How to Analyze Arts-Based Data in Social Work Research

Friday, January 16, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Iberville, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Izumi Sakamoto, PhD, University of Toronto, Ronald Pitner, PhD, University of South Carolina and Matthew D. Chin, MSW, MA, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
While the arts have been used as part of social work practice throughout the profession’s history, arts-based research (ABR) has only gained popularity within social work in recent years.  Broadly defined, ABR can be conceptualized as any research efforts using arts for data collection, analysis and/or the dissemination of research findings. A variety of art modalities are used, including theatre, photography, poetry, music and crafts. Social work scholars have pointed to the many advantages of ABR, including the potential democratization of the research participation process. Despite the increasingly common use of art in data collection, less attention has been paid to how we might analyze the arts-based data. In this workshop, three presenters will explore different ways of analyzing arts-based data in social work research.

The first presenter will discuss a photovoice project, which is a well-known community-based participatory research (CBPR) method that has been used in a plethora of research studies across the world. Photovoice allows community members to visually represent, through photographs, their community experiences, as well as their community strengths and concerns, which then would engage viewers in critical dialogue and ultimately inform social change. However, there seems to be a void when it comes to the audience (i.e., non-participants of photovoice) getting involved in this critical dialogue. This presentation will demonstrate an innovative method entitled “LENS,” which is a process that invites the audience to engage in a critical dialogue about the work produced by photovoice participants.

The second project explored the tacit dimensions of employment barriers faced by skilled immigrants to Canada. The research team collaborated with a theatre specialist, and devised a data collection method drawing from drama therapy techniques, in ways that would elicit tacit knowledge from immigrants, their mentors and service providers. The data from these arts-based focus groups were audio-recorded for transcription, and the key activities were visually captured in photographs. Two separate teams within the research project analyzed the data in a complementary manner: one using multiple coding strategies informed by grounded theory, and the other using an arts-based interpretive approach where the arts were also used in data analysis itself. A knowledge mobilization outcome is a theatre script and performance to convey the tacit nature of the findings. 

The third project is an ethnographic study of community arts organizing among queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) in Toronto, Canada.  Focusing on the use of the arts as a mode of community organizing, the researcher examined how QTPOC community-arts organizers and those who participate in their events make sense of the process of making art in a community context. By way of analysis the researcher joined QTPOC community members in the way that they reflected on how they make art in relation to their collective and individual experiences and how the process of making art impacted intra- and inter-community relations.  

The presenters will then identify challenges for analyzing arts-based data, and discuss implications for social work research. The audience will be invited for active discussions on the themes.

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