[Qualitative data analysis course as part of Economic Analysis program at Faculty of Economics of Gdansk University of Technology]
Good, so! This is qualitative data analysis class. My name is Xaquín Pérez-Sindín López. The first thing I want to do is invite you to call me Xaquín. In class, during office hours, whenever, this is name I respond to. I will eventually respond to Pérez, López, professor López, but the truth is that those are not the names I immediately recognise.
Well, I will structure the class in three simple questions, WHO I am? WHY Qualitative data analysis course and WHAT does it consist of?
The first thing I want to talk is to do a thorough introduction of myself. I want basically to invite you for a ride over my last decade of life, a kind of time space trip, like gravitational waves recently discovered. Believe me or not, there is a connection between qualitative research gravitational waves.
I like to begin with my own presentation because one´s background is probably a way you to see what to expect from this course.
First of all, I come from Spain, particularly from the Autonomous Community of Galicia. Let me draw first a map. I love maps. Could someone tell me where is Galicia… All of them are part of a peripheral region in relation to the main economic centres, that is, Barcelona. It means that Galicia is probably sharing certain economic aspects with other peripheral regions in Europe, for instance Pomerania voivodship.
Madrid is here, Barcelona here, do you know what the Spain´s capital is? Have you ever been to Galicia? Well if you have, this is just because of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Well apart from Santiago de Compostela there are two other main cities, Vigo and A Coruña.
However, none of them is the place I was born. I was born in a midsize town in the North, called As Pontes de García Rodríguez. So my second life category, the second category that defines me as person is the fact I was born in a midsize town. This is not a banal issues, I am talking about the categories that define us because they are usually crucial when choosing a research topic. So let me tell you beforehand that one of the requisites to pass this course is to write a paper and to do so you should have a good research topic. And I will put special emphasis on how you all focus a good research topic.
I will tell you a little bit about the As Pontes economies, the economy of my hometown. Until seventies As Pontes used to be an agriculture and trade oriented town but, since the localization of a huge deposit of coal nearby, an energy mining comparing invested in the town to produce energy out of coal-fired. That meant the construction of a huge power plant, as the one can find in such places as Konin, in the south of Poland. That fact supposed the creation of thousand well paid jobs in a rather quiet and rural place. Most of the new jobs were covered by outsiders since the company needed skilled workers. In conclusion, this physical investment caused a so called boom effect. The town exploited in economic and demographic terms. I am telling you that because that was precisely the topic of my most recent investigation which was my thesis dissertation too. Socio-economic impact of big industries. I did analysed such indicators as unemployment rate before and after the boom; GDP, income. This is not a banal issue in contemporary world. What about other kind of developments? What is the socioeconomic impact of the new metropolitan train? What about Riviera in Gdynia or the new train station in Sopot? How local economy has changed? How does it affect the local economy, the local business around? Answer these kind of questions requires economics analysis and, in a great extent, qualitative analysis.
So, the second step took me to A Coruña, where I attended university. I graduated in Sociology in 2003 having got pretty specialized in local development field. Soon after I joined a consulting company. There I was pretty much engaged in conducing qualitative research by mean the use of some of the techniques we´ll cover in this course such as semi-structure interview, focus group etc. The company, by the way, was located in Ferrol. Do you know Ferrol? Well, it is a shipbuilding city. It means that if in my hometown the main economic and employment driver was mining industry, here was shipbuilding. A huge part of local labour force is still employed on shipyard.
Next stop would already be Poland, particularly Gdynia. Here I joined Thomson Reuter in 2010, being part of a financial data analysis team centred in Portuguese speaking markets, mainly Brazil. My role there was basically report the main developments that were taking place in Brazil, for instance, whenever a two listed companies merged we were supposed to report this fact and translate it into English. Nothing special to be honest but I get something very important for my current position. I now have an inside perspective of the local economy.
Let me ask you something, what are the main economic drivers of Trojmiasto economy?
This is course on qualitative data analysis, but it is course on economics too, since it is part of a broader program on economics analysis. If we look back primitive societies, qualitative data analysis did not exist probably because they weren´t a necessity, neither economics nor probably science as we know understand it. Well, I don´t want to elaborate on this point but I just want you to see the point of why we need qualitative analysis nowadays.
The primitive society was simply organized: tribes, low ranking (hierarchical), barter base economies and perhaps some differences regarding gender and age; but above all, much less interdependent than nowadays, I mean relationship between different communities were lower. States did not exist and even less globalization. Hence local communities were the only socioeconomic organization. What is more, most of the members of such communities had face-to-face contacts so whatever they wanted to communicate they just need to go there and tell something. In this societies, in the pre-industrial societies. People needed a dwelling and they build it. They needed a path to carry out goods and they build it. Hence, there was a direct relation between the individuals and the territory, i.e. the resources. We can say that urban and economics problems were solved by mean a unidirectional relationship. I am hungry I plant potatoes; I need a house I build it. In these societies, the traditional societies, everything is solved in a relatively easy way. When you need a dwelling you build a hut or even a cave.
As time passes, human settlements are getting complex, communities become proper societies. Spinning jenny, steam engine and many other inventions encouraged strong changes. Industrial revolution affected greatly European and American society. Well, you know all this story, don´t you? The rapidness of the changes over the last two centuries has increased exponentially.
But in the complex, industrial, urban and capitalist societies this isn’t it. You live in a dense city so we need to agree where one or another build their home and you can´t no longer plant potatoes or hunt beers. But the question is that now we still need to eat potatoes and houses but now it depends on macro factors due to the introduction of a monetary system, political system, media system etc. and, particularly, over the last decades global institutions. What is more, we do now belong to one state, as Poland, Spain, supranational organizations as European Union. They are our community, but the difference is that we don’t know each other. It means that you share many things with people you will never see each other; you share a language, costumes, cultures, etc. Benedict Anderson coined the concept of imagined communities in reference to, for instance, states. So you can imagine the community you are part of, let’s say Poland or European Union but at the difference of primitive communities you can´t have face-to-face interactions with most of the people. In a primitive community doing an economic analysis means how many plantations and how many houses you have in your community. So you don´t even need to write a report.
But it does not work out in complex societies. We still need to count economic activities but we now need more sophisticated analysis. And the more complex society is, the more sophisticate. Here show up social science and economic analysis in particular to understand reality beyond human eye. And here comes the problem, how to draw a reliable depiction of the local economy in Trojmiasto? (Reliable in a sense of not being subjected to our individual judgment but objective) That is an accurate and not biased depiction. An analysis that match reality as much as possible. Here, statistics play a crucial role. We now have countless instruments to quantify the reality. How many new foreign outsourcing companies are settled down right now in Gdansk? But of course, we humans evolve and we are able to raise more complex question since reality is also complex. So, we can ask what is the relationship between economic growths and demography?. You will hear about this from Piotr Dominiak because, correct me if I am wrong, you have a course on this topic with him. Or what are the drivers of socioeconomic development in Trojmiasto?
As you can imagine many of these questions may be answered by mean quantitative analysis and statistical proofs, particularly, those head by how many, how much? But whenever you want to inquiry more hidden elements of the reality, and this is something we will cover next week when talking about the essentials of qualitative research, for instance, why some regions attract foreign investment? Why do some regions grow economically and others not? What does working in a corporation in Gdansk mean? We can imagine what is working in shipyards in Poland. I guess that some of your parents or grandparents worked at Gdansk port, so many of you know what it means. For instance, there is a very interesting question I hope some of you will choose as research topic. How new corporation are impacting local economy? Are small and medium size companies in Trojmiasto benefiting from it? Well we could for sure undertake a quantitative analysis, but we first need to inquiry with interviews to managers or employees, decision makers or stakeholders.
So to answer this question from a qualitative point of view, we need, paradoxically, to return to primitive societies interactions, we need to look for face-to-face interactions or simply observe the reality. We need to interview people, ask questions. They might not represent the majority of the people, but still, we sometimes need primary data to dig into a priori very complex issues.
Global village: there is another concept you may be familiar with and I want to highlight to explain why we need qualitative data analysis. The concept of global village, associated with the Canadian-born Marshall McLuhan, which at the same time is connected to globalization. According to McLuhan globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology and the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time. In other words, all the historical processes I have described before, the pass from traditional to modern societies, from agriculture oriented to industry oriented societies are usually the result of new technology. As you know the printing machine or the steam engine triggered, induced many of these changes. In this sense, communication technologies, first printing machine, radio, television and more recently internet are in the base of many changes. What Mcluhan comes to say with this concept is that these technologies allow humans from all over the world share information instantaneously. We are bombarded with information, sometimes with origin in Poland, other times in Japan or US. So we live in the so called information society. [Speech began 30,000 years ago, but alphabetic-written communication is just about four millennia old #McLuhan]
It means that the traditional face-to-face interactions are now converted into alphabetic-written communication and more and more via online tools. Hence, addressing contemporary phenomena usually lead us to deal with text based interactions. Newspapers, online communities, new social media etc. Might perfectly the top source of primary information to, for instance, understand how decisions makers and stakeholders treat the economic changes experienced right now in Trojmiasto. And that´s why I also want to introduce in this course a very well known research technique: content analysis. Although it is often associated with quantitative approach, I really want to slightly show how useful this kind of a
nalysis might be to enrich the research process. But not only alphabetic-written or verbal communication. Non verbal or image-based cultural production may be also a great source of information. Imagine for a second we analyse all graphitise in Trojmiasto, you divide all the text in categories-topics. This might be giving us relevant information to understand hidden values of youth in the city, if we assume that they are written by young population. Or someone, anonymously, spend one month working in a company as a regular worker when in reality is trying to observe workers behaviour in informal settings. We will have the opportunity to go into real cases in future lectures, now I want you to review the syllabus of the subject and the requirements to pass the course…see syllabus