ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Mixing Surveys and Focused Ethnography within a Social Experiment: the Case of Construction of Space

Cornelia Thierbach, Nina Baur

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 4 - Law Building, Room 106
Date: 2012-07-11 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-11-24


The paper discusses how focused ethnography and survey research can be mixed within a social experiment and in doing so complement each other in order to grasp social practices. The data we use to illustrate this issue stem from a German study on the quality of maps. The aim of this study was to analyze social practices of orientation and space construction. In order to analyze this, the research team used a three-step methodology: (1) Geodesists developed maps for several paths through a Berlin university building from the ground floor (starting point) to the rooftop (destination). (2) Between 2009 and 2011, a social experiment was set up during three social events that drew lots of visitors. Volunteers first answered a questionnaire and then participated in a race from the starting point to the destination, using a randomly assigned map and a randomly assigned route (factorial design without control group). At the destination, respondents answered another set of survey questions and evaluated the maps. (3) Along the selected routes, members of the research team conducted focused ethnography in order to observe interaction between respondents and other respondents, other people, the map and the built environment.