5.6. Lecture & workshop with Matthew Wood: Exploring the potential of photo elicitation in Politics and International Relations

5.6.2023 guest lecture and workshop 11.00-12.00 & 12.30-14.00 at HSSH Seminar room – you are warmly welcome!

Guest lecture and workshop with Matthew Wood (University of Sheffield): What is the potential of photo elicitation to provide methodological innovation in Politics and International Relations?


The event has two parts, a guest lecture and a workshop intended for PhD students and early career researchers. You are warmly welcome to participate in both or only one part of the event. The guest lecture will be arranged as a hybrid event (in person & Zoom) and the workshop is only for in person attendance.  

Click here to sign up for the guest lecture and click here to sign up for the workshop. 

The guest lecture can accommodate 15 in-person participants, and the workshop can accommodate 12 participants. 

If you have questions about the lecture or workshop, please contact Daria Gritsenko daria.gritsenko@helsinki.fi 


Guest lecture: Photo elicitation methodology in public policy – addressing our (conceptual) blind spots?


Matthew Wood, University of Sheffield, Department of Politics and International Relations 

5.6.2023 11.00-12.00 at HSSH Seminar room (Vuorikatu 3, 2nd floor) 


What is photo elicitation good for as a methodology (or simply a method) in public policy research? In this talk I will consider the challenges and opportunities of photo elicitation for furthering our understanding of key issues in public policy. Existing research suggests photo elicitation may be useful for addressing contentious or emotional policy issues (for example, Brexit). However, my argument will be that this focus largely limits photo elicitation to an ‘enabling’ function, allowing research participants to express themselves more ‘vocally’. Such an approach runs the risk of condescension towards research participants. It places us in the mistaken position of thinking that if only our research subjects can ‘process’ their emotions by engaging the photograph, they might be able to express themselves ‘clearly’ for the purposes of efficient data collection. 

My argument is that while photo elicitation may enable some form of useful emotional or affective processing when related to contentious topics, public policy researchers benefit more from focusing on how research participants interpret key issues and ideas conceptually in diverse ways when photo elicitation is incorporated within empirical work (both quantitative and qualitative). Photo elicitation requires an open-ended consideration of meaning, such that the control political scientists studying public policy typically seek to exert over the audiovisual environment in which research subjects are situated – with the goal of normalising how those subjects interpret survey or interview questions, and in particular the way in which concepts are operationalised in those questions - is absent. While doing away with this element of control creates a number of challenges related to data validity, it also, I suggest, opens up the potential to map the subtle but important ways in which concepts change when engaged by diverse research participants. I argue this approach offers numerous benefits for public policy and political science more broadly, from mapping policy preferences to understanding challenges of policy and regulatory implementation. 

Dr. Matthew Wood is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations and co-investigator of the South Yorkshire Sustainability Center, University of Sheffield (UK). He researchers public policy in the UK and Europe, with an interest in the conditions for legitimate governance. His recent work explores the potential of photo elicitation as an innovative method in political science. 




12.30-14.00 at HSSH Seminar room (Vuorikatu 3, 2nd floor) 

Students should think about what are the most difficult methodological challenges they face in their own research. This could be related to how they get certain information to answer their preferred research question from interviews, surveys, or experiments. It could be where they think are the limits to the knowledge they can gain about their own research topic, if they only followed methods that are commonly used in their field. Where can they see potential to 'push the boundaries of knowledge' by using new methods? I want them to present one method they are thinking about using or they are already using, and reflect on these questions. I will start by presenting photo elicitation and why I think it can overcome the challenges that I find in my research field. 

Target group: PhD students (or other researchers) in social science (political science, IR, sociology, etc) who are interested in using photo elicitation in their work. 

Suggested reading: Wood, M., Antova, I., Flear, M., & Hervey, T. (2022). What Do “Left Behind Communities” Want? A Qualitative Study in the United Kingdom using Photo Elicitation. American Political Science Review, 1-15. 



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