Most projects that set out to facilitate community participation in the creation of representations – be it for social justice advocacy; health and wellbeing; or cultural documentation – do so with a belief that participation in the making of representations about ones own community or culture can be empowering and re-construct power dynamics and patterns of dominance. Perhaps… but that doesn’t mean that power and dominance are necessarily eliminated in the process… perhaps they are just re-configured?
Kate Hennessy, a researcher and photographer, involved in in recent years a large participatory digital ethnography project in Northeastern British Columbia has been thinking about these issues and writes:
“A central goal for participatory research processes is realignment of power, and in visual, media, and museum anthropology, the facilitation of self-representation. However, community direction of a media or research project, while potentially breaking down relations of power between researcher/outside facilitator and the community, can create representations of culture that generate new hegemonies of representation.” Click here to read more and leave a comment below with your thoughts…
(more info on the project Kate is writing about can be found by reading her on-line paper “You Tell Them the Important Stories”: Participatory Digital Ethnography in Northeastern British Columbia” which the quote above is extracted from. You can see the results of the digital ethnography project here: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Danewajich/english/index.html)