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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING][Gilliam Rose Discusses Visual Methods][How did you get started in this academic field and what makesvisual research methods so interesting and significant?]

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    GILLIAN ROSE: I first got interested in visual researchmethods, I guess, because I'd alwayshad an interest in visual images, and particularly artand going to exhibitions and things.I studied geography when I was an undergraduate studentat university.And I was really fortunate, because thatwas in the early 1980s, when there were beginning

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: to be some other really quite prominent geographers startingto write what then became called the new cultural geography.So these were scholars like Dennis Cosgrove and SteveDaniels, who were actually looking at landscape paintingsin particular and thinking about how landscape paintings hada lot to say about notions of landscape and propertyownership and ways in which maps and so on worked

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: in the 17th, 18th, 19th century.So I was fortunate, in that I came in a momentwhen images were being thought of as things that weren't juststraightforward mirrors onto the world,but were cultural objects that storedhow we saw the world in quite particular ways.Now, that new cultural geography tended

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: to look at artworks in particular.But as I've gone on in my own work,I'm increasingly interested, actually,not so much in artworks.I think that's a very specialized, oftenquite elitist form of visual production.I've actually got much more interested in ordinary, banalimages that we might not pay much attention to in the waythat we go and stare at a painting in an art gallery

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: but nonetheless have a really important effect in the waysin which our social lives are constructed, the wayour identities are made, and where we feel we belongand so on.And they might not be very special images.So for example, one of the things I've doneis write a book about family photographs, which are oftenvery banal and out of focus and red eyes.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: Those images are often not particularly striking,but they are incredibly important waysof visualizing family, of turning housesinto homes, when you start displayingyour photos in frames or mantle pieces and so on.They're both kind of banal and everyday,but they're also very powerful in the kind of social relationsand identities that are made when people do things

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: with them.So that's how I got into visual research methodsfor my own personal inclination, but then also seeingthat visual materials are really one of the most important ways,I think, in which social life, social relations,social identities are performed in and enacted now.[How have visual research methods changed in the last 15years, since the publication of Visual Methodologies?]

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: So visual research methods have changed a great dealin the last 15 years.They've become massively more popular,and there are many more kinds of themnow than there were 15 years ago.So when the first edition of Visual Methodologiescame out in 2001, it was quite a slim book,and it really focused on ways of interpreting found

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: visual materials of different kinds,so oil paintings or TV programs, films, magazine advertisements.And there was nothing about making your own visual materialas a way of generating research evidence.Now, in the past 15 years, the enthusiasm

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: for making visual materials as part of a research projecthas mushroomed.So there's now much, much more discussionin the book of different ways in whicheither researchers or the people that are being researched,the research participants, can make images of different kindsand the way those images can be used

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: as robust forms of evidence, of research data.And that kind of research, now, isincredibly popular across large swathes of social sciencedisciplines.And I think it's much more conventional now,that they're much more accepted as robust, legitimate waysof conducting research projects.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: I think a third change that's reallyhappened over the last 15 years hasbeen the difference that digital technology has made.And I'm still trying to figure outjust the extent of those changes.But obviously, the first edition seems like a different era now,there was no Facebook, there was no social media,digital cameras were just becoming

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: affordable to ordinary persons in the street.Now, of course, digital cameras are everywhere.And also, I think, really significantly,there are lots of platforms, now,for sharing visual materials in ways that thereweren't 15 years ago.I think that's generated a lot of experimentationin terms of different kinds of visual research methods.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: So the fourth edition of my book now talks, for example,about interactive documentaries, whichare multimedia documentary formats,usually hosted on web platforms, which will include audio filesand film and interactive digital interfaces.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: That's a completely new format that just wasn't even reallythinkable 15 years ago.And of course, there's now all the imagesthat you find on social media platforms, Twitter, Vine,Pinterest, Facebook, it goes on and on.And they're providing a whole new subject of analysis

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: as well for a whole range of social scientists interestedin new media.So there have been massive changes in the last 15 years.And it's been quite a challenge to try and keep upwith them in the different editions of Visual Methodologyas they've rolled out.[For students looking to get to grips with visual researchmethods, once they have read Visual Methodologies,what other authors, books, or resources would you recommend?]OK.So Visual Methodology should give you

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: a thorough overview of the field of visual research methods.And there are a lot of other books,actually, that you could then go off and lookat for specialist advice.And one of the things I try to do in the bookis to point you in those directions,to point readers towards more focused discussionsof particular methods.But for a couple of other more general discussions,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: if you're more on the kind of humanities, art history,found image side of things, one bookI think is really interesting is writtenby Ludmilla Jordanova who's a social cultural historian.And because she's coming from history,she has quite a different take about howto approach visual images and also visual objects as well.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: And I think that makes her a contrasting read,but one that contributes something that's reallysignificant to the field.If you're more on social science side,and particularly if you're interested in making imagesas part of a research project or getting your researchparticipants to make them, I think a really good book thatdiscusses a range of specific projects

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: and gives you lots of ideas about the complexities of howimages work in a social situation, which would includea research project as much a social life out there,the book is Claudia Mitchell's On Visual Methods.That's also a really, really good read.[What advice would you give to a student embarking on a visualresearch project for the first time?]

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: So if you're thinking of using a visual researchmethod for the first time, I think the most important pieceof advice I would give you is to stop and ask yourself why.Why do you think that your research methods aregoing to be useful for answering your specific researchquestion?And I think that's a really crucial question to ask,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: because visual research methods are increasingly popular.And I think they're seen as quite experimental and kindof cool and trendy thing to be doing quite often.So I often review papers for journals.And to me, there doesn't always seemto be a very good rationale for why visual research method is

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: being used nor a very clear reflection on the strengthsand weaknesses of visual research methods.So each of the chapters in the book Visual Methodologiesconcludes with a discussion of the strengths and weaknessesof each visual method that I discuss.And they are very particular kinds of methods.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: They're very good at doing some things,and they're not very good at doing others.And I think before you start a project,assuming you think visual methods are goingto be a good idea, I think it's really useful just pauseand ask yourself, well, are visual methodsgoing to be the right approach?If so, what kind?

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: And if you answer yes to both of those questions,that they are, and you've found an appropriate method thatwill answer your research question,I think it's always good to reflecton both what the visual method, specifically, is contributingto answering that question but also the thingsthat it's not enabling you to say much about.So some visual methods, for example,are very good at that thinking about how

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: an audience of an image reacts to it.If that's not actually what your research question is reallyfocused on, then you'll need to be looking eitherat a different image or perhaps thinkingabout a different research technique entirely.The first question to ask is, why are youusing visual research methods and to have a robust answerto that question.[What are the key consideration when choosing your visualresearch method?]

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: I think there are two issues that you reallyneed to be thinking about when you are choosinga visual research method.The first is to be really clear what your research question is.And that's true, I guess, in starting any piece of research.But you need to be really clear whatit is that you are looking for in orderto be able to decide what kind of evidence

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: and what kind of data you need to be able to create, usingyour visual research methods thatwill be appropriate for answering that question.So what's your research question?I think that's one starting point.The other starting point, the second onethat I think is equally importantis, how are you going to access the kinds of images

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: that you think are useful and important for answeringyour research question.I think there's an assumption now,that because there are so many images online,accessing the right kind of image is somehow not a problembut there are a number of issues with the availability of imagesonline.One of course, is that they are, precisely, online.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: And that means that you approach them on a screen,sitting in front of your PC or whatever.That might not be the best way to understandwhat that image is doing for different audiencesin different places.And the other thing is, of course, that a lot of imagesare not online or there may be privacy or ethical issues

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: about being able to access them.A lot of social media images, for example,are very difficult to access both in terms of technicallygetting access to them.In terms of sometimes having to pay a social mediaplatform to access their data and also in terms of a ethicsd accessing social media data as well.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: So think about your research question,and think about whether you can accessthe right kinds of images easily enoughto be able to generate the data youneed to answer that question.[Once you have chosen your method,what would you say are the biggest challenges in findingthe best visual materials?]So there are certain challenges in findingthe best visual materials for your project.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: I think mainly because what the best visual materialis depends on the question that you're asking.So that can vary quite a lot.I think you need to be able to find the imagethat you're interested in researchingin its right environment, if you like.And that can be the tricky thing,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: getting access to both the image and the site in which shewon't study it in.So for example, if you're interested in looking at filmsand how audiences react to films,is it OK to screen the film on a PC screen using a DVDplayer to a bunch of your mates sitting

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: in a study carrel in your university library?Or would it really be better to try and dosome kind of ethnography of actual screeningsof a film in a cinema to get a sense of that kind of contextof viewing as well?So if you're thinking about the visual material in its context,then that starts to raise a whole series of questions

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: about access and availability thatmight mean that getting, finding, and locating the bestmaterials it is a little more tricky than simply finding themin some kind of digital format and playing themat your convenience.[How important are research ethics and what uniqueconsiderations are necessary when conducting visualresearch?]

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: So one of the particular issues that visual methods researchersface in a really intense form and quite challenging formsometimes is the question of research ethics.So there's an assumption in a lot of codes of research ethicsnow that the default is that the researcher will

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: ensure that their research participants remain anonymous.Now, obviously, if you're filming your researchparticipants or you're asking them to take photographs,and they take photographs of each other and so on,you've got images there which are clearly showingidentifiable individuals.And you can't anonymize them in the ways

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: that you can, for example, try to anonymize quotesfrom an interview transcript.The image shows, photographic images show a particular personquite clearly.Now, there are two routes that the debatehas taken in relation to that.One is to say, well, actually youcould anonymize visual images if you wanted to.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: You could put black strip across the eyesor you could pixelate faces in some way,so that actually, the individuals weren'tidentifiable.The other route, the other response took to that dilemmathough-- and this one is gaining ground,I think and has gained ground much more recently--

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: is to say, well, is anonymity always necessary?Is it always a good thing, in fact?And perhaps, in certain circumstances,with the consent of your research participants,it's OK to show them in clearly identifiable ways.There's certainly an argument, I think,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: that a lot of people now, who participate in visual researchmethods projects as interviewees and participants,are actually pretty clued up about the politics of becomingvisible and images online and sharing images and so on.They're quite clear, for example,about how mass media might pick up

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: on things, about different forms of representingdifferent social groups in the media and so on.And I think a lot of research participantsmay well be quite savvy about agreeing or notto particular forms of visibility or not.So right now, ethics, of course as it always is,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: is a major issue for visual methods.But I think it's not the case nowthat it's a problem because your participants willbe recognizable.I think now, it's recognized that, with discussion and careand so on, visual research methodsare no more problematic in terms of conductingethical research than any other kind of social science research

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: method.[What effects has the social media boom had on visualresearch?]So the boom in social media in recent years has had,in some ways I think, quite a profound impacton visual research methods.It's clear, I think, that social media platforms of many kinds

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: carry huge, huge numbers of images.I think, in fact, it's Facebook that carries morethan any other, which is not specifically a visual mediahosting platform.But there's also, of course, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest,Twitter, of course, carries endless images.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: Social media is image saturated.And I think that means that images are becoming, probably,more important than they ever were, in fact, in termsof the conduct of social life and the ways in which peoplemake sense of their worlds and the ways in which peoplewant to present themselves to the world.So social media is making a really big difference,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: I think, just to the importance of images more generally.And therefore, I think it's contributed alsoto the increasing acceptance of visual researchmethods among the social science community.A lot of people are assuming now that, if everybody else isusing images to make arguments and do things, then maybe

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: social science researchers could get in on the acttoo and start thinking more creatively about how we toocan use images to conduct research and alsoas objects of research.I think what's proving a little more challenging right nowfor social science researchers though,is to figure out methods to actually

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: analyze these huge, huge numbers of images out there.So the fourth edition of my book on Visual Methodologieshas a new chapter called Digital Methods.It uses the definition of digital methodsdrawn quite specifically from a book by Richard Rogers.So it's quite a particular definition

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: of what digital methods are.One of the interesting things though,in that chapter, one that I struggled with as I wrote,was that it's actually difficult to find a method thatcan engage with the scale and the circulation of imageson social media.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: Methods are emerging which can go through the textthat you'll find on social media.But in terms of the images, I don'tthink the methods are quite there yet, at least notin the academic realm.Certainly there are commercial productsthat will go through all the imagesthat you can find on Facebook and Twitter and so on,and actually, they're usually tied

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: into trying to find ways to market things more effectively.So they're commercial softwares that are expensive.And it's also quite difficult, both technically and, again,because some of the platform hostswill charge to get the data, to downloaded imagesand work with them from some of those social media platforms.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: So there are a number of technical issues, access issuesthat are limiting the ways in which wecan look at images on social media platformas the objects of research.That's of early 2016.I imagine in months, currently 12 months, 18 months,that that'll start to change.And I look forward to seeing that develop.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: I think that's a really exciting area for the new researchto come from.The final thing I'd also flag though,in terms of how social media has madea difference to visual research methods--and this is certainly something I'm utilizing--is that precisely because images are so widespread now,a lot of different professions, businesses, academics, media,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: and so on are using images in ways that are beginningto slide across-- the distinctionsbetween those different fields are starting to blur.And one of the really useful ways in which I keep upwith ways in which architects are usingdigital visualizations, for example,or the ways in which new museums are startingto use lots of interactive displays-- and the examples

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: are endless.One of the ways I keep up with those changesis precisely by using social media.And I've actually found, specifically,Twitter has been a really useful research tool for mein trying to track loads and loads of different waysin which, particularly to digital images, in fact,but that many other kinds as well,are starting to emerge and spread and morph.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: And I would say each TweetDeck, whichis the way that I organize a number of different Twitter--my Twitter feed into different streams, so I can check outwhat's happening in different fieldshas really helped me keep abreastof this amazing new area of increasingnumbers of social media images.[What new research directions are you most excited about?Where would you like to take your own research?]

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: I think we're living in an incredibly interestinghistorical moment right now, actually.And it's very exciting, I think.I think the convergence of a numberof different digital technologies,particularly around visualizing technologies,is really changing things at a speed and an intensity that

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: probably hasn't happened maybe since the late 19th century,when people were experimenting with photography and telegraphsand telephones.And it's an extraordinary moment of technological alsosocial experimentation and change, I think, right now.Visualizations are right at the center of it.So there's a lot of ways in which existing forms of images

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: are being converted into digital formats.So film, obviously, video, photographs, and so on.Often in that kind of remediation,digital technologies are, perhaps,not making a really fundamental changeto the ways in which those establishedforms of visual media are still made and possibly experienced.

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: Although certainly, images are distributed and shownin many more spaces now than they used to be.But I think what's really excitingto me is the rise of a kind of industry,actually, that hasn't been given a great deal of attentionas far as I know, which is the digital visualization industry.These are creative studios which employ

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: a whole range of different skillsand expertise, so film directors, social mediapublicists, graphics designers, games designers, maybethe odd architect, a data visualizerthrown in, who will combine their different skills

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: and start to make, I think, actuallyquite new forms of visual imagery, kinds of imagesthat we haven't seen before.And these are very often these are commercial studios.And you'll find their products in new kinds of museums, whichhave new kinds of interactive displays,in ways in which a lot of high-tech engineering companies

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: now are selling their products by visualizingwhat a world with those products in them would look like.There's a lot of visual experimentation goingon right now using the capabilities of visualizationsoftwares.And I think I think that's beginningto have an effect on the ways in which we picture the worldand we think of ourselves as inhabiting the world.I'm particularly interested in the ways in which future cities

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: are being imagined, particularly in the context of smart cities.Imagined in very powerful ways, reallynew forms of urban living, picturedin gorgeous visualizations, data flows on glowing screens.It's a very tractable that's been offered to us.And I think thinking about how both corporations,

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    GILLIAN ROSE [continued]: but also how other city inhabitants are startingto make images for themselves, and, as Isat, experiment visually in orderto think about how to inhabit the world differently.It is going to be a fascinating areato explore in the coming years.[MUSIC PLAYING]


Professor Gillian Rose discusses different types of visual research and how visual research is changing as technology evolves. She questions the requirement for anonymity in research ethics, and she challenges students who want to use visual methods to understand what purpose the methods would serve for their project.

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Gillian Rose Discusses Visual Methods

Professor Gillian Rose discusses different types of visual research and how visual research is changing as technology evolves. She questions the requirement for anonymity in research ethics, and she challenges students who want to use visual methods to understand what purpose the methods would serve for their project.