Grounded visual pattern analysis: photographs in organizational field studies

Harriet L. Shortt, Sam Warren

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    Visual methodologies for researching organizational life have grown in popularity over the past decade, with conceptual and methodological foundations now well documented. However, analytical critique has not kept pace, and so in this article we offer grounded visual pattern analysis (GVPA) as a rigorous means of analysis that mines the discursive meanings of individual photographs and the visual patterns apparent across multiple still images. We illustrate GVPA’s value through an ethnographic field study investigating the relationship between workplace environments and identity formation among hair salon workers in the United Kingdom. Specifically, we explain how to combine the strengths of both “dialogical” and “archaeological” approaches to visual research, which have hitherto been seen as distinct endeavors. We argue this is particularly valuable in field studies addressing material turns in organization studies, such as studies of space, strategy-as-practice, embodied cognition, and servicescape aesthetics. The article concludes by putting forward a series of potential directions for the future of visual organizational research based on the bridging of Meyer et al.’s five different methodological approaches.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)539-563
    Number of pages25
    JournalOrganizational Research Methods
    Issue number2
    Early online date11 Dec 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


    • ethnography
    • field research methods
    • photography
    • qualitative research
    • visual analysis
    • visual methods


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