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Anthropology Arts and Culture

Notes on Visual Analysis in Anthropology

Visual images are texts to be read.  The types of visual media are varied. They can be moving, such as a film, or still images. Still images include photography, paintings, doodles, and graphics. Visual analysis researchers the producers and consumers of images. Psychoanalytic theory focuses on the representations of images. A content analysis will look at images as a contextual narrative. Semiotic analysis relates what is signified by images as signs.  The chapter also describes photo-elucidation and memory work. These methods use photographs (or other images) to stimulate conversation on memories of participants. Photo-elucidation may be useful within a questionnaire, especially some photographs of damaged rock art sites.

Another interesting idea that I had not considered prior to reading this chapter is participant mapping. This method provides visual data from the perspective of the participant. For my thesis research, I would like to use structured observations and have considered each observer mapping the space as a participant. The chapter finishes with a discussion on ethics. The ethical considerations of visual analysis relate to protecting the anonymity of persona who may be in the photographs, as well as publishing and copyright issues.

For me personally, I find that there are many facets of visual analysis that are relevant to consider, as much of human computer interaction, and user experience is visual based, or especially when it isn’t. For example, with screen reader technology.

Notes from Ali, S. (2012). Visual Analysis. In C. Seale (Ed.), Researching Society and Culture (3rd ed, p. 283-). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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