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Research on the go with women in walking groups

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Research on the go with women in walking groups Research on the go with women in walking groups

Research on the go with women in walking groups

Posted by Stephanie Morris, Research Fellow, University of York

In this blog Steph reflects on the use of mobile ethnography in a recent study of the place of walking groups in the lives of women in deprived areas of north-east England.

Ethnography?s signature method, participant observation, or ?hanging out?, provides rich data inaccessible by other forms of qualitative research. Mobile ethnography, as the name suggests, uses this methodology in the context of mobility. It can involve ?go-along? interviewing (See Carpiano 2008, Kusenbach, 2003) and participant observation as researchers travel and converse with participants.

When conducting research with women in walking groups, I found that mobile ethnography facilitated inclusivity and openness. For example, some women were interested in participating in the study, but uninterested in having a formal ?sit down? interview. So this approach opened up the study to those who might not usually opt to take part in research. Walking with study participants also enabled me to build rapport in a more ?natural? way than in a one-off interview, when the research and participant go in ?cold?. Walking and talking, what the women did on the walks, encouraged free and open conversation: participants talked a lot to me about the intricacies of their lives, as they did with each other.

Mobile ethnography produces data which I feel is not likely to be created in static interview interactions. In ?go along? informal interviews, objects and embodied experiences along the route are often talked about. Conversations ranged from discussing fly tipping and historical features in the landscape, to sharing experiences of bodily sensations whilst walking in all weathers! Walking with the groups also provided a first-hand experience of the sense of safety and solidarity that comes with group walking. The following excerpt from my fieldnotes* shows an example of how this happened:
"As we walk along, Ashley who is in front of us by a few metres, points out that there is a hole in the path. She puts her stick down it and shouts to us to be careful of the hole. We do the same for the people behind us. Less than a minute later, Lisa says ?step?, as there is a slight step in the hard soil and she is warning me about it. I do the same for the people behind me, and I get the feeling that I am being watched out for, and that I am instantly doing the same for the others."

Acts like this also quickly make the researcher feel part of the group, an insider participant-observer.
Despite its broad affordances, mobile ethnography is not without its challenges. The logistics of note taking when walking are tricky to say the least! I used the note function on a smartphone to take notes and took photographs along the route to remind me of encounters noteworthy of description. I walked with a Nordic walking group, which was even more difficult as I often had to carry the Nordic poles in one hand or clip and unclip at the...
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Research on the go with women in walking groups Research on the go with women in walking groups


News source: Fuse
Publication date: 01-11-2019 16:03
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