A research project was conducted in nine different parts of Nepal to find out how non-literate adults responded to a variety of pictures and diagrams. Findings of the study included : villagers do not expect to receive ideas from pictures, villagers tend to 'read' pictures very literally and that villagers do not necessarily assume that thee is any connection between the pictures in a series. It was found however that 'if a picture's message is explained to villagers, they will probably remember the message when they see the picture again'. This even proved true in the case of an abstract diagram illustrating the transmission of TB. The study also compared the kind of illustrations that were most readily understood.
Ideas about communication have mostly come from the industrialised West, meaning people in developing countries have to learn "an alien visual language" in order to understand development illustrations. The first question for an illustrator to ask is "for whom am I designing this picture?" From experience in India, most designers seem to be producing for their own kind, rather than for those in the villages and are "blind to the visual language of their own culture". This practical manual suggests how to go about producing appropriate visual aids by first collecting an "inventory of visual language" in the local area (traditional designs, clothing styles, meaning of certain colours etc). Illustrators should "build on a society's achievements, not what it lacks". The design process is described step by step, with checklists on the advantages of various visual styles and ideas about layout and assessing the "audience's" response to the finished product. The author warns that the process is not easy, "using traditional visual forms to express modern ideas can be like discussing nuclear physics in Sanskrit.."
Appropriate methodology: an example using a traditional African board game to measure farmers' attitude and environmental images.
The recent growth in interest in the utility of indigenous environmental knowledge in Africa has brought more sharply into focus the cross-cultural limitations of many conventional geographical methods for collecting perceptual and behavioural data. There is a danger in uncritical reliance on transferred social science methodologies which often embody cultural assumptions exterior to the local culture. This paper explains the use of local traditional cultural forms, in particular the use of a Nigerian board game derived from Mancala. This type of multi-method approach, given carefully designed research programmes, could provide a variety of different learning formats and experiences for both research worker and farmer, and encourage mutual understanding and co-operation in agricultural research in developing countries.
This article is from a special issue on focus groups (FGs). FGs can be used to gain insights into the dynamic relationships of attitudes, opinions, motivations, concerns and problems related to current and projected activities. They developed in the private sector as a market research tool, but have been adapted for use in other types of project. The article defines FGs, and discusses its uses, primarily in relation to qualitative research. The advantages of this method are discussed, and contrasted with more conventional and quantitative research methods. The methodology of group session research is described under the headings: sample design, specific group requirements, group discussion guide, conducting the sessions, attitude of the moderator, and evaluation, analysis and interpretation of results. The application of FG research to social action projects is discussed. Throughout, reference is made to examples from a family planning project in Mexico.
Experience of living and working in Zambia led the author to reflect on the differences in understanding and communication. This wide-ranging account looks at concepts such as "time" as expressed in Swahili and English, and how a "magic" world view affects the concept of causal relations. Concerned particularly with pictures as "the link between written and oral lifestyles", the author goes on to analyse his Zambian friends' perspective. Though he draws on studies of visual literacy, such as George McBean's, and lists the visual "cues" (eg perspective, superimposition) which people lack, his starting point is less ethnocentric. When a woman states that there is more Fanta in a high glass than a short glass (though it has been shown to be the same quantity), he questions "why should we consider it 'less logical' to attribute 'moreness' to something visually dominant like width or height than to attribute 'sameness' to something invisible like weight?" In oral societies people appear to be more used to verbalising "what they do not what they see" and they expect pictures to "contain what they know about objects, not just what they see". "Memory pictures" which, for example, show all four wheels of a car through twisting the picture in space, are one way of meeting peoples' visual expectations. There are many observations in this book besides those on visual literacy (eg on "greetings" in different cultures and ways of learning) which would interest PRA practitioners.
Community-Based Workshops for Evaluating and Planning Sanitation Programs: A Case Study of Primary Schools Sanitation in Lesotho
The Lesotho Primary Schools Sanitation Project, undertaken in 1976-9, had limited success. When a follow-up project was proposed, it was decided to hold workshops to find out the communities' views on how the follow-up should be designed. Workshop participants included school and community representatives, ministerial and donor agency representatives. This paper describes the results of those workshops held in March 1981. Most of the report discusses technical implications of the workshop discussions. A final section discusses the role of community based workshops in development planning.
"Is it strange for soldiers in Zaire when watching a Donald Duck movie for the first time, to call out that ducks do not talk?" The general tendency to apply Western visual devices in developing countries has failed to consider the culturally specific nature of many images. It is not just a question of understanding visual "tricks" (such as how TV producers juggle with time, how artists create perspective) but of interpreting signs. "Graphic symbols and pictographs are visual signs of a predominantly symbolic nature which are culturally determined and which must subsequently be acquired before they can prove useful". The author goes on to examine what makes a picture realistic in different cultural contexts and how visual conventions like shading can be misunderstood. Artists should try to use local visual codes to develop local visual culture. This account includes an overview of other studies on visual literacy.