Is virtual photovoice still photovoice? Methodological reflections, trade-offs and possibilities

Authors: Jin Chen*,
Topics: Qualitative Methods
Keywords: photovoice, qualitative research, methodology, reflexivity, Australia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 19
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Photovoice and its cousin, photo-elicitation, have been deployed by geographers and other researchers to deepen dialogues and involve participants in the co-production of knowledge through photography. Both—and in particular, photovoice—emphasise the importance of face-to-face discussions for enhanced interactivity, rapport building, interpretation and analysis. In recent years, a handful of studies have taken photovoice online to scale up and connect participants across borders. As these studies are new, questions on the methodological complexities of online photovoice and photo-elicitation remain. Yet, with COVID-19 imposing restrictions on travel and in-person gatherings, there is a need to engage meaningfully with these alternative virtual methodologies. This paper presents preliminary reflections on an online photovoice study with a small group of multicultural LGBTQIA+ people across Australia. It highlights the practical process of virtual photovoice and the changes, challenges and trade-offs involved in shifting photovoice online. It pays particular attention to how participants and researcher-facilitator discuss and interpret the photographs and narratives in a virtual space. This meaning-making is the core of photovoice, and unpacking the role of the researcher as an online facilitator is crucial. Finally, going back to the philosophical origins of photovoice as Freirian critical pedagogy, feminist participation and documentary photography, it ponders the question: can photovoice be virtual while staying true to its roots?

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