Mindscape : exploring living space in the urban environment by means of photographic interviews

19 Mar 2010

The paper lays emphasis on the importance of contextual understanding and interpretation for design purposes. It argues for the incorporation of concrete, living and changing realities in the analysis and design of the urban environment. In an attempt to reach a greater understanding of the real and the imaginary, photographic interviews are used to explore local perceptions on housing and open space in Mamelodi, Pretoria. Photographic interviews help the researcher translate often abstracted and generalised themes into concrete realities connected to social identities. In the narrative construction of identity the reasoned plot of a certain identity is based on the selective adaptation of reality. A similar unconscious visual selectiveness gives meaning to the use of photography in qualitative research. Photographs allow addition of something that is only insinuated in the image, this is made possible because of the way in which the spectator views the photographs. The technique of including photographs in an interview opens different perspectives regarding something that might not be familiar to the researcher; it also provokes more subjective responses and it allows a narrative addition by the viewer that reflects an interpretation of the physical environment and its symbolic connotation.The subjective and pluralistic perception of the space and its uses express the fundamental relationships between space and the socio-cultural process. When considered in design, this can lead to a greater morphological inclusiveness. Ultimately this can result in public space that does not homogenise and still allows for diversity and choice.