Capturing social practice in practice: Video recording, new avenues for studies of practice and the practice of ethnography

Gary Burke (Aston University)

There is a growing interest in studying how bodies, spatial contexts and material artifacts are implicated in the accomplishment of strategy work (Vaara & Whittington, Academy of Management Annals, 2012). Video methodologies, in particular, offer promise in this regard because they can overcome observational limitations and render situations more amenable to repeated scrutiny. This 2012 PDW provided a forum for scholars, from different disciplinary backgrounds, to share experiences and provoke discussion about the affordances of video methodologies and the practicalities of doing this kind of research. Discussions were wide-ranging, but all the speakers talked enthusiastically about the potential of video. These exhortations were, of course, tempered with tales about the difficulties of collecting video data. Presenters emphasized that video should only be used when it fits, for instance, where researchers believe that embodiment, spatiality and materiality are in some way consequential.

Various recording strategies were also discussed, ranging from relatively static approaches (e.g. recording fixed meetings) to more fluid approaches (e.g. shadowing managers, capturing opportune moments in a bar). These recording strategies prompted discussion about what a video camera does, and does not, capture. By zooming in our perspective inevitably narrows and we must guard against inadvertently overlooking important aspects of the “non-recorded” context. It is here, perhaps, that traditional ethnographic approaches and video can complement each other. Finally, there was a lot of discussion about how to analyse and write-up visual data. Future PDWs could usefully develop this theme; perhaps by giving participants the opportunity to analyse video excerpts and confront their analyses. There is certainly scope for more workshops on the video method, we still have much to learn.

Thanks to all contributors: François Cooren, Joep Cornelissen, Gail Fairhurst, Paula Jarzabkowski, Curtis LeBaron, Michael Pratt, Linda Rouleau and Paul Spee


About leonidobusch

Professor of Organization at University of Innsbruck | Co-founder Momentum Conference and Momentum Institut | ZDF Verwaltungsrat | Blogging at
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