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About the Project

The Do participatory visual methods give ‘voice’? project is an evaluative study of a participatory visual method, participatory mapping. The findings will add an important dimension to understandings of the sorts of claims that can accurately be made about participatory visual methods, such as participatory mapping. In particular, the findings will contribute to understandings of how researchers understand what ‘giving voice’ means and how they understand participatory visual methods to ‘give voice’; to what extent people who are involved in participatory mapping consider the participatory maps to give them ‘voice’; and the extent to which ‘audiences’ understand the ‘voices’ of those involved in participatory mapping.

Increasing knowledge about participatory visual methods in this way will improve evidence-based claims about participatory visual methods, helping us to understand how different groups understand ‘voice’ and whether they perceive methods such as participatory mapping to successfully ‘give voice’. Such knowledge is useful not only for researchers using these methods, but also for advocacy groups and practitioners, who may be interested in ensuring that they have evidence of whether ‘voice’ is provided through such methods.

Research aims

The overall aim of the study is to explore whether participatory visual methods ‘give voice’ to participants.

In order to achieve this overarching aim, the project has the following specific aims:

  • To analyse researcher understandings of what it means to ‘give voice’, and the extent to and ways in which they understand participatory visual methods ‘give voice’ to participants
  • To explore participant assessments of the extent to and ways in which outputs from participatory mapping meaningfully represent their ‘voices’
  • To explore audience assessments of the extent to and ways in which they understand ‘voice’ in visual representations
  • To engage in training and capacity building focused on what has been learned from evaluation of the method

The analytic focus areas of the project are participatory visual research methods and ‘voice’ in research methods.

Research questions

The project’s research questions are designed to make connections between the ways in which ‘voice’ is understood by researchers, participants and ‘audiences’.

The project’s central research question is: Do participatory visual methods give ‘voice’?

In order to answer this main research question, the project will examine the following related questions:

  • How do researchers understand ‘voice’, and in what ways do they understand PVMs to give ‘voice’?
  • In what ways and to what extent do individuals living in poverty feel that the visual representations created through participatory mapping reflect their ‘voices’?
  • In what ways and to what extent are the maps created through participatory mapping accurately understood by practitioners?
  • In what ways and to what extent are the maps created through participatory mapping accurately understood by members of local communities and the general public?
Project outline

In order to meet these aims and answer these questions, there are 3 phases to research:. Each of these are set out below:

Phase 1 explores researcher understandings of ‘voice’ and how PVMs ‘give voice’ to participants.

Phase 2 focuses on whether participants in participatory mapping feel that these methods give adequate ‘voice’ (or not). This involves individuals currently living in areas considered to be ‘spaces of poverty’ according to official statistics, taking part in participatory mapping, and feeding back on the extent to which the outputs generated through participatory mapping represent their ‘voice’ accurately.

Phase 3 focuses on ‘audience’ understandings of ‘voice’. Using the outputs from phase 2, it explores (with practitioners, the local community.