Interrogating the Conventional Boundaries of Research Methods in Social Sciences: The Role of Visual Representation in Ethnography

  • Nel Glass Southern Cross University
Keywords: artwork, representation, intersubjectivity, reciprocity, ethnography, interrogation, hope, resilience, optimism


The author will propose that the use of performative social science is a means to deliberately interrogate long held conventions of established research. The innovative role of visual art representation in data collection, analysis and public engagement with research will be discussed. Examples will be drawn from two postmodern feminist ethnographic research which investigated academic professional development, resilience, hope and optimism in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand from 1997-2005. Artwork was initially created as data collection and digitalised as representation to intentionally validate the voices of research participants, the researcher and viewers of the work. The research participants and viewers were given opportunities to actively engage with the visual work. Artwork complimented two additional research methods: critical conversational interviewing and reflective journaling. This paper will address the ways inclusion of art methods contributed and deepened data representation. The role of crafting artwork in the field, the artistic changes that represented the complexity of data analysis and engagement with the work will be explored. It will be argued that the creation and engagement with artwork in research is an empowering and dynamic process for researchers and participants. It is an innovative means of representing intersubjectivity that results in reciprocity. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0802509


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Author Biography

Nel Glass, Southern Cross University
Nel GLASS (RN, BA, MHPEd, PhD) is a registered nurse, sociologist and digital artist. Nel is an Associate Professor and Director of Research and Postgraduate Studies. She has been engaged in feminist emancipatory research projects for most of her academic career. Her research projects continue to be centred on improving workplace practices, hope resilience, optimism; notions of voice, healing and mobile subjectivities.
How to Cite
Glass, N. (2008). Interrogating the Conventional Boundaries of Research Methods in Social Sciences: The Role of Visual Representation in Ethnography. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2).