My approach positions the researcher as a bridge between the everyday lives of ordinary people and the organizations that serve them. Through collaboration with participants, I identify shared needs, concerns, and experiences. I help businesses and organizations see the world through the lens of their customers, consumers, and co-workers. I employ the techniques of visual sociology to engage stakeholders and imagine ways to put their insights into action so that organizations and communities can flourish.
Understanding the needs, concerns, behaviors, and experiences of people can be tricky. How do you know if what you are seeing or hearing is an accurate understanding of what is really going on? Do you know enough to design a compelling product or to redesign a program? Are your assumptions being challenged by evidence grounded in the everyday lives of those your organization serves?
The tools of visual sociology can be applied to a wide variety of research questions and needs. While my scholarly interests over the years orbited around religion and spirituality, the focus of this work are the everyday experiences of ordinary people. I can help you develop a deep contextual understanding of social and cultural experiences so you can be more effective and innovative in your work.
When I do ethnography, I use my camera as a tool for collecting data and I integrate photos into my fieldnotes. The combination of words and images allows me to construct a more robust and nuanced description than is possible with words alone.
When I interview people, I ask them to compose photos of their everyday lives and invite them to tell me the stories behind their pictures. I have discovered that their photos frequently are answers to questions I may not have known to ask. Likewise, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder positions me as more of a learner than an expert, which lends respect and agency to the interviewee.
When I facilitate participatory research, I help stakeholders use their own photos to voice their shared experiences, identify common concerns, and envision change. I guide participants through a process characterized by curiosity, understanding, empathy, collaboration, and action. Along the way, people experience change as they pursue it.
Workshops offer a way to engage stakeholders around an issue or question important to your organization or community. In the span of a few hours, participants use photographs to have conversations about their needs, experiences, and concerns. Working together in small groups, participants learn to see the world through the eyes of other participants and work together to understand their shared experiences. By the end of a workshop they generate materials that help to describe needs/concerns/experiences and to imagine alternative futures. And they identify ways to use their photographs and ideas to create narratives that can communicate their shared story to a broader audience. Along the way, they build relationships with one another that can be leveraged to help advance the goals of the organization or community to which they belong.
Previous workshops have helped groups explore organizational change, wrestle with community issues, identify needs, and imagine new futures together.
Embracing the Disruptive Power of Photographs
Cameras are everywhere these days and the smartphones they are attached to can be quite a distraction. Instead of trying to regulate their use in places like classrooms, lecture halls, meetings, and religious services, what if we could harness their potential to engage participants? This talk describes five strategies for embracing the disruptive potential of cell phone photographs.
Seeing and Believing: The Art and Social Science of Interfaith Photovoice
Typically, interfaith dialogue happens in an auditorium where a priest, rabbi, and imam offer perspectives from their religious tradition on a common topic. The audience shuffles in, listens passively to this thoughtful dialogue, and shuffles out without much meaningful interaction with people outside their own religion. These dialogues are important, helpful, and interesting, but too often the opportunity for audience members to build relationships across religious differences is not part of the program.
Interfaith photovoice reimagines dialogue by engaging participants at the grassroots level. This is accomplished by convening diverse groups of participants who use their own photographs to discuss their faith in everyday life.
This talk describes photovoice as a tool for grassroots interfaith dialogue. In it I also discuss the social science behind photovoice, drawing from three photovoice projects in the United States and Canada involving Christians and Muslims. Along with helping people see and understand the religions of their co-participants, I explain how interfaith photovoice can strengthen communities and reduce prejudice.