Visualising the visceral: using film to research the ineffable
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While cheaper technology, wider training availability and the online digital learning environment have broadened the opportunities for geographers to use film and video, it has also led to calls to improve the discipline’s media literacy. This need is made even more urgent by the shift in qualitative research to practice-based methods targeted towards how we experience our lived environment. Other shifts in empirical and conceptual focus are also relevant, particularly interest in emotional beneath the surface geographies and calls for participation rather than observation encased in recent debates on the Anthropocene. The negative association of film with entertainment and marketeering has led to concerns about the suitability of film as a research output and has led some scholars to restrict themselves to a stringent use of real-time ‘video’ in a primarily data-collection context. This paper adopts a practice-based approach in order to identify some of the complex qualities that a research film holds and contribute to the debate about its future as a form of academic research and publication. Reflecting on a recent film-based research project on heritage tourism in Syria and Jordan I argue that the potential to manipulate, distort or entertain should not be ignored or refuted. Rather the wide range of relationships between people, objects and landscape within the frame such as depth of field, mise-en-scene and between the frames via editing (montage) give film a complex viscerality and multi-sensorial power that can help us explore how we communicate our feelings and connect the experiential qualities of filmic research methods to final outputs.
- Geography