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Multimodal Ethnography

Multimodal Ethnography

A number of colleagues in the Cardiff School of Social Sciences (including Dicks, Renold, Holland, Ivinson, Hurdley, Coffey) have been working on projects that advance ethnographic research methods to generate multimodal data (using sound, vision and multisensory methods). Rather than single-mode approaches, such as visual methods, multimodality stresses the interconnections and affordances of a range of different media and modes. It also recognises the multi-sensory corporeality of everyday life-contexts. Work here includes both researcher-generated multimodal data and participatory research where research project participants themselves work with film and photography.

Some of this work has drawn on projects funded through the QUALITI node of the ESRC Research Methods Centre, and WISERD, which have help developed work on mixed-mode and diverse visual methodologies, including participatory video with young people.

Bella Dicks has been working on the use of multimodal data in ethnographic research, which applies and adapts theories of multimodality – developed by linguists and social semioticians working in the field of education - to the advancement of ethnographic methods:

See Dicks, B., Soyinka, B. and Coffey, A. (2006) ‘Multimodal ethnography’, Qualitative Research 6 (1), 77-96

Bella has co-edited a special issue of the journal Qualitative Research which brings together articles by leading scholars crossing the two traditions of multimodality and ethnography.

Dicks, B., R. Flewitt, L. Lancaster and K. Pahl (2011 (eds) Special issue of Qualitative Research: June 2011: Issue 3, Volume 11: ‘Multimodality and ethnography: working at the intersection’.

Dicks, B., Flewitt, R., Lancaster, L. and Pahl, K. (2011) ‘Multimodality and ethnography: working at the intersection’, Qualitative Research, 11 (3) 227-238.

Hurdley, R. and Dicks, B. (2011) In-between practice: working in the ‘third space’ of sensory and multimodal ethnography, Qualitative Research, 11 (3) 277-292.

Also see: Dicks, B. (ed) (2011; in press) Digital Qualitative Research Methods, 4 volume Major Work, London: Sage (SAGE Benchmarks in Social Research Methods series; see


Funded Research Projects

Sally Holland and Emma Renold worked on a participatory research project with looked after children that made available multimodal data generation to a small group of young people over a one year period. With the rest of the research team they have written about consent issues and the nature of participation in the following publications.

Renold, E., Holland, S., Ross, NJ, Hillman, A. (2008) ‘Becoming participant: problematising ‘informed consent’ in participatory research with young people in care’ Qualitative Social Work. 7 (4) 427-447.  

Holland, S., Renold, E., Ross, N.J. and Hillman, A. (2010) Power, agency and participatory agendas: A critical exploration of young people's engagement in participative qualitative research, Childhood, 17 (3) 360-375.

Further details about the project and more publications can be found here.

Sally Holland has also written about the use of multimodal methods in a neighbourhood research project about safeguarding children:

Holland, S., Burgess, S., Grogan-Kaylor, A.  and Delva, J.  (2011) ‘Understanding neighbourhoods, communities and environments: new approaches for social work research’ British Journal of Social Work. 41 (4) 689-707. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcq123

Further details about the project and more publications can be found here.

Gabrielle Ivinson and Emma Renold have worked on ‘The Young People and Place’ project, which investigated young people; aged 13-16 perceptions of the place where they live.  During the research we used photo elicitation methods within semi structured interviews  to investigate practices and affects relating to a range of places from school to skate park.  Other ethnographic methods used in the project included walking tours, map making, film making, classroom debates using video, audio recordings and focus groups.  Ivinson undertook an ethnographic study of a choreographer working with a group of 25 young people as they created a dance to extend Kress et al's (2001) work on multimodality within pedagogic practice.


Ivinson, G (2010) Redefining masculinity: new lines of thought.  Education Review Vol. 22 (2): pp 37-45.

Moles, K., Renold, E., Ivinson, G. and Martsin, M. (2011) Innovating as we go: Ethnography as an evolving methodology, Qualitative Researcher, Issue 13, pp.11-14

Renold, E. and Ivinson, G. (2011) Girls, film-making and movement: communicating the findings of the young people and place project using visual participatory methods, WISERD NEWS: pp.14-15

Ivinson, G. (forthcoming) The body and pedagogy: beyond absent, moving bodies in pedagogic practice. British Journal of Sociology of Education.

Ivinson, G. (2012, forthcoming) ‘Boys, skills and class: educational failure or community survival? Insights from Vygotsky and Bernstein’, in H. Daniels (ed.) Vygotsky and Sociology, London: Routledge. 

Ivinson, G (submitted) Skills in motion: boys’ trail bikes activities as transitions into working class masculinity, Sport, Culture and Society

Ivinson, I. and Renold, E. (submitted) Valley girls: re-theorising bodies and agency in a semi-rural postindustrial place, Gender and Education