Fire the Moderator!

Why You Don’t “have to be there”. Tech-Driven Self-Ethnography

From the desk of Alice Morgan

The dirty little secret of ethnographic qualitative research is that the moderator’s presence in any kind of in-home, onsite or shopalong situation causes bias. Think about it: if you were shopping with a moderator, would you really put all those Pop-Tarts in the shopping cart? Would you buy cigarettes – or feminine hygiene purchases, for that matter? As much as moderators try to downplay their presence, sometimes just being there gums up the works.

Enter the smartphone. Or any other kind of video-enabled technology, for that matter.   We at Doyle Research are all about asking respondents to, well, respond. Using technology. Away from us. By using their smartphone to tell us how a new product looks on the shelf at the grocery store. By recording a webcam video at home when they embark on a home improvement project using a new caulk. By taking a picture of the car they are considering on the dealership lot.

After these experiences have occurred, then we moderate. We follow-up and ask respondents all about the experience, their reactions, the whole shebang. But only after the initial moment of experience has been captured. In a far more authentic manner than if we had been there.

You don’t have to be there. You just have to capture what happens. And then figure out what it all means.

If you’d like to know more about this topic, Doyle Research will be presenting at The Quirk’s Event on February 23-24, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.  We hope to see you there!

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