Capturing christmas: The sensory potential of data from participant produced video

Stewart Muir, Jennifer Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we discuss our use of participant-produced digital footage of family Christmases, collected as part of a larger project exploring family backgrounds and family traditions. The audio-visual recording (and subsequent dissemination) of these otherwise difficult-to-access domestic celebrations provides important insights into the multi-dimensional, multisensory, physical and situational nature of such family traditions. With their blend of genre styles - from narrated documentary to home-movie style wobbly camera work - the 'Christmas videos' show both conscious 'displays' of family life and practice (performed for the camera, for the participants and for posterity) and largely unscripted, and sometimes noisily chaotic, interactions. Although videos cannot provide unmediated access into what such traditions are 'really like', in combination with our other data sources the footage has helped to push our thinking about family traditions as being at once intellectualised productions and a series of bodily engagements with a host of practices, understandings, knowledges, family histories, things and people. This form of 'backstage' analytical usage of the video data has been very productive for us. However, we argue that there are ethical issues in publicly presenting such data alongside other forms of data, eg interview data, in a deep sociological analysis of people's personal lives. There is the potential not only for the production of incisive knowledge and insight, but also for a prying and distinctively sociological intrusiveness, and sociologists need to think carefully about how to proceed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2012


  • Audio-visual media
  • Christmas
  • Digital video
  • Family
  • Tradition
  • Visual methods


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