Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sage Publications and Methodspace: How has it evolved?

SAGE Publications logo
SAGE Publications logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've been planning to take this road trip for some time.  The road trip is a look at what has been happening in Sage's Methodspace.  I haven't been there since it was first announced, and I was sure it had evolved and changed considerably since then. 

So I have just been poking around in there trying to get a sense of where things are, what works, who is involved, etc. 

The first thing I would say is that it is very blue.  Yes, blue.  They use blue for so much of the emphasis.  I love blue, but I also like some strong color contrasts.  I would try and perk things up a bit...but that is style, not content. 

Let me just say that the part I liked best were the videos.  I loved the video section.  There is so much there that I can think about using with my qualitative research courses.  I dipped into an interview with Sharlene Hesse-Biber on feminism and qualitative research, and I looked at some of the presentations that came from a UK ESRC conference.  This is great stuff.  Keep adding to this. 

I jumped into the group area, hoping to find some friends.  The narrative research group is definitely the heavy weight here with 269 members...but it seems like conversation has been sporadic and not of a sustained nature...but I am only a voyeur. 

In looking at the resources, I liked the idea of an article of the month--but I felt badly for the authors; there were few comments.  The articles touched on so many excellent topics, I wondered how I, as a methodologist, would actually be able to use these riches?  I mean, I tend to be rather self-centered.  I am not sure how I would use this if I chose to come here regularly. 

Blogs...I thought this would be my favorite area.  Surprisingly I really didn't get it at first--I think there was a bunch of spam in the recent entries...It took me awhile to figure out that I could look at groups of like topic blog entries, and then it made more sense.  But I didn't find anything to grab my interest...or maybe I found too many like me, asking the same questions to the Internet?  Hmm....At this point, I don't think I would want to move my blog into this space.  I have nothing against it, but I kind of like hanging out here on the outside, so to speak.  

Thinking about blogs in this environment, brought me around to the issue of the sponsorship of Methodspace--Sage Publications.  It's not this specific publisher, but the notion that the discussion of a particular disciplinary community would take place in a space organized by and for a private entreprenneurial venture.  I have nothing against commerce, but I am wondering if mixing the purposes of the publisher with the chaotic hodge podge of methodological discussion is going to work in the long run?  Do qualitative researchers need to think across publishers? Are we more lively and fiesty if we are forced to make spaces for ourselves (is too much given to us here)? What's the spark that will keep a space like this alive? 

I definitely think there is a place for Methodspace, and this was only a short visit on my part.  I think that Sage has done research methodologists a service in creating this spot, but I think how it can best be used by this community seems to be evolving. 

I look forward to another trip in the future. 
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Qualitative Researchers: We have always been quantitative

One thing I really like about the blog is that I can circle back to topics as I enounter new aspects of them, and that is definitely the case with this notion of the quantitative reality of qualitative research.  The fetish I seem to have with this topic will seem very odd to those friends who know my number anxiety/number dyslexia or whatever you want to call it--add a number to it and I can't seem to do it--but as I work with the issue of interpretation, coding, describing findings--whatever it is that we do...I can't ignore the fact that there is quantification going on, even if it doesn't include numbers. 

I woke up this morning and had this on my mind.  I asked myself--why haven't you googled this?  So I pulled out my trusty Ipad and did so.  I was embarrassed by how much I found on the notion of natural mathematics, quantifyers in linguistics, the arguments philosophers have made, etc., etc.  Did I think I was the first person to consider these ideas?  Hardly!  It's well trampled ground. 

But the coup de gras came when I found that George with Mark Johnson of my favorite books on the embodied nature of cognition, that is, how we learn to think through our bodies and experiences (love it!!)...well, that same George Lakoff has written a similar book on mathematics, which looks at the beginning points of mathematics understanding (how much we know, how early on, and how this knowledge is related to our embodied experience of the world). 

Where Mathematics Comes From:  How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics Into Being by George Lakoff and Rafael Nunez
OK--so babies understand something of numbers, sets, etc....what does this have to do with the sacred space we call qualitative research?  Aren't we supposed to be separated off from numbers?  Isn't that what makes us unique? 

Well, I am in the process of working on interpretation of a large number of transcripts by youth, parents, and educators talking about their views of sexting, and as I do so I am constantly reminded that although I am reading texts (not equations) and I am writing texts (not numbers), I am still working in a quantitative manner...and not only that--the people whose words are written in these transcripts are also constantly using a kind of natural mathematics--sets, comparisons, more than/less than, common, uncommon, marginal, central--all of these things speak to a kind of quantification that seems to come naturall to both of us:  researcher and researchee. 

Now, some would say that my problem is that I am working on this interpretation in NVivo, a kind of qualitative data analysis software (QDAS).  There are qualitative researchers who think that use of QDAS produces a kind of numerical mold on a qualitative researcher (you know how it is when you look at information on numbers of references or starts to grow on you).  Well, it is nice to know if I have put more items in one bin and less in another, but I am very aware and extra cautious about the dangers of assuming those specific numbers mean something in the way that they would in a nice cleaned up quantitative data base. 

Rather than fight this mold, I think I might want to become the blue cheese of the qualitative research field.  I'll go for the distinctive taste that only mold can bring.  I think that qualitative researchers should embrace the mathematical foundation this is part of our interpretive process.  We employ a kind of mathematics that is grounded in human, linguistic, embodied, natural processes.  I think that embracing this understanding will help us to be able to better explain what we are doing when we interpret.  I don't think it is enough to describe what it is we do (the process or the technique), but we also need to be able to explain how it is that it works. 

This time I will let the sheep have the last word.

Ethnographic Practice in Industry

I have been looking for a group like this for a long time...and have just discovered it!  What am I talking about?  Well, Ethnographic Practice in Industry, what else? 

I am probably just about the last qualitative researcher on the block to figure out its existence (it was founded in 2005), but I am glad I finally caught up to it. 

Business is such a rich place for ethnographic inquiry right now.  Marketing is leaping full force into the use of qualitative research.  As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, The Qualitative Report has done a great service by making us qualitative researchers aware of the expansion into business. 

I was excited to read that they have an upcoming conference (10/14-17/2012 at Savannah College of Art and Design), but then saddened to realize I have conflict.  However, I am looking forward to trying to go to a future conference (they say they are now up to about 300 participants--not bad). 

To situate them, their web page says that: 

EPIC works in partnership with the American Anthropological Association (AAA) through the sub-section of the National Association of Practicing Anthropologists (NAPA).

This is definitely a trend that is not going away. 

I'll give the dog the last word on this. 

Bud Goodall; Thanking a teacher

A recent facebook posting alerted me to the illness with which qualitative research guru Bud Goodall is now struggling.  With the immediacy that only the Internet can bring, I jumped from my Facebook page to Bud's blog and the powerful description of the cancer that is now his reality.  Goodall, Director of the Hugh Downs School of Communication at Arizona State, will not remember me, but I remember him.  I send him every blessing and good wish I can think of. 

In 2009, as I was preparing for the 5th annual meeting of the International Congress on Qualitative Inquiry, I decided that I needed to do something that would challenge me and help me to push through some barriers I struggled with vis-a-vis my journal project.  As I looked down the list of workshops, I noticed one titled "Writing Qualitative Inquiry: Selves, Stories, and Academic Lives", and I signed up. 

Shortly before the conference, I received an email from Goodall, providing me with an agenda and a request that I write a short memo for discussion.  I don't think my memo was memorable...but Goodall was definitely memorable.  In the short space of that half-day workshop, he communicated with ease and comfort, sharing insights and struggles he had faced with learning to link the parts of his self--academic, qualitative researcher, and human being.  He listened, affirmed, and moved us forward.  It was a remarkable day. 

So impressed with his knowledge of the academic process--its possibilities and pitfalls--for qualitative researchers, I purchased his book of the same title:  Writing Qualitative Inquiry: Selves, Stories, and Academic Life (available from Left Coast Press).  I shared it with others in my program concerned with the road to tenure, hoping it might ease their fears. 

But the most telling reminder of having encountered that I write this blog.  I was so impressed that a senior academic would speak to the value of blogs, as at my university, like most,  the blog has not gotten much respect.  I love my blog, and what it brings me--a place to practice writing, a place to begin the ideas that might become articles, and a place to think about qualitative research when it doesn't fit into a neat pre-formatted category.  Goodall served as outside confirmation that I was not insane to explore this tool.  I am so grateful to him for this. 

While I saw him in the crowd at subsequent ICQI conferences, I did not have an opportunity to speak with him again.  His teaching, however, remains with me.  He gave me, as he has given so many in the field, a piece of himself that we can carry with us--a piece of knowledge, an afternoon memory, a renewed commitment to keep on trying.  Thank you Bud.  I really appreciate it.  I want you to know that I am thinking about you and what you have done for me and others. 

Fibreculture Journal: Coding? Tagging? and Qualitative Research

I have just discovered a very interesting online journal called Fibreculture Journal  ( 

I am not even sure how I found my way here...but what I have been looking at is an article titled:

FCJ-083Tag-elese or  The Language of Tags   It was written by Jan Simons of the Universiteit van Amsterdam.  It's another step in trying to understand what is coding (the official qualitative research term) versus tagging (the official Internet term). 

Silvana di Gregorio and I have written about this issue in an article that appeared in Qualitative Inquiry, but we were only scratching the surface. 

Take a look and see what you think. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

QR Eras and the Implications for Archiving

I have been meaning to post this for a couple of days...This is a table I made to help me see the eras of Qualitative Research and its technology and the ways these eras raise implications for archiving. 

Eras of Qualitative Research Technologies and Implications for Data Archiving

I am building here on the three terms I defined in earlier entries: 

1) Disassociated (meaning before computers or the use of computers similar to off-line use).  This era is associated with the term "data"; technologies like file cabinets, notebooks, stand alone computers.  Archiving focuses on raw sources, handwritten, typed, kodak photos, film. 

; 2) Associated (QDAS and related ways of thinking); This era is associated with the term "database"; technologies like QDAS and word processing uses like QDAS, and early Internet experiments.  QDAS here seeks to be a comprehensive answer to qualitative computing.  Archiving focuses on text, rtf, word documents and jpeg, etc for photos.  Is QDAS going to be a useful tool for archiving? 

 3) Distributed (what lies beyond the first two).  This era is associated with "collection" or "curation".  Researchers are working in distributed manner and their tools are also often distributed around the internet.  Items get made into various kinds of collections--but there is a fluidity that characterizes the mixing and matching.  Archiving raises many questions...that have yet to be answered.

So I am still trying to get it right.  I may be repeating myself, but that seems to happen as I work on condensing an idea. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

QR data bases and QR archiving

Tetsubin 2005
Tetsubin 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning as I was having my tea, I realized that this nifty little three-part developmental framework I produced yesterday raised unsettling questions in regard to the issue of archiving qualitative research data. 

To use the framework in regard to data archiving, current solutions are pretty much focused on the disassociated state of the qualitative research materials stage.

Data archiving isn't quite sure how to deal with materials in the associated state.  They will put the e-project items away in the vault and hope there will be some way to open them in the future.  Software developers are not looking forward to solving the problem themselves.

But what happens when you move into the distributed phase of qualitative research work?  How will you archive material that is distributed across the internet...not located at one set location?  Do you whack off pieces of the Internet and hold a copy in the safe?  Or do you simply have a list of url's that take you to the items?  Does the common language--html or whatever--solve the problem that exists at the associated level of archiving?  What are the ethical issues that this raises? 

I have raised more questions than I can answer.  I think the dog needs a walk...
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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Qualitative Research Data Bases

Today as I was coding in NVivo, which always gets me thinking now about--what is a qualitative research data base...and why am I thinking about this stuff as a database--a framework came to mind.  It's a way of thinking about our relationship to qualitative research data in our projects that is developmentally organized vis-a-vis our relationship to the technologies of qualitative research.

I described it to myself as three phases:  1) disassociated; 2) associated; and 3) distributed.  This is what I meant:

1.  Disassociated
This period refers to the pre-qualitative data analysis software period of qualitative research.  Thus, we are talking early 1900's to late 1900's.  During this time, we didn't actually think of what we had as a database.  At least, my own experience of my data was that I tended to think of it where it was put...and where it was put was different file cabinets and file folders.  I didn't imagine or experience it as close to each other.  Over time and many readings it became closer to each other, but I had a sense of physical separation, of size (and weight--try moving it!)

2.  Associated
This period refers to late 1900's to the present--we are living in it.  With the advent of qualitative data analysis software (QDAS) we can now experience this thing we call the qualitative research data base.  In the e-project, the materials are virtually associated and connected through hyperlinks.  The project becomes transparent and portable.  I can take it anywhere with me on a thumb drive...yes I have left projects in Dropbox...and then I can go find them on the Internet.  I can code in such a way that materials can appear to be mixed at similar levels. 

3.  Distributed
This is what we are headed into I think.  This is what Silvana diGregorio and I have talked about as beyond QDAS (see the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, ed. 4).  It's not clear what shape it will take but like many things on the Internet, there seems to be fragmentation and new forms of networked connection.  I liken this in my brain to what people talk about as "distributed leadership".  Not all the intelligence is kept in the same individual brain.  I see this happening as people start to work outside of QDAS, using different networked capacitities (blogs, tumblr, vlogs, Survey monkey, wikis)...all kinds of ways that are available to capture data AND to reflect upon it.  Mash-ups bring these distributed parts together.

The distributed idea is still emerging and experimental so there are a lot of unanswered questions--like is it safe and ethical?  What about analysis?  Why would you give up the capacity for coding or creating analytical files as you can do in QDAS?  Are the mash-ups really going to work as we need them to?  It's sexy, it's new, but is it as robust as what you can get in QDAS--which is actually made for us?

Actually all three stages are active and present in today's world of qualitative research.  There are people who are determined to stay in disassociated...others who are try to work into associated...a larger group that is coming to accepted associated...some people always look for the new so they are happily experimenting with distributed...and there are people leaping from disassociated to distributed--it just seems easier to them.  We are all over the place.

So why do I keep worrying about this thing called a data base?  Maybe it is just an anachronism of the associated phase and I will shed it as I become more distributed...could be.  Miles and Huberman have that great section in their text (the big gray Sage volume) that talks about bounding a study, and why it is critical to develop boundaries around your study--what belongs in and what belongs out.  This is a conceptual issue, but also an issue of technique/technology.  How many things will you/did you collect?  Do these things belong together?  How do I construct relationships among them?

As I read over what I just wrote, I feel like I am moving from the notion of a fixed and contained data base toward the idea of curation--as in curating a collection.  Is this the metaphor that will go along with a distributed relationship to a collection of qualitative research data?  Instead of seeing ourselves as kings and queens of our little e-projects...will we begin to see ourselves as curators, creating different kinds of collections in response to different questions about the materials, purposes, etc.? 

The notion of curation has been playing a larger and larger role with me--thanks to more experience of it through art adventures...I have written about this idea in the recent article I had in FQS 

Hmm....very interesting. 

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

QR Archiving: More Questions Than Answers

One of my series of twig and fiber 3-dimensional figures.
I continue to worry the topic of Qualitative Research Archiving.  I am that dog with a toy in my teeth, shaking it back and forth, up and down.  I won't let it go, and I won't let anyone take it away from me.  The more I think about it, the more questions I have.  I mean--archiving qualitative research materials can take you all the way to questions of existence (for qualitative researchers).  There is no telling where it will stop!

OK--here's an issue that has been raised about the value/non-value of the archived materials.  I will call it the "You had to be there" argument.  In other words, yes the fieldnotes exist and the memos, but these can never capture the full experience of the moment at that place and time.  This makes the researcher, as the embodied fieldnote absolutely critical.  As a non-participant, someone who is doing secondary analysis, your interpretation can never include these sensory, absorbed messages that only the fieldworker contains.  [Sanjek's edited volume on fieldnotes has that great article titled..."I am a fieldnote..."--you get the idea.]

Does this mean that archived qualitative research materials will always be invalid?  Does this mean that only the on-site fieldworker has the privilege to make sense of the material?  Should the fieldworker withhold her/his materials from the world in order to protect the world (and the materials) from mis-interpretation? 

A couple of issues this raises.  What about those senior figures who work with graduate students or other fieldworkers...or larger projects in which numerous underlings do the legwork observing and writing fieldnotes and someone else reads and interprets them.  This has been done for decades, and is considered a valid research practice.  Should we have been questioning this practice more closely?

FieldNotes in the wild
FieldNotes in the wild (Photo credit: DragonGirl)
Another--what about this.  In anthropology, certainly, there is a tradition of archiving the papers of well known researchers.  I would assume that there are special collections of the materials collected by Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Victor Turner.  Are these invalid without the presence of the researcher?  Should others be allowed to read, study these materials, and make their own interpretation?  Is such an act a violation to the original participants?

Speaking of whom, what about the citizen ethnographers that Nigel Fielding from the UK is talking about.  (See the May 2012 issue of FQS for more on this).  If they are present at the same time and place as the qualitative researcher, and/or studying the same topic themselves, should they be able to file responses to the data base materials and interpretations?  Is this something like asking for a member check?  Or does this go too far beyond that?  Who would be allowed to file responses and deposit them in the data base?  What if cranks just started dropping comments in databases like they do in the comment box on Internet articles, etc.  Do these have to be stored or accunted for? 

If comments by participants are to be allowed, do we have to stop doing anonymous studies?  Will participants--like adopted children--be trying to seek out the truth of the studies done to them, so they can become engaged participants with the researcher and the data base?  Ooh...that makes the qualitative research archive sound a bit like a sperm/or egg bank...not sure I like that image! 

Another issue is the exploding use of data collected in virtual contexts--if everything is a stream of text--is there a "there" there?  Does "you had to be there" hold in the same way as it does in face-to-face exchanges, or is the technology capable of capturing the context now?  I am thinking of the MIT linguistic experiment into studying the birth of a baby's language (it is a TED Talk archived someplace.)...every minute of the day, from multiple directions, video cameras captured the life of the researcher's family and the baby's beginning sounds. 

The use of archived materials has a long and respected tradition in disciplines like history.  Silly historians--seem to think they can work with partial materials.  Indeed, I think they believe that understanding will always be partial, because you can never have saved everything, or know everything about an historical event.  I mean, "you had to be there".  But when historians say it, they mean it differently than the qualitative researcher.  They yearn to recreate that time and place to the best of their ability, but they don't fool themselves that they are or were ever really there. 

A major argument for archiving qualitative research materials has been that they are needed for training up-and-coming researchers, but if we believe these archives to be inherently incomplete, do we think they are OK for training purposes but inadequate for real (adult, mature, grown) research purposes?

That does force the question:  who will use these archives?  how?  why?  Will review of the databases of others come to be seen as a required component of the literature review?  Or will they be used as a quantitative researcher might use a cache of data, seeking out a database that is the right sample, variables, and questions to make use of for their purposes? 

Are views of qualitative research archiving going to be shaped differently in different disciplines?  Will anthropologists using the salvage view will their papers to museums (as happens now)?  But what about sociologists?  educators? Are differences of purpose, as defined by discipline, significant to how or if we should archive qualitative research materials? 

Are the observations or fieldnotes of a master something we should study, but discard the run-of-the-mill examples?  Will studying Geertz's fieldnotes be like studying his articles?  Or will technology make fieldnotes a meaningless issue in the future?  [See the discussion of the MIT study above]

IRB's and the ethical issues--Consent Forms, etc. are always invoked when you raise the issue of archiving.  It's kind of like the vampire sleuth waving preventative herbs around or aiming at you with silver bullets.  Can we archive materials that were not originally described as materials that were going to be archived?  If the informed consent form didn't mention this, can you do it later?  If the materials are suitable anonymized is this acceptable?  A related set of issues is--are some qualitative research materials so precious that we need to waive the restrictions and make sure we save them for posterity?  If a collection is historically valuable, can it be archived for its significance and provisions made retrospectively to protect participants?  Are some collections too valuable to neglect? 

Archiving qualitative research materials is going to raise many of the same issues/prejudices that the discussion of qualitative data analysis software has raised to the field, because, essentially, they are the same thing.  Qualitative data analysis software creates a transparent, portable qualitative research data base--it was the first digital archive.  The fears its presence created are, for all intents and purposes, the same fears that the larger movement toward archiving qualitative research materials raises for qualitative researchers. 

What is going to be the role for qualitative researchers in the future?  A group that thrives on preserving the contemporaneous...having to come to grips with the tentacles of the past as they are preserved in the archive?  [How is that for strangled metaphors about time!]
Is "You had to be there" going to be like our own version of Custer's last stand? 
Will we make ourselves irrelevant by refusing to stare down the danger...enter the cave of the beast? 
Are we going to come to be seen as something like "the old magic"?  [If you are a Merlin fan you will understand this reference.]
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is qualitative resarch software an artifact of colonial social sciences?

Does qualiltative research software have a colonial dimension built into it?  That is, if it was developed by the Anglo/American/Euro block of qualitative researchers, embedded as they are in the histories of their field (colonial to colonized; center to margins)...does it stand, then, that the software they created from this context would also reflect this?

It's a question I've been pondering as I worked with Cesar Cisneros on editing the recent FQS issue (described below in the abstract). 

Qualitative computing has been part of our lives for thirty years. Today, we urgently call for an evaluation of its international impact on qualitative research. Evaluating the international impact of qualitative research and qualitative computing requires a consideration of the vast amount of qualitative research over the last decades, as well as thoughtfulness about the uneven and unequal way in which qualitative research and qualitative computing are present in different fields of study and geographical regions. To understand the international impact of qualitative computing requires evaluation of the digital divide and the huge differences between center and peripheries. The international impact of qualitative research, and, in particular qualitative computing, is the question at the heart of this array of selected papers from the "Qualitative Computing: Diverse Worlds and Research Practices Conference." In this article, we introduce the reader to the goals, motivation, and atmosphere at the conference, taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2011. The dialogue generated there is still in the air, and this introduction is a call to spread that voice.
The conference that Cesar, in part, brought about--was to help create a more international sense of the use of qualitative research software, but at the same time, it had to raise the underlying issue related to the beliefs that we have about the way technologies may be developed, with embedded perspectives, and how this shapes the users.

A part of me thinks that this argument about the potential colonialized stance of qualitative research software is much akin to the concerns that were and are still voiced about the ways qualitative research software may be a tool for certain research strategies--grounded theory, ethnomethodology, narrative analysis, phenomenology, etc.  Software developers were accused of creating a software that reflected their methodological inclinations.  It was thought that innocent users would be unconsciously dragged into using that methodology, despite their intentions to resist.

Renate Tesch in her early book on qualitative computing, offered the best refute to this argument, but it still surfaces in conversation with researchers and in various writings.  We, Davidson & diGregorio, go back to Tesch's arguments in our chapter in Denzin and Lincoln Qualitative Research Handbook (4th edition).

When Cesar asks these questions, I listen, because he has long been a lone voice pleading for understanding of the international picture of qualitative research.  He has also been a leader in bringing qualitative research software into the Spanish context.  I am intrigued by the questions and don't think they should be dismissed immediately.  If we probe, we may find more here of interest. 


CAQDAS; diversity; peripheries; global qualitative research
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QR Archiving yes? But Qualitative Software no? What gives?

I have become obccesed with interest in the new wave of work regarding the archiving of qualitative research data.  Once, a UK/Euro issue, it has now crossed the pond and is coming to be a US matter of interest. With many major federal groups now requiring that this material be archived, it is only a matter of time before it becomes a necessity for everyone--like the development of the Institutional Review Board.

 I am working on this concern with Joseph Fisher, digital archivist at UMass Lowell.  We have been a great time talking to many people in many places about this issue.  We will be discussing some of our findings at the upcoming QSR trainers conference in Boston in early August. 

Archivists are concerned with the overall notion of qualitative research data, but as a qualitative researcher with interest in qualitative research software--I am concerned with the issues that this software raises for archiving, in particular.  I have been surprised to find that many of the same prejudices researchers hold about qualitative research software sans archiving seem to be translating into the archiving issue.  In other words, the archiving issue is yet another place where these prejudices can be voiced.

Louise Corti illustrates this concern (she is reporting the concern) in her fantastic article about digital archiving and qualitative research in FQS, the 2011special issue on secondary use of qualitative research data.  Some qualitative researchers, she found, have concerns about using qualitative research resources that are in the form of an e-project, the neat little digital package that qualitative research software creates for the user.

I have been thinking hard about this.  It seems that such qualitative researchers are concerned that they need to approach the data afresh, look at it with clear eyes, and avoid being contaminated by the views of others.  Some worry, I suppose, that the technical shaping of the software package will itself skew their understanding of the data.  They seek freedom from the shackles of externally imposed standards of organization.

Here are some responses I would make to these arguments.

1.  Qualitative research software does not force the researcher to look at the data in the manner that it was formatted by a previous researcher.  You can simply choose to look at the sources themselves, and ignore the codes.  You have the flexibility, if you wish (and have knowledge of how to read that software) to look at the codes, to study the memos, and hyperlinks, but that is up to you.

2.  It is a fallacy to think that if you are using qualitative data sources outside of qualitative research software that you are free of standards and technical specifications.  When you read an interview transcript, we expect it to have the question and the answer...right?  Well, that's a technical specification.  You are never free of those specifications--we need them because they help us make efficient senses of text.  It is also true that these specifications are always evolving based upon new concerns re: genre and standards.  It is the same in qualitative research as in other forms of literate endeavor. 

3.  If you were studying an English novel or novelist (as a specialist in the field), wouldn't you read the novel AND everything you could find related to its analysis and production?  Why is it different in qualitative research?  For some reason when it comes to our qualitative research data, it appears that it has to be in pristine condition--a fresh site.  It's kind of like a perversion of the prime directive--now instead of leaving the field untouched, the people in their original state, now we have to enter the field in our own pristine mental condition. 

BUT, it is not only the user side that has got to examine assumptions--there is a desperate need for software developers to step up to the plate.  By that, I mean that they must accept standards for a meta-language that will allow flexible use of their packages across platforms and into the future.  I know this implies added expenses.  But if this is not done, they are adding yet another nail to the coffin.  Stand alone software developers know that their days are numbered, and they must jump to the mother ship of the Internet at some time in the future.  As they make this transition, it will add to their usefulness if they can also demonstrate their attentiveness to the needs of archiving qualitative research data for future generations.
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