Remote techniques…but face to face
Of course we’re excited to get back out there for person-to-person real life research, but we’ll also be using some of the tricks and flicks we’ve picked up doing on-line groups and adapting them.
Here’s what we’ve liked about Zoom at Qual Street and what we’d like to keep (even when we are face to face):
The chat function #1:
Participants being able to add in a personal commentary on what they are watching/ seeing through the chat function on Zoom can add another layer of insight and information when people are looking at stimulus, thinking about something someone’s said. Giving people another outlet or a way of asking questions/ making comments has been easy to do on Zoom… We’d like to take that into person-to-person groups by giving people the opportunity to write as well as speak their thoughts (and select who they are sending their written words to…)
The chat function #2:
The chat function gives us access to ‘my individual voice/ opinions whilst the group is going on. Enabling and encouraging personal asides – we want to know what you are thinking/ feeling (you personally) and how you are reacting to things you’ve heard… that’s incredibly useful and we want to provide space and time for people to be able to have a group conversation – but also surface their personal asides/ reactions in ‘live groups’ too…
It might feel odd or mean to encourage people to use the chat function (and equivalent in live settings) for personal asides, but it can help to crack open ‘withheld’ thoughts or feelings. In the real world people need to hold back when in groups to help with group cohesion, to be polite, to be social… but research isn’t about being social (entirely) it’s about using group settings to stimulate insight, and if we can create a group setting that enables private as well as public ideas to surface. Well, that could simply deliver us more insight.
Adaptations: we were very conscious to make the remote process as fun/ easy as possible…
So we sent people surprises through the post, we got people to write their reactions on cards and hold them up to the screen, we built in comfort breaks, and break out sessions (in breakout zoom rooms)… And we want to take all of that, please, into ‘live settings’…
During the pandemic we had to adapt, so we went back into our toolkit of stuff we’d done, and then forgotten we’d done years back. When we get back to in-person sessions I want to keep up this focus on more imaginative ways of doing groups. I’m going to make video montages of people’s pre-tasks so they can watch the ‘edit’ together…. I’m going to put longer written exercises in groups because I know that reflection time for some kinds of groups can lead to amazing results. (Something I did in the distant past and forgot about). I’m going to go old-school with projective techniques, compare and contrast exercises and play games with people, like before. AND critically use groups to get people to touch, play and experience prototypes… gaining back what we lost by doing all that research remotely.
But of course actually we see many advantages to Zoom (and similar…) and we’re going to stay remote for parts of most projects…
Talking from your own place, your own space is soo convenient: and means we’ll probably always be doing a hybrid of methods now, where at least some of our sessions are ‘remote’ so we can give people the comfort of their own home. We’ve loved:
- Getting people to show us round… getting a guided tour of their home in the moment, catching a glimpse of the kids watching gamers on YouTube in the bedroom whilst mum’s downstairs on the laptop
- Pulling in family members… kids joining parents for a bit of the chat and then going off to do a task, coming back in and then letting us finish off with a chat with parents
- Being able to do things separately, but together (like taste testing in your own home, using your own crockery and cutlery, whilst other participants are doing the same thing…)
So, the pandemic has moved us on… It’s shown us some new opportunities, and helped us value what we used to do in the recent and longer past. We can’t wait to get back to what we did before, and to keep on doing what we are doing now, but particularly to think of more ways we can use accessible technology to surface ‘what’s going on’…