Do You Want to Watch a Movie?
Conceptualizing Video in Qualitative Research as
an Imaginative Invitation
Sara Scott Shields1
Florida State University
Leslie Rech Penn
University of Georgia
This paper is positioned as a reflective exploration of the question: How might we use video
representation as an imaginative invitation? We begin with a brief introduction, contextually
situating ourselves within the world of image and arts-based practices. Then explore theoretical
literature surrounding representation and our own understanding of what representation is and is
not. Following this we ask, how might we use video representation as an imaginative invitation?
Here we explore the potential for video to capture the movements of research and challenge how
this might shift our ontological understanding of what it means to present research findings, by
conceptualizing representation as an invitation to participate. Finally, as an analytic exercise, we
invite you to watch a video with us, offering our discussion of the video as an attempt to
demonstrate how a viewer might respond to a video invitation. In closing, we challenge you to
explore the potential for video to become an imaginative invitation in your own work.
Keywords: video research; representation; imaginative invitation
Biographical statements: Sara Scott Shields, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Art Education at Florida
State University in Tallahassee, FL. Sara currently serves as the editor of The Journal of Art for Life and as
the director of the MS in Art Education program at FSU. She received her BFA in Ceramics and Art
Education and her MaED in Art Education from East Carolina University, later receiving her PhD in Art
Education from The University of Georgia. Before working as an Assistant Professor, she worked for six
years as a high school art teacher in Wilmington, NC. All of her research endeavors explore the question:
How are the arts uniquely positioned to address the development of pedagogical and scholarly identities?
Leslie Rech Penn holds a tenured faculty position at South Carolina State University. She received a
Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1995 and a Master of Fine
Arts in Studio Art from the University of South Carolina in 1998. Her artwork has been featured on the cover
of CALYX: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women and she has been awarded fellowship grants from the
Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York and the Fundacion Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain. She is
currently completing her doctoral work in Early Childhood Education at the University of Georgia. The
majority of her work over the last twenty years has addressed the relationships between text and image.
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
In the early 1970s and into the 90s2 philosophical and ethnographic
worlds encountered a “crisis of representation” (Lincoln & Denzin, 1994, p. 9;
Marcus & Fischer, 1986, p. 7). During this time, the world of qualitative research
opened up to include a deep and meaningful exploration of the guiding
epistemological, ontological and axiological values inherent in inquiry (Flaherty,
Denzin, Manning, & Snow, 2002). Scholars began exploring the how and why of
representation in the context of qualitative research. This paper is positioned as
a revisiting of that line of inquiry. In the following pages, we investigate the role
of representation in arts based research and postulate the medium of video as a
means for opening up new ontological possibilities for how we represent and
understand research findings. We explore the idea of video as an imaginative
invitation for the viewer/audience to collaborate and engage in inquiry with
researchers. In our inquiry, two questions push at the boundaries of possibilities
for qualitative research:
What is representation?
How might we use video representation as an imaginative invitation?
We begin with a brief introduction, contextually situating ourselves within the
world of image and arts-based practices. Then, we engage in an exploration of
the first question, exploring theoretical literature surrounding representation and
our own understanding of what representation is and is not. Following this we
ask, how might we use video representation as an imaginative invitation? Here
we explore the potential for video to capture the movements of research and
challenge how this might shift our ontological understanding of what it means to
present research findings, by conceptualizing representation as an invitation to
participate. Finally, as an analytic exercise, we invite you to watch a video with
us, offering our discussion of the video as an attempt to demonstrate how a
viewer might respond to a video invitation. In closing, we challenge you to
explore the potential for video to become an imaginative invitation in your own
Who We Are
Neither my self nor my narrative can have, therefore, a single strand. I stand at
the crossing point of too many social and cultural forces; and, in any case, I am
forever on my way. My identity has to be perceived as multiple.
(Greene, 1995, p. 1)
Before beginning to dissect the role of representation and video in
designing imaginative research invitations, we felt it important to share a bit
about how we came to video representation in the first place. What follows is a
2 Some might argue this crisis of representation is still occurring (Flaherty et al., 2002), although
scholars like Rabinow (1986) and Van Maanen (1995) disagreed.
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
brief exploration of who we are and how we see the world, because we feel the
answers to these questions are the most important strands in our identities as
researchers interested in video methodology.
In most traditional research programs graduate students are asked to
engage in a series of courses focused on developing a set of research skills. For
us, those skills were of the qualitative variety. Within philosophies ranging from
pre-Socratic to postmodern, qualitative methodology courses at our university
focused on the skills to acquire, manage, engage, explore, and present our data
to readers3. While these tools were invaluable for us as burgeoning researchers,
they also bumped up against our shared histories as artists. Throughout our
studies, we continued to ask: What do the tools of qualitative work do for our
nuanced and individual interpretations of the world? Are there other tools,
methods, or practices that could work as well, or better?
In searching for answers to these questions we discovered arts based
research (Barone, & Eisner, 1997; Irwin, Kind, & Springgay, 2005; Knowles,
2007; Leavy, 2015; McNiff, 1998; Rolling, 2013). Because of our shared
backgrounds as artists, this ontological, epistemological, and methodological
approach allowed us to better conceptualize not just our role as
artist/researchers, but also the role of the viewer/audience. Inherent in the
practice of making art is an awareness that the medium often carries a message
(McLuhan, & Fiore, 1967). The stroke of a paintbrush dipped in watercolor and
swept across surfaces sends a different message than the audible crunch of a
dry brush as it scrapes and scratches paper. Even without artistic training this
rings familiar; think for a minute of the emotive quality of Jackson Pollock’s
famous spatters across the canvas of Number 11, juxtaposed with Monet’s
renowned paint strokes in Waterlilies. Both of these paintings done on canvas,
both in oils, yet the paint conveys something completely different in each
painting. This ability for media to manifest in different ways for different artists,
and again for different viewers, is what makes art such an interesting vehicle for
examining the complex concept of representation.
In the artistic sense, representation is often the manifestation of
experience in tangible or sensory forms. Further, there is an implicit
understanding that the artist’s representation and interpretation are but one of
many. While we may never know the artists exact interpretation, we can
construct our own through viewing the final representation of what may have
begun with a conceptual idea.
The power of the arts as a tool for inquiry opens up new possibilities for
representing and interpreting the world around us. As Eisner suggests, “We
seek out the arts in order to take a ride on the winds that art forms
provide...secured largely through our sensory response[s]” (2008, p. 3-4). This
3 It is important to note that our graduate education occurred in a university steeped in the belief
that theory and practice are inextricably linked.
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
interest in the affective qualities of the arts is crucial to our thinking. We
acknowledge and embrace the arts’ ability to provide venues for new ways of
knowing and new forms of knowledge. Not all knowledge is rooted in the
concrete or tangible; in fact, most of the world around us is experienced, sensed,
and felt. These are the phenomena the arts are suited to explore. We do not
argue that arts based research or image based practice are the only ways of
knowing our world, but rather, they are additional ways of experiencing, inquiring,
representing and interpreting it (Eisner, 2008). With an understanding of who we
are and the kinds of research practices we are interested in, we now shift the
discussion back to the issue of representation.
What is Representation?
Within the global community, it is no longer possible to describe others as being
part of a scientific endeavor without addressing what is commonly referred to as
the crisis of representation - the dilemma we face when we try to represent
others and ourselves as we crisscross boundaries of gender, race, identity,
culture, time and location.
(Goldman, 2007, p. 4)
For years, positivist views of research assumed there was a universal way
of representing the world around us. Building on this assumption, was a belief
that within representations there lie a single, indisputable truth. Truth was
understood to be a thing, an idea coinciding with and explaining reality. As time
passed, interest shifted toward the role of language in our formation of
understanding and thus knowledge. This shifted attentiveness from single
version truths, to multifaceted forms of knowing (Flaherty et al., 2002; Greene,
1994). With increased consideration of the role of language in the formation of
understanding, came a reciprocal interest in how representations are informed by
the language systems inherent in them (Bakhtin, 1982). This gap between the
positivist and post-positivist concepts of knowledge makes it difficult to establish
the nature of representation (Goldman, 2007). Key questions addressed by
theorists (Eisner, 1997; Fish, 1980; Flaherty et al., 2002; Greene, 1994; Pink,
2001; Rabinow, 1986; van Maanen, 1995) across disciplines are: 1) Is
representation the manifestation of truth or is it merely one of the varied vantage
points present at any given time? 2) Do we represent absolute ideas or are our
representations immersed in context and story?
Representation might be simply defined as “stand[ing] for something else”
(Goldman, 2007, p. 17). Through interpretation, representations (as symbols)
and what they refer to, become inextricably linked. With this understanding then,
“representations are not things, but rather processes (Goldman, 2007, p. 18).
Essentially, the process of representation occurs when we link a symbol or sign
to a concept that emerged from an experience. Because of the interrelatedness
of the symbol/context/thing, our interpretation is always shifting the outcome of
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
the representative/interpretive equation. This constant changing of vantage
points and shifting of elucidations results in multiple interpretations of the same
Within our research settings and in the writing up of our findings, we are
engaging in acts of interpretation in which representation becomes inevitable.
Data itself is both an interpretation and representation; photographs are sprinkled
with varying vantage points, transcripts are dusted with personal experience and
artifacts are dredged through symbol systems. How then might we link actual
events and our interpretations of those events with a representative counterpart
in ways that honor our individual experience and make room for other possible
interpretations? This question has been asked in various forms over the last 30
years or so. For example, Fish asked, “What makes an interpretation
acceptable?” (1980, p. 338); Flaherty, et al. asked, “What is the relationship
between observation and interpretation?” (2002, p. 481); and Greene asked,
“What happens when we can no longer trust in the mediation of language, when
the best consciousness can do is grasp the appearances of things - telling us
nothing of a representable realm beyond” (1994, p. 209). Inspired by Greene’s
question doubting the mediation of language, we were moved to attempt a
response by conceptualizing representation as an imaginative invitation asking
the viewer/audience to participate in the interpretive processes, rather than
crafting definitive representative products.
What is an Imaginative Invitation?
I also begin to seek out ways in which the arts, in particular, can release
imagination to open new perspectives, to identify alternatives. The vistas that
might open, the connections that might be made, are experiential phenomena;
our encounters with the world become newly informed. When they do, they offer
new lenses through which to look out at and interpret...
(Greene, 1995, pp. 17-18)
Because the image is what unites us as researchers and artists, we have
consciously sought out image-based invitations in our work. Image and arts
based practices in qualitative research are not a new development. On the tails
of the representative debate, the arts emerged as a viable means to challenge
what representation meant (Pink, 2001). These approaches assume knowledge
is evolving, because we continue to know through doing (Dewey, 1934).
Methodological approaches like arts based research, visual ethnography, and
visual research methods (to name a few) all surfaced as new ways for engaging
in inquiry (Knowles & Cole, 2008). These approaches embrace the ability of the
image to share nuances, evoke empathy, and allow new perspectives that
illustrate our capacity to engage with life (McNiff, 2008). It is this idea of the
image as an affective site of individual experience we are most attentive to, and it
is this idea that brought us to the writing of Maxine Greene.
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
Maxine Greene (1995, 2001, 2005) was a clear voice advocating for the
inclusion of the arts in educative experiences. Her work seamlessly wove
scholarly theorizing with examples from the fine and literary arts, forcing the
reader to embody the words on the page by imagining the works of art she
referenced, essentially inviting the reader into her writing. While we are not
relegating the importance of the arts to the field of education, we do see strong
parallels between the world of education and the world of research. These two
worlds feed into one another. As an interest in quantitative, numeric and
defendable outcomes became the focus of research, including educational
research, for instance, schools began to quantify student experiences through
standardized testing, merit pay and national report cards (Greene, 1995). This
interest in the quantifiable nature of experience brings us back to the rupture
started by social scientists during the crisis of representation, and to the
How do we represent experiences that are by nature ever changing and
It is this question we feel Greene’s writing on imagination begins to
address; we see her work in both educational research and debate on
representation as extending an imaginative invitation to engage in teaching and
scholarship aimed at re-imagining outcomes. We are drawn to the concept of the
imaginative invitation, the open request to engage in the action of forming new
ideas. More importantly though, we draw inspiration from her natural ability to
invite the reader into her work, to encourage the reader to question and seek out
their own understandings. The work of the imagination is centered on the
opportunity to look at the world as if it might be different than it is, and within this
imaginative action, there is an acknowledgement of the contingency of the view,
essentially the role of personal context. Greene states, “To tap into imagination
is to become able to break with what is supposedly fixed and finished, objectively
and independently real” (1995, p. 19). This is where the concept of the
imaginative invitation collides with representation. If we can conceive of our
research as an imaginative invitation, we might open our work up to multiple
interpretations and representations. We might trust our audience to contribute to
our work. These alternative interpretive spaces become sites of resistance,
where we find ourselves resisting the hegemony of the written word (Greene,
1991; hooks, 1990). While we acknowledge the importance of writing in the
scholarly process, words (in didactic form) do not always accomplish what the
arts do4. The arts invite the audience to participate, to move from the center to
the margins in hopes that “they may recognize some of the ways in which
consciousnesses touch and refract and engage with one another” (Greene, 1991,
p. 29).
4 We see a distinction between literary composition and scholarly writing. We do not mean to
generalize all scholarly writing at non-literary; we openly acknowledge the work of scholars
working to push language into new spaces.
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
How Might we use Video Representation as an Imaginative
Building on the possibilities inherent in arts based research and the
possibilities of the imaginative invitation, we move this inquiry into exploring how
we question the boundaries of representation in our own work with video.
Because we are both artists, we are constantly pushing ourselves to discover
new ways of interpreting and representing our research endeavors. In this
search for new, artful ways of engaging the research experience, we came to
video as a form of inquiry. For us, video as a mode of inquiry assumes
representation and interpretation are process-based experiences. By thinking of
representation as an imaginative invitation and interpretation as an imaginative
act, we can begin to see the work we do, as an ontological pursuit, a way of living
and doing research. As Greene (1991) reminds us, this artful representation
would not be possible:
without the release of the imagination, the capacity to look through the
windows of the actual…imagination may be the primary means of forming
an understanding of what goes on under the heading of “reality;”
imagination may be responsible for the very texture of experience. (p. 30)
While we create different kinds of videos, our shared interest in video as a
form of representation brought us together to explore the representative
possibilities inherent in video. Our attention to the possibilities of video
encourages viewers to see them as expressive objects; much like traditional art
making, we view our videos as affective sites of knowledge production. When
opening up research representation and interpretation to this possibility, we
found “video-based research artifacts are not just external visual representations,
but can also be re-presentations, presentations, that can be reviewed, revisited,
restructured and recognized, from multiple viewpoints” (Goldman, 2007, p.16).
Video representations are different from more traditional data representations
because they give form to the research experience as it occurs, instead of days,
weeks, or months later.
Additionally, video representation makes use of multiple voices and
vantage points. This emphasis of the multi-layered nature of language allows for
the acknowledgement of multiple points-of-view. When considering research
representations, video based representation and interpretation give openings for
the consideration of viewer/maker relationships inherent in video creation,
essentially inviting both maker and viewer into the representative and interpretive
processes. Video is not a neutral medium simply capturing events as they occur,
rather the videos we create in our research encounters are filled with multiple
contexts and voices, all focused on the eventual creation of an artifact living both
outside and within our inquiry. We find the ability to provide multiple perspectives
contributes to productive, not reductive, inquiry.
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
Researchers currently using video in their work have begun to postulate
about the ways to enact video to invite the viewer into different spaces. Kaye
Haw and Mark Hadfield (2011) conceptualize five modalities, or functions, for
video as a research tool: extractive, reflective, provocation, participation, and
voice. These five modalities have helped us envision our own video work as an
invitation to extract, reflect, provoke, participate and speak. Using Greene’s
(1995) notion of the imagination and hook’s (1990) idea of the imagination as a
site of marginal resistance, we have begun to conceptualize video representation
as an imaginative invitation to move into the margins and push up against
traditional notions of research. We theorize that through imagination, video
allows our audience to participate and collaborate in the interpretive work of
inquiry with researchers.
Video as an invitation assumes the power of the moving image to provide
a window into that which may not have been seen or heard otherwise. Whether
the voice is that of children in a classroom (Haw & Hadfield, 2011) or the
experience of making and being with art (Eisner, 2008), video holds the potential
to invite the viewer into spaces otherwise unseen. By giving voice to these
unseen experiences of research, the researcher opens up spaces of inquiry for
the viewer to create their own interpretations. This, we believe, is the sublime
power of video in research; the ability to extend an invitation to the
viewer/participant/audience to become a part of the research process. Video is
familiar to us, accessible to a broad number of participants. We see this
accessibility providing “transformations, openings and possibilities” (Greene,
1995, p. 17) that allow our audience to move beyond our research, to push the
reverberations of our inquiry into spaces with which others may engage.
In composing video, we layer images and text, data, themes, poems,
prose, and other artwork5 together to create an experience for the viewer. We
invite readers to experience the research encounter and begin to imagine their
own interactions with our projects. This imaginative interaction puts trust in the
reader/viewer; it takes the power of research out of the hands of researchers and
places it into the hands of the audience (Greene, 1994). We do not create
videos to convey one single, homogenized message, nor do we intend the
audience to have an isolated interpretation. We see potential for multifaceted
interpretation as the real role of video representation. We turn again to Greene’s
If realities are constructed…if meanings are created by living beings in
diverse kinds of relationships, questions arise regarding representation
that were seldom confronted before. We are not simply faced with the
5 This layering effect is often referred to as assemblage. The examples of art forms we note are but a few of
signifiers of the research experience.
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
problem of deciding whether discourse functions to represent an objective
or pre-existing reality…What is designated…is a condition of conception
and perception that enables us to construct something we recognize…in
our imagination…it is in no way a single thing, evoking either fixity or
objectivity. (1994, p. 209-210)
Representation is not the result of our research endeavors; representation
is not the outcome of our inquiry; rather, representation is what we do with our
own understanding of the work - a process. Before we represent we interpret,
after we represent you interpret and then represent again. The challenge in
qualitative research is moving beyond the binaries of right and wrong, truth and
fiction, positive and negative and into a space where representation becomes an
invitation for the viewer/reader to take the researcher’s interpretation into their
own spaces, exist with it, and imagine other possibilities (Greene, 1994). So
now, with Greene’s idea of the imaginative invitation we ask: Do you want to
watch a movie?
Do you want to watch a movie?
As co-authors, we have constructed a pair of manuscripts (the paper you
are reading being one of the two) dealing with issues of representation from both
ontological and methodological perspectives. We tell you this to clarify the goal
of this section. Instead of discussing our own individual work with video, we
chose to trade video data. Because we are both exploring how video-based data
serves as an invitation to participate in the research process, we sought to
explore the act of being invited to view someone else’s inquiry. To achieve this
we felt it was important to trade videos as we wrote about these ideas6. We
hope this trading of video data will provide you, the reader, with insights gleaned
by someone who is not the researcher (a task we challenge you to undertake as
You will find that we approach the analysis through a dialogic format.
After watching Leslie’s video, Sara explored the emergent meanings this mode of
representative analysis presented. Once Sara completed her initial discussion,
she then invited Leslie to respond to her reflections, providing additional clarity
where needed. This process was repeated until we felt we had reached the end
of our dialogue. As you read the following section we ask that you first watch the
video; stop it, start it, pause it, fast forward it, open several windows, or even only
listen to the audio. Then, scroll below the video to find a written analysis from
Sara’s perspective, another first time viewer, in tandem with Leslie’s reflections
on the process of editing, formatting and engaging in research using both video
documentation and representation.
6 This manuscript was written in tandem with another where Leslie is the first author and discusses,
unpacks, and analyzes Sara’s video work.
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
Mapping and Multiplicities, video courtesy of Leslie Rech
Question 1: What is going on here?
Leslie (on context) - I come to early childhood education from art
education, a field in which talk about the work is as vibrant and compelling as the
work itself. Exploring the tangle of visual and verbal references in children’s
drawing parallels one of my biggest challenges in making the switch from art to
research: the place of images in a discipline in which writing is traditionally
privileged. My interest in visual research methods began with an ethnographic
case study in 2012-13 looking at the relationships between children and drawing,
pop culture and identity. In this project, I worked with six 6, 7 and 8 year olds for
eight months at a private Montessori school. I chose the site for its open
curriculum and flexibility of classroom activities. During the project, the
participating children and I drew together for 30-45 minutes each week exploring
topics ranging from, bats, to battleships, to baseball.
Sara - What I find most powerful about this video is the reliance on the
viewer. As Greene (2004) discussed, “whatever happens or is to happen has to
be decoded; reader activity is necessary if meaning is to happen” (p. 213). From
the minute the video started, I began filtering through questions:
Why are these children here?
What has prompted them to draw boats?
Do they know each other?
How did they connect their visual stories through talking so effortlessly?
What happens in the fade in and out moments?
I watched this video several times, fascinated by the stories the children
made up about their drawings, in awe of how they connected their stories across
papers. The narrative continues to circle around the table, with each child adding
to the story. At the start, I found myself wanting to see more of the pictures, for
there to be a way that pictures of their work might be next to the image of them
working; then, after a soft fade I could see the children’s work, while still seeing
and hearing the dialogue. I felt like a fly, perched on the table, watching them
draw and talk. They made up their stories so easily. Their artmaking was just an
extension of the storytelling - effortless and collaborative. I cannot remember
the last time I sat down and imagined a world outside my own; even my
artmaking is grounded in reality, tinted by the colors of my day, week, or month.
I’d love to know a bit more about the experience from your perspective.
Leslie - We are sitting at a battered picnic table outside the main
classroom. I’ve laid out sheets of paper and a pack of scented markers. Today
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
is Zanto’s turn to choose the theme for our drawings. He’s chosen Battleships.
We talk it out as usual, tasting the words in our mouths, testing their meanings . .
. battleship, battleship board-game, actual battle ship, Leggo battleship, wedding
ship, evil alien ship. River, excited by the possibilities, begins her drawing with
the color blue . . .
Sara - I was invited into this private moment as I watched, experiencing
this video as a representative invitation, an invitation to view Leslie’s
documentation of a phenomenon (Haw & Hadfield, 2011). I watched the video
again, this time I knew what to expect. I could pause and really look at the
drawings the children were making. I opened up the video in two windows on my
computer and listened to the audio while I looked at the drawing, hoping to see
the jet boosters, the battle, or the plastic people to which the children refer in
their dialogue. I could stop and start, zoom in and turn the volume up and down;
I could manipulate the video to allow myself the opportunity to reflect on what
was happening. My invitation extended further, reflecting on the events as they
occurred, after they occurred and while time was standing still (Haw & Hadfield,
I was still not through my second viewing when I noticed Leslie at the
table. What was she doing there? What questions was she asking when the
camera faded in and out? How was her presence changing the reactions and
conversations of the children?
I was critical of her presence, I played the end a few times, rewinding to
the point in the video where the perspective changes and you can see the three
children with Leslie’s hands in the foreground. I began thinking of how I might
have engaged in the conversation, and even further to thinking of how I engage
in my own interactions with children.
She lets them talk so freely, not stepping over them with her own words.
When one talks about peacekeepers in his drawing, she asks, “Where are they
all?” The children respond: the peacekeepers cannot get on any ships. I want to
know more about these peacekeepers. Who are they? What do they do?
Where did they get the idea for them? I wonder if they mirror anything in the real
world. My adult brain is constantly trying to make sense of the interactions and
the storyline.
Leslie - I recorded each drawing activity with a small iPad-mini faced
toward them so they could see what as I recorded. After I started the camera, I
allowed it to run until the end of the activity. Over the course of the eight months
I spent with them, ideas about ways children cite popular culture in their drawing
narratives and then transform those narratives, continued to surface.
Sara - I felt provoked as I watched. I want to know more about these
children and their motivations. I was even imagining how the dialogue might
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
continue once the camera shut off. At this point, I have watched the video six or
seven times. I think of the power of this video in isolation of any other research
artifacts or contexts. I have moved through the first three modalities Haw and
Hadfield discuss (2011), extractive, reflective, and provocative. Invitations to
participate and speak were also extended, but not just to me. The children were
invited to participate in the generation of a thirty-minute recording; they are
performers and participants. The invitation to participate and give voice seems to
occur on the other side of the camera. The children know the camera is
recording them, they have been asked to create art. They are allowing us into
their world of artmaking and storytelling. I do not have to guess at what these
kids are drawing. The researcher did not have to conduct interviews asking them
to think of what they were representing in their drawings, rather, the children
have been invited to share these insights as they occur during the research
Leslie - I had intended a design that was open, flexible, and collaborative,
one focused on following data as opposed to erecting a structure for it to exist
within. For example, rather than formal interviews, I used informal drawing
activities that allowed the children in the study to plan their own drawings, to
choose their own pseudonyms, to see themselves recorded. On reflection, the
design was flawed in that the activities I designed for data collection were just
that, designed, not nomadic. A nomadic practice would have followed children in
their daily drawing activities rather than invite them to the table for that specific
purpose, but this project also allowed me to see that I had not yet considered
analysis itself as a nomadic practice.
Question 2: What are the emergent ideas from this video?
Sara - While the video in isolation of other contexts is interesting, the
research is aimed also at the emergence of new ways of thinking about or
understanding something. So my next question during this analytic unpacking is:
What is that something? My first thought revolves around the role talk plays in
children’s drawing practice. This video is filled with conversation about the
imaginary goings on of the children’s drawings. The children seem to be making
meaning not just through their drawings, but through the stories they are telling
as they draw. But would this have occurred without Leslie there? Does that
matter? I wonder what role the surrounding contexts play? There are bigger
questions begging consideration, contextual understandings that are necessary
to really grasp what is happening below the surface.
Leslie - In research, “collecting” data, identifying, naming, defining,
interpreting, abstracting, reducing events, is akin to what Deleuze and Guattari
(2004) would call a tracing: “like a photograph or an X ray that begins by
selecting or isolating by artificial means such as colorations or other restrictive
procedures, what it intends to reproduce” (p. 13). In describing and transcribing
an event, we will always be reducing it, cutting it from its context. To address this
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
reduction, Deleuze and Guattari (2004) suggest consideration of the concept of
mapping, rather than tracing. A tracing tends to pin or immobilize. A map follows
contours, makes connections.
In this project, mapping meant looking at children, their drawings, their
classroom and local cultural discourses, the materials in play, the space in which
all these things unfolded and the events that occurred as data. Mapping became
a strategy for analysis that informed a juxtaposition of ideas and images based
on threads of connection. These juxtapositions add to the multiple ways in which
the data can be interpreted. Video composition functions as a multiplicity, a
permeable analysis that forestalls interpretation. Specifically, video editing, the
selecting and juxtaposing of film clips or “shots,” works as a nomadic practice in
that placing images in relation to one another makes connections visible, cuts
them loose from more over-determined meanings. These juxtapositions add to
the ways in which data can be read. I see the possibilities of video composition
not as an illustration of text but as a nomadic visual/relational analysis.
Question 3: What about editing decisions?
Sara - As an invitation, the video has served its purpose by enacting
interest, drawing the viewer into the experience of being with these children.
Leslie’s video has successfully provided a glimpse of the setting and participants,
while also giving the viewer a felt, or sensory context to pull from. While these
factors are effective in inviting the viewer into the research, additional context is
necessary to deeply grasp the research project itself. Additionally, when working
with video in research practice, we make choices about how to edit reality; we
curate the viewer’s experience. It is this curation I am now interested in knowing
more about. Why did Leslie choose the slow fades in and out? Was she
influenced by the ghost images present in Celeste Snowber’s (2012) work? Why
did she use black and white imagery? I wonder why she chose to have the fades
between images of children and their artwork not last longer. Kip Jones (2011)
chooses to have stills of photographs fade in and out with narration over the
images. This might have been an effective way to show more of the children’s
art, while still allowing their stories to be heard. These are the questions I am left
with after watching the video, so these are the questions I pose to you Leslie.
Leslie - MacDougall (1998), an anthropologist and documentary
filmmaker, suggests that viewers are prone to assigning meaning quickly to
moving images. He calls this a fertile process:
. . . the images of the film interacting with the characteristics of personality,
culture, and society that define us. This means that shots may carry quite
different connotations even for people of very similar background, and
larger differences of gender, class, race, and education will produce even
greater variations. (p. 212)
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
For this reason he advocates the long shot in film - a longer, uninterrupted
version of the shot, contextual and undiluted with either text or voiceover. This
provokes what he calls “digressive searching” in viewing, an active rather than
passive meaning making by the viewer (p. 213).
MacDougall (1998) argues that contemporary filmmakers try hard to avoid
“dead spots” or places in the film where nothing seems to be happening, places
where the viewer’s attention gets lost. He also suggests that in figure-ground
reversals, shots in which the protagonist dissolves into context, the viewer’s
focus again is allowed to wander. MacDougall argues that today, the immediacy
and fast pace of popular television commercials and music videos may actually
allow more room for associative, non-narrative editing in that there is less
reliance on the narrative. He suggests that unexplored possibilities for visual
research exist within the layering of sound and image as well as in an analytical
use of the camera.
MacDougall (1998) does bring up a concern about audience attention for
longer films constructed with lengthier shots. He suggests the concept of
segmentation: shorter films focusing on sub-groups of connections, as a strategy
for keeping the viewers attention. The dead space in a long shot to which
MacDougall refers, the spaces in watching a film where the mind begins to
wander, may work for research-oriented videos. I see a parallel here between
what MacDougall is calling segmentation, a sub-group of possible interpretations,
and the idea of nomadic analysis. I think it would be productive to allow space
for the viewer to get lost from time to time in our research. With this in mind, I
composed my video, making use of MacDougall’s preference for the long shot,
the dead spot and figure-ground reversals. In this composition, I focused less on
the arc of one analytic theme and focused more on looser, less visible
connections to allow room for the viewer (and myself) to wander.
Your question revolves around the media itself as an abstraction. Video
recordings are distillations of reality; a perspective extracted, cut from context,
and preserved - what Mohl (2011) identifies as “semantic densification” (p. 233).
Garrett and Hawkins (2014) agree that video recording and editing as a method
is potentially reductive, but that creative use of video necessarily complicates
these methods (p. 145). They also argue that editing is a productive process and
see video composition less as cutting or reducing data and more as “thematic
excavation, the concentration of concepts, the intensification of ideas, and the
refinement of trajectories” (p. 156).
There is no doubt that video as a research medium is both accessible and
affective. It collides with its audience in rich, complex, and compelling ways.
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
Video representation is a process. It is through camera lens and later the
editing screen that we begin to re-search and re-present. Re-search and re-
presentation are no longer things - they are process-based movements
(Goldman, 2007). When we capture movements, pair them with sound, color,
light, and multiple vantage points, we begin to grasp at the process of research
encounters. Video, as an imaginative invitation, challenges how we conceive of
research, representation, and interpretation. By documenting the movements of
our research, we allow ourselves to re-search our data for insight and create re-
presentations of these affective experiences. The videos we create in our work
re-present our data repeatedly, each time allowing for a new consideration, new
perspective, and new interpretation. This is an important step in reimagining the
role of representation in the research processes. Garrett & Hawkins (2014) and
others refer to this as “more-than-representational inquiry” (p. 145). By
envisioning the video as an imaginative invitation, we open up spaces for others
to enter into our inquiries. We create artifacts of inquiry that do more than just
represent our findings. We no longer hide the movements of our research in
locked filed cabinets; rather, we layer and juxtapose these to create an affective
experience for our reader/viewer. Jungnickel (2014) discusses this process as
opening up the thereness of experiences. By creating artifacts that speak to the
thereness of experiences, we begin to transform the nouns, research, and
representation, into verbs, re-search and re-present. We move our research into
the margins, where bell hooks (1990) invites us to engage in radical openness:
A message from that space in the margin that is a site of creativity and
power…Enter that space. Let us meet there. Enter that space. We greet
you as liberators. Spaces can be real and imagined. Spaces can tell
stories and unfold histories. Spaces can be interrupted, appropriated, and
transformed through artistic and literary practice…we are transformed,
individually, collectively, as we make radical creative space which affirms
and sustains our subjectivity, which gives us a new location from which to
articulate our sense of the world. (p. 24)
We believe in the spaces of radical openness in which we might begin to open up
dialogue that looks deeply at experiences and attempts to represent those
experiences through video methods that challenge our ontological
understandings of the world.
Like all other forms of inquiry, we believe the work of video researchers
takes practice and skill development. This is not a point and shoot methodology,
rather this is a layered and complex approach to reconfiguring our research
encounters. We have found that engaging in video production has challenged
our underlying assumptions about what it means to record and represent
research. In addition to the complexity faced in recording, cutting and editing, the
work of video researchers opens up discussions of the ethics of this methodology
Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation
(Bates, 2014; Goldman, Pea, Barron, & Derry, 2014; Haw & Hadfield, 2011).
Video does not satisfy or give resolution; it does not make finite statements or tie
inquiry up in a neatly trimmed package. While video is not appropriate for all
research projects, we see it creating openings for consideration by challenging
what research looks like. Video research does not symbolize experiences;
rather, it allows the viewer to make their own experience. It invites viewers into
inquiry by opening up access, encouraging collaborations and promoting
productive, not reductive, dialogue.
We hope you, the reader, will respond to our invitation, and begin to
experiment with the video as representation in your own inquiries. In alignment
with our avoidance of singular endings or interpretations, we leave you with a
series of questions you might consider in constructing your own video invitations
to engage in inquiry:
How might video add another layer of understanding to your work?
How might video open up spaces for critical topics to be explored
and questioned?
What might emotional reactions to video assemblages do for our
research projects?
How can video provide new artful representations of research
Can video successfully shift the power of knowing away from the
researcher and into the hands of the viewer/reader?
In what ways can video push our research into spaces for new
audiences to experience it?
These are the questions we that moved us to consider the role video can play in
our own inquiries. These are the questions we invite you to consider in your own
work to change what we mean when we read research and say, “I know. I
understand”. We hope that you will embrace the messiness and refocus the
outcomes of research representations by reimagining possibilities, but most of all
we hope you will ask others, “Do you want to watch a movie?”
The authors would like to extend a special thank you to River, Zanto, and Moton
B. for their joyful participation, imagination and collaboration on this project.
Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal/Volume 1, Issue 1
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Do You Want to Watch a Movie? Conceptualizing Qualitative Research as Imaginative Invitation