Methodology

It can be difficult to reflect on one’s working method, as a lot of what we do seems to be instinctive. We tend to take our methods for granted, unaware that there are many different ways of responding to a single object or theme. Typically, understanding methodology begins by identifying what is most important to you. For example, you may be more concerned with colour, style, composition, meaning, audience reception, political context, etc. Not everyone will have the same priorities when viewing the image.

When different people view an image or conduct a project, they will approach it in different ways. For example, when viewing a photo, one person may try to quantify its contents by considering the ratio of one colour to another; another viewer may consider the political or social connotations of the context in which the image appears; another viewer may may seek to understand the meaning as intended by the artist; yet another viewer may be more concerned with how the audience interpret the piece. All of these are valid, but different, approaches to the same image.

Some research methodologies are standardized, so that researchers are able to apply an existing methodology that has been used by others before. For example, structuralism involves considering all objects in relation to other things; semiotics separates the properties of the image (or ‘sign’) from its meaning; Marxism proposes that there is no authoritative interpretation of any image, but rather than all interpretations are equally valuable. In reality, most people do not apply any one of these methodologies, but rather take prompts from a variety of different methodologies to understand an image or text in their own way. The video below illustrates how one colleague in photography approaches the question of methodology:

For the Research & Enquiry module, students have been asked to end their blog by reflecting on their working method. This should involve considering how and why you work in the way you do, what your priorities are, and how that may affect your view of the work that you are doing, or the research that you have done.

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