Visual Research Methods

There is a growing interest in the role of visual methods in researching organisations.  Organization Studies have recently published a special issue on the material and visual turn.   

The special issue editors highlight that the organisations of today ‘rely on images, logos, videos, building materials, graphic and product design, and a range of other material and visual artifacts to compete, communicate, form identity and organise their activities (Boxenbaum et al., 2018, p. 597).

Why I find visual methods interesting is not only in using them as a form of data collection and analysis but also to use visual material to disseminate your research findings and engage with different audiences.  What makes them a useful tool is that using visual images we as researchers have the capacity to convey multiple meanings, thereby evoking a variety of interpretations and feelings (e.g., Langer, 1953). 

The visual “provides a crucial and unique resource through which the unobservable, unknowable substances…take form and become, in the literal sense of the word, visible” (Höllerer, Jancsary, Meyer, & Vettori, 2013, p. 141).  When we combine these with text we are able to clarify the complexity of meaning in visual images and highlight key findings to our audience.

My current and future research will involve experimenting with novel forms of visual communication, combinations of text and images, as well as evaluating these different approaches to engaged research. 

References

Boxenbaum, E., Jones, C., Meyer, R.E., & Svejenova, S. (2018). Towards an articulation of the material and visual turn in organization studies, Introduction to the Special Issue Editorial: The Material and Visual Turn in Organization Theory: Objectifying and (Re)acting to Novel Ideas Organization Studies, Vol. 39(5-6) 597–616.

Höllerer, M., Jancsary, D., Meyer, R. E., & Vettori, O. (2013). Imageries of corporate social responsibility: Visual recontextualization and field-level meaning. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 39(B), 139–174.

Langer, S. K. (1953) Feeling and form: A theory of art developed from philosophy in a new key. New York: Scribner.