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Book review: 'Visual Research Methods in the Social Sciences: Awakening Visions' by Stephen Spencer
The research in social sciences had been dominated by abstract symbols of language and mathematical calculation at the cost of more revealing visual and multi-sensory data.

In such a scenario, the book "Visual Research Methods in the Social Sciences: Awakening Visions" is a valuable source book for social scientists for visual analysis of information in photo-diaries and visual records as well as a handbook for teachers who wish to teach through visual information to students.

The book authored by Stephen Spencer has been illustrated in such a way that it is helpful to both research guides and researchers in the social sciences who hone their skills to explore and actively the potential of visual dimension of research.

The book, published by Routledge, is a comprehensive document of various approaches and techniques for effective visual research leading to better description of case studies including various visual forms such as archive images, photographs, pictures, visual symbols, drawings, maps, photo diaries, visual essays, sketch notes and video interviews.

The first section of the book deals with the topics like the Process of Research and Visual Methods; Visualizing Social Life; Mapping Society: A Sense of Place; Politics of Identity in Visual Research and Trends in Visual Analysis, which prepare the visual researcher with the intrinsic framework of this research methodology.

The second section of the book consists of the essays highlighting the effective practical use of the photo-material illustrated by the works of four visual researchers. These examples provide the highlights of the analytical strands in social research and describe the under-pinning and advantages of using visual research methods.

The descriptions of Research Practices have been described in the chapters like: Panizza Allmark - Towards a Photographie; Feminine: Photography of the City; Sarah Atkinson - Multiple cameras, Multiple screens, Multiple possibilities: An insight into the interactive film production process; and Roger Brown - Photography as Process.

The book provides an alternative to hegemony of traditional abstract data based reductionist social research and breaks the boundaries between social sciences and visual sciences. With the digital cameras and smart phones being easily available the guidelines given in the book can lead to effective visual research, I feel.

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