Video data analysis: A methodological frame for a novel research trend

Anne Nassauer & Nicolas M. Legewie

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Nassauer, A. & Legewie, N. M. (2018). Video Data Analysis. Sociological Methods & Research, 004912411876909.

behavioral analysis , emotions , interactions , microsociology , situational analysis , Video , visual data

Since the early 2000s, the proliferation of cameras, whether in mobile phones or CCTV, led to a sharp increase in visual recordings of human behavior. This vast pool of data enables new approaches to analyzing situational dynamics. Application is both qualitative and quantitative and ranges widely in fields such as sociology, psychology, criminology, and education. Despite the potential and numerous applications of this approach, a consolidated methodological frame does not exist. This article draws on various fields of study to outline such a frame, what we call video data analysis (VDA). We discuss VDA’s research agenda, methodological forebears, and applications, introduce an analytic tool kit, and discuss criteria for validity. We aim to establish VDA as a methodological frame and an interdisciplinary analytic approach, thereby enhancing efficiency and comparability of studies, and communication among disciplines that employ VDA. This article can serve as a point of reference for current and future practitioners, reviewers, and interested readers.

Main finding
Video data analysis (VDA) uses data as containers of behavioral information to understand situational and social dynamics. VDA supports ethnographic data by being able to focus on microexpressions and the exact sequence of interactions which increases the reliability of findings. When dealing with psychological behavioral studies, VDA maintains the detailed analysis of natural behavior, but can do so outside laboratory settings. When studying social interactions, VDA allows for the analysis of many forms of communication at once, i.e., both verbal and non-verbal communication as well as aspects of the physical environment, and the organization and identification of communication sequences. These insights are used to develop a VDA analytical toolkit to operate as a reference point for authors and readers of VDA studies. The toolkit entails breaking down data to the microlevel, reconstructing events within the social and physical contexts of a situation, and building on the reconstruction of processes by identifying situational dynamics to establish comprehensive storylines. This toolkit may be particularly useful for studying public space due to the abundance of public video surveillance.

Description of method used in the article
This article draws on three studies that utilize visual data analysis (VDA) as a methodological framework. All three studies examine situational aspects of natural behavior caught on tape from a single interdisciplinary field: violence research. First is a single-case qualitative study that uses one visual. It examines an eight-hour video for a single-case analysis of events leading to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia–Herzegovina. Second is a multiple-case quantitative study that analyzes one visual per event by looking at 42 videos of one to eight minutes in length, capturing 42 incidents of aggression in North West England. The third and final study uses multiple cases and analyzes a patchwork of visuals, looking at 30 violent and peaceful protest marches using nearly 1000 visual data varying in length between a few seconds and several hours. All three studies were then analyzed and utilized to produce the analytical VDA toolkit.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Photo / Video / Sensor
Physical types
Geographic locations