Sunday, March 2, 2008

A brief note on Methodology | Group and Situational interviews as a more efficient way to gather evidence

As researchers traveling to distant countries and cultures for a brief period of time we often become so hungry for information and evidence that we forget the many ways in which we can gather very valuable information without been intrusive with people's time and every day activities. Interviewing people one-on-one is one of the most common research activities in this type of research experiences, and there is a lot of value from getting one person for one full hour only giving attention to your questions and interests.

However, this comes at a price. Often times, the long interview process interrupts people daily activities and it limits the number of stories that you can gather since there is only limited available time during the day and during the trip. A nice alternative however, are the group and situational interviews where you gather an X number of people in a space where they can share their background, their motivation for taking e-skills training programs, their goals in life, and the contribution in their own lives from having basic e-skills knowledge.

I had done some group interviews before, but during the trip to Poland group and situational interviews became the norm more than the exception, and I must say it was very productive and uniquely valuable way for me to understand culture, locality, perception of technology, sense of community, etc. Walking with volunteer trainers from the IRB program around Bialystok, gathering a group if senior trainees to discuss their experiences, their stories, talking to a group of disabled people while in a break from their ECDL training, sharing dinner, etc., gave me such a thorough understanding of these programs, of the many stories, of the many paths of life that bring people together that I couldn't have gotten through individual interviews alone.

A good learning experience for me as a researcher and I hope a lesson that reminds us every day that the hunger for "data" can't not lead us to interrupt in people's lives, much less to de-contextualized their experiences from the community they belong while we interview them

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