Reading Ahead: Photo Diaries
In addition to our in-person fieldwork, we often ask research participants to do some kind of task on their own. In past projects, these assignments have included a range of activities, from workbooks and journals with specific daily prompts, to fairly open-ended photo diaries.
For Reading Ahead, we asked people to do a short photo diary, and send us five or so digital pictures (before the interview session) that would help us get a sense of how reading fits into their lives.
Diaries like this accomplish several things. They give us access to a person’s world beyond what we might be able to get in just a face-to-face meeting. We’re able to see what they do in more locations, at more different times, and in more situations.
We probably won’t be there to see someone actually reading in bed before they go to sleep at night, but they might well ask a family member to take a picture of it for their photo diary, as Tracy did for this project.
Diaries also help us build rapport more quickly with the people we’re meeting, by giving us a common set of stories to begin the conversation with. There’s often a bit of back and forth dialogue between us and the participants during the assignment as well, which helps us establish a relationship.
Having some shared knowledge and possibly interaction prior to the interview means that when we are face-to-face, we can jump right in with that person at a deeper level, which can free up time in the interview session for exploring more areas of the research topic.
When you look at the pictures people sent us for this project, you’ll see that they’ve responded in a variety of ways. Some focused on objects, some took pictures of other people, and some photographed themselves or had other people photograph them. It’s useful to see the different ways people interpret the topic area, and the connections they draw. It helps us understand how each person sees the world, and can point us to additional lines of inquiry.
Below are the photo diaries for Reading Ahead.