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When Methods Meet

Ethnographic video and phenomenological creative writing


In this 19-minute film two researchers who use the creative methods of ethnographic video and phenomenological creative writing discuss research methods that are characterised by an open agenda and a range of possible outcomes. Arek Dakessian and David Manderson’s conversation explores the need for researchers to get close to people’s experience of the phenomena that are being researched. Capturing the meaning of place by walking in an environment is one way in which a researcher may gain a sense of people’s lived experience, and thus provide reassurance that an account being developed has authenticity and academic credibility. Another respect in which the film-maker’s craft unexpectedly resembles that of the novelist is in not knowing at the outset where the research process will lead (although this can also be said to be true of other methods such as experiments). The conversation concludes by noting that adopting creative methods commits the researcher to the possibility of mistakes being made as imagination is followed, and these mistakes are treated as a part of the learning process.

Academics in conversation: Arek Dakessian, University of Edinburgh (webpage: and Dr David Manderson, University of the West of Scotland (webpage:


The following are recent contributions to the discussion of the methods, and they all contain bibliographies that provide suggestions for further reading. Video Ethnography: This is a great book for engaging with the versatility of video as method. The first chapter is particularly interesting for those thinking about video ethnography:
  • M. Broth, E. Laurier and L.  Mondada, (Eds.), Studies of video practices: video at work, Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York ; London 2014)
  • E. Margolis and L. Pauwels, The SAGE Handbook of Visual Research Methods (SAGE 2011)
  • P.D. Milne, C. Mitchell and N. de Lange, Handbook of Participatory Video (AltaMira Press, 2012)
  • S. Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography (SAGE Publications: London, 2007)
This paper is not directly relevant to video ethnography, but speaks to ‘making methods your own’: L. Young and H. Barrett, ‘Adapting visual methods: action research with Kampala street children’ in Area 33, 141–152. doi:10.1111/1475-4762.00017 (2001) Another interesting resource is the journal of video ethnography (JVE). This is a fairly recent, peer-reviewed journal with a filmic focus on ethnographic video and film. It’s not in the REF, but it’s still a very useful resource. (
  • Creative writing: J. Webb, Researching Creative Writing, (Frontinus: Suffolk 2015)
  • J. Kroll and K. Harper, Researching Creative Writing, (Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2013)
  • L. Barrett and D. Manderson, ‘Making the Ordinary Extraordinary: Collaborative Wayfaring and Creative Writing’, in Exploring Creative Writing: Voices from the Great Writing International Great Writing Conference, (Cambridge Scholars: Newcastle upon Tyne 2016)
  • G. Harper, New Writing: the International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, (Rutledge: London)
  • National Association of Writers in Education, subject lead website,
  • G. Debord, Psychogeographic Guide to Paris (1957) Accessed 9 October 2016
  • G. Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, (Black and Red: New York 1984)


We have created a downloadble resource sheet for this video. It has a transcript of the conversation, the list of references, and suggested seminar questions.