The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Connecting the dots

This year's joint international conference in Budapest, River Deep, Mountain High, went down a storm and we have gathered a few of the highlights from delegates.

Kate Wagenlander, KCW Global Research, US
For me, the conference was hugely successful. The papers were very well presented and contained a great deal of meaningful content. As well, I was able to connect with colleagues new and old, all with the gorgeous backdrop of Budapest.

The content became even more meaningful because of the conversations it started with other curious and passionate researchers. Some of my favourite nuggets included:

  • ‘Eventually, everything connects’ Dotti Toellner’s paper highlighted the quallie’s magpie tendencies: how we make sense of the world by drawing from other disciplines and the world of our participants in a nondirective way.

  • ‘Share at the level you want disclosure’ Roy Langmaid provided us with a clear and persuasive challenge to the old rules around sharing little of our inner selves in research discussions.

Across many papers, the need for greater connection and communication between international partners due to inherent cultural, hierarchical and process-based differences.

Kat Slater, Firefish, UK
Would your groups run better if you turned them into a game? What is the semiotic significance of clouds? And you be a better researcher if you were in therapy? These were just a few of the questions eloquently put forward and debated at this year’s conference in Budapest: a mind sparking two days on the Danube. And to reference my own talk on social media, I didn’t just ‘Like’ it — I came home mind buzzing, eager to experiment with new ideas and keen to come again next year. Thank you all.

Mark Sumpter, Consumer Link Moderating & Research Consulting, US
I’ve walked away from the 7th Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research with renewed energy and strengthened passion for our industry. The collegial spirit throughout the week reinforces why I have grown to cherish QRCA and AQR.

One cannot single out a presenter or session as the highlight with such strong programming, but two sessions stuck with me that are applicable regardless of methodology.

First, ‘One World, Many Cultures’ shows that it is not only important to understand differences with ages/generations and cultures of participants, but to understand differences with our partners, bring them into the process quickly, and be sure all are aligned to the definition of partnership!

Second, ‘Updating Your Toolkit’ was a wonderful and extremely energetic way to end the day (and conference). More importantly, we walked away with great examples of how we can better engage consumers with fun while still learning.

We are truly fortunate to be part of such a tremendous and important industry. I’ve always been proud of what I do, but I have left this conference with a little extra pep in my step.

Monique Drummond, Relish Research, UK
The Behavioural Architects showed us just how much our posture tells people about us. Our bodies can change the way we think, changing the way we behave, and this in turn can have a great effect on outcomes. Sarah Davies demonstrated this by adopting the Power Pose of Wonder Woman. It worked a treat for her.

But what about language we use every day in our industry? Qualitative research has fallen into the trap of adopting many words/phrases which really only have relevance to quantitative studies. We’ve moved on from this, and it’s time the language we use reflects this. There were far too many references to ‘respondents’, some even talked about ‘coding the data we hear in groups’ and sample frames. Even talking about our participants as males/females and consumers creates a sense of impersonal quasi-scientific distance, so why don’t we simply say men and women?

There were ripples of laughter when Jigsaw’s Peter Totman said “We hear the words ‘case study’ and something in us dies”. Should we adapt this and create case stories to bring our skill and expertise to life? We were all unanimous in the view that our participants, the people we recruit for our studies, are very much partners in our journey and should be treated and respected as such.

Susanne Michl, Happy Thinking People, Germany
I was swept up in the enthusiastic vibe that for me marked the 2014 AQR/QRCA ‘River Deep, Mountain High Conference’ in Budapest.

In line with the conference title, I really appreciated the spirit of building bridges: i.e. knowing about what divides us — the differences that exist between how qualitative research is seen and conducted in the different countries and across continents — and being reminded of the communalities for a better mutual understanding and fruitful collaboration. And I would hope that in future an even greater diversity of European markets will contribute their thinking.

I had the great honour to be chosen for a poster presentation and found the experience fun and rewarding. The best thing about this format is that you are closer to your audience. This sparks the kind of direct interaction and feedback that I love. And it would be great if more of this happens at the next conference. And a very special thank you to the committee for convincing Red Bull to host its air show as entertainment program during our breaks.

Darren Harvey, Lotus Research, UK
I came away from the conference inspired and chock-full of actionable ideas, and with a feeling that qual is reaching a new level of maturity and confidence. There was a strong humanistic message throughout: most clearly that we are not merely picking the brains of respondents, but treating them as participants and collaborators in the process, and free to disclose something of ourselves rather than being faceless interrogators. I was also impressed and relieved to see a pragmatic approach to online and digital methodologies, viewing them as valuable complements to face-to-face interactions rather than all-out game changers. Those ‘death of qual’ rumours? Mere gossip!

 


Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2014