The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Eyes Wide Opened

Research conferences this autumn have been a tad more exciting than normal, and though this session at the RSA lacked a gorilla the panel debate more than made up for it.

In a wine and canapé fuelled evening, and having been assured that it was slightly less likely we’d be locked in a butterfly enclosure due to a gorilla on the run (after the recent WWWF event), Judy Taylor and Anne-Claire Pierron discussed their new paper which encourages us to keep on interrogating those theories and models sitting behind our craft.

We learned that, in a world that demands higher turnaround speeds, research becomes conflicted between satisfying client demands and maintaining the human interaction while also holding on to time for the optimal depth of insight. The talk investigated this industry contradiction through the lenses of five frequently discussed themes.

Companies and society are increasingly leaning on Big Data to predict and understand behaviour despite the inherent dangers (see polling predictions for Brexit and try not to sigh too greatly). Does this mean research will lean increasingly towards a quant way of looking at things or will it be more readily combined with qual to create an ‘uber research’ positioning?

As a direct effect of big data, the lines continue to blur between work and play as industries are heavily afflicted by time poverty. We’ve all been there, checking emails when we told ourselves we wouldn’t but is the beautifully coined ‘corporate mindfulness’ the solution?

Traditional qual often benefits from the luxury of time, so a lack could present a real threat, with the potential for obsolescence. But we learned that quick doesn’t need to mean dirty in qual too. Great speed and agility are created by incorporating online qual — but it is important to remember that this should sit alongside and not in place of the qual we know and love.

Adam Morgan revealed that those client-side can be incredibly removed from their customer. He emphasised the power that emotional proximity in research can have when it comes to championing changes and taking steps towards change.

Finally, my favourite, truthiness. How do we as researchers ensure that what we provide has integrity? It is increasingly difficult to decipher what the truth(s) are, or which hold greatest importance, but in a world where lying every three seconds can see you elected as President of the USA, does it matter?

 

Tamsin Spencer
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