ACSPRI Conferences, ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference 2014

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Utilising photovoice and poetic analysis in aged care: Lessons from the field

Evonne Miller, Geraldine Donoghue

Building: Holme Building
Room: Sutherland Room
Date: 2014-12-08 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2014-10-31


Australia’s population is ageing: by 2050, it is estimated that one in four will be 65 years or older. The demand for aged care services will increase with population ageing, yet we know little about life in aged care. Utilising a semi-longitudinal phenomological qualitative approach, this research explores the experiences of thirty older Australians (66-93 years) as they adjust to life in residential aged care. This paper documents the processes, learnings and potential of two relatively novel qualitative methodologies: PhotoVoice and poetic transcription.

Over the course of a year, residents engaged in three in-depth interviews and the participatory action research activity, PhotoVoice. PhotoVoice is a creative medium where people take and share photographs, as a means of communicating and advocating on a specific topic. Here, residents were asked to document both the positives and negatives of life in aged care through photography. The photographs and interview data were analysed thematically, as well as with poetic transcription. Poetic transcription, also known as found poetry, transcript poems and research poetry, is when researchers create poems (or poem-like prose) from qualitative interview data. In many regards, the process can be viewed as an extension of qualitative analysis, as typically established narrative markers (e.g., “I”, “we”) are utilised to identify and group the story.

PhotoVoice enhanced resident’s active participation in the research, with photographic analysis emphasising the importance of friendships (with residents and staff), activities (cafe, football, crafting) and the environment (walkways, frangipanis) in resident’s daily lives. Residents selected photographs for an exhibition, entitled “My Life: Frangipanis, Friendship and Football”. While PhotoVoice depicted mostly positive aspects, the process of poetic transcription stripped away the extraneous details and was significantly more emotive and negative. Poem 1 (“Life's different, over 80”) and Poem 2 (“You cannot grow old gracefully”) illustrate the negatives of the ageing process, whilst Poem 3 (“You lose everything”) and 4 (“The half cold cup of tea”) illustrate the sometimes challenging realities of life in aged care. The challenges and choices associated with doing PhotoVoice with a more vulnerable population are explored, as are the ethics of our decision to not currently engage in individual member-checking of the poems due to their very sensitive nature.

Qualitative social researchers are only just beginning to realise the potential of poetry, which uniquely conveys and evokes emotion in a way that enables people to viscerally experience the issues. As there are few precedents for using either PhotoVoice or poetic transcription as an analysis and interpretative tool, this paper highlights how these exciting new approaches might help researchers better communicate to and engage with policy-makers, practitioners and the wider community.