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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Notable quotes on youth lives online :

"My generation draws the Internet as a cloud that connects everyone; the younger generation experiences it as oxygen that supports their digital lives." [Kevin Marks, epeus epigone blog, via Susan Mernit]

"The young will read anything on the internet. More so, they get their information from their peers rather than from the press. That means from blogs. These blogs may not be objective bastions of news reportage, but they do speak to the youth in a way few mediums ever do. Itís like learning about the world or the country from oneís buddies." [Sushila Ravindranath, Newindpress, link via Sambharmafia]

"Many teens are frustrated by the press' account of their behavior, but they have no voice. They are frustrated by their parents' fear, but they have no power. Parents are scared, and their fear is misguided. There are more actions against minors in San Francisco on a daily basis than there have ever been in the 3-year history of MySpace. More and more cases are failing to pan out. Yet, there are more kids on MySpace than in any single state. I wish i knew how to reach out to parents and say, "It's OK... your kids will be OK... just teach them trust and love." In statistical terms, MySpace is safer than going to school. It is safer than being in a car with your parents. It is safer than going to the mall. And yet, we are more scared because we don't understand it and we're afraid. This makes me so sad because this kind of fear is anxiety producing and culturally dangerous. :-(" [danah boyd in an insighful post about the recent controversy around the disappearance of two young girls, being linked wrongly to MySpace]

9:08:14 PM    comment []  trackback []

I'm guestblogging for a couple of weeks at the HUMlab blog ... as I told Stephanie, I've been awfully bad about blogging lately, I'm hoping this spurs me out of the inertia into approaching some posts with greater thought. And I hope we have some good conversations around the posts. I'll be cross-blogging at Humlab and here during these two weeks.

5:43:45 PM    comment []  trackback []

My friend and client, Tracey Rankin in Australia, sent me mail :

I've been asked to prepare a talk for the Australian market research society on interviewing techniques. The audience is mainly young and less experienced qualitative researchers. I thought it would be nice to provide some input from other experienced qualies around the globe on what you would recommend to a young moderator.
So, if you all don't mind, would you answer these brief questions...
  1. what tips and hints would you give a young moderator/interviewer on running (A) a focus group or (B) an in-depth interview?
  2. what makes someone a really good qualitative researcher (not just an average one)
  3. is there anything specific to your geographic market that you believe might make this different?
My response below :

1. Tips and hints for moderation/interviewing
  • Regardless of whether you're conducting GDs or DIs - I feel the key to a good discussion is in being completely comfortable with who you are and your own physical and mental makeup - only then can you put respondents at ease, and more quickly bust through barriers and 'masks' they may have.
  • Mirroring as a technique to draw them out - if they are sitting back for instance, you start bending forward a little - and you will see that they will come forward too. Non-verbal communication - body stance, tone of voice, light in eyes etc can do wonders - so as trainees they could familiarise themselves with some of these.
  • With interviews in particular, you must spend more time making the respondent feel really easy about talking to you - in a group situation the dynamics are different - and you could play different roles at different moments, to take advantage of the dynamics, rather than let them 'rule'
  • Also, as my colleague Shubhangi says, get respondents on your side - get them to gamely participate in your techniques - "help me with this - this may seem strange to you but it has an important purpose - humor me". Sometimes, it pays to be the Devil's Advocate.
  • And finally, learn to handle clients who are viewing you conduct the group - they can be most encouraging at times, and most intimidating too, especially when you're starting out. Be firm with them, let them see you as the expert, don't get upset by voluminous notes being sent in, don't ever compromise your findings to 'suit' their requirement, educate them if need be. For instance I've had clients who've said a group was a flop because people didnt talk too much - that's ridiculous really, unless you're a pathetic moderator - I've had to educate them that a quiet group is not a bad group - try and understand what they are not saying - it may just show that the topic under discussion is totally irrelevant to them, or the advertising we are showing them leaves them cold.
2. What makes a really good qualitative researcher - tied into point 1 - and extending thoughts there - I feel some of the key qualities in really good qual researchers are :
  • first and foremost integrity - we must be true to the data - we aren't working with hard numbers or yes-no sort of responses. Integrity is in all aspects of your job as a qual researcher - its in being aware of and understanding your own biases towards a brand or product or service you're researching, its in your moderating skills where you must stop listening for responses that match your own feelings, its in analysis where you don't just look for consistencies - embrace the inconsistencies and work them through - even if one person in a group has a differing viewpoint, consider it in your analysis. This I believe is the key quality I'd look for in a qualitative researcher - every other skill can be learnt
  • at the same time, and this may seem a paradox, you have to be able to play roles when moderating - sometimes I feel it pays to be a good 'actor' - small eg, in a warm-up session, when we talk of TV viewing and if your respondents are talking animatedly about a TV serial you personally detest, you cannot start making faces at them !
  • creativity - yeah we do need to stick to certain parameters - but don't let the discussion or interview guide 'rule' you
  • reading between the lines -- dont just go with what they 'say' - look for non-verbal cues that really tell you what they 'feel'. Also, try and understand the rationale behind what they say - laddering down to end values is something that always helps. It doesn't pay just to know that a Toyota Corolla = Amitabh Bachchan - we need to understand why the analogy is made
  • agility - you've got to be so quick in your mind - pick up cues from what respondents say - and take them forward. Listen well and react quickly - you should never feel when you listen too your tapes - oh how I wish I had probed this a little more.
  • if you don't have an MBA degree, and most of your clients do, don't get intimidated by marketing jargon - it's something you'll pick up as you interact with more and more clients
3. In a country as diverse geographically, culturally and linguistically as India, its important to have good 'teams' of qualitative researchers who can pick up on local nuances. I remember one of my international clients, Debeers, was so stunned in discovering the diversity in jewellery culture and traditions across the different regions in the country that they said India is more complex and diverse than all of Europe put together. It is so important also, to understand and be aware of local mythology and popular culture -- I remember my boss at IMRB telling me I must read the Ramayan and Mahabharat for instance, before I could use some projective techniques efffectively, otherwise i wouldn't be able to pick up nuances -- she even gifted them to me :). Thanks Kamini !

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10:32:34 AM    comment []  trackback []