Pink, S.  (2007) ‘Walking with Video’, in Visual Studies 22 (3).

[Pink claims that walking around areas carrying a camcorder can capture data in a particularly important way.  She claims to be pursuing phenomenological inquiry, and developing empathy, and demonstrating a new theoretical emphasis on sensory experience and performance.  My own opinion is that some rather banal material is being substantially talked up and that an undiscussed notion of realism dominates the discussion]

She is walking around with respondents who know the terrain really well.  Comments like those on the weather are ways ‘to define our own sensory embodied experiences in the garden’ (240).  Developing narratives see the community garden as an imagined place.  There is talk about textures.  Pink has gained a complex ‘sense of place’ [a number of photographs are included, mostly standard views of gardens, sometimes with people conventionally framed].  She used her own ‘sensory embodied experience as a basis from which to empathise with others’ (241) [hints of a phenomenological notion of duration, shared time here?]

Video making is a kind of place making (243).  She learned the importance of the path through the gardens, for example, although she ‘should have already realized this’ [!].  The new path is made of brickweave.  She sensed the new texture underfoot.  She realized there was a need to experience the path as well as the garden.  It was a physical site for the embodiment of memories and meanings, for example of former neighbours.  As they walked, respondents re-enacted ‘narratives of different socialities’ (243) [= they talked about other people] .  Making the video doesn’t just record events, it actually helps in ‘sensing place, placing senses, sensorially making place and making sense of place’ (243)  [I am always suspicious when analysts revert to poetry: it normally means that some banality is being elevated into a massive insight].  The video makes sense to audiences.  It shows us the need to grasp the importance of walking.

Anthropologists like to join in.  The sociology of the body shows the importance of embodied experiences, through eating, or sex.  This has lead to a new emphasis on shared experience, including new ways of seeing.  Video can present the evidence [does it record it or construct it?].  Walking is now very important, as de Certeau argued (244), but his emphasis on binary power relations is ‘limited’.  His work can be used to show how people make a place, constitute a place through walking.  [It looks to me as if Pink has only read one chapter of the book, the one on walking, and has missed all the other stuff, about how it is the very ungraspability of everyday life that makes it a source of resistance, so it can be read as a series of tactical oppositions to the strategies of the powerful.  I’m not at all sure you can just strip out the importance of walking like this, and then claim you can understand it, or that it is not to do with struggles between the powerful and the powerless]. 

Social encounters and sociability are at the heart of analysis, but we need new techniques to understand them.  Emphasizing walking helps reduce the importance of the purely visual.  Locomotion is the prime form of acquiring sensory data.  Walking with cameras therefore leads to new possibilities.  De Certeau [again], and a philosopher called Casey, remind us of the importance of place in gathering sensory impressions.  Moving bodies create space.  [You sometimes get this with sociologies of the body – a kind of excited bodily reductionism].  Examples are cited from the work of Turnbull [why nothing on Australian aboriginals and walking?], how the journey is itself generative. 

More hints of a phenomenological perspective arise in the claims that this is a shared way of being there, about sociability.  Other examples are provided of accompanying mountaineers on walks leading to deeper insight.  Movement enables one to collect  new perceptions.  Other examples are provided by ethnographic films, and some examples are discussed, one of which includes a resident showing ethnographers around his compound.  Point of view shots are taken instead of bird’s eye views [although we are still talking about classic realist techniques].  Pink claims that films ‘transcend cultural boundaries’ (248), because they evoke an empathic response [so what we have here is what Clough calls ‘emotional realism’?].  Films do help us collect [and narrativise].

Pink agrees that hers is not an objective representation, but she claims that it can be a shared representation, one that creates a place.  She does agree that narrative gathers things together, however (248).  Walking with respondents adds specifics [and is not just a tourist video – more authentic?].

The piece ends with more material from the garden walk.  Pink claims it is a useful research method and producers audio visual texts.  There are practicalities two to be considered, such as the length of the film [?  Film or video?].  There is some acknowledgment that participants might be aware of the video and be performing for it (250).  She agrees she is both writing and videoing in this account.  She says we should use  visual methods ‘when they seem appropriate to generate knowledge’ [implicit realism again?], when the attention is caught, when the audio visual seems better than writing [in other words when some pretty naive conventions are in operation, presumably from being saturated in professional broadcasting and film].  She shows the video to the participants and says this develops empathy [but then they are all enthusiasts for community gardens already].  Non academics might not interpret the data are properly, however.  As a result, hypermedia projects might be developed to be both transcultural and able to context [very confused here, and obviously keen to do visual projects.  A good way to test whether video generates empathy would be to try a walking tour of a rather more culturally remote group which did not already share the language and perceptions and conventions of a nice group of middle class gardeners.]

key concepts