'Who put that on there … why why why?' Power games and participatory techniques of visual data production

Visual Studies 28 (2):136-146 (2013)
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The use of participant-led visual data production is often seen as advantageous because data can be directed, constructed and created away from the influence of the researcher. The case for employing the visual to engender participatory research, and specifically to limit the intrusive presence of the researcher, is well versed and in vogue within the field of social science; however, although participatory techniques offer an opportunity to disrupt power relations, they are unable to transcend familial practices. Drawing from a study in which mother/daughter dyads produced photographs, collages, maps and stories to communicate their everyday lives and ideas of the future, this paper examines the wider role of ‘intrusive presence’. The paper documents incidents of external physical interference where visual data was amended, the influence of outside suggestion in the creative process, and the restrictions placed by the imagined reactions of the viewer. The paper argues that when the ‘intrusive presence’ of the researcher steps out of the site of visual data production this leaves a space that is often filled by the ‘intrusive presence’ of significant others.
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