The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Paul U. Kellogg and the “Social Survey Movement”: Progressive Era Visual Research Methods, 1907-1917

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 3:00 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon F, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Caroline A. Lanza, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background and Purpose: This paper explores the use of visual research methods by early social work leader Paul U. Kellogg, drawing implications from this “pre-history” for contemporary research and practice. Kellogg (1879-1958) was an innovative “hybrid practitioner” of social work, journalism, and social research who harnessed the most advanced visual technologies of his time in service of progressive social change.  In groundbreaking projects like the Pittsburgh Survey, and his editorship of two widely-read social work periodicals, Survey and Survey Graphic, Kellogg brilliantly combined documentary photography, art, maps, data, and textual narratives with the social change goal of making unavoidably visible the social inequities of industrializing America.  His innovative work presaged current trends towards use of visual and digital media in community- based research and public scholarship. Yet, key aspects of Kellogg’s contributions to Progressive reform, particularly his unique vision for using visual culture in community-based research, consciousness-raising, and political advocacy, have largely been forgotten in social work, his home discipline. This study both reclaims Kellogg’s action research legacy and critically examines the complexities inherent in his use of visual media in relation to the immigrant poor.

Methods:  This study approached Kellogg’s early career as an historical case study.  Primary source materials included Kellogg’s voluminous body of written work; the findings of the Pittsburgh Survey, which were published in Survey (formerly Charities and the Commons, social work’s first professional journal); and an array of archival materials, notably those held at the University of Minnesota Social Welfare Archives. It also draws on a wide range of secondary literature. Conceptually and analytically the project was informed by community based participatory action research models, recent feminist digital humanities scholarship, and scholarship on visual media analysis in disciplines such as Communications and Visual Anthropology.

Results:  Kellogg viewed social workers as “engineers” expert in the inner machinations of place-based communities. From his perspective, research was not as an end in itself, but a tool for mobilizing activism for social change in service to that community. Significantly, he viewed graphic representations—photographs, maps, or graphs—as a means not only of data collection but as a vital dissemination method necessary to reaching multiple audiences: local stake holders, social service providers, and the mainstream public. Current practitioners of visual research methodology have much to learn from his successes and failures in doing so, particularly in regards to policy advocacy and issues such as the ethics of representation and dissemination of images of vulnerable populations.

Conclusions and Implications:  Findings of the study make clear both the power and the pitfalls inherent in the use of visual media within change-oriented social research. They also illuminate the similarities between Kellogg’s rhetoric and research methods and contemporary community based participatory research.  As social work scholars increasingly engage the rhetoric and practices of the visual particularly within the realm of new media, attention to the lessons learned by earlier scholar-activists such as Kellogg is essential to effectively and respectfully wielding visual data regarding vulnerable communities for the purposes of political advocacy.