Unveiling Space by using Participatory Photo Interview

Unveiling Space by using Participatory Photo Interview

Bettina Kolb (University of Vienna, Austria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0074-4.ch008


Using visual material in a participatory interview process allows for broadening communication with users and developing a deeper understanding of residents’ perspectives. Photographs taken by respondents as part of a research and future planning process provide the opportunity to see local spaces from users’ perspectives, thus allowing them to contribute to urban planning in a meaningful way. This chapter introduces the method of participatory photo interview, its use in social science, and its potential for urban and planning studies. It reviews literature on the topic, discusses opportunities for applying the method to spatial questions, and reviews the method’s strengths and weaknesses, illustrated by an example taken from urban studies. In conclusion, the author considers the feasibility of using the method online and highlights possible pitfalls and advantages.
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The Participatory Photo Interview

How to Characterize the Method of Photo Interview

Photo interview, also known as photo elicitation, introduces visual data into the interview process in order to stimulate verbal expression by the interviewees (Rose, 2007) and understand the world as defined by them (Harper, 2002). The participatory photo interview requires respondents to take photographs in the context of a research or planning process that is seen as a common or collaborative endeavor (Kolb, 2008). Taking photographs can be considered as a participatory activity intended to respond to questions posed by research or planning partners. In doing so, the participatory photo interview is part of a participatory research design. Taking photos and participating in the subsequent interviews invites residents to deepen their participation in a collaborative research process, as they explain notions to researchers or planners. Once the photo interview is completed, the photos and interview text are available as data for further research and sociological interpretation using different methods of scientific analysis.

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