“It’s about the depth of your data”

Fantastic article (it’s about the depth of your data) on “qualitative data analysis”, clarifying the difference between “quali” and “quanti”, but also providing rich comments on the labour of fieldnotes when doing fieldwork. I want to emphasize this parragraph and then you can read the whole article:

Descriptions in fieldnotes need to be precise. Rather than using the word “said” for example (as in “She said”) we encourage sociologists to think more deeply about the way in which the communication unfolded. Did she seem angry, bored, thoughtful, unsure, frustrated, annoyed, or sad as she spoke? Was his tone of voice loud, boisterous, gentle, irritated, exasperated, discouraged, delighted, gleeful, cheery, or jovial?

Another great sentence:

Data analysis is ongoing and deeply entwined with data collection.

Here is the whole article:

A key strength of in-depth interviews and ethnography is obtaining textured insights into social phenomenon. Yet, many qualitative researchers try to invoke the reliability of quantitative methods by shrouding themselves in numbers as a way to legitimize their work. They offer up the number of interviews, the number of hours, weeks, and years spent in the field and they propose bigger and bigger samples. Even as qualitative researchers assert that they have carried out in-depth qualitative research, they often revert to the language of quantitative research to justify the legitimacy of the work. The nod to numbers is a way of claiming trustworthiness and, importantly, scientific expertise, which is usually equated with quantitative methods. This dependence on large sample sizes for qualitative research as a form of legitimacy, however, is misplaced. Indeed, we see this seeking of legitimacy through quantification as a distortion of where the value of qualitative research truly lies.

Instead, it is the depth of qualitative data that determines the quality of the work. Qualitative methods have the capacity to illuminate meaning—particularly the micro-level nuances of attitudes and daily behaviors. Qualitative research can highlight the impact of large-scale social structural forces on the rituals of daily life as well as many other spheres of life. This depth may in fact be linked to a larger number of interviews, or to more time spent in the field, but it should not be seen as reducible to this. We want to point to three factors that we see as being indispensable to achieving depth in qualitative research: collecting high-quality data, trenchant data analysis, and vibrant writing.

Qualitative data has the advantage of making readers feel they are hearing the interview or seeing the scene unfold in their presence. Our trust of qualitative data should thus rely (more than it currently does) on how vividly the researcher captures the micro-level nuances. The point is to study social interaction—how people act and how others react to their actions, as well as how people react to the reactions. Descriptions in fieldnotes need to be precise. Rather than using the word “said” for example (as in “She said”) we encourage sociologists to think more deeply about the way in which the communication unfolded. Did she seem angry, bored, thoughtful, unsure, frustrated, annoyed, or sad as she spoke? Was his tone of voice loud, boisterous, gentle, irritated, exasperated, discouraged, delighted, gleeful, cheery, or jovial? (A thesaurus is a crucial aid here.) The notes should be greatly detailed. Lareau’s rule of thumb for the data collection for Unequal Childhoods was to spend five to twelve hours writing fieldnotes after every two or three hour visit. At the very least, researchers want to take twice as long to write up their notes as they spent in the field.

These kinds of notes also can set the stage for description of interviewees. Although notes usually cannot be collected during the interview—since it breaks the flow and the connection between the respondent and the interviewer—they can be written immediately afterwards and must be done within 24 hours. As part of the creation of a high-quality data set, it is crucial to collect information on facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice so as to better understand the social interactions being studied. It is also helpful to highlight the sounds, smell, and light in the setting researchers are trying to describe. Qualitative researchers want the reader to feel as if he or she is peering over the researcher’s shoulder to watch the events which are unfolding. But this kind of depth traditionally comes at the cost of scope in the number of sites and also in the number of interviewees. (Many researchers have concluded that they can keep about 50 people in their heads during data analysis.) Extremely large studies are difficult for one researcher to carry out, are expensive to transcribe, and are hard to represent through words. Smaller studies may create difficult decisions on balancing groups to study, but all studies involve hard choices. The goal is to achieve deep knowledge in a particular research setting.

Data analysis is integral to data collection in qualitative research. As the first bits of data emerge, researchers should read over fieldnotes and interview transcripts to search for emerging themes. Throughout the data collection process, researchers should consider the research question and try to figure out what interesting themes are surfacing. This analysis is almost always a pattern of discerning a focus (and letting go of other, interesting questions). But it is important to be skeptical as well. Researchers should search vigorously for disconfirming evidence to the emerging ideas. In the data analysis for Unequal Childhoods, for example, Lareau searched assiduously for middle-class, working-class, and poor families who had different behaviors than the general pattern for their social class. She found one white mother, who was raised in an affluent home, but—as a former drug addict living below the poverty level—her parenting style followed the “accomplishment of natural growth,” which was the cultural logic of child rearing in working-class and poor families. These and other examples increased Lareau’s confidence in her findings. In other cases, if researchers find disconfirming evidence, they need to investigate it thoroughly. Is it the exception that proves the rule? Or does it mean researchers should rethink their conclusions? Sociologists want to capture patterns that are decisively in the setting they are studying, and they want to be alert to variations on a theme. Writing memos, talking with others, giving “works-in-progress” talks all are helpful strategies to try to figure out what researchers are really doing in the field. Data analysis is ongoing and deeply entwined with data collection.

Our last point is that high-quality research is well written. Because doing qualitative research well is labor and time-intensive, it can be frustrating for scholars that they cannot share all of the collected evidence with the reader. Instead, researchers only share an extremely small fraction of the data. But qualitative researchers know that they have more data to support their claims than what they are able to present. This conviction is important. Yet, the writing and the quotes need to be judicious. Readers enjoy being told a story, and readers like to “connect” with a person in the text. Researchers who collect and analyze these rich details of social interaction are able to create clearer, more sophisticated arguments. Hence, it is valuable for these details to appear in the analysis. Too many studies using interview data prioritize including numerous quotes on the same analytical point as evidence of the robustness of their data. We find it better to present fewer people in more depth by helping the reader get to know a person in the study. For example, rather than presenting disembodied quotes in a research report, we believe it is ideal to help the reader understand who is speaking. Even in a brief fashion, the author can bring the respondent to life. This can be done by delving into the relevant back-story of the participant, detailing facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice. Then, the common themes can be illustrated more briefly with evidence from others. Tables also can be a succinct way of capturing patterns in the sample with very brief quotes—often less than ten words—which illuminate key themes.

In the end, qualitative research is about words. It is not about numbers. The “arms race” to have bigger and bigger samples is unfortunate, since many researchers spend valuable time and energy collecting data only to leave it on the “cutting room floor.” Qualitative researchers need to evoke in readers the feeling of being there. But that knowledge of daily life comes from learning the details of a relatively small, non-random sample. It means systematically analyzing the experiences, looking for disconfirming evidence, and being sure that the patterns are solid. It also means bringing them to life through the written word. The value of qualitative research is not about brandishing the large number of cases in a study. Instead, qualitative researchers need to focus on the quality and the meaning of the data they have collected. This is the source of their legitimacy.

Annette Lareau is in the sociology department at the University of Pennsylvania. The author of Unequal Childhoods, she is writing a practical guide for doing ethnographic research.

Aliya Hamid Rao is a doctoral candidate in the sociology program at the University of Pennsylvania. She is completing a dissertation on how gender reverberates through the unemployment experiences of families of white-collar men and women.

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“Street Phenomenology: The Go-Along as Ethnographic Research Tool” by Kusenbach

Kusenbach, M. 2003. “Street Phenomenology: The Go-Along as Ethnographic Research Tool.” Ethnography 4 (3): 455–485. doi:10.1177/146613810343007.

Abstract

This article introduces and evaluates the go-along as a qualitative research tool. What sets this technique apart from traditional ethnographic methods such as participant observation and interviewing is its potential to access some of the transcendent and reflexive aspects of lived experience in situ. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in two urban neighborhoods, I examine five themes which go-alongs are particularly suited to explore: environmental perception, spatial practices, biographies, social architecture and social realms. I argue that by exposing the complex and subtle meanings of place in everyday experience and practices, the go-along method brings greater phenomenological sensibility to ethnography.

In short “go-along” is the practice of accompanying things going on as part of daily routines in order to capture expressions, emotions, and interpretations that informants normally keep to themselves or will not talk about (Gross, 2015)

The dark side of Silicon Valley

California’s booming tech industry has created the most extreme wealth disparity in America. Josie Ensor investigates the tale of two cities

6:00AM GMT 26 Nov 2014

He settles himself in for what is going to be a long night – taking off his scuffed leather shoes and resting his head against a window opaque with condensation.

Jimmy, 47, has had the same routine for the last three years since losing his job as a chef at Microsoft.

He gets on the bus at midnight and rides the same 35-mile journey between San Jose and Palo Alto, California, until sunrise. He can spend up to $8 (£5) a night just trying to keep warm and off the streets – money he can ill afford.

The 22 bus is the only route that runs 24 hours in Silicon Valley and it has become something of an unofficial shelter for the homeless.

They call it Hotel 22.

A homeless man sleeps onboard bus route 22, known as Hotel 22

This small pocket of the Golden State has become the most extreme example in the US of the growing schism between the haves and have nots.

Santa Clara – the county which encompasses Silicon Valley – has the highest percentage of homeless in America, according to the latest Department of Housing report.

Yet it also has the nation’s highest average household income and some of the most expensive homes in the country – all down to the high-tech economy on its doorstep.

Silicon Valley is enjoying the most sustained period of wealth creation in history, but the area is crippled by income disparity. Where once a robust middle-class thrived, there exists only the super-rich and the extreme poor.

The 22 bus drives past Jimmy’s old employer Microsoft, as well as the headquarters of Google, Facebook and Apple.

On our journey, we pass a “Google bus” going in the opposite direction towards San Francisco. Employees are ferried to and from work in their own private blacked-out coaches dubbed “Gbuses”, which have themselves come to be a symbol of the inequality.

“It’s a tale of two cities,” Jimmy says. “At least that’s the poetic way people describe what’s going on here.

“What these techies don’t realise though is that we’re no different to them – they’re just one misstep, one paycheck away from being us.”

Jimmy, who moved from Chicago to California in the early 1990s for work, is wearing a slightly mottled suit and tie, as he does most days, in the hope it will help him find a job. He sends off a dozen applications a day from the local library, but he rarely even hears back.

He keeps a length of rope wrapped round his ankle, hidden under his trouser leg, “just in case one day I decide I’ve had enough.”

According to the most recent census data, as many as 20,000 people will experience homelessness in the county this year.

Protesters block a bus taking Apple employees to work in Silicon Valley in December 2013

Those who are not sleeping on the streets here are sleeping in what is known as The Jungle – the largest homeless encampment in the US. Hundreds of makeshift tents and treehouses go on for miles in a lawless sprawl.

Ray Bramson, the City of San Jose’s homelessness response manager, says: “There’s 5,000 sleeping rough on any given night – we just can’t deal with that.”

Over the last few years rent in the area has skyrocketed, in some cases up to 300 per cent of the national average.

“When you think homeless, you think of someone on the streets with no money, no job,” he says. “That’s changed. Being employed no longer guarantees you can afford to rent here. People simply lack the sustainable wages they need to survive.”

The state’s minimum wage was recently increased from $8 to $10 an hour. “It’s a step in the right direction,” Mr Bramson says, “but unfortunately the self-sufficiency standard is around $15.”

Our bus jolts to a stop as the driver spots someone waiting in the dark at the side of the road. It is now 2am. He lays down the ramp for the woman, who has a large cart full of her worldly belongings.

She is not the only woman, Sandra Pena spends one night a week on Hotel 22.

A well-spoken, well-educated and strikingly beautiful woman of 52, she is not the average night passenger.

Silicon Valley (ALAMY)

She spent nine years working as a technician for Arantech – which was at one time one of the bigger tech firms in Silicon Valley, until she was made redundant in 1989.

Shortly after, she decided to start up her own construction business, which enjoyed some success.

But at the height of the recession in 2009 she lost it all and had her home repossessed.

She started living out of her truck, doing odd job for neighbours, until she could no longer afford that either.

“I was hit by everything at once, and sometimes you just can’t pick yourself up from that,“ says Sandra, who is wearing pristine blue jeans and a button-down blouse. “Never, ever, would I have imagined myself in this situation.”

When there are no free beds at the local shelter, Sandra sleeps on the bus.

“I get the day pass for $6 – which if you buy at the right time can last you all through the night to the next morning,” she says. “I like it for the quiet …. and the alone time.

“The only downside is that you get woken up at the end of the line and are made to wait 15 minutes to get on the next one,” she says.

As a native of Santa Clara she has seen the area change beyond recognition.

Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino

It was once known for its orchids, earning it the nickname the Valley of Heart’s Delight. Until the 1960s, it was the largest fruit production region in the world and Del Monte was the biggest employer in town.

Then the tech companies started moving in, growing outward from Stanford University, which had begun nurturing start-ups with grants and academic support.

“Growing up here it was all ranches and orchids, I was a cowgirl. You had everything you could want, and great weather all year round. I don’t blame them all for coming here, but they offer the people who live here nothing,” says Sandra, who is currently completing a building course at an employment centre, which she hopes will lead to a job.

Chris Richardson, director of programme operations at the homeless organisation Downtown Streets, which has been helping Sandra, said: “Hotel 22 is an open secret in the homeless trade – for a couple of bucks people can get a relatively undisturbed night’s sleep.”

He says the problem has become so out of control there are twice as many homeless as there are available beds.

“You see camps of people sleeping rough just two miles from Sergey Brin’s (Google co-founder) house,” he says. “And the irony is, not even his engineers get paid enough to live here.

“We are trying to get tech billionaires involved in what we’re doing. They donate millions to good causes, but almost nothing to the local community they are helping destroy.

“It’s not necessarily their fault, but they are stakeholders in the homelessness problem and have the power and brains to change it.”

Eileen Richardson, Downtown Street’s founder, is a venture capitalist and former tech CEO herself, previously heading up the online music site Napster. She volunteered with the homeless on a sabbatical leave 10 years ago and was so shocked by what she saw she started up her own organisation to help.

At their weekly meeting, the team leader makes an announcement to the some-100 guests gathered – Google is hiring. The company is holding a jobs fair in a few weeks’ time and they are looking for chefs, cooks and cleaners.

Some groan, but most are keenly listening and a group stay behind after to sign up. In desperate times you cannot be too proud to “make a deal with the devil”, one guest says.

Original source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11249291/The-dark-side-of-Silicon-Valley.html

Collective ethnographic experiment in inner city Amsterdam

Research Network on Qualitative Research (RN20) to organize a ethnographic experiment (based on Mass-Observation project) during the next ESA midterm conference and by the own conference participants. It seems to me a great idea! The observation will focus on diversity performances in inner city Amsterdam. Really, I see this methodology as applicable to other conferences. Here I paste what it’s said in the conference site:

At this conference, we want to invite you to participate in an ethnographic experiment. We will do focused observations and analyze the observations online and offline with conference participants. The theme of the observations will be diversity performances in inner city Amsterdam. Our experiment builds on Mass Observation, as it was established in the UK in the nineteen thirties, on focused ethnography and on methods for online analysis of qualitative material. We are particularly curious if collaborative online interpretation is possible. We are very excited about this experiment and hope you will join.

More specifically, the conference program contains the following Mass Observation Experiment parts:

Before coming to Amsterdam

  •  We will sent you information on how to install software or get access to online tool for gathering and analyzing observation.

First day

  • Lecture by Susie Scott on Mass Observation.
  • Lecture by Jan Willem Duyvendak on diversity in Amsterdam.
  • Introduction to the experiment itself by Christian Bröer
  • Observing diversity performances

Second day

  • Enter observations into a collective project
  • Analyze observations online

Third day

  • Analyze observations online and offline
  • Discuss outcomes collectively

During the whole experiment, technical and non-technical support will be available. If you have questions or suggestions please contact Christian Bröer at c.broer@uva.nl.

Mass-observation project

Mass-Observation was a United Kingdom social research organisation founded in 1937. Their work ended in the mid-1960s but was revived in 1981. The Archive is housed at the University of Sussex.

Mass-Observation aimed to record everyday life in Britain through a panel of untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires (known as directives). They also paid investigators to anonymously record people’s conversation and behaviour at work, on the street and at various public occasions including public meetings and sporting and religious events.

Three young men, part of a small group of like-minded friends, are credited with establishing Mass Observation. The origins resulted from a strange coincidence.

Early in 1937, Harrisson’s one and only published poem appeared in the New Statesman on the same page as a letter from Madge and Jennings, in which they outlined their London-based project to encourage a national panel of volunteers to reply to regular questionnaires on a variety of matters. Interested by the similarity in aims to his own current anthropological study of the British, Harrisson contacted Madge and Jennings.

Within the space of a month, the two projects, related in their ideals, although different in the techniques they employed to gather information, joined together under the title of Mass Observation. Their aim, stated in a further letter to the New Statesman, was to create an “anthropology of ourselves” – a study of the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain.

Harrisson and a team of observers continued their study of life and people in Bolton (the Worktown Project), while Madge remained in London to organise the writing of the volunteer panel.

In Bolton, a team of paid investigators went into a variety of public situations: meetings, religious occasions, sporting and leisure activities, in the street and at work, and recorded people’s behaviour and conversation in as much detail as possible. The material they produced is a varied documentary account of life in Britain.

The National Panel of Diarists was composed of people from all over Britain who either kept diaries or replied to regular open-ended questionnaires sent to them by the central team of Mass-Observers.

Although Jennings and then Madge moved on, Mass Observation continued to operate throughout the Second World War and into the early 1950s, producing a series of books about their work as well as thousands of reports. Gradually the emphasis shifted away from social issues towards consumer behaviour.

Further info here

 

#ethnography: Trends, Traverses and Traditions

Bez tytułu

Call for Papers – deadline extended to 1 May 2014
ESA midterm conference, Research Network on Qualitative Research (RN20)
#Ethnography, @Amsterdam #August_27-29_2014 http://aissr.uva.nl/ethnography

Ethnography is often seen as one of the principal approaches in qualitative methodology in general. The ESA midterm conference for the Research Network on Qualitative research (RN20) will be on trends, traverses and traditions in Ethnography. The central question posed at this conference will be: How do current societal and technological trends influence ethnography when we are studying that same society? One could think of more concrete questions such as:


• Is ethnography changing due to social media, such as Twitter and Facebook? In what ways?
• What happens when we use mobile field recording devices, Skype and Youtubein our fieldwork? 
• What theoretical innovations have led to new approaches in ethnography? 
• How does the current economic crisis influence ethnographic practices for researchers? 
• What turn are we at now? 
• What other trends do we see in ethnography today?

In times of digital information overload, conferences are useful venues to discuss the trending topics within our field. Some of the questions posed above could be used to approach the vast array of ‘new’ trends in ethnography. Since one of the methodological virtues of ethnography is the possibility for adaptation to local and new situations, the question might rise whether these trends are actually methodologically new. Different specific sessions will be organised by leading specialists. Please see the website (http://aissr.uva.nl/ethnography) for the list of specific sessions.

We hope to organise an interesting conference in the heart of Amsterdam, combining classic presentations with a social program that consists of a Fieldwork Experiment: Mass – Observation in the Amsterdam Red light district, interactive lunch sessions and interesting keynotes by Susie Scott, Christian Heath, Peter Geschiere, Stefan Timmermansand Ruth Wodak. 

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to a specific session or to the open sessions. Please submit each abstract to a single session only. 

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. 

Abstracts can only be submitted at http://aissr.uva.nl/ethnography and no later than 1 May 2014.

The Fraga Family: example of visual data and ethnography based research project

 

verkami_cbdb13f8e348fd519a636047edda0f98ABOUT THE PROJECT

When I got to New York, I briefly documented the lives of many Galician families there. At the same the time I was looking for a project to document more widely during the year.

I photographed life in the Bronx, street parties, the subway, and it was not until I visited the Fragas at least a couple of times that I realized that my big project was going to be about them.

The Fraga Family is a story about the world. It is a project on migration and adaptation to another country over decades.

When I entered the Fraga home, an apartment of about sixty square meters, I found three generations of three different nationalities living there.

Grandpa Carlos, a Galician who had emigrated to Cuba in 1925; his Cuban daughter, Maria; Maria’s husband and cousin at once, Pepe, Galician who had lived in France and Cuba as well; and the two sons of these, Richie and José, one hundred percent Americans.

I lived with The Fraga Family three days a week for eight months, shooting their prívate lives. I witnessed moments of their daily life and important events, such as when José Fraga, 27 and barely Spanish speaking, an important lawyer in a Manhattan Law Firm, could finally move out after paying off his law school loans.

This story now being exhibited belongs to the first part of a larger project that will be completed in the spring of 2014, photographing the Fragas 15 years later.

Have you heart of similar cases? Let us know!

 

Source and further info: http://www.verkami.com/projects/6370-the-fraga-family