kings Head Inn where he was to stay. He then proceeds on foot to a shop, noting a medieval carving on its exterior before entering to purchase some postcards, the town guide and the Diss Express newspaper, and narrate that "the first thing to do" is to buy some local postcards to find out what is important to local people. This is the beginning of Betjeman's walk about Diss. He continues from the shop past the market place to the church, his voiceover points out the gargoyles and comments on how the Poet Laureate John Skelton who was a vicar at the church "must have looked at that flint", inviting the viewer opportunities for the double imagining of seeing what Skelton saw through the eyes of Betjeman. On his departure Betjeman leads the viewer through an archway and to the gate, he points out "Drapers row" opposite commenting that "it is always worth going up alleys in old towns" and describes the medieval buildings there as he walks up the slope of the alley and to a building where he points out a wood carving of the annunciation and nativity. Later in the documentary as Betjeman walks back into the town centre the narration becomes more pointed. He begins to stress the continued existence of family businesses and local shops, and this is followed by a more critical voicing accompanied by the edited images of different forms of old and new architecture and buildings, some of which are in states of disrepair. He laments that old houses are "being allowed to fall to bits" when "you could buy them very cheaply and turn them into comfortable places to live in" and criticises the new examples of contemporary architecture in the town. As the film ends, Betjeman walks back to the Mere and accompanied by a series of edited images of the Mere he begins to speak of the possibility of "overspill"—the arrival of industrial workers from the north in the town. He warns that "supermarkets will appear in the streets" and there would be "strangers everywhere", bringing "the end of what is home for 4,000 [the population of Diss at the time] people"; something that he concludes "it can't be right". It now becomes clear that the film has created Diss as a place through Betjeman's walks, voiceovers and visual narratives, as a place of amongst other things, historic architecture and small family owned shops. Something that he finally tells us is being threatened, both by new building and failure to preserve old houses and through the possibility of overspill. [15]

In the first years of the twenty first century a second documentary Something Else About Diss was made by Bas Abbott with Sonic Zone, a local production company. This video exists in direct dialogue with Betjeman's film, indeed it could be said to "gather" it along with a series of other local identity markers. There are many ways in which the latter documentary references the former. For example the new documentary is inter-cut with clips from the earlier film that directly compare former and present views in a way similar to Betjeman's use of older photographs. The film also follows a similar route: taking a car journey from the railway station to the now pedestrianised Mere Street where the camera leaves the car to walk along the street, noting how the Georgian Terrace that Betjeman had remarked on had been replaced by a supermarket, continuing to the carved angel of the exterior of the shop in which Betjeman had bought his Diss Town Guide and later to the carving of the enunciation and nativity and the Greyhound Inn both of which featured in Something About Diss. In contrast to the "outsider" voiceover of Betjeman's film Something Else About Diss rings with local voices and Norfolk accents. It is steeped in local history, part of which is Something About Diss itself. The new documentary tells something of an oral history of Betjeman's visit through interviews with those who had met him during his day in the town. We also hear that the woman who was filmed cleaning the church during his visit to it had said he was a "lovely man", representing something of this element of the sociality of his visit. While "gathering" material elements of the town that have persisted since the 1960s Something Else About Diss also comments on changes that are related to the more critical aspects of Betjeman's commentary. We learn how some of the locally owned shops that Betjeman had pointed out have now gone. In Fair Green we see that much property has been renovated, and that in this case "today his [Betjeman's] vision has come true". Indeed towards the end of Something Else About Diss the narrator refers to Something about Diss as a "timely piece of propaganda against overspill". As local people have also told me it was only a chairman's casting vote that refused overspill in Diss. Now, the narrator continues the supermarkets are "taking trade away" but nevertheless the "spirit of the town remains". [16]

Together these two documentaries create routes around the town to make place for a particular purpose. They represent Diss as a historical town, in which one needs to learn where to look; Betjeman refers to local postcards and the town guide; Bas and his colleagues drew from Betjeman's film and from local knowledge. The films are didactic in that they "teach" us about what is important and characteristic of the town. They also make arguments about the importance and desirability of locally owned independent shops in contrast to supermarkets. Because they approach the town, at least in part, on foot they offer the viewer an emplaced position with which to empathise with their central characters and these concerns. [17]

8. Converging Routes

These four cultural products—a town trail leaflet, a walk and two documentaries are all ways of making place in movement, by walking, and by viewing walks on films in ways that involve sensorial engagements that entail not just looking, but feeling or imagining the ground underfoot, the weather (central to my experience of the walks and explicitly compared between the films), and many others things. The different texts and routes share a series of correspondences that are key to the constitution of the identity of the town through routes and movement. And these have significance at personal, public, and outsider levels. An analysis of these alone would have led me to conclude that there is a standard public way of representing the town through routes and mobilities. It involves a series of interwoven routes around the town, represented using different media and methods, that cross reference each other, are structured around many of the same material reference points, and that represent similar types of concerns about the future of the town. Up to a point these existing representations contest what one might see as a dominant process of economic globalisation, in this case in the form of the spread of global retail (in particular supermarket) chains. The analysis of these representations provides an important context for my wider research project, since Cittàslow, the urban social movement I am analysing, is also involved with developing forms of contesting these forms of globalisation, through the promotion of local produce and business. An understanding of these materials would help me to draw parallels between Cittàslow and the work done by existing local visual cultural products, which in turn would help to unravel aspects of the relationships between the town and the movement. However they are not the only forms of local contestation through the visualisation of routes and mobilities; in fact the context is more complex. [18]

9. Obstructed Routes

During the Diss History Festival in Spring 2007 I spent a day doing participant observation at an exhibition of projects in the town led by the Diss Community Partnership, an organisation closely involved with Cittàslow in Diss. Here I first met Sally Wilson at the Diss Access Study stand. The study evaluates the mobility problems encountered by disabled people in Diss, producing written reports and photographic evidence. The Access Study is undertaken only by disabled people, as Sally told me when we met for an interview later that summer, "we intend to be doing all the research ourselves so that … it's never some able-bodied person's idea of what's accessible". I found Sally's exhibition particularly striking because it displayed photographs of disabled people confronted with situations in which the physical layout of the town restricted their mobility. Because the images invited viewers to imagine themselves in the bodies of the people photographed, and thus to engage empathetically with their emplacement, for me it was a convincing visual narrative. When I interviewed Sally she explained how the study involves carrying out a systematic evaluation of different areas of the town:

"In the case of an outside place [we look at] things like quality of road surface: are there tripping hazards on the pavement?; are paths at funny angles? Because if you're in a wheelchair, especially a heavy electric wheelchair, if the path is at a funny angle it can actually throw you over. There are a couple of places in Diss like that, I think. One of the chaps who helps me has a great big wheelchair and he's very handy on that one. He was very nearly lying in a road at one place which was rather unfortunate" (interview in August 2007 with Sally Wilson) [19]

As Sally's description shows the study is concerned with identifying aspects of the material structure of the town that make the experience of being in the town uncomfortable for disabled people. The existing literature about urban mobilities and routes has brought to the fore the multisensoriality of urban walking (e.g. LEE & INGOLD, 2006). Sally's words above bring to the fore the multisensoriality of other types of urban mobility. The texture and slant of the terrain is not simply something one feels underfoot, but can also determine the corporeal experiences of a wheelchair user. [20]

Sally explained that the images selected for the Community Partnership event display focused mainly on "a sort of lightening glance at Mere Street [the town's main, and pedestrianised shopping street] really" and outlined some of the issues that they had been able to visualise, identifying how, for instance for one shop, "you've got no chance of getting in there, it's two steps up and then inside it's very narrow and more steps inside". She also pointed out how "there's something very uncomfortable about being made to do one's business sat out on the street. When you go to the bank you have to ring a bell and they'll come out and deal with you in the street, you know". This "tour" of the town and the experiences Sally describes as being associated with it stands in stark contrast to the possibilities for movement that Betjeman and those of us who took the history tour of Diss might have. [21]

Physical obstructions do not just mean physical discomfort, but also, as Sally stressed, the emotional discomfort of not being able to enter a bank and having to be served in the street. Again it is not simply the material obstruction that is the issue but also the forms of both privacy and sociality from which disabled people can feel they are excluded in this context. Sally pointed out one local historical building that housed a restaurant that was only accessible up a flight of steps. Here, she noted that there was no more to say: a photograph expressed the point well. She hoped that the final booklet that would be published as one of the outcomes of the project would be able to include a good number of photos and "There'll probably be photographs of some of the worst hazards". Their photographs were already being disseminated and were being used by the Norfolk Coalition of disabled people (Sally is a member of their Steering Committee), and were to be displayed as part of an access week later that year in various towns. [22]

The Access photographs and written texts that will accompany them thus represent another way of creating and visualising the town through movement. Here movement itself is the issue. One of the points the project is making is that the material context of the town obstructs some people's paths, in ways that disempower them. In part this limits their choice as consumers since Sally pointed out it is often easier for a wheel chair user to get in and around a big supermarket than a small independent trading shop in a historic building. The Access photographs thus represent the town as a place of obstructed routes. Nevertheless this should not be interpreted as being in conflict with the towns' Cittàslow process. Indeed the Access study clearly belongs to a part of the Cittàslow's agenda in order to make its towns inclusive and accessible. [23]

10. Entangled Routes

It should now be clear that the tours of Diss discussed above overlap with each other in several ways. INGOLD has suggested that "For inhabitants … the environment does not consist of the surroundings of a bounded place but of a zone in which their several pathways are thoroughly entangled" (2007, p.103). His ideas offer a way to understand the relationship between these different representations of routes and mobilities in Diss. Each representation has its own narrative and agenda. Moreover, they communicate about and across different historical periods, using media ranging from written text and drawing, to film, video, audio-visual, speech, and photography. Yet taken together this group of representations can be understood as a set of entangled pathways that inter-reference each other to create place in such a way that is itself suggestive of time and space. I conclude by discussing the significance of this for visual ethnography practice. [24]

11. Conclusion: Treading a Place for Visual Ethnography in Movement

My aim has been to draw attention to how a visual ethnography of and in movement that attends to routes, mobilities—and essentially to how these are represented—can reveal important ethnographic insights into how urban places are constituted, and contested. By focusing on how movement participates in how place is made through performance, text and the ethnographers' own participation we are invited to attend to the textual, embodied and phenomenological aspects of place-making. We also see how different routes, mobilities and voices can create place in different ways and from different perspectives, even though they might share many aspects of a common narrative and invite the viewer to gaze either in similar ways, or at the same material "landmarks". Analysis of the place-making processes of local visual representations, local visual practices, and the ethnographer's own visual practices can lead us to a way of understanding the multilayered nature of how place is constituted and the conflicting but entangled perspectives from which places might be understood and experienced. [25]

Thus the attention to routes and mobilities that LEE and INGOLD (2006) have called for can, when focused on (audio) visual media and practices, draw our attention to the multilocality (RODMAN, 2003) of urban contexts. In the case study discussed above this approach has shown up both the multiple processes of place-making that might be in process historically and simultaneously and the inevitable intersections, interdependencies and contestations that exist between these routes and places as made. Following INGOLD's (2007) framework, it reveals zones of entangled pathways. I am not suggesting that such an approach is a substitute for the sort of in-depth ethnography that involves experiencing and arriving at understandings of other people's everyday routes and mobilities (as in for instance LEE & INGOLD, 2006). But that it might play a different and sometimes complementary role in urban ethnography across social science and humanities disciplines. [26]

12. Coda

I did not undertake the Cittàslow video tour of Diss with which I began the story of my research, but in the process of researching it I learnt much more about the way Diss is "made" as place that I would have through a single tour. Rather than asking people to engage in perhaps complicated visual research exercises that are of the researcher's own design, it is sometimes better to learn from research participants' own visual practices. In the summer of 2007, once the Cittàslow Centre was opened, Cynthia (the Cittàslow Co-ordinator) told me that as part of their activities a group of Cittàslow leaders, in collaboration with an agency they had commissioned, was designing a new route through the town that tourists and locals alike would be able to follow. This was being tentatively called the "Snail Trail" and would be a Cittàslow tour of the town. It would possibly incorporate local produce eating places, areas of historical interest, and other things of Cittàslow value. Thus a Cittàslow tour of the town, similar to that I had envisaged as a research exercise, was to be created by the Cittàslow committee members as something that would be meaningful and useful to them. Some visual ethnography research contexts do not offer the luxury of "waiting to see what happens". When this is possible it can bring more relevant knowledge. [27]

Acknowledgements

This paper was presented at the EUROQUAL Conference on Visual Methods (Berlin) in 2007. Other versions of it or parts of this work were also presented at the "Tourism and Visuality" Conference (Eastbourne), Nordic Network of Visual Studies Conference (Stockholm), Life Course Studies Research Institute (Keele) and the Sensecapes seminar series (Salford) all in 2007-8. I am very grateful to the participants in these events who provided comments and feedback that have supported the development of this final version.

The research this article is based on forms part of a project about the development of Cittàslow in the UK. This was funded initially by the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Loughborough University and subsequently by the Nuffield Foundation. I am enormously grateful to all the people who have participated in, supported and thus made possible, this research in Diss and elsewhere.

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Author

Sarah PINK is Reader in Social Anthropology in the Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University (UK). Her books include Doing Visual Ethnography (2007), The Future of Visual Anthropology (2006) and Visual Interventions (ed.) (2007). Most of her research (academic and applied) involves the use of visual research methods and media. Her most recent research has been about the Slow City (Cittàslow) movement in the UK. Her next book will be about the senses in ethnographic research.

Contact:

Sarah Pink

Department of Social Sciences
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU, UK

E-mail: s.pink@lboro.ac.uk

Citation

Pink, Sarah (2008). Mobilising Visual Ethnography: Making Routes, Making Place and Making Images [27 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(3), Art. 36, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0803362.



Copyright (c) 2008 Sarah Pink

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