Seeing more? Seeing differently? The use of visual methods to explore social workers’ experiences of their workplace

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The use of visual methods, including photographs, in both social work (Clark & Morriss, 2015) and organisational research (Ray & Smith, 2012) remains relatively infrequent. This paper will explore the use of photo-voice (Wang & Burris, 1997) as a research method. Photo-voice is the primary method used in a study undertaken within a social work organisation which explores how social workers experience their workplace, and specifically how they experience the practice of ‘hot-desking’. Hot-desking is a term commonly used to describe the organisational practice where staff have no fixed personal desk and use any available desk as needed. Hot-desking is one of a range of flexible working practices which have increasingly been adopted by employers, including those within the public sector, but which remains under-researched. Proponents of visual methods stress their ability to access elements of participants’ experiences and meaning-making which are non-linguistic or subconscious and to reveal ‘previously concealed or underestimated aspects of organisational life’ (Schrat et al, 2012:3).This paper will consider the extent to which this has been achieved within the study, and the challenges encountered. The paper will also explore the potential of participant-generated photographs to ‘democratise’ the research process (Novak, 2010). I will consider whether the photo-voice method has enabled research participants to have greater involvement in creating and interpreting images, and incorporated diverse and what may otherwise be silent voices. These are significant questions given social workers’ expressed powerlessness in relation to their employers (Fook, 2012) and organisational environments.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event6th European Conference for Social Work Research - Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 30 Mar 20161 Apr 2016


Conference6th European Conference for Social Work Research

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