The Visual Matrix Method: Imagery and Affect in a Group-Based Research Setting


  • Lynn Froggett University of Central Lancashire
  • Julian Manley University of Central Lancashire
  • Alastair Roy University of Central Lancashire



visual matrix, association, scenic, rhizome, methodology, affect, images, psychosocial, social dreaming


The visual matrix is a method for researching shared experience, stimulated by sensory material relevant to a research question. It is led by imagery, visualization and affect, which in the matrix take precedence over discourse. The method enables the symbolization of imaginative and emotional material, which might not otherwise be articulated and allows "unthought" dimensions of experience to emerge into consciousness in a participatory setting. We describe the process of the matrix with reference to the study "Public Art and Civic Engagement" (FROGGETT, MANLEY, ROY, PRIOR & DOHERTY, 2014) in which it was developed and tested. Subsequently, examples of its use in other contexts are provided. Both the matrix and post-matrix discussions are described, as is the interpretive process that follows. Theoretical sources are highlighted: its origins in social dreaming; the atemporal, associative nature of the thinking during and after the matrix which we describe through the Deleuzian idea of the rhizome; and the hermeneutic analysis which draws from object relations theory and the Lorenzerian tradition of scenic understanding.

The matrix has been conceptualized as a "scenic rhizome" to account for its distinctive quality and hybrid origins in research practice. The scenic rhizome operates as a "third" between participants and the "objects" of contemplation. We suggest that some of the drawbacks of other group-based methods are avoided in the visual matrix—namely the tendency for inter-personal dynamics to dominate the event.



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Author Biographies

Lynn Froggett, University of Central Lancashire

Lynn FROGGETT is Professor and Director of the Psychosocial Research Unit at the University Central Lancashire, UK, and visiting Research Professor at the University of Stavanger Norway and the University of Roskilde, Denmark. She has a cross-disciplinary formation in the humanities and social sciences and a particular interest in developing empirical methodologies that bridge the two domains. Recent research projects are in the socially engaged arts, arts and health, third sector community organizations and citizenship, networks of helping and informal care. She is executive and founding member of the Association for Psychosocial Studies and the International Research Group for Psychosocietal Analysis and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Julian Manley, University of Central Lancashire

Julian MANLEY researches at the Psychosocial Research Unit, University of Central Lancashire. The main focus of his research emanates from the development of theories arising from the study of social dreaming and related visual methodologies. To this end, he is Chair of the Academic Research Committee of the Gordon Lawrence Foundation for the promotion of social dreaming, and member of the Association for Psychosocial Studies. Related areas of interest include experiential group work, the relationship between affect and image, the "shared unconscious," and inter- subjectivity in a postmodern environment, with a particular interest in Deleuzian perspectives. He is a member of the Climate Psychology Alliance that pursues an understanding of psychosocial attitudes to climate change.

Alastair Roy, University of Central Lancashire

Alastair ROY is Reader in Psychosocial Research at the University of Central Lancashire. Reader in Psychosocial Research at the University of Central Lancashire. He is particularly interested in the development of psycho-social and psycho-societal methods. Exploring the links between social responsibility and the social imagination has been central to work undertaken across the fields of social welfare, health and the cultural sector. Recent work has centered on the development of mobile and visual methods. He is currently leading an Economic and Social Research Council funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership in which mobile methods are being used to explore recovery from substance misuse.




How to Cite

Froggett, L., Manley, J., & Roy, A. (2015). The Visual Matrix Method: Imagery and Affect in a Group-Based Research Setting. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(3).



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