Elana wrote and asked me what thoughts I had on social science and artistic vision (in her case, photography) and the merging of the two fields. Are there specific criteria that I hope to see reflected in the creation of ‘scientifically supportive imagery’?
I responded that I still find writing about the visual to be ironic, at best. I strongly believe that we can learn more by looking, reveal more by showing than through simple justification in text. Art and Science are both about discovery and creating a record of that discovery. Both are infused with the time and place in which they are practiced. The 'audience' for any work of art, any scientific discovery makes the ultimate interpretation. This is as it should be.
The visual image needs to be interrogated. Just like a criminal in a police station. We should never accept what we first see as the final truth, but realise that we are peeling an onion of multiple truths (and lies). Sociology, when done well, is a good detective story.
Some of the best 'social photography' today is done on cell/mobile phones and appears on flickr and Facebook. Photography does not always have to have a 'cause' or social issue in order to be about social life. There is much fodder for investigation in the ordinary.
Elana cited Howard Becker a lot. It reminded me of his piano playing. I want both Beckers/I want to be both. I suggested that Elana read this blog. I proposed that it is a non-course in performative social science, an educational process by subterfuge (see preceding blog item).
Next, an anthropological journal sent me a friend’s paper on the use of poetry in social science to review. I highly recommended publication of the paper; then I added:
When any breakthrough occurs in art (or social science or anthropology?), it is necessary in order for it to find its place on a continuum of time that other attempts are made to refine answers to a set of questions that change only slowly (Kubler, The Shape of Time, 1962). This effort in the refinement of the use of poetics in social science contributes to the development of the use of the arts in this arena by astutely placing the case in a solid social science framework. Not the artistic endeavor that will punctuate the historical continuum as a great work of art, rather, this contribution is the quieter and deeper foundation-building labour that is necessary for other great strides forward to make their mark and prosper in the first place.
The author only hints at the audience (or community) so necessary for the dialogic to exist within our relationships with works of art. Further attention to relational aesthetics (Bourriaud 2001) may very well help inform further development of the theoretical base for poetics in social science research. The intuitive aspects of a shared culture, coupled with a more universal response to injustices (and, therefore, an artistic expression of these emotive components), compete for resolution within more rigid ethical frameworks and well-tested methodologies in the discussion. My take is that by developing a trust in personal instinct and intuition and the naturally expressive and moral potential of these resources, social science research will become more comfortable within these new paradigms and more willing to jettison some of the baggage of its old ‘academic rigor’ and procedural ethics.