Piotr Sztompka, born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1944. Ph.D. from Jagiellonian University, Crakow. Professor of Theoretical Sociology at Jagiellonian University, Crakow.
Fellow (1 February 2004 - 30 June 2004)
VISUAL SOCIOLOGY: PHOTOGRAPHY AS A METHOD
The stay at NIAS allowed me to write a full manuscript of a book entitled "Visual Sociology" (in Polish: Socjologia Wizualna) of around 250 pages, which will be published by Scientific Publishers PWN, Warsaw, in the spring of 2005. After testing the book on my students in Poland, I intend to prepare an English-language version and submit it to one of the academic presses in the UK. The book discusses the growing importance of the visual aspects of social life in the period of late modernity. It argues for the necessity of returning to the most traditional qualitative methods of sociology and social anthropology based on direct observation of social facts and phenomena. This is facilitated nowadays by the availability of advanced technologies of visual recording. The book focuses on photography, as the most traditional of these technologies, and its possible applications in sociology. Photography is treated as an extension of several standard sociological methods: observation, experiment, content analysis, personal documents, in-depth interview. Taking photographs and interpreting existing photographs can help to acquire sociological knowledge (heuristic function) and to verify sociological knowledge acquired by other methods (corroborative function). Particular attention is devoted to three types of analysis of existing photographic material: semiological, structuralist and discursive. The book is intended as a textbook for students interested in the new, expanding field of 'visual studies' and will be used in the author's seminars devoted to this subject.