The potential of video telephony in qualitative longitudinal research: A participatory and interactionist approach to assessing remoteness and rapport


Principal Investigator: Susie Weller, London South Bank University

Project duration: 1 April 2013 - 30 September 2014


The project focuses on methodological innovation by assessing the potentials and pitfalls of using a novel approach to carry out a new wave of data collection for an established qualitative longitudinal (QLR) study. The project builds on an existing ESRC investment; the ‘Your Space’ project that formed part of the Timescapes programme. ‘Your Space’ has been following the lives of 50 young people from across Britain since 2002, to date, gathering participants' views and experiences using in-depth interviews and activities, with the researcher regularly visiting their homes (2002, 2007, 2009).

To maximise the potential of this long-term ESRC investment the project will investigate the implications of introducing an established technology - video telephony (online audio/video discussions using software such as Skype/FaceTime) – as a new method of data collection in QLR for two purposes. First, it will look at the possible use of such interviews for providing 'catch up' data about participants' lives between researcher visits, thereby helping to ensure their continued engagement over the long- term as well as generating data. Second, it will examine the implications for using such interviews as a time-efficient and cost-effective alternative to, or augmentation of, face-to-face co-present interviews. Such an approach has not, to my knowledge, been introduced into established QLR projects.

The project takes an original approach in this context to assessing the implications of video telephony, comparing the three waves of data collected using physically co-present interviews and the new remote data. It focuses on key concerns surrounding differences in data quality and the research relationship between these different interview modes. It takes a hitherto underused participatory approach to data generation assessment, garnering the views of participants. It uses an interactionist framework to assess the implications of remote (online) technology as against physical co-present communication for the research relationship, especially issues of rapport. The focus of the interviews - trajectories into adulthood during austerity - provides the means by which comparisons will be made.

Capacity building is central to the project. To promote long-term legacy to academics, practitioners and policy-makers the outcomes will be disseminated via: presentations at the Oxford e-Research Centre and the National Children’s Bureau (NCB); academic publications; dialogue with key organisations; sessions at the 6th ESRC Research Methods Festival in July 2014, the Digital Media in Research with Children and Young People course, Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR), and the Qualitative Longitudinal Research Methods training programme, University of Leeds; online resources including one podcast and two briefing papers promoted through the Timescapes and Young Digital websites; and the making available of new data in the Timescapes Archive for re-use.


Using internet video calls in qualitative (longitudinal) interviews: some implications for rapport

The potentials and pitfalls of using Skype for qualitative (longitudinal) interviews