Qualitative audience research frequently produces large amounts of unruly data.
For myself the process of beginning to make sense of or find routes through the unordered mass of material that interviews or participative workshops generate is a combination of an informed (arts subject specialist) consideration, a systematic coding and defining (utilising, for example, NVIVO or similar software) and also an intuitive process of visual mapping. I often find myself sitting on the floor with several A1 sheets of paper and different colour marker pens, post-it notes, scissors and reams of printed transcriptions constructing various mind maps and other graphic representations that both record and construct pathways through the material.
Typically my use of mind maps is part of my own processes of beginning to think with and through the material, using our visual ability to spot patterns, shapes and connections as a form of analysis. I suspect that a lot of researchers think visually in this fashion and I am interested in how the form of thinking impacts upon what is thought.
Click on the image to launch the interactive mind map.
With this mind map, however, I wanted to develop my use of visualisations beyond the important role they played within my analytical process and into the public domain.Produced as part of the Watching Dance project, this interactive mind map presents the various forms of ‘pleasures’ that we found spectators reporting to us in qualitative interviews. This mind map, therefore, presents a lot of information and discussion that is also available in published articles (for example Reason and Reynolds 2010, ‘Kinesthesia, Empathy and Related Pleasures 2010).
The interactive mind map, however, seems to me to contain an implicit invitation to browse, a bit like Wikipedia or any other hyperlinked document invites the user to follow the connections. It acknowledges the inevitable partiality of any singular, linear, written analysis. It is up to the user as to whether they gravitate towards or find interest in the fringes or in the heart of the tangle – with the user therefore making their own epistemological decision as to where interpretative interest should rest – while remembering that at a different moments on the mind map (for it is not a static document) the margin becomes the centrepoint (on clicking on sounds of movement for instance). Similarly the user is also free to be directly by curiosity, free to construct their own particular path.
A full discussion of the potential of mind maps in relation to qualitative data is published as a working paper on the University of Manchester Realities website.