Apr 14, 2006

All the worlds a stage...

Over the last couple of weeks, I have repeatedly found asking myself one question…whether the online medium does justice to qual research. Both, my thoughts about this and the idea of doing online qual research itself are too nascent to arrive at anything conclusive yet, though my brush with it so far has left me with a few residual thoughts.

I am beginning to realize that good qual research is like theatre. Much like the script of a playwright, the vision of a research comes to life at the moment of interaction between the researcher and a consumer. The script is only the starting point for a performance…it is not to be confused with ‘the performance’! And the performance is not just a mere summation of the elements. It is that and a little more. This little more comes as a result of a dynamic process of (non-verbal) interaction between an actor and his audiences. The audience is as much a part of the creation of this magic.

Theatre requires an audience. For all of the arts public is essential. The physical presence of an audience can change a performance, inspire actors, and create expectations. Theatre is a living breathing art form. The presence of live actors on the stage in front of live audiences sets it apart from modern day films and television.

Elements of Theatre

Good qual research exudes this dynamism…this magic, a kick that researchers usually feel at the end of an insightful consumer interaction. It’s a feeling in the gut…that one has got it right…made some headway. That feeling is subtle, perhaps not a conscious one. Once cannot pin-point the exact point in the course of interaction where the researcher starts connecting with the consumer and goes beyond the surface. But the feeling is there nevertheless. To approach qual research as a ‘boxed product’ (a set of open-ends that would give you ‘feel data’…which will answer some of the how’s and the why’s for the marketer) to be executed in a standardized way is missing out on the magic.

Which brings me back to my question…does real qual research have to be a live interaction? I think so. The difference between online and face to face is the difference between seeing reality that has happened a couple of minutes or couple of hours ago and experiencing reality as it happens…in a myriad ways.

It’s the difference between a live theatre performance and wrapping the emotions of that performance on a 35 mm reel.

In a live performance the audience is entranced -- their disbelief suspended. This requires the audience to further utilize their imagination and their creative abilities. The reactions to the work can have an even greater impact. There is an energy that flows both ways.

Some actors cannot or will not do stage plays due to the subjective emotional and physical intensity of this form of stagecraft.

The audience experiences a "Human-to-Human" event, an intimacy that is created only with this medium. Finally, when you see live theatre you will experience something that is unique . . . an interpretation or even a once-only performance that results in a brilliant act of serendipity that may never be seen again!

What makes the 'Live Theatre' experience unique

In my experience of doing qual research, I have found many parallels to the description of a theatre performance given here ….the uniqueness, the energy, the intensity, the experience of intense involvement at the exclusion thoughts like where you are, who you are talking to & the oddities in the environment, the play of emotion….can all be very draining but all the same very addictive!

Categories: Online Research_ , Metaphors_

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neha vish said...

So true. The artist - as if is only a catalyst in the larger scheme of things. The origin of knowledge, even pattern is the audience. Grounded theory is rooted in its belief that the researcher exists to probe.

I lost my faith in quantitative theory so long ago that I struggle to remember its tenets. I guess in a sense quantiative also allows for "re-takes" and rehersals. Qualitative - in its own paradigm is overwhelmingly different in its treatment of sample. Random and Deliberate. Or Randomly Deliberate?

Mr. J said...

OMG, this post seems way beyond my comprehension.

Reshma Anand said...

Neha - When i think of both these streams of research (quant and qual) - the biggest difference i would see between the two is not so much in the subjects of enquiry or methods applied - but the fact the one strives to eliminate the influence / bias of a researcher and for the other (qual) this presence, intervention and influence is integral to the process of understanding the subject under study which is perhaps what makes it humanistic vis-a-vis something clinical. And as far as I have a choice between watching a live performance even though with flaws, and watching an edited and cleaned up version - i would any day prefer the former.