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Article

Исследователь с камерой в пространстве медийной публичности: полевой опыт

Поляков С. И., Омельченко Д. А.

The article analyzes the features of teamwork in the field featuring sociologist with his classical tools of sociological science approach (observation, interviewing) and a director with a camera. Having as an example an ethnographic expedition to the capital of the Republic of Dagestan (Makhachkala, 2016, August-September, studying street workout scene), the possibilities of two-stage field study were demonstrated: on the first – a three-week field observation by a sociologist, on the second – filming a documentary film about youth scenes of Makhachkala.

The subject of our discussion is a methodological reflection on the experience of working together from the perspective of two research approaches: a sociologist using the method of participant observation, and a director who films informants’ daily practices. Both views are presented through the key arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of teamwork.

The format of a documentary film project, implemented in the course of field work, has its common specifics. Currently, a number of authors (Becker, 1976; Collier, Collier, 1987; Harper, 1998), including Russian authors (Zaporozhets, 2012; Pechurina, 2007) pay particular attention to the sociological analysis of photographic materials. Admittedly, sociological cinema has long been in the “shadow” of the main genre of visual sociology that is photography. A vast body of work on visual sociology is devoted mainly to the sociological analysis of photographs and other accomplished multimedia works.

However, recently the question of the importance of working with the cinema or video camera (in different formats) in the sociological field is increasingly being discussed (Brown et al., 2008; Mondada, 2006; Knoblauch et al., 2006). As for the motion pictures, the anthropological cinema with its specific ethnographic description of visual representations (Worth, Adair, 1972; Pink, 2006; Visual Anthropology ..., 2007) is in the focus of attention of scientists. However, for all the similarity of approaches, there are significant differences between the sociological documentary scientific project and the anthropological one.

As for sociological cinema, it can be said that the debate about it is structured by two polar points of view. For some visual researchers, this is a fundamentally new and self-sufficient method of collecting, analyzing and representing sociological material, or even a language for describing social reality (Gottdiener, 1979; Ruby, 1980; MacDougall, 1997; Knoblauch et al., 2006). Others see the documentary film as an additional tool that does not substitute, but complements traditional methods and techniques for collecting, analyzing and representing data (Haider, 2001), or reduce its capabilities to the representation (imaging) of the study results, thus denying the heuristic value of data collected using video camera. Thus, according to Emmison and Smith, “only those visible essences of the social world that are accessible to the unaided eye ... are data for research” (Emmison, Smith, 2012, p. 145). The one pole of sociological reflection about cinema can be conceptualized as the position of a sociologist-filmmaker, and the second as the point of view of a sociologist-field worker who works with the classical tools of qualitative sociology.

The article is intended to reflect the main key points of dual reflection on this interaction: first, through the eyes of a sociologist-filmmaker and then through the eyes of a sociologist-researcher.