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Visualising human-animal-technology relations : fieldnotes, still photography and digital video on the robotic dairy farm

Bear, Christopher; Wilkinson, Katy; Holloway, Lewis


Christopher Bear

Katy Wilkinson

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Professor Lewis Holloway
Professor of Human Geography. Associate Dean for Research and Enterprise, Faculty of Science and Engineering


This paper explores the potential for developing less anthropocentric approaches to researching human-nonhuman relations through visual ethnography, critically examining the potential for conceptualising nonhuman animals as participants. Arguing that method in “more-than-human geography” and animal studies has developed at a slower pace than theory, it proposes visual approaches as a means through which to foreground the behaviour and actions of nonhuman animals in social research. This challenges underlying anthropocentric assumptions of visual ethnography, questioning the meaning of “participation” in visual research. The paper presents a comparison of approaches used in studying practices of robotic milking on dairy farms in the UK. Specifically, it compares the qualities of field notes, still photography and digital video in focusing on particular sites, moments and movements of robotic milking. While visual approaches are not a panacea for more-than-human research, we suggest that they do offer a means through which nonhumans might “speak for themselves” in social research. Rather than presenting definitive accounts, the inclusion of video in such work not only illustrates arguments but also leaves the actions of nonhumans open to further interpretation; the centrality of the researcher is destabilised.


Bear, C., Wilkinson, K., & Holloway, L. (2017). Visualising human-animal-technology relations : fieldnotes, still photography and digital video on the robotic dairy farm. Society & animals : social scientific studies of the human experience of other animals, 25(3), 225-256.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 6, 2014
Online Publication Date May 13, 2016
Publication Date Jun 1, 2017
Deposit Date Jul 2, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 21, 2018
Journal Society and animals
Print ISSN 1063-1119
Publisher Brill Academic Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 3
Pages 225-256
Keywords Video ethnography; More-than-human geographies; Photography; Visual methods; Robotic milking
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in Society and animals, 2017. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record.
Contract Date May 21, 2018


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