Saturday, January 30, 2010

Visual Memos in Qualitative Research: Part III

Research. Olin Warner (completed by Herbert Ad...Image via Wikipedia
Began this morning with more thoughts about visual memos. 

Is a visual memo a cartoon?  Is it a story?
What is the form of the narrative of visual memos?
How do the elements of the narrative work?

Would qualitative researchers use visual memos for the same thing that they would use written memos for?  How does a researcher decide to insert the visual? 

This reminded me of single photos or drawings--artifacts from my data collection activities--that I came to refer to as memos becuase I found them so iconic and I used them repeatedly to talk about a concept/notion that had arisen in the interpretation.  An example is a photo of a 1st grade classroom that I have used many times to talk about multiple ways to read the photo and think about the cluster of things and practices.  One way I approach it is to talk about "reading the walls".  I can read the whole day on that one wall--from morning message through the day's schedule, to a host of other activities.  Another way to approach it is to look at the intersection of things (computers, record player, blackboard) and the things they imply...and the technological eras they represent. 

When photos take this relationship to the study, I no longer consider them an artifact, but a memo.  Do I have the right to do this?  Is this a legitimate way to refer to them?  Perhaps more important then if they are a memo or an artifact, is the peculiar transformation (in my mind) that has occurred to this piece of visual material.   Does a well used artifact become a memo when it has accreted experience for me...not just for them?  Meaning, do my experiences of explaining the photo from methodological perspectives facilitate the process of memo creation?

This reminded me of the kinds of problems that students in qualitative research class have with the notion of memo.  When first introduced, many struggle hard with it.  It seems very foreign to them.  They want to turn out business memos--something similar to ordering new office supplies.  The word memo seems like an impenetrable barrier.  I've tried changing the word, but it's like mixing medication in applesauce, they can smell out the duplicity.  They know there is something different here. 

I've examined many texts about memos in qualitative research--I suppose I should do something like Johnny Saldana's overview of coding--what are all the different ways qualitative researchers have of describing memos? 

This does not end here--there's more to consider. 
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