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Policy and research

Visual Research Methods – Working with Creatives event

21 April 2016
Visual Research Methods

In my role as the co-ordinator of the Creative Cardiff Research Network, I organised an event with Dr Dawn Mannay in the School of Social Sciences. This was the first public event I had organised for the research network. The aim was to bring together academics at Cardiff University, and anyone else interested in visual methods and collaboration between creatives and academics.

We chose this focus because across the university there is a great deal of interest in visual research methods, as well as working with creatives. The event interested academics from a diverse range of schools, as well as a number of freelance creatives from across the city.

Victoria Edwards in the School of Social Sciences has the following report on the event:

If the audience size for the recent ‘Visual Research Methods – Working with Creatives’ event is an indication of wider interest, creative and visual methods are indeed enjoying increasing popularity within the research community.

Hosted by the Creative Cardiff Research Network and the School of Social Sciences with support from Creative Cardiff, the event launched Dr Dawn Mannay’s book: Visual, Narrative and Creative Research Methods: Application, Reflection and Ethics, and drew together a diverse group of researchers to showcase the possibilities generated when thinking creatively about research design and dissemination.

Dawn presented a range of studies from her book, each employing visual, participatory and creative methods, with a focus on the amplification of marginalised and muted voices. Highlights included a study of tapestries created by Chilean women during Pinochet’s regime. These creations incorporated the clothing of loved ones lost during the struggle and the women sewed stories too dangerous to recount verbally.

Another innovative interview methodology asked mature students to create images reflecting their experiences of higher education in sand trays. Every example held a powerful account of the ways thinking differently about data production can open up opportunities for participants to create and convey meaning.

The closing rap song, developed collaboratively with local artists and young people, reverberated through the committee rooms and left a palpable feeling that things could and perhaps should be done differently to represent those who often feature in research outputs while having little idea of the academic conventions used to describe the things they say.

It was a tough act to follow but Lisa El Refaie and Alida Payson’s project using comic books to explore issues of infertility among black and ethnic minority women in Wales was inspiring and energising. Lisa highlighted the potential of this method for generating and disseminating information on sensitive topics.

The comic book theme continued through the final presentation from Laura Sorvala and Edward Gomez who introduced ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question’, their own witty and engaging comic. With a target audience of primary school children, it aims to encourage readers to think about the kind of questions scientists ask and the types of questions they have that science might help them to answer. Designed to be easily disseminated as a classroom resource, the comic exemplifies a format for communicating complicated ideas to diverse audiences in an interesting and engaging way.

The evening concluded with emphatic responses to Dawn’s book from Professors Emma Renold and Helen Lomax. Both speakers emphasised the importance of Dr Mannay’s work in her field describing her as a pioneer and a trail blazer. If Creative Cardiff’s objective is to map the people, organisations and businesses working in creative industries, the coordinates for this event certainly warrant inclusion. Cardiff University clearly makes a sizeable contribution to the creative economy and this memorable event shone a spotlight on some outstanding contributors.

View the storify of the event here.


  1. Amie Hodges

    Congratulations on this event, it was stimulating, insightful and inspiring. It was a fantastic opportunity to network with like minded researchers with an interest in the visual and the creative. This was my first event attended as Dr as I passed my viva that afternoon and my thesis focused on the creative. It was a great event to attend and begin a new chapter now I have passed my PhD. I am looking forward to many more. So proud of Dawn Mannay’s achievement with her new book.

    • Johann Gregory

      Thank you so much Dr(!) Hodges. It was great that you could join us. Congratulations on the PhD! It was a great experience for us to collaborate with Dawn in Social Sciences and the different researchers/creatives. And we were really pleased with the turnout for the evening too. Keep in touch.

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