PUK older

“Truth Plus Publicity”: Paul U. Kellogg, Hybrid Practice and Progressive Era Visual Research Methods, 1907-1917

Underlying this factor of graphic portrayal is the factor of truth; truth plus publicity . . . The philosophy of the survey is to set forth before the community all the facts that bear on a problem, and to rely upon the common understanding, the common forethought, the common purpose of the people as the first great resource to be drawn upon in working that problem out. Thus conceived, the survey becomes a distinctive and powerful implement of democracy (Paul U. Kellogg, 1912, p. 480).

Paul Underwood Kellogg (1879-1958), an innovative hybrid practitioner of social work, journalism, and social research, harnessed the most advanced visual technologies of his time in service of progressive social change. In social surveys such as The Pittsburgh Survey and his editorship of two widely-read periodical publications, The Survey and Survey Graphic, Kellogg brilliantly combined documentary photography, art, maps, data, and textual narratives with the goal of making unavoidably visible the inequities of industrializing America. Indeed his work prefigures current trends toward use of new media in community-based research and public scholarship. Yet key aspects of Kellogg’s contributions to Progressive Era reform, particularly the unique vision he held for using visual culture in community-based research, consciousness-raising, and political advocacy during the “social survey movement” have largely been forgotten, particularly in social work, his home discipline.

Informed theoretically and methodologically by Foucault’s work on discourse, knowledge, and power, this project is an historical case study.  The methodological approach of the dissertation is broadly (in Foucault’s terms) genealogical, in the sense that it is concerned with unpacking and critically analyzing an earlier, if now largely forgotten, iteration of the hybrid visual methods that are increasingly a feature of contemporary research.

The purpose of this study is to document and analyze Kellogg’s methodological innovation – “truth plus publicity” – within several contexts:

  • To situate the construction of his activist knowledge production within the social, political, economic, professional, and scientific discourses of the Progressive era, 1890-1917.
  • To unpack his hybrid research methods for data collection within The Pittsburgh Survey
  • and for research dissemination within social work journal, The Survey, among other methodologies, such as exhibits.
  • To critically assess his work, – both its contributions and complexities- in order to draw implications from Kellogg’s legacy of visual praxis for contemporary community-engaged research and public scholarship.

 The project will argue that the use of visual media in research is often depicted as a recent phenomenon, related in particular to the development of digital visual technologies. Such accounts typically ignore earlier examples of the innovative use of visual media, which like contemporary iterations were at once groundbreaking for their time, and complex in their implications.

In social work, Paul Kellogg’s “visual praxis” was ahead of its time in its  combining of established survey research methods (e.g. household surveys, quantitative data, mapping), visual media (photography, art), and documentary journalism. This innovative methodology warrants greater contemporary recognition than it has been given, particularly given the current resurgence of interest in visual media. At the same time, an adequate assessment of Kellogg’s methodology – on its own terms and as case study in the production of social work knowledge – requires that it be critically assessed in terms of its emergence within a particular social and historical context, (e.g., Progressive era social reforms, the survey movement, documentary journalism, emphasis on science, and professionalization).  Kellogg’s work offers useful lessons for contemporary community-engaged, social change oriented research, particularly in regards to and where research is disseminated to different audiences for purposes of advocacy and in terms of its reflexive role vis à vis the profession of social work.