More Than a Thousand Words

There’s an old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,”  but often in ethnographic research pictures can be forgotten, especially when it comes to methodology. Dr. Robert Smith at the Aberdeen Business School is changing that. Using photographs from a family run butcher shop in Scotland, Dr. Smith adapted the images to explore the lived narrative of the family business in his new paper “Seeing the Light: Using Visual Ethnography in Family Business Settings,” published in Family Business Review. He took some time to speak with Management INK about his findings and said:

Over the past ten years as a qualitative entrepreneurship scholar, and active researcher, I have developed a passionate interest in the semiotics and aesthetics of how entrepreneurs, small businesses, and family businesses in general seek to portray themselves and present themselves to their publics. My doctoral thesis was on the social construction of entrepreneurship, so I am attuned to the visual elements of narrative and stories and to the use of visual ethnography. During the course of several longitudinal studies in rural small businesses I came to appreciate what I refer to as the ‘lived narrative’ of a family business in which the shop premises and the actors in the unfolding business drama present themselves in an unfinished  story which emerges in real life. It was during this period that I came to interview Mr Hebbie Fowlie of the family business ‘Bert Fowlie Butchers’, 26 High Street, Strichen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I conducted a conventional face-to-face ethnographic interview with Hebbie who provided me with several photographs of the business. These later formed the basis of the article – ‘Seeing the Light: Using Visual Ethnography In Family Business Settings’ in Family Business Review. These photographs inspired me to write the article, particularly when I realised to the best of my knowledge that visual ethnography had never been used as a methodology in Management Journals. What surprised me was how difficult it was to write about visuallity when the photographs themselves conveyed the message more simply. I applaud the anonymousfbr cover reviewers in the journal who helped me develop the article into its published format. I believe that the article is important because there is a growing interest in the visual elements of entrepreneurial and business identities. However, in such research it is common for one to write about the images instead of presenting them. I hope that this short article will lead to an increase in the publication of other studies which present the photographic evidence upon which the academic claims are made and that visual ethnographies become more common.

Read the entire article online in Family Business Review, and sign up for e-alerts here so you don’t miss out on JABS’ latest articles and issues.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s