Exploring Children’s ‘Needs’ in Cross-platform Media Environments: A Mixed Method Approach.

Authors: Woodfall, A.

Audience research with children is often fraught with methodological difficulties (see Alderson & Morrow, 2011). We are exposed to the potential awkwardness of a child’s voice being drowned out by those of parents, teachers or researchers. There are multiple language and conceptual barriers. There are difficulties in illuminating children’s own discourses, as well as there being problematic adult/child power dynamic issues in research interactions - whether that be through observation, questionnaire, focus group sessions, or potentially ‘intimidating’ interviews.

In adopting a mixed method approach that weaves together Q method and a creative visual ‘trigger’, this on-going PhD research project aims to highlight any differing subjectivities between children’s own opinions on media production and those of media producers themselves, with the findings hopefully informing future media production practice.

Agreeing with Gauntlett’s (2005, 2007) belief that visual approaches to research can offer ‘metaphorical’ insights that might be missed, or even inaccessible, during text based studies, children within this project were initially asked to sketch out their own ideas of what they wanted in an ‘ideal’ media production. They were then encouraged to verbally express what they considered to be the features of their ideal production that were most important to them. These opinions shaped the concourse from which Q sort was drawn.

Beyond the pleasure children seem to take from drawing and having their creativity and opinions valued, the participants in this study appeared to find the actual Q sort itself an enjoyable process. This participatory enjoyment, and the ‘interactivity’ of the mixed method design, perhaps offers a means of conducting research with children that circumvents some of the issues that can hamper research with children. Both the creative visual, and Q method approach, offer a (physical) conduit through which children’s opinions can be aired; in ways that help diminish the barriers inherent within much normative ‘face to face’ research.

Alderson, P. & Morrow, V., 2011. The Ethics of Research with Children and Young People: A Practical Handbook. 2nd Ed. London: Sage.

Gauntlett, D., 2005. Moving Experiences: Media Effects and Beyond. Eastleigh: John Libbey Publishing.

Gauntlett, D., 2007. Creative Explorations: New Approaches to Identities and Audiences. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.

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