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5.5 Of methodology and the cameras

From the moment of conception, an important element of this study was to capture learning with a camera lens. It is important therefore to reflect on the extent to which that was successful. That respondents were able to tell the learning stories embedded in the captured images, whether they had taken the images or not, testifies that it is indeed possible. The photos themselves however were akin to the words in a story; in isolation they have little meaning. When connected together using literary conventions, words become sentences and paragraphs and can deliver a storyline. Similarly the images can be labelled, grouped and categorised. But in both cases it is the reader/respondent who begins to imbue the words/images with meaning as their minds begin to make sense through their interpretations and imagination. Some images led respondents to provide a simple descriptive account of what they saw and these were consistent across respondents.
seatbelts sign
Only if respondents delved a little deeper and began the process of interpretation, could images begin to generate different stories. Other images however, demanded thoughtful interpretation from the start where the participant had snapped a moment which might have had meaning to them at the time, but forced others to reflect more deeply about the message contained therein.




Figure 21 - seatbelt sign


Different people's ontological views will be different, so although the images do capture learning, what that learning is may be different for each. The final telling then will not come from different interpretations of a single image, nor indeed from similar responses to different images, but by assembling the pieces to create the finished puzzle.

Perhaps it is important to ask whether some chapters from the story are missing though. As discussed in Section 5.3, I wouldn't say from my perspective that the learning story for the participants was complete and whilst it is possible that in their eyes it was, I have to speculate whether the cameras may have contributed to this perceived omission. The first factor might have been size: whilst the cameras were indeed compact cameras, they could hardly be said to be the quite as small as say a mobile phone. Consequently it might not have been as convenient as intended for participants to carry them as often as possible and be able to capture all learning incidents. If instead mobile phone sized cameras had been used, or if they had their own camera-phones and been able to use them, then ubiquity might have proven less of an issue since they wouldn't have had to carry two devices.

My feeling is that the cameras and the photographs they captured were not fully exploited. Because of the reasons outlined in Section 5.3, they were never really used for long enough for the participants to become more adept at capturing images and more thoughtful about the contents at the moment of pressing the shutter. The time to develop an element of feedback where, having begun the process of analysing the images, they are able to consider what messages they are trying to capture and going out to look for those situations, in addition to beginning the analysis by inspecting and interrogating the image prior to submitting it. This was of course the intention of the project from the outset, but was shelved for the aforementioned ethical reasons. Perhaps instead of selecting and recruiting participants based on the criterion that they would be able to conduct themselves with sensitivity, volunteers could have been sought from those prepared to sign up for the project, understanding and being fully aware of the degree of commitment necessary. Were I to conduct the project again with a similar group, I might be tempted to show them some images that others had captured as part of the induction process and sow the seeds of interpretative analysis in their minds before they captured their first image.

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