Sunday, May 19, 2013

More learnings from the world of mobile ethnography














Let me cut to the chase here with the briefest of backgrounds. A client is running their own explorations of current account holders. Tasks carefully designed and scheduled, segments generated and tags finalised.

Entries started to rain down on us; video mostly but also, photos, audio and quite a lot of text.

This is where I wanted to cut to:

Client calls me: Hi Siamack! I'm glad we only recruited twelve people. I might not have been able to make sense of any more participants.

Me, taken aback: But aren't you filtering and creating smart workspaces?

Client: I am but that's only half the story. I want to understand them as individuals, not a bunch of sorted entires. Even if I can theme and code them into clusters.

Me: But I showed you how to go to summary and see entries by individuals and work in sylos if you prefer.

Client: That's what I did eventually. And it was brilliant. Worked so well. Up to that point though, I found it hard to place the entries into the context of who the creators of the entries were. And even things like the cultural backdrop these participant's opinions and beliefs were formed in.

I was very happy that she had eventually recalled we do have different views including by participant. But our conversation had served to reminded me of the following interpretive pillars of mobile auto-ethnographic research:

1) Understanding the individual before you understand their entries is key
2) Participants decision to capture/share an entry/comment is also data
3) What isn't said/shown is as important as what is said/shown

There are a few more.

Now here's the thing, and I feel quite exposed sharing with you: I hadn't given enough thought to the understanding-participants-as-whole-people thing. Yes, you can look at entries by participants, but I am thinking about the researcher being able to build a collage, consisting of not only entries and notes but all sorts of other stimulus material.

I was thinking of those police suspect maps shown above. I'm still thinking. And work has already started on the researcher end of the web interface.

Stay tuned.

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