Video Representations and the Perspectivity Framework: Epistemology, Ethnography, Evaluation, and Ethics (Goldman)

Goldman, R. (2007). Video Representations and the Perspectivity Framework:
Epistemology, Ethnography, Evaluation, and Ethics. In R. Goldman, R. Pea, B. Barron, & S. J. Derry (Eds.), Video Research in the Learning Sciences (illustrated edition.). Lawrence Erlbaum.

Anthropology and the study of education have several similarities:

  • Grounded in what people say and do
  • Value “outcomes” (artifacts or material representations) that demonstrate achievement or advancement
  • Both have communities of practice that point out perils of valuing outcomes more than processes.
  • Both have moved from “notions of the grand narrative to a focus on local, situated knowledge” (p.4).
  • Both are grappling with the effects/opportunities/challenges of networked visual data, tools, and methods:
    • researchers can now reflect more deeply on their observations
    • research process moved away from solitary researcher to the community with multiple stakeholders
    • crisis of representation — dilemma we face when we try to represent others and ourselves (i.e., “the legitimacy of some people speaking for others”)

Points of viewing theory — one must embrace diverse points of viewing, to avoid the hazards of bias, misrepresentation and missed-representation; affordances of advanced video technologies well suited to this.

5 important questions/issues to consider when using video camera in research (p.5-7):

  1. The many affordances and problematics of using video in the learning sciences. Each affordance of video offers up an equally strong challenge to overcome.
  2. Is videotaping just an evidentiary tool, or can it also be used to tell a story and “convince viewers and readers of emerging texts so that they understand what happened to learners as the research was taking place.” Post modern ethnographers understand that they are achieving “partial truths” (Clifford, 1986) — a construction of what was experienced, an interpretation of that experience into a textual narrative.
  3. Each research community, even within the learning sciences, has a different epistemological understanding about what makes research valid, robust, and reliable.
  4. How do we develop criteria that take into consideration the range of both evaluative measures and “e-value-ative” qualities for adjudicating the significance of video research?
  5. How do video representations makes us more aware of the ethical stance in our research practices?

“…ethnographic accounts are thick descriptions, winks upon winks upon winks, and turtles all the way down…” (p.13) [also see Clifford Geertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973].

Goldman’s Perspectivity Framework for using video research in social sciences

  • Illustrates how emerging video technologies become epistemological tools for researchers, viewers, and those being videotaped to share what they are seeing, making, doing, and thinking while in the process of learning.
  • Those in the frame of the camera are not “othered”
  • Researchers can expand the viability and validity of their video records by sharing viewings and interpretations within discourse communities that include the participants who are videotaped.

“Whereas positivists postulate that the world is “out there” to be discovered and categorized, postpositivists have agued that learners construct meaning in their minds
and knowledge must be relative. Postpositivists contend that there are no universal
truths to discover or uncover, no fixed categories that uniformly describe the world, and no set structures and stages that define how the mind makes meaning, but rather, multiple lenses to apply as the learner interprets and expresses their understanding of events and states being experienced” (p.17).

“…Being understood means that we agree to participate within the culturally determined codes that are established, not by ‘what is out there’ as an objective reality, but by what we have collectively created within a social code or language as we participate in discourse communities” (p. 18).

Points of viewing theory (Goldman-Segall, 1998) — “revolves around the idea that each person experiences the world from a standpoint, a viewpoint, or what we might call a situated context emerging from years of perceiving and making meaning of experiences” (p. 19)… “The stellar and galactic metaphor provides a way to get a handle on understanding how one event or one particular perspective can also ‘live’ (as a reconstituted entity) in another constellation when viewed from a different ‘galaxy,’ knowing that galaxies are also within dynamic and emerging systems” (p. 19).

Cognitive scientists assume that cognitive activity must be described in terms of symbols, schemas, images, ideas, and other forms of mental representations. “[I]n the cognitive view…routines, rules, understandings are defined with respect to objective, universal ‘truths’ external to the individual group; that is, knowledge is thought to represent more or less accurately an external pre-given world (Rowland, 2004, p.34)” (p.22).

General consensus among cognitive scientists that representations are internal mental constructs (ex: Spiro & Jehng’s cognitive flexibility theory)

Tzeng and Schwen (2003) — “the essence of mental representations are not internal events, but dynamic ‘mappings’ between the perception of an event and a person’s values and background” (p.22).

“This newer approach of mental representations — as mappings between a person’s
perceptions of an event that are inextricably woven with the experiences of individuals — is not only a departure from previous ways of thinking about representations and how the mind learns, but an even more radical one when thinking about visual representations, such as the way visual sensations interact with our minds. After all, our experience of the world is strongly based on both visual sense and cortex, and the sense we make of the visual image — video and other moving images being perhaps the most compelling” (p.22).

“A theory that connects our perceptual system with our production of knowledge as a series of dynamic and interactive events trumps the linear, causal, and internal explanation of behaviorists or of cognitivists” (p.22).

The author asks the reader to “consider a more dynamic, galactic metaphor of understanding representations — whether material, textual, visual, or aural rather than a bifurcated and dualistic approach to knowledge representations. Raising the problematics of considering representations as only internal processes and external artifacts created by individuals or groups of people, I put forward an interpretation that representations are more akin to re-presentations, interactive and ever-changing processes that bridge the internal versus external divide of consciousness and experience… learning is much more than an individual’s mental input and output. It is the search for methods to bridge consciousness and experience” (p.23).

Disillusionment with cognitive revolution began in the late 1970s. Vygotsky, Bruner, and others began upholding a sociocultural approach to understanding representations and how the mind learns. Computational technologies that allowed for networked understandings and collaboration were also becoming a reality. Videographers could now aspire to Clifford Geertz’s (1973) thick description.


Video Ethnography:

  • Personal, close-up, and affected by the views of those who videotape and direct the video camera’s lens. (The word theory comes from the Latin word, theoria, which means “a viewing.”) (p.26)
  • Valid interpretations of video representations are the result of dynamic interactions among ideas & concepts and collaboratively constructed artifacts — texts, videos, software — that emerge within a community of practice.

e-VALUE-ation: criteria for eliciting the value of video research projects

  1. Wholeness/particularity
  2. “Being there/Being with”
  3. Perspectivity
  4. Genre consistency/breech
  5. Authenticity
  6. Chronological/Verisimilitude
  7. Conviviality  (Illich (1973) defines convivial tools as being easy to use,
    assessable, and beneficial to humanity.)
  8. Resonance
  9. Immersion

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