Fieldwork Activity: Small scale user studies
The point of these fieldwork activities is to look at new media as a sociologist or cultural theorist would.
Write 1000 words making use of relevant headings. Make sure all the information you provide is relevant, specific and to the point. Also make sure to analyse, not just describe. Please submit your fieldwork online via Moodle by 5pm, Friday 16th October (internals) and 5pm Friday 30th October (externals) to avoid late penalties.
Fieldwork activity 3: Small user study:
• Conduct a small scale user study. This has the potential to be as interesting or as boring as you make it. Last year we had some really good pieces about cyber-stalking, ‘friendship’, ‘the fappening’ (more on this in session 9) and facebook anxiety for example. You should examine something about new media technologies that you are interested in. The more interested and passionate you are about something, generally the more effort you will put in and the better results you’ll get.
• Review your notes from the lecture and readings regarding user studies.
• Choose a research question. Here are some examples which you may select, or you may create your own. If you would like to use your own, it is recommended that you run it by me first!
• Research question possibilities:
o How do download habits affect purchase intentions?
o How has social media altered the concept of ‘friendship’?
o How do marketers’ visions of the users of a media technology differ from the users own experiences?
o What kind of interaction is produced by interactive media?
o How do power relations in the family influence the use of media technologies?
o How is context important to the reception of a media technology?
o How does mobile phone use in public differ from than in private?
o How do users engage in cultivating their personality online and how does this reflect reality?
• Choose a methodology & sample.
o You must partake in at least 7 interviews of about 10 minutes each (sample). Using observation or survey only is insufficient!
o You are not expected to bother people at a supermarket or in the library, convenience sampling of your friends or fellow students is fine (though be careful not to collude if you are interviewing your fellow class-mates).
o Will you conduct a small set of interviews (minimum 7), or both interview and observe? Explain and justify your methodology. What are you looking for? What will you ask in trying to seek this? How did you choose your sample (was it at random? Are they your friends? Are they fellow students?)
o Review the notes below on interviewing before starting. Perhaps you will research further on interview techniques.
o Review the interview guide example to help you come up with your interview questions from your research question.
o Include a copy of your interview questions as an appendix at the end of your document (this won’t count against your word count. You may wish to include all of the answers too. If you wish to run your questions by me this is fine).
o Also remember that your questions shouldn’t be too rigid, ask follow-up questions as they arise – sometimes some of your most interesting findings come from a question that has arisen out of an interesting response you have got. This is why it’s important to actively listen. If you’re lucky enough to come across this in your first interview you may want to consider it in your following interviews or if you subjects are people who are easily accessible you may want to ask them a follow-up question based on what you’ve uncovered in your other interviews (if this happens, document it in your methodology section).
• Describe your findings.
• Analyse your findings, drawing on concepts from the lectures and readings.
Remember you have a relatively small word count so it is important to be concise. I recommend you use the following format, but please feel free to use subheadings, for example a different heading for each of your findings and/or the arguments you wish to make in your analysis section:
If you like you can write a brief introduction. In fieldwork 1 many of you added definitions (eg what a zeitgeist is) in your findings – this was not a finding per se, but theoretical background. Your findings section should comprise of what you have specifically found yourself in doing the exercise (so direct information from your interview responses). Any academic sources you use should be presented in your methodology section (if you are building on previous research like Humphreys did) or analysis section to back up the points you are making based on your findings.
This only needs to be the research question, so 1 sentence. Remember it should be phrased as a question. No need for wasted words like “For my fieldwork activity I will be addressing the research question:…” ? there you would have just wasted over 10 words, which in a piece of only 1000 words is golden!
Sample & Methodoloy:
As stated in the instructions above, here you should describe your sample. How many people did you interview? How old are they? What is their occupation? Where are they from etc. Your methodology will then explain what you examined. Where did you conduct the interview? What it a formal setting or informal? How/Why did you choose this? On reflection, what were the limitations of your study? How did you present your findings? Perhaps tables or pie charts may be useful. What patterns were you looking for (if any)? Perhaps
your methodology is based off another methodology you have noted from another study that you found particularly effective. This need only be a paragraph or so.
Findings & Analysis:
This should be the vast majority/bulk of your paper.
Your findings are what you have found in writing and then examining your interview responses. No need for academic references here. Here is where you should describe trends that you have found once you have synthesised all of your answers. It may also be useful to use brief quotes from responses that you have received that are particularly interesting or enlightening.
Your analysis will then tie outside academic research to your own research. These are the arguments you are making relative to your research question. This will be based on what you have found personally in doing your fieldwork with respect to the interview answers you have received, but academic sources should be used here to help back up your arguments. Are your results consistent with other studies done on the same topic? Why/why not? Is your data generalisable? Why/why not?
Briefly describe what you have found again by specifically tying it to your research question. A well-written paragraph will suffice.
Interview guide & research questions vs interview questions:
• Research questions are what underlie an argument: what is it you are trying to discover with this research? There can be primary and secondary research questions. They can be framed in theoretical terms. You have encountered plenty of suggested examples and some of you have come up with your own. (Also please see the readings/slides about other studies that list research questions and methodologies).
• Interview questions are about finding out what people do with media, how they relate at a visceral level, how they describe their experiences and reactions in their own words.
– Interview questions should not be theoretical, abstract or about asking for reasoned responses and arguments;
– They should not be about presenting an idea and having interviewees back it up (save the theory for the analysis section!);
– As an interviewer you should to use common expressions, translate what you want to know (theory, vocabulary) into everyday ways we talk about media and communicative experiences
– Examples of good interview questions
o Why do you like to use online chat?
o What is your alias? Do you have more than one?
• Follow up questions that may flow on from this may include:
– Why do you choose to use different ones, and how do you decide?
– Do you find you get different responses when you use different ones?
– Do you act differently when you use different aliases? How/Why?
– Do you think of yourself in a different way when you are online?
– Describe an experience you have had online that was particularly: a) enjoyable b) surprising c) embarrassing/uncomfortable
– Examples of BAD interview questions (you should NOT use questions like these because these are far too theoretical and read more like research questions. Questions like these are more likely to intimidate your interviewee and make them give basic one word answers rather than the ‘slice of life’ you are looking for in a qualitative study)
o What sort of subject positions do you take up when you go online?
o Would you say that you are constructing your identity in multiple ways when you are experiencing virtual worlds? Does the Internet facilitate this due to the nature of the medium?
MCC315 New Media Technologies Fieldwork Assignment Marking Guide
• Organisation/Presentation (ie Linear flow of ideas; Use of clear headings etc)
• Research question (ie Is the research question sufficiently focussed? Is it relevant?)
• Sample & Methodology (ie Are the sample and methodology clearly described, justified and relevant to the research question?)
• Length (ie How well has the word limit been observed? Is the piece too long/short?)
• Referencing (ie Are the sources properly acknowledged? Is there consistent and accurate referencing? Are the sources relevant to the discussion? Has adequate research taken place?)
• Tone & Expression (ie Is the writing appropriate for academic work? Is the use of English adequate?)
• Grammar & Punctuation (ie Has the piece been proof-read!?)
• Findings (ie Are the findings described clearly? Has the piece focussed on the most relevant/interesting findings?)
• Analysis (ie How well are the findings analysed in light of what was found? How well has the piece used the findings to discuss previous studies/academia on the subject?)
Preliminary Score (/20):
• – 0.5 marks per error (4 or more errors = 0/2)
Final Score (/20):
Fieldwork Activity: Small scale user studies