focus group

In this episode, we talk with Alejandro Baer, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota.

In this study, Alejandro and his colleagues sought to understand the specific discourse around anti-semitic sentiments amongst different cultural groups in Spain. To study this difficult to measure construct, the researchers created homogenous discussion groups of 7 to 9 people, led by a trained moderator. Participants were of similar demographics, leading to a ‘group discourse mode’ that revealed the structures of meaning different groups use to discuss their views on minority groups.

“When you design your groups, they have to be internally homogenous and externally heterogeneous. All of the individuals of one group share certain similarities in terms of age, political orientation, or of religious origin. You cannot put together left wing activists with conservative religious individuals of a totally different age. That’s not the idea. We want to capture the discourse they will share, not what makes them different.
– Alejandro Baer – 

In this episode we are joined by Matthew Hughey. Matthew is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of number books including the White Savior Film: Content, Critics and Consumption, The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama, and White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race. Matt joins us to discuss his multi-methods approach to studying film, film criticism, and film consumption.

“I’m a methodologically promiscuous sociologist, so I dabble with different methodologies depending what types of questions I ask.  So for example, If I wanted to know something about the ways that audience members develop, nurture, and deconstruct—in their everyday lived experiences—a film genre such as this, it would call for a kind of ethnographic strategy in which I would need to embed myself with a community of avid film goers.  That type of immersion would be necessary to gain a sociologically informed view of what really figure out the relationship between people lived experiences and their cinematic evaluations.  But since I was interested in a different question—notably, what kinds of demographic and interactive setting influenced how audiences make meaning of just a handful of these films, then interviews and comparisons between focus groups fit the bill for my question.”
– Matthew W. Hughey –

In this episode, we talk to Audrey Kobayashi about focus groups.  We draw upon her work on transnationalism, citizenship and social cohesion to discuss the power of the underutilized method, distinguish between group interviews and focus groups, and share practical tricks of the trade.

“The focus group is not a place to get a collection of information about individuals. It is about the dynamic, the process, the conversation. It is never about what any one person says.”
Audrey Kobayashi –

In this episode we speak to Francesca Polletta. Francesca is a professor of sociology at the University of California Irvine. She is the author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics and Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements. Francesca has also authored many peer-review articles on social movements, democracy, and culture. Francesca joins us to discuss coding stories from online forums as a way of studying public deliberation.

“We really struggled with figuring out how to be flexible enough to capture what people what people do when they are actually telling stories, which is not to hue strictly to the formal criteria of formal storytelling. While, at the same time, not losing what makes stories interesting, which is that we know when we hear a story in conversation.”
– Francesca Polletta –