Tuesday, 29 July 2014

ISA Congress - Yokohama, Japan

The ISA Congress happens once every four years, which is probably why 6087 people visited Yokohama for the week-long event this month. I’d been to the BSA annual conference and thought that was a big event, but it was dwarfed by the ISA.

The ISA is organised into ‘research committees’ which further divide into small panels on specific themes. Research committees are a big thing at the ISA, which I didn’t really understand until I got there. Choosing what you want to attend is best done by locating the broader research committees of interest and then sifting through the numerous and various research projects that people are discussing in the different committee panels. I’m pretty sure that this was the only way to tackle the largest conference program I’ve ever seen (you can download the electronic book, but make some disk space because it’s 10MB and there aren’t even abstracts, which you can download separately if you can find a further 13MB).

The Pacifico Yokohama, right next to the 'second largest sky scraper in Japan'.
My main interests lay in the RC15 Sociology of Health, RC46 Clinical Sociology and RC05 Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations. There were various different presentation approaches, including traditional papers and the briefer and more intimate round table sessions that I was familiar with when presenting my paper at the BSA 2014. My contribution, which was a distributed paper handed out to attendees, was presented in the first of these research committees, at a panel called ‘Collaborative Governance and Healthy Public Policies’.

I was joined by Sam Burgum (Warwick) nd Alex Simpson (York)

I wanted briefly to mention just a few of the many papers I saw over the week of the conference. Here are some tweets and summaries:
Bethan Harries & Laia Becares - RC05 Articulations of Etnicity, Race and Nationhood)
Harries' qualitative research focused on place and how they are racialized? She called this a 'cartography of race in the city' and focused in on the idea of denying racism. Particularly, she talked about how some of her participants experienced what we’d term racism, yet denied that they had been the recipient of it. She raised an interesting question: were some participants possibly worried that they'd offend a white researcher by relaying their experiences of racism from white people. Becares, who spoke on the same paper, discussed the contraints of ‘measuring’ racism quantitatively by discussing her use of survey data. The feeling of being unsafe, an experience of verbal abuse or physical harassment that respondents thought had happened because of their ethnicity, religion or nationality were considered to be racist encounters. This obviously raised fundamental definitional questions not least of racism but also race. 

It's thanks to the power of Twitter, which was overdrive for the week of the conference, that various papers, panels and streams were advertised and live-tweeted.  

Saeid Yarmohammadi – RC46 Clinical Sociology
Focusing on Iran, Yarmohammadi’s paper explored the difficulties of implementing clinical sociology as a field of study in Iran and advocated its potential uses in the country. The paper presented research regarding the hegemonic position of other disciplines over Sociology - a 'dominance of other fields of science'. No Iranian sociologists or humanities scholars are included in international lists of influential academics. Along with this, Yarmohammadi discussed the role of ideology in Iranian government - with the prevalence of religion, sciences (including sociology) aren't given space to contribute to problem solving. The paper moved on to explore the difficulties of implementing clinical sociology in Iran, where the field is 'emergent' compared to its near century-long history in other countries such as the US. Siginificant overcoming of this obstacles would be needed for Iranian sociology (and clinical sociology) to have a more significant input in the future of the country.

Vanessa Blondet - RC46 Clinical Sociology
The paper analysed posters for public health issues such as breast screening and obesity. Blondet noted, for instance, that obesity campaigns focused on the urban middle class and not the working class neighbourhoods or underpriveleged suburbs. Why were rural and working classes excluded? The presumption was that they move around more, and yet there is a prevalence of higher risk practices and obesity in these very demographics. The paper used survey data to demonstrate how the messages embedded in these posters and their accompanying TV advertisements had indeed percolated into the population, but that very few who recalled them had actually implemented the advice. Of the method of trying to address an entire nation through one campaign, Blondet stated quite poignantly that 'by addressing everyone, it finally speaks to noone'.

It was brilliant to travel to Japan for the ISA. I met a number of people working in really engaging areas, and got an insight to the huge array of research going on just outside of my own remit of study. Of course, it was also an opportunity to meet up with old friends - I hadn't even realised Dharmi Kapadia and Gareth Thomas would be there. The Welcome and Farewell Parties were well-attended, and I bumped into lots of people who I'm more accustomed to seeing in the cloudy North of England.

Before the ISA Farewell party with Sam Burgum, Alex Simpson, John Holmwood and Gurminder Bhambra

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Visualising data, nodes, and themes in NVivo

After transcribing and coding a lot of interviews on NVivo 10, I ended up with a ton of 'nodes', which I think of quite simply as themes I've found in different pieces of texts from different sources. Linking them together means the nodes are a good place to start to gather material from different sources that point in the same direction. Quotes from individuals and segment from policy documents can be gathered together under them. 

But I ended up with a lot - and it remains to be see whether there were too many. But I did code all my data, and I doubt that all of these could be squeezed into my thesis. The question then became: how do I deal with all these nodes that are linked. So I borrowed my office mate Holly's book 'Qualitative Data Analysis with Nvivo' and went to the visualisation section which gives a brief run through of how to do a simple version of what I set out below.

This post demonstrates how I turned my nodes into a relational map.

That is, how I went from this:
 To this:

You'll need to have a few nodes - but you can also do this with sources, if you're trying to find less thematic links or map things out.


(1) On the left column, selectied the Models tab and right click in the large right hand field to set up a 'New Model'. The below textbox appears. Give it a name. I called mine 'Tester'.

(2) Next, you'll need to populate the large grid that appears when you open your new model. On the top menu bar, you should have the choice to 'Add Project Items' if you've activated the Model tab (as per the below picture). Select your nodes, or some sources. Or a mixture of a few. The purpose of this is to visualise the relationship between different things. This can be between different 'kinds' of items.

(3) Below is what appeared when I selected some items (files sourced from the parliamentary Hansard, some minutes from All Party Parliamentary groups, a PDF or two and a couple of nodes). You can see the different elements by the symbols appearing with the name on the item's shape. The little blue ball items are nodes. 

Although the shapes of different 'kinds' of items are different to begin with, you can change them as the next step explains.

Right-clicking the item will allow you to change its shape (double clicking it will also allow you to change the colour, which groups nodes in the model and, as per the rightmost field, allows you to 'hide' grouped items, but I've not shown this here).

Changing the shame of these items can be useful. I used circles for little nodes (perhaps a common idea, or an item people talked about a lot), diamonds for bigger issues, and rounded rectangles for big themes that I imagined would be 'hubs' for circles and diamonds.

(5) Now you can start to play around with relationships by drawing arrows between different nodes. By doing it in NVivo, the modeller allows the connection between different items to be moved about the page to follow the individual items as you drag their physical position on the page with your mouse:

Some of these relationships might move from one to the other, there might be symmetrical relationship, or it could be purely associative. The upper tool bar model tab accomodates for all of these, as the above image demonstrates.

Once you've spent a bit of time on this, you'll end up with a flat map that can help you to 'see' the relationships between what was just a list of different nodes or sources, as below:

Whilst the map is still 'messy' and full of information, what it has been able to do is allow me to think visually about the clustering of different ideas that I've been coming across over a period of weeks. It's helped me to think about the thesis outline, and how I can incorportate the various data (embedded in all of those nodes) physically into a document.