Making the visual invisible: exploring creative forms of dissemination that respect anonymity but retain impact

Main Article Content

Dawn Mannay




Contemporary society is characterised by an occularcentric culture in which the visual image permeates our everyday lives. In social science research the visual has been presented as a tool to fight familiarity, engender participatory practice and provide the basis for reflexive qualitative inquiry. However, the visual images created by participants raise a number of questions in relation to ethical dissemination where concerns such as concealed identities and preserving anonymity become methodologically challenging. A preoccupation with anonymity can act as a resistance to discourses of the ethics of visibility, where participants want to be identified in their visual images; but, once research data are placed in the public domain or re-worked in the media the impact and interpretation of visual images can become extremely difficult to control. In response, this paper explores creative ways of disseminating research, which preserve the potential of visual inquiry while retaining ethical practice. The paper explores different ways of presenting visual research findings so that the affective power of the data production remains without the associated images, enabling the capacity to engage both cognitively and emotionally with an audience. Drawing on a project that adopted techniques of visual data production in the Welsh context, the paper presents the ways in which necessity can become the mother of ethical invention in visual social science research; and why it is sometimes necessary to make the visual invisible both for research participants and non-consenting others.

Article Details

How to Cite
Mannay, D. (2015). Making the visual invisible: exploring creative forms of dissemination that respect anonymity but retain impact. Visual Methodologies, 3(2), 67-76.
Author Biography

Dawn Mannay, Cardiff University

Biographical Note:

Dr Dawn Mannay is a Lecturer in Social Sciences (Psychology) at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences, Wales, United Kingdom and an Associate Lecturer at the Open University; as well as being involved with the Women Making a Difference programme. Her research interests revolve around class, education, gender, geography, inequality, place, violence, and visual research methods.Recent Publications:

Mannay, D. and Morgan, M. 2014. Doing ethnography or applying a qualitative technique?: Reflections from the 'waiting field'. Qualitative Research (DOI: 10.1177/1468794113517391)

Mannay, D. 2015. Achieving respectable motherhood? Exploring the impossibility of feminist and egalitarian ideologies against the everyday realities of lived Welsh working-class femininities. Women's Studies International Forum(DOI: 10.1016/j.wsif.2014.10.020)

Mannay, D. 2014. Who should do the dishes now? Exploring gender binaries around housework in contemporary urban south Wales. Contemporary Wales 27(1), pp. 21-39.

Mannay, D. 2014. Story telling beyond the academy: exploring roles, responsibilities and regulations in the Open Access dissemination of research outputs and visual data. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship 54, pp. 109-116.