mixed methods

Understanding Mediated Practices: Combining Ethnographic Methods with Blog Data to Develop Insights

JONATHAN BEAN and ZEYNEP ARSEL While theories of practice have been influential in the social sciences, these frameworks have seen limited application in ethnographic and applied inquiry, perhaps because few methods for carrying out practice theoretical research have been elaborated. We address this opportunity and provide an account of a multi-method inquiry on domestic practice. First, we explain methods for integrating data from blogs with ethnographic methods and how this data can be used to develop theory. Second, we share our experience as interdisciplinary researchers using ethnographic and quantitative data to connect work at the boundaries of social practice theory and theories of consumption. Finally, we share our insights on why industry should aim to better understand existing and emergent consumer practices....

From Street to Satellite: Mixing Methods to Understand Mobile Money Users

ERIN B. TAYLOR and HEATHER A. HORST How do users incorporate mobile money into their existing practices and adapt it to their needs? The answers can be surprising. Simultaneously a commodity, a store of value, and a social good, mobile money combines a large array of applications within the one platform. This is why mobile money has been touted for its potential for socioeconomic development, as a profitable commercial enterprise, and even as a tool for strengthening governance. The fact that customers rarely use it for just one purpose can also make it difficult to untangle customers’ motives and behaviors. In this paper we compare our own research with other studies to demonstrate how deploying a full suite of ethnographic methods (qualitative and quantitative) can provide significant insights into users. We present three key insights relating to time, trust, and traces / trajectories, and make suggestions for the future of mobile money research....

For a Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing: Rebellion Against the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide

NEAL H. PATEL While research practitioners remain deadlocked in old debates about the incompatibility and validity of qualitative versus quantitative research, streams of real-time data are overwhelming leading companies with individual-level insights at a scale and velocity impossible to achieve with traditional methods. Remaining relevant in the age of analytics no longer depends on the perfection of either methodology, but on the evolution of a creative, inter-disciplinary combination of both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Nevertheless, until we are done with the past, the past is never truly done with us. This paper establishes a new inter-disciplinary epistemology by tracing the historical development of the current qualitative versus quantitative divide. In so doing, I aim to discredit the assumptions underpinning the current debate, and illustrate how the shared epistemological origins of both statistics and ethnography inform the empirical formulations behind new “hybrid” quantitative-qualitative methods....

The Best of Both (Virtual) Worlds: Using Ethnography and Computational Tools to Study Online Behavior

NICOLAS DUCHENEAUT, NICHOLAS YEE and VICTORIA BELLOTTI In recent years, many ethnographers have conducted participant observation studies in virtual worlds, whether in games like World of Warcraft or user-generated environments like Second Life. However, the acceptance of digital fieldwork as a legitimate form of ethnography does not make it strictly identical to its physical counterpart. In particular, the logistics of virtual ethnography offer both opportunities and pitfalls that practitioners must address. The virtual nature of the space also compounds traditional issues such as generalizability and coverage. In this paper, we will highlight several interesting opportunities and challenges in conducting ethnography in virtual worlds. Moreover, we will then argue that the common problems shared by quantitative and qualitative social scientists in virtual world research serve to bridge the methodological divide, such that virtual ethnography could be greatly enhanced with the use of computational tools usually more associated with...

Harmonizing Human Eyes with Digital Sensors

HIROSHI TAMURA and TAMAMI SUGASAKA In this article we report on our research that focused on enhancing shopping experiences by introducing new media services in the physical environment of grocery shopping. Since we were interested in situated shopper’s experiences we conducted fieldwork. In particular, we paid attention to the holistic grocery shopping process because a shopping experience is, as we suggest, more than a composition of discrete actions and/or feelings towards a shopping arena. Rather it is a type of narrative featuring various vignettes. In addition to pure ethnographic observation, digital sensors were used as a complementary means to observe shopper’s experiences, since digital-sensor observation enabled us to record shopper’s entire moment-to-moment behaviors with unified metrics, i.e. digital sensors served to complement our perceptions that turned out to be less reliable in terms of consistency; under these conditions of time-space transition, observers face difficulties to become aware of subtle changes...

Numbers Have Qualities Too: Experiences with Ethno-Mining

KEN ANDERSON, DAWN NAFUS, TYE RATTENBURY and RYAN AIPPERSPACH Field research holds a special place for those who conduct it. It is also our anchor for relevance in the corporation. This paper explores the authors’ experiences with “ethno-mining”, a way of joining data base mining and ethnography. Since 2004 we have been using a variety of sensing and behavioral tracking technologies in conducting field research. We will present the main characteristics of doing ethno-mining, compare ethno-mining to other field research technologies, highlight the strengths of ethno-mining in co-creating data with participants and conclude by noting how the representations have opened new conversations and discourses inside the corporation. In this way, these new opportunities to collect sometimes counterintuitive data contributes to the research itself as well as the ongoing process of constructing oneself as relevant....

“Name That Segment!”: Questioning the Unquestioned Authority of Numbers

DONNA K. FLYNN, TRACEY LOVEJOY, DAVID SIEGEL and SUSAN DRAY In many companies, numbers equal authority. Quantitative data is often viewed as more definitive than qualitative data, while its shortcomings are overlooked. Many of us have worked to marry quantitative with qualitative methods inside organizations to present a fuller view of the people for whom we develop. One area of research that increasingly needs to blend quantitative and qualitative methods is user segmentations. Our software technology product team has been using a segmentation based on quantitative data since 2005. One outcome of this effort has been the development of an algorithm–based “typing” tool intended to be used as a standard tool in recruiting for all segmentation-focused research. We learned that the algorithm was an indecipherable black box, its inner workings opaque even to those who owned it internally. This case study looks at how qualitative research came up against the impenetrable authority of a quantitative segmentation and its associated...