The Image Lab is part of the EICOS Program and works in close association with researchers. It’s function is to organize the materials and technical support indispensable for the development and training of students and teachers interested in the video techniques employed in psycho sociological research.

The purpose of the training is to acquaint the researcher with the video universe, learning the techniques and tools that will enable him/her to act in all production stages of a visual document.

One of our challenges is how to coordinate the technology and the job requirements (filming, writing the script, and editing, among others) in a way that also favors the requirements of researches on human and social sciences. We agree with Rouch’s and France’s ideas, and we have observed since 1986 in our work – beginning with our first film "Maria Maria" - that a sensitive and attentive look on the part of the researcher will add to the technique not only spontaneity, in capturing details that would escape a strictly technical team, but, above all, authenticity to the recorded images. Besides, in order to perform the feedback work, the researcher really has to get into the director’s role, and the more he understands about video’s possibilities and limitations the better will be the results achieved.

The EICOS/UFRJ Lab Image has developed its research themes based on the following ideas, which underline to the importance of the video for research work.

1. An alternative or complementary way of recording information: although this option does not really take advantage of all the potential that video techniques have to offer, it does have several advantages over techniques which record only verbal behavior, since it makes it possible to work with the corporal dimension – difficult to be captured by other techniques. The non-verbal dimension represents a rich universe to be explored by itself or in conjunction with verbal aspects, either in the research area or with the intention to preserve the memory of social groups.

Images have the ability of showing more than just a description. They provide a perception of faces, looks, textures, forms, dimensions, colors and volumes that make up the world as visible manifestations of culture.

2. Access to specific social groups: both in research and in documentation there are stances where recording the non-verbal dimension is the only path of access to certain social groups’ traits that we wish to know better, in special when the verbal code is asymmetric between researchers and researched. D’Avila Neto underlines the code issue in relation to her research with women from underprivileged backgrounds in Brazil. For the author, the insufficient command of the word – in relation to the researchers’ (university level) – found among women, prevents more comprehensive communications.

"In our specific project the subject of codes called our attention: few women knew how to write and read, and certainly none or almost none of them could have answered a complex question about women’s contribution to cultural development. The simple formulation of our theme, even carefully phrased, would show our idea of culture and our own aspirations and needs. In a country where so many cultural elements are blended, we run the risk of losing certain cultural traits, repressed by intense domination and colonization mechanisms."

3. Feedback: Although feedback is not very often employed in sociological researches, its contribution to participative research is promising. In psychology, the contribution of feedback techniques is easily identified, in special in the therapeutic approach. Its use in the psycho-sociological area has been developing for the last ten years. In Brazil, the works of D’Avila Neto , are responsible for the creation and implementation of the Image Lab and for the development of the Image Database project.

The wealth of resources provided by video techniques in participative researches have been an important element in programs working in the social-cultural dimension of development (such as feedback), in researches using group animation techniques and as a way of preserving the memories of certain social groups.

4. A useful resource for works dealing with development:
videos are also a powerful resource for programs dealing with the development of the social-cultural dimension. Technically, they constitute a privileged tool in the production of strategies of remote didactic integration. In this case, the technique acts as a support for the creation of video training programs, teleconferences and other media activities that include images, associated to the available informational infrastructure.