Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Starting research: Loosing your way to finding it

I am writing this post to bring to the attention of all students who are keen on doing research on any topic in the domain of media and communication. The search usually begins with associating some personal observation or maybe simply browsing through a couple of books or research papers on your topic of interest. Mind you topic of research is is not the research problem or research question itself.

Sometimes you may want to simply test a theory, test its applicability and so a need to do research. Many a times I have been asked what is this need to study theory. I would say majorly for two reasons. One you need to understand the phenomenon so study a theory or second to study a phenomenon to theorize it. That is where research comes in, and the need to study theory and research together as subjects to understand how the world we live in operates, how we work? etc.

The most crucial part is getting down to your research problem or research question, which requires tremendous amount of reading. Research papers from journals, books, speaking to people to know that you haven't taken any ride which will lead to you to nowhere. Research question is most basic to a research topic. It is the guide or the map that will define your path of doing research.

As Zina O'leary clealry gives steps on forming a research question which sums it all:-

  • What is your topic?
  • What is the context for your research? community, school etc
  • What do you want to achieve? i.e to discover, to describe, to change, to explore, to explain, to develop, to understand...
  • What is the nature of your research question? i.e. a what? who, where, how, when or why question
  • Are there any potential relationships you want to explore? i.e impacts, increases, decreases, relationships, correlations, causes etc. (Researching Real-World Problems: A Guide to Methods of Inquiry)

You may not find direct reading material on your chosen topic but sometimes you may have to link different researches and theories to your current topic. So it may be overwhelming or a feel of getting lost in so much information, but you have to loose your way to find it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Virtual Relationships

I thought of penning this article down when I thought how different are electronic and real-time relationship building exercises. In fact the internet is the only medium which come closest to connecting, but not always. The smell, voice and the emotions that can be seen and felt when in person are absent online. TV though being electronic and audio visual does not connect, even though there can be a real-time communication. The future they say might be different, but not as of now.

So how can communication practitioners learn from this situation?  In a 1995 essay titled "Speed and Information: Cyberspace Alarm!", the architect and theorist Paul Virilio wrote:

"Cyberspace is a new form of perspective. It does not coincide with the audio-visual perspective which we already know. It is a fully new perspective, free of any previous reference: it is a tactile perspective. To see at a distance, to hear at a distance: that was the essence of the audio-visual perspective of old. But to reach at a distance, to feel at a distance, that amounts to shifting the perspective towards a domain it did not yet encompass: that of contact, of contact-at-a-distance: tele-contact."  Click to read more

For a communicator the challenge is tapping this online space, as it comes closest to real time offline relationships. To connect to some text being typed online with really no person to see. Conversations cannot be done through video, due to logistical issues. Video also comes along with its own limitations such as speed, buffering, broadband technicalities etc depending upon your location.

Engaging the audience and keeping a tab on grievances are two of the biggest works that online communicators have to manage from the client end. There is always that upset or happy customer. Have you experienced that tailor made responses that are sent to us when we call or chat with a customer help of any organisation. "Thank you for calling" or "happy to help" or "Our customer executive will get back to you shortly." etc. And you know it is that machine response which is structured and standard. Very superficial.

In short the challenge for practitioners who are into any form of communication, is always being more humane and less superficial where there is no face to see on either side and yet one has to communicate. Maybe future jobs will demand more communicators in grievances handling online as customers are only going to grow. More the merrier for a growing population.

This in turn may help in relationship building and long term relationship with customers. A theory we keep reading and hardly apply.

What do you think?