How does individual transformation unfold within social movement learning (SML), a territory that mainly embodies learning as a collective practice? What are the roles of visual arts in mediating such transformation? We answer these questions by exploring discourses that emerged during visual arts workshops facilitated with members of the recycling social movement in São Paulo, Brazil. To do so, we intertwine arts-based research, SML, and transformative learning theories informed by Vygotskian’s cognitive development approach as an analytical tool. Findings suggest that during the art-making process, recyclers construct their visual thought, which enables their empowerment and agency as fundamental mediators of individual transformation.
Addressing the complex challenges of today’s world requires our collective creative capacity. As such, arts-based methods which promote creativity are increasingly important means of engaging people in the issues that matter most to them. This article focuses on one arts-based method, Photovoice, which is a “process by which people can identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique” (Wang & Burris, 1997, p. 369) where participants take photos in response to a question or topic of inquiry. To explore this engagement method, we draw from the methodological insights gleaned from three Master’s Arts in Leadership capstone projects that employed Photovoice (or variations thereof) as one method of inquiry.
The article is organized as follows: We begin by reviewing Photovoice as a research and engagement method and then summarize the three projects, which occurred in two nonprofit organizations and one public sector institution. In the discussion, we then compare and contrast the methodological insights emerging from these projects, including the extent to which each project: (a) enabled workers at various levels of organizational hierarchies to share their voices; (b) required careful attention to ethics; and (c) generated relationships among participants. As this is a methodological paper, our emphasis here is to highlight the process and impact of using Photovoice as a method rather than sharing each of the study findings and conclusions. In each example, Photovoice as both a research and engagement method enabled participants to play a leadership role in participatory engagement, thus deemphasizing top-down decision-making and promoting more integrated approaches to research and leadership as engagement.
For my doctoral research into adults’ informal learning through material objects in four public places in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I used sketchbooks as fieldnote journals. In contrast to objective observations, I recorded during my site visits a panoply of overheard conversations, drawings, remarks, puns, encounters, temperatures, and colours. These and other elements comprised my experiences in each site, and I wanted to represent their gist and connotations through multiple forms of expression. This approach aligns with arts-informed research methodology that celebrates complexity and shared meaning-making with engaged scholarship. I used these notes to produce for each site a written vignette, to introduce and reacquaint others with that place; two of these vignettes appear in the following report. In translating what I came to call my “feel’d,” not “field,” notes into these written pieces, I gleaned new understandings about scribbling and scrawling expressive, affective feel’d notes. I found that engagement enriched my research process, and also fostered a greater awareness of place meanings. I recognize that transformed notetaking has a bearing on understanding, research process, people/communities, and places, and offers methodological insights that carry out and further engaged scholarship knowledge.