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The story they want to tell, and the visual story as evidence: young people, research authority and research purposes in the education and health domains

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The decision to use participatory visual methods with young people in education, health or public policy research is linked to a desire to allow them to have some greater voice in the research and the professional activities that impact on their lives. But how that 'voice' is produced, whose voice it represents, and how the product of that research is used and interpreted are all contentious issues for researchers. This article analyses some of these conceptual, methodological, political and pragmatic issues from the perspective of a current Australian Research Council-funded project working with young people across education and health domains. It is argued that allowing or not allowing visual accounts to speak for themselves is not simply a political decision but one related to epistemological understandings about meaning, and also to different purposes of different visual projects, in particular their relative emphasis on voice as a window to the world of the young people, compared with voice as a window to 'who I am'. The project discussed is one which aims to give greater authority and centrality to the visual accounts and voices of young people, but also one where researchers understand both the visual and voice as constructed rather than given. Case studies from the project are used to illustrate the way in which these commitments frame decisions about technology and methodology, and also to show and argue for an approach which treats the meaning of the visual evidence as something to be constructed ethnographically and reflexively over time.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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