The ”Go-Along” Method

Definition


The “Go-Along” is a technique of data collection in which the researcher moves alongside informants to collect information[1] . It involves participating in movement while conducting research, and is the notion of “following the people” as part of multi-sited ethnography[2] . The Go-Along method is a hybrid between participant observation and qualitative interviewing. Similar to participant observation, it involves spending time “hanging out” with key informants[3] . It is also a systematic, outcome-focused manner of collecting information, similar to qualitative interviews. Go-Alongs are essentially social interactions positioned in larger fieldwork relationships[4] . Technological aids such as maps, GIS, and GPS may also be employed to facilitate data collection while moving in the field with informants. Go-Alongs are operationalized while conducting other qualitative methods such as interviews, focus groups, and other forms of data collection while on the move in physical, social, and metaphoric spaces[5] .


Relevant Characteristics


Go-Alongs…
1. Are person-centered; they are designed to understand the human experience and social action[6] .
2. Are interactive; they depend on personal relationships and seek to understand objects, structures and environments solely as they become a part of the human experience.
3. Are dataset-driven and generally require a systematic sampling of informants; they should then be followed-up with a research activity (participant observation, interviewing, free listing, etc.)[7] .
4. Also capture a metaphoric understanding of mobility: they capture phenomena that transcend the mechanics of human bodies in physical environments and may delve into social environments such as memories, virtual spaces, etc.


“Method Made Easy”


1. Trail or Shadow Alongside the Informant: Trails are often performed by mobile researchers, and are defined as naturally going along with the informant, and asking questions about their context[8]
  • Researchers can trail (follow, walk along with, shadow) informants in different environments, such as the grocery store, work ,or school.
  • Researchers can ask questions about what the space means to informants and jot down quick field notes during or shortly after the interview.
  • The purpose here may be to examine mobile activities that existed before researchers entered the space and that will continue on after researchers depart.
  • Other trailings or shadowings include[9] :
    • Walking the dog with an informant.
    • Shopping for food together.
    • Seeking sociability and entertainment.
    • Having the informant give the researcher tours of spaces (physical and metaphoric) that are important to them.
2. “Ride-Along” with the Informant: Interviews can also be performed while on the move in cars, buses, and other automobiles[10] .
  • Use a tape recording device while driving or riding along with an informant (who may be more comfortable in this sort of setting).
  • While asking interview questions in mobility, add new mapping technologies (such as GIS and GPS) that also describe the space in which the interview is conducted as it matters to the informant[11] .
  • Voice recorders can be used.
  • Cameras can be employed to capture information while in transit.
  • Use a video camera to record the interview in conjunction with spatial visuals[12] .


Advantages


1. Go-Alongs have the ability to establish rapport between the researcher and informants who may be difficult to recruit otherwise. Meeting with the informant in her space and going along with someone produces a social connection resulting from sharing space, experience and time together[13] .
2. They provide a lens to otherwise unnoticed dimensions and patterns of personal and social life[14] .
3. Go-Alongs provide interviewers more time to contrive better questions and follow-ups with informants and it gives ethnographers access to mundane parts of daily life which may not be observed.


Limitations


1. Informants must display some degree of environmental engagement[15] .
2. Informants’ engagement with the environment must allow for third party observation and for conversation and reflection.
3. Practical circumstances such as weather conditions, physical access, and physiological capabilities may limit informants and researchers in their ability to engage in Go-Alongs.
4. Researchers and informants must have a positive connection, indicating that a level of rapport must be established between the two (or more).


Analysis


1. Go-Alongs provide new analytical orientations to understand important social and material phenomena as they happen in time, place, and physical and metaphoric spaces.
2. Depending on how mobility is applied to other forms of qualitative research (for example, focus group tours), transcripts can be analyzed in any sort of qualitative software package the researcher deems appropriate[16] .
3. Quantitative information may also be gathered in transit and performed in any quantitative software package. Findings may be analyzed by assessing patterns in responses, behaviors, terminology used, and types of environments traversed.
4. Geographic information can also be analyzed and matched from GPS and GIS and interwoven with textual information. Mapping combined with mobility provide a new analytical domain for researchers interested in exploring combining text and spatial information[17] .


References


  1. ^ 2003 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Street phenomenology: the go-a long as ethnographic research tool. In Ethnography, 4 (3), 455–485
  2. ^ 2003 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Street phenomenology: the go-a long as ethnographic research tool. In Ethnography, 4 (3), 455–485
  3. ^ 2003 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Street phenomenology: the go-a long as ethnographic research tool. In Ethnography, 4 (3), 455–485
  4. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education.Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  5. ^ 1995 Marcus, G.E. Ethnography in/of the world system: the emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 95–117
  6. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education.Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  7. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education.Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  8. ^ 2007 Czarniawska, B. Shadowing and Other Techniques for Doing Fieldwork in Modern Societies, Malmo, Sweden: Liber
  9. ^ 2003 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Street phenomenology: the go-a long as ethnographic research tool. In Ethnography, 4 (3), 455–485
  10. ^ 2003 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Street phenomenology: the go-a long as ethnographic research tool. In Ethnography, 4 (3), 455–485
  11. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education.Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  12. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education.<ref>2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education. Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  13. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education. Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  14. ^ 2005 DeLeon, J.P. and Cohen, J.H. Object and walking probes in ethnographic interviewing. In Field Methods, 17 (2), 200–204
  15. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education.
    Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  16. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education. Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264
  17. ^ 2012 Kusenbach, Margarethe. Go-Alongs. In Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education.
    Edited by Sara Delamont. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, United Kingdom: 252-264