Ego-networks: examples from the field

The second wave of qualitative interviews focuses on ego-networks. We have decided to collect information in the traditional manner without using any dedicated software. There are several reasons behind it. Firstly, interviews are conducted on the field, which means that we may not have access to electricity, internet connections, and conditions to display the ego-network on the computer screen or tablet. Secondly, respondents vary in their digital skills. It might unexpectedly influence how many collaborators they would mark and how they connect them. Thirdly, available cloud solutions, although very portable, would leave beyond our control important information disclosing who our respondents are.

Therefore, we use the simple technique based on post-it cards, drawing pins, rubber bands, and cork pin-boards. We also experimented with pencils and paper; however, it was messy, and respondents were discouraged with hands covered in colourful ink. It even looked like they were trying to hide it after realising they were dirty.

During the second attempt, we used post-it cards, drawing pins, rubber bands and cork pin-boards. We let respondents to pin all the names and relations. However, one needs some skills and experience to do it dexterously (e.g. know how flexible the rubber bands are), and it took too much time.  We came to the conclusion that it would be the most efficient to leave it to interviewers.

Eventually it is the interviewer who is responsible for managing cards, drawing pins, and rubber bands on the board with the instructions from respondents, although the general idea behind the corkboard often catches quickly and interviewees tend to actively help with proper reflection of their collaboration network. Such networks also facilitate the talk and allow us to obtain additional qualitative information.

Two examples of ego-networks reconstructed during the interviews below (egos are in the middle; names of collaborators are hidden):

PhD in social science
PhD in social science
Habilitated doctor in the humanities
Habilitated doctor in the humanities

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