Curb My Cynicism: Employing Photo Elicitation to Address the Problem of Research on Bullying
Seemingly, everyone has something to say about bullying and most have had some direct experience with it. People tell stories of when they were bullied or their child was bullied. For many, it is an emotional topic because it is personally experienced, often in violent, cruel, and sustained ways. People have lost friends and family members because of suicide that is sometimes seen as the only escape from the torment. In the US, Donald Trump, widely described as a “bully” on a world scale because of his many misogynist and racist comments, was elected President of the United States in November 2016. The problem, or what has been largely depicted as the problem, is that bullying is largely viewed as a form of behaviour. As the author outlines in other works (Walton in Confero: Essays on Education, Philosophy and Politics 3(2):1–17, 2015; Walton in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 32(1):131–144, 2011), bullying is a social problem, not just bad behaviour enacted by individual young people, that is learned, validated, and replicated. Recognizing bullying as a social problem should leave little wonder why it seems to go on and on without any sign of abating. The reason for its tenacity is that it operates not only in society, but as society. This chapter highlights data from a 2012 study (Walton and Niblett in Journal of Youth Studies 16(5):646–662, 2012) with 37 children in which we employed photo elicitation strategies to acquire adolescent perspectives on bullying. In 2012, interviews were conducted in which photo elicitation strategies were employed to acquire children’s perspectives on bullying. The research was guided by Gauntlett and Awan’s (The handbook of visual culture. Berg, London, UK, pp. 589–606, 2012) claim that photo-elicitation is an avenue to “a different route into discussion of a topic” (p. 591). The specter of finding a different route provided insights on how to research an already over-researched topic and led the author to problematize the broad enterprise of research and assess his contributions to it.
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