Video research in the open. Encounters involving the researcher-camera.

cover of the book 'Video Interaction AnalysisA few months ago, the book Video Interaction Analysis – Methods and Methodology, edited by Ulrike Tikvah Kissmann has been published. Since this is my first purely methodological publication, I am really looking forward to see how it is received. The opening paragraph of my chapter reads like this:

Filming is an encounter. The person wielding the camera, the camera itself, and the people and things around them enter a dynamic relationship. This relationship unfolds itself according to the rules set by the social, spatial, and material features and practices that constitute it. These features and practices constitute it, but they do not determine it in a linear way – too many contingencies enter the interaction process, disrupting, changing, or reorienting it. […] In this essay, I will focus on the surprising, unplanned side of doing video research, pointing out both the risks and the opportunities that are part and parcel of filming non-staged everyday life in public settings.

After discussing how I am located in the social field as a researcher – in connection to Bourdieu’s discussion of the social field – I switch dimensions and start to discuss my position in the material field:

But what about the position in the material field? Is that not the same thing as the geographical location? In the way that materiality is conceptualized for this essay, there is more to this position than physical location. Drawing both on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body (Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Merleau-Ponty and Lefort, 1968) and on works published in the wide field of science and technology studies (Garfinkel et al., 1981; Latour, 1987; Pickering, 1995), I want to propose that the position I take as a bodily actor in the material field at least temporarily becomes that of a hybrid of man and machine: a camera-researcher. The way I position myself is guided by the way I observe with and as the camera, by the way the camera observes with and as me.

These are the two main conceptual vectors which propel the discussion forward: a focus on the open-ended encounters that constitute the field work itself, and an STS focus that helps the analysis to not take the camera itself for granted, making it disappear behind the hand and the eye of the researcher. Equipped with this two vectors, I try to thrust into some problematic aspects of ethnographic research in general and of video-based research in particular.

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