Cultures are complexes of learned behavior patterns and perceptions, societies are groups of interacting organisms. Thus, not only humans have a particular culture. Anything and everything that interacts-animate or inanimate-- forms a society that has a particular culture. Surveys, experiments, ethnography, case-studies, content-analysis are some of the strategies traditionally employed in conducting sociological researches. Results in the application of these strategies form the data for qualitative or quantitative research methods. Beginning in the 1970s, however, and over the following three decades, the social sciences experienced a significant change in their understanding of social life. This change is often described as the 'cultural turn'. That is, 'culture' became a crucial means by which many social scientists understood social processes, social identities, and social change and conflict. In understanding these complexities, Stuart Hall stresses: culture is not so much a set of things - novels and paintings or TV programmes or comics - as a process, a set of practices. Primarily, culture is concerned with the production and exchange of meanings - the 'giving and taking of meaning' - between the members of a society or group Thus culture depends on its participants interpreting meaningfully what is around them, and 'making sense' of the world, in broadly similar ways.1
Meanings may be deliberately or accidentally created and transferred. However these meanings are sent, they become a representative of the group or a reflection of its culture as these representations creates an identity for the group (society).
This phenomenon may be explained in a number of ways. Recently however, many writers addressing these issues argued that the visual is central to the cultural construction of social life in contemporary Western societies (Rose, 2006: 26).2 Inference is made to the fact that advancement in technology has increased dramatically since man's triumphant passage from the industrial age to the information age. Not a single day will go by that a person will not be affected or affect visual technologies - photography, film, video, digital graphics, television, acrylics, for example - and the images they show us - TV programmes, advertisements, snapshots, public sculpture, movies, surveillance video footage, newspaper pictures, paintings and so on. All these different kinds of technologies and images offer views of the world; they depict the world in visual terms.
The process of depicting is not a passive action though. These images do not work as a mirror that reflects the society as it is. Prior to the act of reflecting people responsible for the images' taking place, in a way, create a reality for the beholders to perceive. Hence, what seems is not actually what is seen. Perceivers or the society sees a construction of a re-constructed understanding of what is and results to contradicting reading of what should be.
In this paper the use and effect of visual materials on sociological research will be explored. Specifically, this paper will argue that there are significant methodological or ethical problems in the use of visual materials in sociological research. To make the explanation more concrete, a visual image will be analyzed before the end of this paper.
Wagner (2008), describes how visual images became part of research methods employed in studies conducted in the social sciences.