“Frozen Moments” in the Digitisation of Higher Education Teaching - Self Photography as a Critical Ethnographic Approach to Evaluate Academic Identities in a Cross Cultural Setting

Jones Myers, F.; Glover, H. and Collins, H. (2018). “Frozen Moments” in the Digitisation of Higher Education Teaching - Self Photography as a Critical Ethnographic Approach to Evaluate Academic Identities in a Cross Cultural Setting. In: ICERI2018 Proceedings pp. 5546–5551.

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This study seeks to understand the role of self-photography in enabling academics to create self-narratives and use this to reflect on evolving academic identities in an increasingly digitized locus of teaching and learning. Using photographs taken by the participants of themselves in a context which they believe epitomizes their academic identity, we engaged in in-depth interviews to discuss what photographs mean in explaining work related roles. This paper explores lecturers’ narratives of change and fluid academic selves presented in discussion on the performance space of the online arena and the enabling power that self- photography can have in shaping in depth discussions.Participants from two HEIs (UK and Middle East based) were at different points on a digitization continuum, with varying interpretations of the importance of this medium to pedagogic design and delivery. The aim is to use self- photography to surface shared and differing experiences between participants with a particular focus upon adaptations to academic identity. A key objective was on differences between teaching models that used digital as integrated into the curriculum, compared with online as a complement to traditional teaching materials.The camera can be used as a tool for observation, a stimulus for ideas or a way of illustrating and presenting results. The image taken captures the complexity of the moment and freezes it in time and provides practical assistance throughout the research process, allowing the participant to reflect on the image they want to portray themselves and then moving on to discuss the image in the final phases of synthesis and analysis (Collier and Collier, 1986). .We sampled the views and lived experiences of eighteen teaching staff working in two Business faculties. Respondents comprised a mix of permanent Faculty staff and those on adjunct contracts. In an attempt to co-create knowledge with participants, we asked them to prepare a series of photographs with metaphoric text-based descriptions (Rorty, 1991) used as an elicitation tool during the interview. Using a semi-auto- ethnographic approach enabled interviewees to shape the terms and text of semi-structured interviews, whilst also providing rich narratives of “thick” data (Geertz, 1973) which develops a layer of authenticity and criticality (Golden-Biddle and Locke, 1993). Capturing digital stories and narratives, illustrating multiple facets of self within a single-story arc allowed insight into the construction of self in a digital workplace. The photographs elicited self-reflection by respondents around their own identity as teachers; reflections were used to construct self -narratives. Choices of where and how they composed self- images reflected their individual academic roles as they saw them, allowing them to move from actor to spectator, and from internal to external perspectives in a dialectical way. Participant involvement in the photo makes for an active role of subject and co-creator (Luvera, 2010). This was particularly insightful, as respondents also shared their emotions as well as critical insights around differing academic roles and the enactment of different ‘selves’ in the workplace, both traditional and digital. We believe this study enabled the academic participants to understand their evolving identities and compose their own self – narrative, with ownership of personal narrative being particularly insightful at times of institutional change.

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