Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: Methods (page 1 of 12)

IVSA by Amtrak

Beautiful downtown Saratoga Springs, NY

Beautiful downtown Saratoga Springs, NY

Just back on the weekend from a trip to my first IVSA (International Visual Sociology Association) conference, in Saratoga Springs, NY. What a fascinating group of people: sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, documentarians and artists all come together to explore the intersection of visual culture and society. A very international group, too, and welcoming to new members like me. I think I’ll have to straddle IVSA and ISSRM as academic homes from now on. Hoping to get to Dublin for IVSA2020.

Thanks ecent for this very meta shot of me.

Thanks ecent for this very meta shot of me.

Highlights were many. John Grady’s categorization of picture-making traditions was compelling, as was Anna Sarzynska’s typology of the unintended impacts of tourist photography and Celine Missoorten’s observations on reasons for the rebirth of analog photography and slow media. Dee Britton took a compelling semi-quantitative approach to explore Civil War memorials spatially and over time, feeding into documentary footage from Charlottesville shared by Joyce Sebag and Jean-Pierre Durand, and a reimagining of the Virginia state flag by Eric Sencindiver. Relebohile Moletsane explored the academic push-back she has received about using PhotoVoice with South African girls documenting their sexual abuse.  One session about using photos and PhotoVoice in the university setting had lots of great ideas for my qualitative class, and inspired a fascinating discussion about how to represent minority students in university marketing. Australian documentary filmmaker Catherine Gough-Brady explored our capacity to empathize without a hero, and US filmmaker Kathy Kasic described her ‘sensory verite’ approach in documenting Antarctic ice core research. Documentaries were playing in an adjacent room, of which I caught Expect Delays (by Gough-Brady) and parts of Arrhythmia and The Area. Plenary guests Youth FX/Rogue FX blew us all away as a model for empowerment and training.

Royal Roads' Jean Slick painted this based on YouTube videos of dash cam footage of the Fort McMurray fire evacuation.

Royal Roads’ Jean Slick painted this based on YouTube videos of dash cam footage of the Fort McMurray fire evacuation.

Canadians were outstanding, as is to be expected: Carolina Cambre and Christine Lawrence shared work on teens and selfie filters in Canada; Jean Slick painted the Fort McMurray evacuation experience from YouTube videos from dash cams (see one above); and Guillaume Clermont passed over a dozen paintings around the room to make tangible his points on reproduction, ‘originality’ and the ‘image flood’. The sessions were very well organized thematically, with lots of time for rich discussion. My discussion of culturomic tools was well received, fitting nicely into Paolo Faveri’s exploration of GPS tracking tools and other means of revealing the forces that drive how people use our urban spaces, and Christine Louveau de la Guignereye on the challenges of engaging with new media including coding literacy, asking: “is multimedia like Esperanto, a false good idea?”

While loathe to leave, I was excited to hop back on the Amtrak to Montreal, by which I’d also arrived. The trip is a stunning one, along Lac Champlain and adjacent rivers, looking across high water levels and heron-rich wetlands to Mountains in Vermont. Well worth the US$92 return price. I’d do it just for fun, but the train was almost empty. People of Montreal, what are you doing?

Along the Amtrak from Saratoga Springs to Montreal.

Views along the Amtrak from Saratoga Springs to Montreal.

The mountains of Vermont across Lac Champlain, from the Saratoga Springs to Montreal Amtrak train.

The mountains of Vermont across Lac Champlain, from the Saratoga Springs to Montreal Amtrak train.

 

New paper: conceptual mapping of Instagram

The second paper from Yan Chen’s MES thesis is now out in Society and Natural Resources, Leveraging social media to understand younger people’s perceptions and use of hydroelectric energy landscapes. It is a research note demonstrating the utility of manual coding and conceptual mapping of a year of Instagram images around two hydroelectricity sites to predict how changes might affect young residents. Unlike her first thesis paper in Landscape and Urban Planning, which carried out spatial mapping of value ‘hotspots’–a method widespread in today’s growing literature on cultural ecosystem services–this paper makes statistical links between features, activities and values conveyed through Instagram. The diagrams provide insight to the lifestyle and emotions associated with different landscape features, some changeable with hydro development or removal, and informs our new work on conservation culturomics for social impact assessment. Yan continues to drive this work as an IDPhD student. Congratulations, Yan.

Yan Chen in Singapore

Yan Chen at NSF-funded workshop in Singapore, January 28-29, 2019.

Yan Chen presenting her IDPhD work at NSF-funded workshop in Singapore, January 28-29, 2019.

Yan Chen is wrapping up a few days in Singapore for the NSF-funded Research Coordination Network (RCN) in Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) on Putting Sustainability into Convergence: Connecting Data, People, and Systems. This international workshop has been diverse in attendees and disciplines. Yan reflected, “The most discussed question is how people from different disciplines can collaborate. There are many scholars like me, as social scientists who are using sophisticated data analysis models; while others are engineers working on social issues. We both, at a certain degree, struggle in ‘cultural shocks’ between different disciplines.” It’s been a great opportunity for her to workshop with similarly cross-cutting folks. She described her session as discussing, “data sources, sizes, validity, sharing, proxies, and so on. …. [agreeing] that data or method cannot develop only on the technologies, but has to answer certain questions. For social scientists, finding a good mechanism of data sharing or archiving may be very useful. Also, how to cope with the rapidly developing technologies will be another challenge for us.” Thanks to SSHRC for supporting Yan’s trip, via Mike Smit’s Insight Grant, on which I’m a CI, Assessing the social impacts of hydroelectricity-driven landscape changing using text, images and archives: a Big Data approach.

The sea is so big and my boat so small

I’m surfacing after going offline for a day to reflect on my recent lesson in Remedial Internet 101. I don’t tweet–simply haven’t the constitution for it–but merely keep record of my doings in this unfashionable corner of the blogosphere. I am ill suited to the multi-channel (and Janus-faced) modes of modern academic debate.  I was grateful to be told directly that I had been hurtful with an analogy I used yesterday: when I’m wrong I apologize and try to fix it. It was a lapse in empathy on my part; the visual it had conjured pleased me for its aptness, blinding me to how it might feel to receive.  Retractions never make the ‘front page’ of online discourse, however.

I hear now that I am being accused of gate-keeping and being against boundary work. With some reflection, this may be a fair accusation. If all this boundary work was going swimmingly I’d have little reason to complain; but it is not, and so sometimes I do. I think that the best boundary work is actually drawing on many skill-sets, and is thus interdisciplinary.  I’ve argued before that disciplines, while they sometimes get a bad rap, are really useful. People are complicated.  Disciplines create theory, norms, and progress critical to ‘interdisciplines’, and those interstitial domains are better if they can draw on healthy disciplines via integration-minded experts. Its like jellyfish: the floating medusa phase and the anchored polyp phase are both needed. But maybe I should stop using animal analogies.

Response article in Methods in Ecology and Evolution

Proud to be one of a strong list of applied social science experts co-authoring a paper out this week, Expanding the role of social science in conservation through an engagement with philosophy, methodology, and methods (open access). Led by the clear-headed Katie Moon, of UNSW Canberra, this new article responds to a special feature in Methods in Ecology and Evolution on qualitative methods for decision-making. Given the mix of methods they included (e.g. including Q-method and MCDA), it seems they used qualitative as if synonymous with social, which is one of my pet peeves. But there were more substantial issues with the special issue. I have written before that I weary of reviewing papers led by teams of natural scientists who wade into social science work without involving any experienced social scientists, so was really happy to weigh in with this great team.

Full disclosure: I joined the team late, and my rationale is not theirs; I speak only for myself. But it was a real joy to develop fellowship and debate ideas with this group, despite our far-flung geography. I’m sorry only that a poorly considered analogy fuelled an angry place online, already in oversupply, distracting from the value of this contribution and the good faith of its lead authors. Good response articles are not the result of indoctrinated voices speaking in unison, but rather a novel network of scholars working together to iron out some of the wrinkles that have been causing collective discomfort. And there is just nothing like slipping into freshly laundered sheets.

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