Finding a Way In: First Thoughts on Data Analysis

Photo 06-03-2015 12 33 54Now that I have reached the halfway point of my fieldwork I am currently reflecting on the different stages of my data analysis process. During this project, as new data is being produced on a weekly basis, it is has been useful to establish and maintain an ongoing ‘familiarisation process’ (Braun and Clark, 2006) with what will become a large corpus of data over the full year. This blog, therefore, has provided a useful means of engaging in a weekly re-reading of fieldnotes, leading to a diarising of my weekly accounts of the club, based on memories and repeated reflections on the textual, pictorial, video and artefactual data collected. In addition, these secondary accounts provide a means of ‘immersion’ in the data (Braun and Clark, 2006, p. 18), also forming texts to draw upon at later stages of the data analysis process whilst helping to make transparent ‘the transition from data to text’ (Boellstorff et al, 2012, p. 159).

Of course, this process could have occurred in private – and to some extent it has, where I have also produced a collection of personal reflections, where public publication would have been ethically complicated or inappropriate. However, assembling these alongside a (sometimes) more considered, regular and, crucially, public set of reflections on the data has maintained my motivation to ‘keep up’ with the data, as well necessitating a careful consideration of how I am thinking about the data during the early stages. It has also afforded the project some ongoing visibility and has encouraged engagement with others – interestingly this usually comes via Twitter, in response to my sharing of a blog link, rather than in the comments of the post itself.

Having gone some way to understanding my means of data familiarisation, I am now attempting to unravel my approach beyond these early stages of analysis. What is clear is that I am drawn to certain episodes from the data (what I might consider significant moments), some more so than others. This seems to have some relationship with what MacLure (2013) calls ‘a potentiality’ in the data that ‘….can be felt on occasions where something—perhaps a comment in an interview, a fragment of a field note, an anecdote, an object, or a strange facial expression—seems to reach out from the inert corpus (corpse) of the data, to grasp us. These moments confound the industrious, mechanical search for meanings, patterns, codes, or themes; but at the same time, they exert a kind of fascination, and have a capacity to animate further thought.’ (p. 228)

MacLure (2013) refers to this as a ‘wonder’ (p. 228) (and, elsewhere, calls it ‘the glow’) that seems to have a close relationship with the Deleuzo-Guattarian notion of affective intensities. However, I am not entirely certain that I can wholly attribute my selection of data to a bodily experienced prepersonal affect, or that I am fully aligning myself with a conceptualisation of wonder as being ‘out there… emanating from a particular object, image, or fragment of text’ (Maclure, 2013, p. 229), perhaps attributing my choice to a more conscious intention to seize upon an event or instance that seems to somehow offer a way in to the data – perhaps an invitation to explore. From this opening point, then – following a more fine-grained analysis – a pathway (akin to a ‘line of flight’ (Deleuze and Guattari (1980, p. 1)) begins to emerge through the data, in a similar way to how Ringrose and Reynold (2014) describe their formation of ‘a research assemblage where we could follow particular analytic trails in the field’ (p. 7) from one particular starting point through other pieces of potentially related data.

Deleuze and Guattari’s (1980) concept of the rhizome as an ‘image of thought’ (p. 16) may be useful here in describing this ‘trail’ through my data. In providing a non-hierarchical connection between different strands of the data collected, the idea of a rhizomic relationship between elements of the data allows for an exploration of meanings to emerge through an examination of otherwise unexamined relationships. This potentially enables the consideration of the relationships between subjects and outcomes, in order to represent the ‘change, diversity and innovation that are part of literacy in use’ and to ‘bring to life the experience of performances as embodied, rapidly moving, affectively charged, evolving acts that often escape prediction and structure’ (Leander and Rowe, 2006, p.428) – particularly relevant to this complex, hybrid site of virtual play.

References

BOELLSTORFF, Tom, et al. (2012). Ethnography and virtual worlds: A handbook of method. Princeton University Press.

BRAUN, Virginia and CLARKE, Victoria (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3 (2), 77-101.

DELEUZE, Gilles and GUATTARI, Felix (1987). A thousand plateaus, Minneapolis.

LEANDER, Kevin M. and ROWE, Deborah Wells (2006). Mapping literacy spaces in motion: A rhizomatic analysis of a classroom literacy performance. Reading research quarterly, 41 (4), 428-460.

MACLURE, Maggie (2013). The wonder of data. Cultural studies↔ critical methodologies, 13 (4), 228-232.

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