“Through the eyes of babes”: A Dialogic Approach to Visual Ethnography

Year: 2013

Author: White, Jayne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The 'work of the eye' has a powerful influence across different cultures and philosophies, not least in Goethe's approach to understanding. Aligned to aesthetic appreciation, seeing has the potential to offer an authorial gift when brought to bear on evaluative relationships - a concept enshrined in the Maori notion of 'aroha' (that is, to look into or to love). Yet this gaze might also be seen as limiting or even manipulative when put to work in the services of 'other'. Of course, the eye, does not work alone - what can be seen is directly impacted by the ideologies that influence interpretation, the time and space of its orientation, and the genre of its capture. Thus any image falls victim to its subjective stance . In this seminar Jayne explores the concept of ‘seeing’ through Bakhtin's  notion of 'visual surplus' and shares her associated insights into the increasing dominance of visual culture in educational research and assessment. Drawing on polyphonic interpretations of infant acts, the ethical, moral, axiological and educational implications for understanding 'self-other' are considered from their visual (axiologic, ideologic, ontologic) standpoint. Through this lens, seeing is brought to life as an encounter of authorship, answerability, and a potential relationship in meaning which, the author argues, places an ethical burden upon those (researchers, teachers, health professionals, etc) who are doing the seeing.