This article discusses the use of an innovative research tool, the visual matrix (VM). The VM is a tool that uses the visual imagination, expressed both verbally and in drawing, to reveal hidden or unexpressed ideas, feelings and emotions in research subjects. It is hypothesised to be of particular utility in the study of psychologically painful and/or complex situations, where normal discourse cannot find a means of expression. The VM is discussed as a method that can be applied to psycho-social research. Its use is analysed in the context of a case study in a social care organisation in Manchester.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Back, L. (2007) The Art of Listening. London: Bloomsbury.
Bion, W.R. (1962) Learning from Experience. London: Karnac.
Bion, W.R. (1967) Second Thoughts. London: Karnac.
Biran, H. (2007) The dreaming soldier. In: W.G. Lawrence (ed) Infinite Possibilities of Social Dreaming. London: Karnac, pp. 29–46.
Bollas, C. (1987) The Shadow of the Object. London: Free Association.
Clarke, S. and Hoggett, P. (2009) Researching beneath the surface: A psycho-social approach to research practice and method. In: S. Clarke and P. Hoggett (eds) Researching Beneath the Surface. London: Karnac, pp. 1–26.
Ellison, R. (1952) Invisible Man. London: Penguin.
Ferguson, H. (2014) Researching social work practice close up: Using ethnographic and mobile methods to understand encounters between social workers, children and families. British Journal of Social Work 46(1): 153–168.
Foucault, M. (2000) Truth and juridical forms. In: J. D. Faubion (ed) Power: Essential Works of Foucault (Vol. 3). Translated by R. Hurley. New York: The New Press, pp. 1–89.
Froggett, L. (2002) Love, Hate and Welfare: Psychosocial Approaches to Policy and Practice. Bristol: The Policy Press.
Froggett, L., Manley, J. and Roy, A. (2015) The visual matrix method: Imagery and affect in a group-based research setting. FQS, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/2308/3850, accessed 2 Feb 2016.
Froggett, L., Manley, J., Roy, A., Prior, M. and Doherty, C. (2014) Cultural value. Public art and local civic engagement. Research report for the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Preston: University of Central Lancashire, http://clok.uclan.ac.uk/10961/1/AHRC_CV20RDA_TOC_FINAL_2.pdf, accessed 2 Feb 2016.
Frosh, S. (2001) Psychoanalysis, identity and citizenship. In: N. Stevenson (ed) Culture and Citizenship. London: Sage, pp. 62–73.
Guillemin, M. and Gillam, L. (2004) Ethics, reflexivity and ‘ethically important moments’ in research. Qualitative Inquiry 10(2): 261–280.
Honneth, A. (1995) The Struggle for Recognition: The Grammar of Social Conflicts. Cambridge: Polity.
Hughes, J., Roy, A. and Manley, J. (2014) Surviving in Manchester: Narratives on movement from the Men’s Room. Project Report. Manchester: The Men’s Room, University of Central Lancashire, Preston and The University of Manchester, Manchester.
Ingold, T. and Vergunst, J.L. (eds) (2008) Ways of Walking: Ethnography and Practice on Foot. Burlington & Hampshire: Ashgate.
Langer, S. (1948) Philosophy in a New Key. NY: Mentor.
Lawrence, W.G. (2005) Introduction to Social Dreaming: Transforming Thinking. London: Karnac.
Long, S. and Harney, M. (2013) The associative unconscious. In: S. Long (ed) Socioanalytic Methods: Discovering the Hidden in Organisations and Social Systems. London: Karnac, pp. 3–22.
Manley, J. (2009) When words are not enough. In: S. Clarke and P. Hoggett (eds) Researching Beneath the Surface: Psycho-social Research Methods in Practice. London: Karnac, pp. 79–98.
Manley, J. (2010) The slavery in the mind: Inhibition and exhibition. In: W.G. Lawrence (ed) The Creativity of Social Dreaming. London: Karnac, pp. 65–82.
Manley, J., Roy, A. and Froggett, L. (2015) Researching recovery from substance misuse using visual methods. In: L. Hardwick, R. Smith, and A. Worsley (eds) Innovation in Social Work Research. London: Jessica Kingsley, pp. 191–211.
Menzies-Lyth, I. (1988) Containing Anxiety in Institutions: Selected Essays (Vol. 1). London: Free Association Books.
Mersky, R.R. (2013) Social dream-drawing: ‘Drawing brings the inside out’. In S. Long (ed) Socioanalytic Methods: Discovering the Hidden in Organisations and Social Systems. London: Karnac, pp. 153–178.
Orange, D. (2010) Recognition as: intersubjective vulnerability in the psychoanalytic dialogue. International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology 5(3): 227–243.
Pink, S. (2007) Walking with video. Visual Studies 22(3): 240–252.
Roseneil, S. (2006) The ambivalence of Angel’s ‘arrangement’: A psychosocial lens on the contemporary condition of personal life. The Sociological Review 54(4): 847–869.
Roy, A., Hughes, J., Froggett, L. and Christensen, J. (2015) Using mobile methods to explore the lives of marginalised young men in Manchester. In: L. Hardwick, R. Smith, and A. Worsley (eds) Innovation in Social Work Research. London: Jessica Kingsley, pp. 155–172.
Scanlon, C. and Adlam, J. (2006) Housing ‘unhoused minds’: Inter-personality disorder in the organization? Housing, Care and Support 9(3): 9–14.
Scanlon, C. and Adlam, J. (2008) Refusal, social exclusion and the cycle of rejection: A cynical analysis? Critical Social Policy 28(4): 529–549.
Schwalbe, M. (1996) Unlocking the Iron Cage: The Men’s Movement, Gender Politics and American Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sievers, B. (2007) Pictures from below the surface of the university: The social photo matrix as a method for understanding organisations in depth. In: M. Reynolds and R. Vince (eds) The Handbook of Experiential Learning and Management Education. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 241–257.
Sievers, B. (2008) Perhaps it is the role of pictures to get in contact with the uncanny: The social photo matrix as a method to promote the understanding of the unconscious in organizations. Organisational & Social Dynamics 8(2): 234–254.
Spradley, J. (1980) Participant Observation. London: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Wengraf, T. (2000) Qualitative Research Interviewing: Biographic Narrative and Semi-Structured Methods. London: Sage.
Winnicott, D.W. (1991) Playing and Reality. London: Routledge.
Wyness, M. (2000) Contesting Childhood. London: Falmer Press.
The research for this article is part of a wider research project. The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of the staff and volunteers of the Men’s Room to the visual matrix and their collaboration in the wider research. We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Jenny Hughes (Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama, Manchester University) to the research project as a whole, which has helped to inform the ideas developed in this paper, and the contribution of Professor Lynn Froggett to the development of the visual matrix methodology. We are grateful to Professor Paul Hoggett for reading through the text and for his advice. The research was funded by the Lankelly Chase Foundation.
About this article
Cite this article
Manley, J., Roy, A. The visual matrix: A psycho-social method for discovering unspoken complexities in social care practice. Psychoanal Cult Soc 22, 132–153 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41282-016-0037-5
- visual matrix
- social care practice