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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Technology-based and multi-modal data gathering (Chapter 7)

Reflections on the seventh chapter of 'Creative Research Methods - A Practical Guide' by Helen Kara



Kara begins the chapter by emphasising as she has throughout the book with regards to choice of methods, ‘The methods you choose for gathering data should not be those you find most attractive but those that offer the best chance of helping you to answer your research questions’ (page 119). This chapter focuses specifically on the use of technology in gathering data – something which will be relevant to my research project.

 

Kara explores the role of social media in contemporary research, ‘Research using social media also generates new ethical difficulties. For example, just because information is in the public domain, such as on openly accessible blogs of Twitter, does not mean that the person who generated the information would be happy for it to be used in a research project (Harris 2016: 68; Condie et al 2017: 147)’ (page 122). I don’t intend to use social media to gather any data for my research, so this ethical issue, although interesting to consider is not one I am too concerned about. However, she also adds, ‘Working with participants through social media can improve the quality of the researcher-participant relationship, but it can also make demands on researchers outside of working hours (Mainsah and Prøitz 2019:275)’ (page 122), which is highly relevant to my research project. As I intend to use whatsapp as a communication tool to engage in continuous dialogue with my research participants, to build rapore and to ensure they are satisfied with the work I am producing to represent their data. I have already had some back-and-forth with participants over the study for a portrait using Whatsapp to discuss revisions to the design.

 

Kara also considers the implications of digital documents in research, ‘When documents are used as data, the identity and purpose of the documents is as relevant as its content… the increasing popularity of research using documents as data may be partly due to the proliferation of documents that are freely available online’ (page 123). These considerations may become relevant to my project as I develop my research, I am currently focussing on reading printed materials, but also plan to research through online articles, blogs and websites.

 

Another topic Kara considers which is highly relevant to my research project is video interviews which I plan to conduct, ‘Observational data can be gathered using video. This can be particularly useful for a full analysed much more thoroughly than observational data gathered by hand’ (page 123). My intention is to conduct as many of the video interviews in-person as possible (if not all of them) as I believe the quality will be higher and this is of high importance since I plan to use the audio and visual footage for a documentary and not just for transcription purposes. ‘The use of online video telephony systems such as Skype, Zoom or Jitsi can help to fill the gap between face-to-face and telephone interviews. There can be problems with the technology, such as dropped calls, inaudible sound or blurred and stilted or stopped video (Seitz 2016: 231-2). On the plus side, it saves time and money on travel, and can be easier to schedule than face-to-face interviews (Seitz 2016: 231)’ (page 128). Nonetheless, Kara clearly defines the benefits of online video interviews, which I will consider if circumstances do not allow me to travel to make video interviews with participants in-person. My hope is that by minimising the number of participants to 10 or less, it will be feasible to conduct all the video interviews in-person, despite the geographical spread of my participants. I believe this will also benefit the outcomes of the project, by building my rapore and trust with project participants. I am trying to make use of other opportunities to travel to their locations, so, as to minimise the travel costs. I will consider Kara’s advice in the instance that travel is not possible, ‘Electronic interviews take more time and effort to set up than face-to-face or telephone interviews, and it is essential to pilot the interviews thoroughly, as there is no scope for adjustment during the interview process. However, once the system is set up, electronic interviews take much less time to administer than face-to-face interviews, and they remove the need for travel or transcription, which can significantly reduce costs’ (page 128).

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