Seeing is Believing? Approaches to Visual Research

ISBN: 978-0-76231-021-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-211-5

ISSN: 1042-3192

Publication date: 30 December 2004


In assembling a collection of papers which address issues relating to the visual image as the medium through which we might come to know the social world, we are in a sense, merely drawing on something that most of us do and take for granted during all of our waking hours. For most of us, the world in which we live is experienced through our capacity to see and to make sense of what we see. At its most fundamental, visual research draws on our basic capacity to interpret the world through our sense of sight. In this respect, for those of us who are not in anyway visually impaired visual research might be seen to be little more than something that we do all the time in order to go about our everyday lives. We might also argue that all or at least the great majority of social research relies on our capacity to interpret and to make sense of visual images. This is true not only in cases where methods of observation and participant observation are used, but also in respect of the need to read written data of various kinds, to interpret statistics and merely to orient ourselves within any given research location. Whilst there is no intention here to deny or overlook the contribution that blind or partially sighted researchers may make to our understanding of social life through their work with the written medium or through their capacity to give accounts of their personal experiences of research sites and locations via other, perhaps more developed, senses such as hearing, touch and smell, it remains a fact that most social research relies on the capacity of the researcher to see and to interpret on the basis of what is seen.


Pole, C. (2004), "VISUAL RESEARCH: POTENTIAL AND OVERVIEW", Pole, C. (Ed.) Seeing is Believing? Approaches to Visual Research (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-7.

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