Psychosocial Aesthetics and Sensory Research Methods

Froggett, Lynn orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8406-6231 (2022) Psychosocial Aesthetics and Sensory Research Methods. In: The Palgrave Handbook of Psychosocial Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-22. ISBN 978-3-030-61510-9

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Since Freud, key psychoanalytic thinkers have engaged with visual art and music and paid attention to aesthetic dimensions of symbol formation in clinical situations and in everyday life. However, within empirical psychosocial research the importance of the aesthetic function has been largely disregarded.

Psychosocial Studies has been very much indebted to socio-biographical approaches in the study of lives and societal change processes based on open, narrative interviews. In this respect, it has echoed the narrative turn in social science, and in other fields such as marketing and public relations, where storytelling is regarded as central to meaning making and engagement. Psychosocial research has brought to empirical social inquiry methods informed by an ontology of defended subjectivity; acknowledgement of the importance of the dynamic unconscious in social interaction and the research encounter; a commitment to depth reflexivity in research analysis.

These have been important gains. However, this strong narrative and biographical influence has entailed a concentration on verbal texts with narratively structured temporal flow, and on events and processes recounted in hindsight, rather than attention to quality of experience in the moment, including its aesthetic and affective aspects. This chapter considers how visual and sensory methods can complement and enrich or replace narrative interviews. It draws on examples taken from research in community and youth justice settings. Such methods have value when researching lived experience and sensitive topics which are hard to speak of, hard to think about and sometimes hard to bear.

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