Defining participatory video from practice

High, Chris; Singh, Namita; Petheram, Lisa and Nemes, Gusztáv (2012). Defining participatory video from practice. In: Milne, E-J; Mitchell, Claudia and de Lange, Naydene eds. The Handbook of Participatory Video. Lanham, MD, USA: AltaMira Press.



In this chapter we explore the common threads within different strands of participatory video by considering some examples of practice. Taken together these reveal a rich diversity of purpose and application. Participatory video has been used as a term to describe some quite distinct practices, and conversely, there are instances of the use of video in social settings that seem to be closely related to participatory video without being described as such. This makes it difficult to immediately pin down what the term means, and indeed it is said that there is no common understanding of participatory video.

To scholars the diversity of participatory video practice presents two separate issues. The first is that it is necessary to bear in mind that participatory video has been applied in many more ways outside of academic research and education than inside. Even if one is only interested in participatory video solely as a component of research, an understanding of non-academic practice is likely to enrich and enhance methodological choices. The second is that participatory video is a rich site for a pragmatic and phronetic scholarship that questions social experiences to explore what works and to what end. The question here is what lessons can be learned from diverse practices, and how to apply this learning elsewhere. Thus with participatory video, as with any practice, scholarship has a role to play in terms of providing a platform for considered and critical reflection, a space to consider the significance of what is and of what could be.

Effective reflection rests on some basic taxonomic work in order to gain an overview of the field. We therefore have selected three vignettes to show some key features of participatory video in practice, with an eye to establishing a broad baseline. These examples are drawn from our personal research in two cases and some background research in the third. For the purpose of this chapter, breadth is more appropriate if we are interested in to explore the range of extant practice, and the vignettes are simple outlines to provide illustration for an exploratory discussion rather than fully developed case studies with all of the detailed evidence presented.

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