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.
URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1202285
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
Full Text: HTML PDF


Judith Davidson said...

Not sure what happened to the formatting...and I don't know how to fix. Seems like the use of quotations jinxed things.

Alan McKenzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan McKenzie said...

QDA Miner Lite is a free computer assisted qualitative data analysis software. This new software was released a few days ago by Provalis Research. This freeware provides an easy-to-use tool for coding, annotating and analyzing collections of documents and images such as interview or focus-group transcripts, journal articles, web pages, or customer feedback.

QDA Miner Lite has been designed to meet the basic needs of researchers and analysts performing qualitative data analysis.

This CAQDAS tool is ideal for those on tiny budgets (or no budget) or those who wish to teach qualitative research in classes.

For more information, click on the following link: