Using Methods that Matter: A Critical Examination of Photovoice for Studying Supportive Housing

Title: Using Methods that Matter: A Critical Examination of Photovoice for Studying Supportive Housing
Authors: Bendell, Katherine
Date: 2015
Abstract: Photovoice is a Participatory Action Research (PAR) method that generates knowledge about the lived experiences of members of marginalized communities. Participants are understood to be experts of their experiences and are asked to take photos of their lives. Photovoice is highly flexible in application and participants can have varying degrees of involvement in components of the method, from design to dissemination of findings. Although providing opportunity for a high degree of participation is ideal, this is less frequently demonstrated in the literature. To understand the impact of participation on the type of information generated, individuals living in supportive housing were asked to share their experiences of their housing. Perspectives of consumers of supportive housing have had little presence in the housing literature, particularly within a photovoice framework. Therefore, this research asked consumers about their housing as well as how they experienced their participation across two photovoice projects that afforded more and less opportunity for participation. This dissertation consists of three studies conducted on two distinct projects. Studies 1 and 2 were conducted on the HousingPlus Photovoice Project, an investigator initiated and driven application of photovoice. Study1 examined what can be learned about supportive housing and revealed rich information about participants’ experiences with their housing. Study 2 examined experiences of stakeholders with the photovoice method, including participants and project contributors. Study 2 revealed three distinct approaches to photography: planned, discovery-oriented, and task-oriented approaches to photography. Participants who used a discovery-oriented approach tended to benefit the most from this project. Contributors shared the common value of supporting participation but had divergent perspectives of the photographs, an important product of participation. Contributors tended to focus either on the external or internal photo narratives. Study 3 was conducted on the Home Photovoice Project, which was initiated and run by a community-based agency. This second project provided a point of comparison to determine whether a more participatory application of photovoice would result in similar or distinct findings related to supportive housing and stakeholder experiences with the method. Although the three distinct styles of participation observed in the HousingPlus Photovoice Project were also observed in the Home Photovoice Project, most participants developed a planned approach to photography over time. Participants who began with a planned or task-oriented approach tended to benefit the most from this more participatory application of photovoice. More was learned about shared participant experiences and perspectives in the Home Photovoice Project. In contrasting these projects it is apparent that the choice of methodological focus significantly impacts the photos and narratives produced, approaches to participation, and stakeholder experiences of photovoice. This has important implications for the design and delivery of photovoice projects.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -