The theme for this week is about design factors. I've selected three main themes for discussion-- and feel free to introduce others! Throughout the week, I will post some background information related to these themes as food for thought, and suggest some questions to get your thinking started...and generate discussion.
First, no matter how fun or cool it may be to communicate online, the method selected for data collection needs to align with the research purpose and methodology. Second, we need to make sure all ethical considerations have been met. Third, when we are thinking about using technology, we need to be sure we select an approach that is workable with the target sample population.
Let's with the basics and define our terms: what do I mean by online interviews in real time ? My definition is: "Scholarly interviews conducted via rich media synchronous Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)."
While Rich Media Theory (Daft & Lengel, 1986) taken as a whole has its flaws, the basic concept is useful here: rich media can be used to describe ICTs that allow us to use multiple channels for communication and immediate feedback to create sense of presence Shin (2002), drawing on work of Lombard and Ditton (1997), points out:
Presence, as social richness, involves the degree to which media are capable of making users perceive other users’ sociability, warmth, sensitivity, personality, or closeness in a mediated communication situation. (p. 124)
In Chapter 1, I observe that while face-to-face presence is an either-or proposition, you are there or you are not, when we are online we perceive presence in different ways, including the following:
- Environmental presence: the extent to which the environment itself recognizes and reacts to the person;
- Personal presence : the extent to which the person feels physically present in the environment;
- Social presence : the extent to which the person has the feeling of being together and communicating with others to achieve meaningful interactions, establish and maintain relations, and create productive social systems in online environments; and
- Cognitive presence: the extent to which the person feels the potential to participate in critical thinking and community of inquiry (Baños et al., 2008; Garrison, Anderson, 2004; Heeter, 2003; Kehrwald, 2008; Suler, 2003).
Speaking personally, I feel a sense of social and cognitive presence in an asyncrhonous environment such as the one we are in here. But for an interview, the immediate feedback possible with synchronous communications is in a word richer. I am a very visual person so feel more personal presence when it is possible to view the other person(s) and/or to view relevant visual materials.
What is your definition or how would you refine or add to mine? What other factors or features add to richness is online communication? What helps you feel a sense of presence online? What helps create a sense of presence that might be helpful when in an interviewee? Do you think the selection of technology makes a difference?
Anderson, T., & Elloumi, F. (2004). Theory and practice of online learning. Athabasca: Athabasca University.
Baños, R. M., Botella, C., Isabel Rubió, Quero, S., García-Palacios, A., & Alcañiz, M. (2008). Presence and emotions in virtual environments: The influence of stereoscopy. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(1), 1-8.
Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1986). Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554-571.
Heeter, C. (2003). Reflections on real presence by a virtual person. Presence: Teleoperators & virtual environments, 12(4), 335-345.
Kehrwald, B. (2008). Understanding social presence in text-based online learning environments. Distance Education, 29(1), 89-106.
Lombard, M., & Ditton, T. (1997). At the heart of it all: the concept of presence. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 3(2).
Shin, N. (2002). Beyond interaction: the relational construct of "Transactional Presence". Open Learning, 17(2).
Suler, J. (2003). Presence in cyberspace. Psychology of cyberspace. Retrieved from http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/psycyber.html
Well, I just typed a response which got zapped into hyperspace when I hit some unknown key by error - the disadvantage of online communication! Although I have not conducted interviews online, I teach online. I have used various forms of technology - videoconferencing, web conferencing (Elluminate - similar to Skype), asynchronous learning (WebCT, Desire2Learn), and Second Life. I have found that Second Life offers the richest sense of presence because you can see each other's avatars and explore an interesting environment. I'd rather sit in a beautiful virtual park and have a discussions than sit here at my desk typing. However, I also found that some students were very afraid of Second Life. Thus so far I have used it only sparingly. I think the technology would definitely influence how an interview went online - especially if the interviewee were uncomfortable with that technology.
Perhaps I'm not as good as Susan at seeing the screen & what's going on there - to me, I'm still typing at my desk; just spending more time trying to work out where the text is going to pop up from, rather than knowing where it will appear. (that said, the fact you can see someone typing is good - our VLE's chat room doesn't have any feedback, so you don't know if your students are all frantically writing an answer, or have fallen asleep, or are thinking really hard trying to work out what to say ... so, SL does score on that one!)
I very much take your point that you have to find the technology that's most comfortable for the interviewee - even if that means it's less so for the interviewer.
I'd be really interested in learning about the courses your organization offers that use Second Life. To become comfortable with Second Life, you need to spend quite some time immersed in it because there is so much visual sensory stimulation going on there. There are places that I like to go just to relax and places where I like to explore. I'd be happy to send you some of my Landmarks. What I've found is that too many educational organizations try to recreate their real environments rather than thinking about other possibilities. Why sit in a classroom when you can be in a park? Second Life does have a way to let you know if your students have fallen asleep. The avatars will slump downwards if they have not been operated for awhile. I also think there's a personality trait that helps explain why some people like virtual worlds and some don't - that of openness to fantasy (see the NEO Personality Inventory by Costa and McRae). When I took an educational technology course in graduate school and administered this instrument to the others in the class, all of us scored high on this trait, although we were quite different in regard to the rest of our personality. (This was before Second Life was invented.)
It's various computing units that have a SecondLife option - I've been to lots of places & fully agree that recreating a classroom is a no-no! I also agree that SL lets you know when people are asleep - I guess I didn't make it clear that that's a good point for me - the VLE gives me no clues!
I guess it's just not me - but as it is good for students, I use it with them. I'm more interested in them learning, ultimately, than the environment I do it in!
Good points- 2nd Life versus VLE. The issue, for educators or researchers is: when to use what option? When is the virtual sensory environment a conducive, inviting place -- or distracting and too hard to manage?
I find I prefer 2nd Life when audio is used, but I know a lot of people want text only (less revealing of the person behind the avatar.)
I am in the process of confirming a book event in 2nd Life so stay tuned!
When I read your verbiage above, I immediately thought how complicated all this is, especially when I tend to consider some of these concepts much more simply. Perhaps that is because I have not spent the time to realize the nuances and complexities inherent in this growing area of academic concern. Perhaps it is because I find that the more I try to define concepts I use, the more I realize how frustratingly simple it can seem until I am forced to put ink to paper, so to speak.
However, I did find the language you used a bit (searching for words to express my perception) clinical and academically intense. For example, when you defined online interviews in real time, you stated: "Scholarly interviews conducted via rich media synchronous Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)." I had to read this a few times to get it, until I finally said (in that little voice in my head) "using questions to get information from another person over the Internet at the same time."
I do not think I could try my hand at the Rich Media Theory definition -- I am not quite sure what is going on with that one.
One thing is for sure, I need to read Chapter 1 ASAP!!
You are right, defining concepts is very hard. I like your definition and for some researchers, it is on track. However, as I discovered in my background research-- reading all things interview-research related I could get my hands on-- a lot of interviewers don't use "questions." Structured and some semi-structured interviews rely on questions. Other semi-structured interview researchers would describe "discussion themes." Post-modern, life story/oral history, active interviewers and others use discussion themes as well as unstructured approaches that include questions/themes generated by the research participants or questions/themes that emerge from within the interview. I wanted a definition that includes any style of interview....and in the book discuss ways technology choices relate to potential for styles from structured to unstructured.
When I started this adventure I wasn't sure how I could distinguish the kinds of interviews that primarily interest me-- synchronous, with "rich" verbal and visual elements-- from the email interviews discussed by most of the articles/books that have talked about "e-interviews" or " internet interviewing."
For example, a c. 2009 book from Sage-- the same publisher for my book-- is called Online Interviewing. Yet the authors assume that whether the interview is synchronous or asynchronous, it will be text only. They say, "while the features of synchronous communications are dynamic and multi-threaded, they do not allow for a rich form of social interaction" (p. 27). They further comment that online interviews move interaction with interviewees from "orality to textuality" (p. 28). So you can see, their take on "online interviewing" is quite different from mine, since I see "orality" very much present in the tools we now have for communicating online. But how would the casual reader see the distinction?
James, N., & Busher, H. (2006). Credibility, authenticity and voice: dilemmas in online interviewing. Qualitative Research, 6(3), 403-420.
Your musing here about terminology and how we communicate with terms that still are not universally shared and understood is quite interesting.
I wonder how long it will take before some of these concepts get solidified a bit more than they are now.
I personally agree with the FOUR different ways we may perceive presence:
I've always been 'affected' by that 'virtual' presence in some ways when I communicate synchronically online and I believe that online interviewing (which I am planning to start in a couple of weeks)can be approached from your perspective.
I'd like to speak a bit more on the second part of this question: why use synchronous online interviews in research?
In the emerging literature, of course cost and convenience is a top reason why people conduct interviews online. Researchers choose online interviews to reach geograpically dispersed or hard to reach populations. Researchers choose online interviews to use intensively visual research approaches in an environment where the event is captured, as we started to explore the other day.
In most of the discussions of online interviews there is an assumption that online research is intended for studies of the Internet. That is, Internet researchers are interested in online behaviors, trends, attitudes,users and styles of usage, etc.. They believe that “Research questions that explore an online phenomenon are strengthened through the use of a method of research that closely mirrors the natural setting under investigation” (Geiser, 2002).
I agree with an added point: rich media synchronous technologies offer a way to interview research participants about life online OR off. In other words, I see Internet as a means of inquiry as well as subject of inquiry. I think we can use the Internet to communicate with research participants about any aspect of lived experience.
What do you think? If you are planning online research will you study online behavior or use the Internet to interview participants about other perceptions or experiences? Or both?
I think technology such as Elluminate could be used to interview people at a distance, regardless of whether you were studying online behavior or not. Although I have not used it for interviews, I have used it for advising meetings with students, doctoral student defenses of dissertations, and, of course, conferences. Because the conversation is in audio and can be recorded, and it has useful tools such as the shared whiteboard and application sharing so documents can be pulled up, it could be an extremely useful tool for conducting any type of interviews.
I've been avidly following along the discussions .. I couldn't attend the live session because I was actually conducting an interview via Elluminate. I am collecting data from my doctoral research via Elluminate. My research involves how face-to-face teachers move to an online environment.
How logical but to use Elluminate for interviews and focus groups! As part of my own research agenda, I am keeping tabs on the actual PROCESS of conducting the research online.
More later .... bogged in juggling work, data transcription, and teaching ... ack!
Here is my reason for using synchronous online interviews for my research, which you might find interesting. My study is about why most companies fail to execute their strategies. I am particularly interested in exploring the human element in strategy execution (employee behavior). Where I live, the concept of strategic management and planning is alien. So to conduct such research here may not be a good idea. With online interviews, I have the opportunity to reach a wide range of study participants (business consultants) where the practice of corporate strategy is mature (USA and Europe), hence my choice of online interviews.
Before joining this seminar, my intention was to use Skype, because that was the only tool I knew about. I did not know about other tools (e.g. Elluminate). Now I have to assess all available resources. What is your recommendation?
I conducted my online interviews in August and September 2009 using SKYPE because I wanted to make the tools as simple as possible. Initially, I wanted to use WiZiQ or Elluminate because I had been using both for online facilitation. In the end, I opted for SKYPE because some participants wanted the interviews to be conducted by phone. The only way I could afford to make long distance phone calls was via SKYPE. An additional reason for choosing SKYPE was simplicity. I found that some people are intimidated by online conference rooms such as Elluminate, WiZiQ, Dimdim, and Interwise. I didn't want them to feel any discomfort due to technology. Finally, one of my aims in conducting distance interviews was to make the participants feel at ease so that I could get as much authentic information as possible. I believed, but this needs further research, that I could get people to be more open and less distracted online than face-to-face. I would be interested in researching both online and face-to-face interviews to learn whether there is any basis to this belief because I have heard others mention it.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You bring a very important aspect, which is accommodating the preferences of the participant . I must admit I haven't given this much thought. I agree, probably most people are familiar with (therefore, are comfortable with) Skype. I'll keep that in mind when I start my research.
I'm curious to know what tool you have used to record the Skype sessions.
Thanks for the info. But their transcription service seems to be a bit expensive, isn't it?
I want to caution against using Skype. I find there are Skype issues with interference and noise after about 20 or 30 minutes (using it from different computers and even with from different locations), and frequently find the service (including the paid version) causes me enough problems that it detracts from the interview, and I have been known to disconnect and call back with my cell phone (I know this can get pricy, but that is another issue).
However, for the sake of recording, I encourage you to consider something other than a Skype plug-in. If there is a Skype problem, then the Skype plug-in will also not work. I use an external recorder with an ear-piece, which I discussed on my blog last year http://silenceandvoice.com/archives/2009/08/10/interview-equipment-for-phone-and-distance-research/, as this flexibility allows me to use Skype, DimDim, or the phone, without any limitations for changing between modalities mid-stream.
Thank you so much for the advice. Most valuable. I shall certainly consider the ear-piece device you have suggested in your blog.
The sample population's access and comfort with the technology is a factor to consider. Initial unfamilarity is not insurmountable though. You can use the selected technology for the getting acquainted introduction phase of the research, so they have a chance to play with it and learn how it works. Or, you can arrange the participant to be interviewed in a setting (school, office etc) where someone else can log the computer into the meeting or videoconference.
In addition to the considerations of the sample population's access and preferences, you need to think about the kind of data you need in order to answer your research questions. In Nellie's example, she describes a situation where she really wanted the verbal responses through audio, and the choice of SKYPE made sense given cost factors as compared with telephone.
However, if you watched the Elluminate session, or participate/watch the session in Vidyo tomorrow, you see another kind of motivation for interviewing online: collection of visual data in addition to aural data. Visual data can include observation of the interviewee-- non-verbals, emotion, clothing and appearance etc.-- that are taken for granted as part of the impression the interviewer makes when an interview is face to face. Or visuals can include diagrams, graphics, artifacts, photos or media.
As we'll see (I hope!) in the session tomorrow, the kinds of visuals in a videoconference are quite different than in a meeting space.
At the moment, I just want to learn how to guide students -- because I do supervision, but I also would like to conduct art therapy and dance/movement therapy research, as well as online distance education research areas that are specific to the use of videos, teaching therapy, interviewing people about teaching online, and what makes a successful webinar in the minds of participants.
I am putting Janet's book, Onine Interviews into a chapter -- (just in time to add it as it is being published this years and I thought of how I could reference it -- in the area where I'm talking about the advantages of online interviews and in terms of the section she wrote on visual communication. Thanks Janet!
Cheers, Jo Ann
Thank you! Nice to get a mention-- please let us know your book title.
Here is another resource you might like: Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice by Patricia Leavy, Guilford Press.
Please make note of my twitter (/einterview), website (www.vision2lead.com) etc. because I will continue to do events on issues related to supervising students.
The book is a collection of chapters written by various art therapists and edited by Helene Burt, RCAT, Director of the Toronto Art Therpist Institute. the book is "Postmodern art therapy". My chapter is Phenomenological Research and Combined Art Therapy and Dance/Movement Therapy with Children, Adolescents and Adults". There is only one area where I discuss the use of online phenomenological research and interviews -- and that 's were I will make note of your book.
The book reviewer wants me to cut back not add, but will add your book and your information, as I think it will be so important to get it out for other creative arts therapists. If it was my own book I would put a lot more in it, but at least it will be out -- the editor (told be the publishing company) in 2010 and it is suppose to be published by University Wilfred Lauier Press. There are seven art therapy institutions approved in Canada by the Canadian Art Therapy Association (2009).
I'm working slowly on an article for Arts Therapies and Technology -- a topic on which I have been presenting at small venues by Power Point and also advising in to some extent. I have to do my writing in between my clinical work and that is quite difficult at times, but I'm learning a lot about online interviews from your book and I know that students will find it valuable. Research takes a lot of time and everyone wants to have it succeed and to be worth the time and effort.
Thanks for the other reference too. Jo Ann