On the Ethics of Ownership in Participatory Visual Research

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Claudia MITCHELL, McGill University, Canada
A critical ethical issue in participatory visual research relates to ownership of the visual productions – photos, cellphilms and videos, drawings and digital stories. As Akesson et al (2014) highlight in their study of ethical issues linked to arts-based research with war affected children, we may, as researchers, enthusiastically engage with the idea of participant voice when it comes to media making, but forget that with authorship and visual production comes the idea of ownership. Nowhere is the potential for abuse more evident than in participatory visual work with children and young people. Drawing on Burowoy’s (2003) idea of revisiting and reflexive ethnography, in this paper, I revisit several arts-based projects related to research with children and young people in Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa. To what extent do the goals of public engagement take over the goals of personal agency? Are there any justifications for by-passing the consultative process with children and young people? Through narrating and studying a series of vignettes drawn from these arts-based projects, I seek to deepen an understanding of the issue of ownership and in particular interrogate the ways in which the initial meaning making process is often separated from the equally important area of identity and autonomy. While this is not a completely new area to participatory visual research, it is an area that complements well the idea of dissemination and public engagement.