Visibilising clinical work: Video ethnography in the contemporary hospital

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Journal Article
Health Sociology Review, 2006, 15 (2), pp. 156 - 168
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This paper discusses the role of video-based research methods in social research. The paper situates these methods in the context of rising levels of visibility of professionals in government-funded organisations. The paper argues that while visual research may appear to play an ambiguous role in these organisations, it can also enable practitioners to confront the encroaching demands of post-bureaucratic work. To ground its argument, the paper presents an account of a video- ethnographic project currently underway in a local metropolitan hospital. This project focuses on negotiating understandings about existing care practices among a team of multidisciplinary clinicians. Visual data gathered as part of that project are presented to specify issues which have thus far arisen during the project. Against this empirical background, the paper turns to considering the ambiguous potential of video-based research. The argument developed here is that, besides potentially exacerbating the pressure already imposed on clinicians - thanks to audit, surveillance and risk minimisation - video-based research may provide staff with new resources and opportunities for shaping their increasingly public and visible work practices.
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