I am pleased to see that a whole new range of non-textual strategies is gradually emerging as an alternative and highly versatile way of knowing. Specifically, participatory visual communications, such as sketching, photography, and video, hold the inherent potential of painting a more nuanced depiction of lived realities, while simultaneously empowering the study participants, and placing the agency literally in their own hands. Through the generation of images, and the reflective sharing of this visual content among community members, participants gain self-efficacy and collective efficacy, as well as an expressive channel to voice their hidden or marginalized stories.
Central to the use of this technique in educational settings was the work of Paulo Freire, a noted Brazilian sociologist who pioneered the “dialogic pedadogy” approach as a non-hierarchical, dynamic and transformative process of learning. Conducting a literacy project in Peru in 1973, Freire asked slum dwellers to respond to the query of “What is exploitation?”, but instead of documenting their oral responses, he handed them cameras and asked them to provide their answers by using photographs.