Accepted Paper:

“There’s not one time that I have drove by this without thinking of everything I’ve done here”: Using participatory photography to visualize how place and space impact opioid addiction and recovery  
Katie Milligan (Mount Holyoke College) Sydney Silverstein (Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation addresses the use of photography as an alternative methodology to better envision the phenomenological realities of opioid users. Participant photos allow us to create an imaginary of how experiences of addiction and recovery are shaped by everyday social and spatial environments.

Paper long abstract:

For communities often excluded from mainstream discourse, reimagining modes of communication in research can fill in gaps left by logocentric expression and allow for deeper understanding across social divides. Participatory photography, a technique in which participants respond to prompts by taking photos, is an exciting medium through which to conceptualize the subjective experience of people who use drugs (PWUD), who navigate a unique social and built environment of trauma, invisibility, and oppression.

This presentation focuses on insights from a participatory photography project conducted with illicit opioids users in the Dayton, Ohio metropolitan area, considered to be an epicenter of the current opioid crisis. Participants took photos of perceived barriers and motivators to their opioid recovery and reflected on them in semi-structured interviews.

Through taking photos, participants were able to dig beneath the surface of recallable memory to create a self-narrated phenomenological imaginary of how they navigate their spatial worlds. The photos revealed that the participants’ everyday social and built environments are pregnant with connotations of trauma, struggle, adoration, and hope. In this manner, participatory photography becomes a technique with which we can address crises in communication regarding the subjective experiences of drug use and recovery, which often focus on risk and the body, and ignore how broader experiences of place shape addiction trajectories.

As initiatives to address the opioid epidemic expand, qualitative researchers must consider new ways to address persisting misunderstandings of how PWUD view their own experiences of addiction and recovery.

Panel P05a
The crisis of communication
  Session 1