Saturday, November 1, 2008

Equal air time (but you have to be online)

I'm blogging at a very interesting site Another blogger, much more experienced, is Judith's blog: Through the virtual looking glass - online focus groups She's been following online focus groups and assessing respondent's reaction to the process. One critical finding is that some participants feel that they have more space to be listened to. I'm a teacher/trainer/facilitator and creating spaces that give participants equal air-time is a constant challenge: allowing those who are under-participating to have the opportunity to express their opinions and toning down those who are dominating the conversation. The online focus group context seems to allow for more equitable participation, but only if you are able to get online, and are literate enough in the language of the dialogue, and have the keyboarding skills necessary to type in your opinions.
So, I'm very supportive of the equity in participation for those who have the access, the skills and the literacy necessary.
I'm still going to depend on face-to-face interviews and discussions because there are many, many poor families that don't meet those minimum criteria and those families most definitely need to be encouraged to talk and give their opinions. I'm working on encouraging their children who have much more extensive contact with and use of technology in school to participate in online focus groups because they also need to be heard as a student group.

I will also contiue to figure out how to bring technology to communities that don't have easy access withoutseeing technology as the Good Ship Lollipop.

1 comment:

Judith said...

Aurelio, you're absolutely right. All the benefits of online focus groups only click in once the participants are actually connected. Access to be heard by researchers and their clients – whatever the medium - is always going to be an issue for those who don't have transportation to a centre where focus groups are being held, who aren't in the malls or grocery stores where people with clipboards stop shoppers to get their opinions, who don't have phones to receive the survey calls, and who simply don't have an address.

Someone who doesn't have keyboarding skills or facility with language will definitely be at a disadvantage online (even having leapt the hurdle of computer access). The person who doesn't have speech or language abilities in a face-to-face interview or discussion would also encounter an uneven playing field, and find their voice not being heard, or understood.

And of course, if an individual is outside the identified target group (by geographic location, income, age, gender, political identification, or whatever), they're excluded too.

There is no one right answer, and your real-life interviews and discussions absolutely look like the way to go for the population that is under-served by technology, even as you work to improve their access to it.