Group-based Dialogic Introspection and its Use in Qualitative Media Research
Gerhard Kleining & Thomas Burkart
The method of dialogic introspection has been developed at the University of Hamburg to overcome some of the problems of classical introspection. It has been applied to different topics and with methodological variations since 1996. There have been some publications both in German (Hamburger Tagung, 1999) and English (Kleining & Witt, 2000, 2001).
The main advantage of the method is its access to psychic processes in a methodologically controlled way. Existing methods on media reception, quantitative but also qualitative, leave a blank spot at the area in which the effect actually occurs - the mind of the person exposed to media. Examples of qualitative approaches with this deficit are Jensen (1991) on qualitative Reception Analysis, Lindlof (1995) on qualitative research methods in communication research, Bromley et al. (1999, 281-363) and Real (1989) on Cultural Studies' research. In this paper we show how introspection can be used to study reception - or the effect - of mass media. It is an example for the application of the method of dialogic introspection in qualitative media research.
The method itself is based on a methodology which we call qualitative-heuristic, a search-and-find procedure of exploration aiming at discovery, which also has been developed in Hamburg and which is our basic research approach.
The paper will present 1. a note on the relevance of the approaches suggested here, 2. a short description of the heuristic methodology, 3. a description of the method of dialogic introspection, 4. examples of a qualitative investigation of film and television communication using this method including an evaluation of the method and 5. a remark on qualitative methodology.
1. The Relevance of a Heuristic Approach for Qualitative Psychology
A heuristic methodology designed to assist scientific discoveries orients itself at explorative activities in general and the history of heuristics as a philosophical and empirical discipline (Kleining, 1995, 327-354). Its legitimation is based on gaining scientific knowledge. Discoveries achieved by the natural sciences have been most prominent during the past centuries and the ways in which they were reached is of particular interest to the researcher in psychology and the social sciences. In psychology itself there are a number of historical studies which can be regarded as land-marks in the field. Their research procedures - whether formulated or not - qualify them as a topic of study (Kleining & Witt 2001, para. 11-22). To name a few under the aspect of discoveries: the Würzburg cognitive psychology, Gestalt psychology, Piaget's developmental psychology, Freudian psychoanalysis; in sociology American pragmatism and the reality concept of the Chicago school, as formulated by Blumer (1969). There is some relationship of our methodology to Glaser & Strauss' early work (1967) particularly regarding the attempt to "discovery".
A heuristic research methodology is clearly different from hypothesis-deductionism and reductionism of data as well as all forms of interpretative additions which were discussed in sociology recently. Subjectivism associated with these procedures may be one of the causes for what Denzin & Lincoln call the "blurred genres" and "double crisis" of present (American) qualitative research (1994, 9, 10) said to occur in a "discourse of poststructuralism and postmodernism" (10).
Though there seem to be rather general procedures which can be condensed into a search-and-find methodology, the methodsused in each research project will have to be adjusted to the particular topics in question. Dialogic introspection is a new technique which combines classical individual introspection with groups. It is particularly suitable to study mental processes which can or could be recalled and thus regains a field of research which has not been studied thoroughly since long owing to attacks from "objective" psychology (Bro_ek & Diamond, 1976, 93-100) and behaviorism (Watson, 1913).
2. The Qualitative-heuristic Methodology
Our basic methodology is heuristic. In everyday life we interact with our environment and ourselves, both confirming and changing our outer and inner worlds. Interaction relies on our sense organs but also on physical, verbal and mental activities and results in our orientation and behavior in ever changing situations. The heuristic side of interaction is the basis of the heuristic methodology.
The methodology uses four basic rules which refer to the situation of the researcher, the topic of the research, of data collection and data analysis. In short the rules are:
Rule 1: "The researcher should be open to new concepts and change his/her preconceptions if the data are not in agreement with them". Label: Openness of the researcher.
Rule 2: "The topic of research is preliminary and may change during the research process." It is only fully known after being successfully explored. Label: Openness of the research topic.
Rule 3: "Data should be collected under the paradigm of maximum structural variation of perspectives". There should be as many different points of view as possible. Label: Maximum structural variation of perspectives.
Rule 4: "The analysis directs itself toward discovery of similarities". It tries to discover accordance, analogies, correspondence, regularities or homologies within these most varied sets of data to find structure or patterns. Label: Discovery of similarities.
The research process itself is performed as a mental dialogue between the research person and the topic of research respectively the data, it is transformed into a dialogic (or dialectic) process of question and answer and new question based on the answer etc. until all data are structurally incorporated. Analysis is a constant search to discover the pattern of the data. It is similar to Fenichel's description:
"Freud once compared psychoanalysis with a jig-saw puzzle ("Zusammenlegbilder der Kinder", 1896, 441-442), in which the aim is to construct, out of the fragments of a picture, a complex picture. There is but one correct solution. So long as it is not discovered, one can perhaps recognize isolated bits of pictures, but there is no coherent whole. If the correct solution is found, there can be no doubt as to its validity for each fragment fits, beyond question, into the general whole." (Fenichel, 1935, 329).
This is a good metaphor with the exception that the "fragments" are not fixed elements but flexible and changing which makes a scientific discovery the more complex and difficult. The researcher will assume which part may be related to which other part. This reflects Schleiermacher's suggestion to combine the "divinatorische Methode" (to divine a relation on a subjective basis) with the "comparative method" (to achieve generalization) (1838,169) as a psychological technique. But the success of discovery also will depend on the flexibility of the researcher and his or her readiness to abandon preconceptions. Mach describes the psychological process of discovery as the "adaption of thoughts to the facts and thoughts to each other" (1905, 164). Einstein & Infeld compare the activity of a scientist to that of a detective. If he [the scientist] ... wants to reach at least a partial solution he has to collect the existing disordered facts, integrate them into a coherent whole and make them understandable through a creative thought" (1938, 16, translated from German).
Explorative research is neither linear nor deductive but circular, searching, trying, assuming, testing, arranging and re-arranging. It is not restricted to a set of fixed assumptions nor to given data but interacts within an open environment in which all sorts of facts and information might be related to the topic to be studied (Witt, 2001).
Methods which can be heuristically applied are transformed from everyday techniques. All are variations of observation and experiment emphasizing a more receptiveand a more active behavior within the interactive research process. The experiment is not only a quantitative technique but also has a history as the "qualitative experiment" particularly in psychology and as mental experiments in theoretical physics (Kleining, 1986).
For further information on the methodology and examples of its application in German see Kleining, 1994, 1995, 1999; in English Kleining, 2001; Kleining & Witt, 2000, 2001).
3. The Method of Dialogic Introspection
A historical remark. Introspection has been the dominant method of psychology after its establishment as a separate scientific discipline at the end of the nineteenth century. It was repressed by Behaviorism in the early decades of the twentieth century under the reproach of subjectivism, leaving a terra incognita at the area which once was regarded as the particular terrain of psychology. The removal of introspection from the discourse of mainstream academic teaching and research did not affect various fields of applied psychology, particularly psychoanalysis and analytically oriented psychotherapy. Everyday introspection continues to be a survival technique - imagine a person who is unable to learn about his/her inner life, his/her emotions or past experiences! A conference on introspection in Hamburg (1999), initiated to bring back academic scientific interest in the method showed that many different branches of "qualitative" psychology actually use introspection in one way or another. Re-establishing the method has to acknowledge today's requirements concerning methodologies and methods in general. The suggestion of the Hamburg research group is what we call "dialogic introspection".
Definition. We use the term "introspection" to cover all forms of mental activities concerned with the self as the topic of the research. Introspection may have a more active ("experimenting") or more receptive ("observing") character. Examples of the former are the thinking experiments of the Würzburg School (Marbe, 1901; Bühler, 1907; see also Ziche, 1999) and Gestalt psychologists (Duncker, 1935; Wertheimer, 1956), examples of the latter is "selfexperiencing" ("innere Wahrnehmung") on which Brentano (1874, 40) insisted in contrast to Wundt's rejection of "pure observation" (1896, 28) and his critique of "self-observation" ("Selbstbeobachtung") (1888) which would have to be performed under experimental conditions (1896, 27).
The everyday basis of introspection.As other methods of qualitative research, introspection is a commonly used technique. People reflect upon their feelings and experiences, e.g. when writing a diary. They also tell other people about their inner world, discuss similar or different experiences. The method of dialogic introspection tries to overcome the personal opinions and evaluations, the unsystematic and selective presentation and one-sided views and arguments which are common in everyday introspection and particularly in the expression of feelings toward other people.
Application of the heuristic methodology. In all phases of the research the "rules" mentioned above have been the methodological guideline. An example is the selection of the topic. Rule 3 requires a variation of all aspects which might influence the outcome of the research. Topic certainly is one. Exploring the method of introspection therefore varies introspective topics: experiencing an unexpected irritation (Kleining & Witt, 2001, paragraphs 45-64), solving a practical problem, acting in a playful competition, experiencing a strong emotion, everyday anger and - again a different content - experiencing space in a public building (a railroad station). In this paper we are concerned with the role which introspection could play in studies on mass media reception, which is still another aspect of introspective research.
The introspective theme is "Erleben" ("experience") or the "inner world". All topics, which can be experienced are possible themes for introspective research. Emphasis is on a wide range of mental and emotional actions and reactions, phantasies, believes, assumptions, associations, present and past. Both, introspective and retrospective techniques, can be applied.
The research process and the use of groups. The prominent difference between classical introspection and dialogic introspection is the use of groups. In our introspective groups 4-9 research people participated, all psychologists and social scientists. After a general instruction the stimulus was presented and participants were attentive to their feelings, thoughts and sentiments. They could take notes during and after the presentation - approx. five minutes but not under time pressure. Then they presented their experience to the group, the first person volunteering, others following clockwise. There may have been a second round. The presentations were tape-recorded and later analyzed.
Depending on the subject, participants could also introspect individually at other places but they always came together to present their experiences in the group and listen to the reports of other group members.
Combining dialogues with self and others. Dialogic introspection in a group encourages mental activities within the individual and toward other participants. It creates more detailed and more authentic experiences:
Control of unwanted group processes.Group dynamics may interfere with individual introspection and presentation of the experience. Therefore introspection groups have to be carefully controlled. Means are the following:
Introspective groups are an assembly of individuals. They differ from small groups, formed to study group dynamics, focus groups with discussion of topics among the participants, experimental groups established for a particular purpose, e. g. to solve a task combining their abilities, self help groups,therapeutic groups etc. All those groups form, use or study intragroup-relations. Introspective groups, on the contrary, favor the individual. The group should help to explore his or her inner world, stimulate, ease and widen the possibility of intro- and retrospection. Introspection groups should be seen as a collection of individuals rather than a "group" with a body of its own.
Systematized and variate documentation.Inner and transitory experiences have to be transformed into documents. There are several possibilities which are also used in everyday introspection:
Verbalization and expression in writing of course depends on the individual's ability to express himself of herself; non verbal communication might be of special importance for children, therapeutic patients and for expressing those emotional conditions which are difficult to describe in a differentiated way. Any recording needs agreement of those concerned.
As transformation of inner processes into documents may result in an incomplete or one-sided presentation of the actual experience we suggest to document experiences in different forms - e. g. writing texts, reading and presenting them, freely speaking about one's own experience, using gestures - corresponding to rule three of the heuristic methodology concerning variation of perspectives but in line with the possibilities and requirements of the investigation.
Separation of data production and analysis. Everyday introspection tends to mix observation, evaluation and interpretation. To avoid blending, the method separates data production and data analysis. Analysis always is based on written documentation: in some cases the notes of participants and - always - the transcription of the tape recorded presentation in the group.
Basic methods are observation and experiment. Introspection is not a method per se but as experiencing the inner world (e. g. emotions) and actively dealing with it (e. g. to recall a name, to solve a problem) is related to receptive and active behavioral modes of everyday life. Systematic dialogic introspection in this respect is not different from observational and experimental methods. The particularity of introspection is that observer and the observed, experimenting person and object of experimentation, in general: the subject and object are the same person. Confusion may arise if this is taken as dealing with identities - which is not the case since different functions of mental activities or different perspectives within the mind are concerned.
4. Research on Media Reception - the Overall Design
The following is an example of the application of the method. The research work has been done within the workshop of introspection research 1998-2000. Participants were Thomas Burkart, Otmar Hagemann, Gerhard Kleining, Elisabeth Krieg, Friedrich Krotz, Peter M. Mayer, Heinz Schramm, Hartmut Schulze, David Ulrich, Monika Wilhelm, Harald Witt.
Research papers are available (Schulze, 1998; Burkart, Kleining, Mayer, Wilhelm & Witt, 2000).
We started with the assumption - or hope - that studying media reception would help us to explore the possibilities of the introspective method. Introspection was our theme, not media research. There was no hypothesis which could qualify in a hypothesis-deductive sense and there were no conflicting theories which we wanted to test. In fact all of us, except one person, knew very little about modern receptive theories in media research. There was just the concept - which one could call a pre-conception or even a prejudice - that we could learn something more about introspection if we confronted a viewer, actually ourselves as viewer or receptors, with a film, video or TV sequence. These stimuli seemed to be more "objective" than the stimuli we had used earlier e. g. the ringing of an alarm clock or our own emotions and life experiences. We were informed however that introspection was quite uncommon or even unknown in media research. Therefore the method seemed promising.
Exploratory research develops out of data, not deductively following a preconceived plan. It was clear that a test of the procedure and maybe its alteration should be the beginning. It became research # 1. Two participants suggested to test experimental films to which they had access and without much discussion all agreed (researches # 2 and 3, an example of "oneness" requested by rule 1 of the qualitative-heuristic methodology). As both films, though very different from each other in form and content, turned out to be not easy to understand, we wanted to test a different and "easy to understand" topic which we assumed the daily TV news cast would offer (research # 4). Following rule tree of the methodology we accepted the "opposite" of news relevance testing a TV news cast 20 years old (research # 5). Another alternative seemed to be a "daily soap" cast which is a longer sequence with episodes dealing with everyday problems of a certain target group and still another the home page of this TV cast - thus changing our topic from reception of a given stimulus to virtual reality. The different topics reflect the intention to cover variations of mass media communication (rule 3). We will continue by enlarging the samples and design new approaches depending on the analysis of the previous and the open questions which will arise from the analysis.
For an analysis protocols from five to ten participants were considered sufficient for this kind of research which sometimes can not be reached during the first session due to external circumstances. The analysis was done by members of the introspective workshop, all trained in qualitative-heuristic methodology, saying that they found the transcripts of their own reports among the others which did cause some amazement for a spontaneous speaker after the lapse of some time. In this case the analysts were Thomas Burkart, Gerhard Kleining and Hartmut Schulze.
Doing the research and previously analyzing it - always looking at similarities according to rule four of the methodology - we learned that introspection gave information on the actual process of media reception. It turned out not to be "receptive" but rather an "interactive" process. It brought us at a level of abstraction where we could compare findings with existing theories which we now studied to compare them with our findings. Concerned were not only media "reception" theories but also empirical and theoretical fields dealing with interaction of individuals in their environment in general, with orientation and identity formation, symbolization and transformation, recall and learning - rather "grand theories" and not restricted to a particular effect-non effect-registration of impact. The original topic was still the same - the method of introspection - but its representation changed from the narrowly defined topic of reaction to a certain media message to the operation of the psyche in general in respect to itself and its environment. Openess to accept this change is a requirement of rule one and two of the heuristic methodology on openess of the researcher and the research topic.
The following will present the steps of the research more in detail. We will concentrate on # 1-5, topics 6 and 7 will be discussed at a later occasion.
4.1 Pretest on Method
The first investigation (# 1) should test the overall approach. Participants should watch the first three topics of a television newscast and record their thoughts and feelings as early as possible, also trying "loud thinking".
Results: (a) "Loud thinking" could not easily follow the quick sequence of the takes. It became obvious that transformation of feelings into words and sounds needed some time - trained sport reporters on radio might have been better at performing this task of a very rapid speech. Under time pressure, "loud thinking" produced expressions of emotions and exclamations of short words and sounds (similar to reactions to fans in an soccer-stadium, which may be called the "soccer-stadium effect") also leaving unpleasant feelings with viewers not being able to express their emotions fully. The cast did not only arouse emotions but also repressed them. (b) The same was true for writing notes but at a less degree. (c) More time was available at the end of the cast when whole sentences could be formulated but there were still the problems of transformation of quick emotions into slow writing, the fading of emotional impact and a fragmentary recall and formulation compared to the original experience.
We concluded that individuals should combine documentation of immediate reactions with a more detailed description without time pressure and use a group to stimulate their own recall of which they might have repressed or forgotten:
Analyzing the reactions it became clear that the process of documentation involved several changes of the experience:
Seen from the outside, the documentation looses spontaneity, directness and richness of experience but seen from the individual researcher there is a broadening of his or her experience as it is reflected in different modes: a recall of the experience, documentation in catchwords, private notes, verbal presentation and the reaction to the presentation of group members.
4.2 Pretest on the Use of the Group
The next research (# 2) should test and develop the method: showing the stimulus in the group, silent recording of introspection individually, presenting the data immediately after it. This would get the recording closer to the actual experience. The film was a cartoon‑-like abstract movement of lines and forms of 11 seconds, a fragment.
The instruction was: "Be attentive to what happens inside you when watching the video. These impressions will be documented in writing after it." Participants were told about the lengths of the film.
Results concerning the method: (a) The collective image was regarded as more realistic than were individual perspectives. (b) The individual experience becomes clearer, not more blurred. (c) The proper introspection is not destroyed but becomes more precise and complete. (d) Individual introspection achieves more contour as part of a whole. (e) Participants can clearly decide whether reports of other members differ from their own experience or not. (f) Problematic might be the "half-public" setting ("Halböffentlichkeit", Schulze, 1998) of the group between "private" and "public" . Data from earlier research showed that some topics of the private notes were not presented to the group, indicating that an atmosphere of confidence, non-hierarchical group structure and trust to keep private information private is very important for this kind of research.
Results concerning content. (a) "Nothing" could be identified within the film sequence, causing irritation, frustration and disappointment. (b) The background of the evaluation of the film was a certain expectation which it did not fulfil. (c) Searching for meaning - or coping processes - immediately started, leading to a rejection of the film and regarding the self as responsible for not understanding or production of meaning - all with the function to reduce frustration and handle an open emotional problem.
4.3 Examples of Introspection Data
Introspection # 3 followed the scheme tested earlier: individual (or group) introspection of several participants, if possible quick notes, longer description of feelings, verbal presentation within the group, tape recorded and transcribed.
The kind of data produced by this method is presented in the following excerpts. The topic was a daily television newscast, the prominent news was a report on an airplane crash hours before.
The protocols presented here are parts of the introspective reports from three participants in the group session referring to this event, translated from German by the authors.
(Protocol A) "I started immediately writing down what ever came to my mind. The first thing was a picture of a - somehow - Bermuda triangle with a little x in it for the missing airplane and I thought this looks like a treasure-map and then I had the feeling that this was minimized somehow, I felt kind of an ambivalence - on the one side they emphasized that there were only Egyptians aboard the plane and no Germans and then I thought - well, well - and then they make such a tremendous search by the US marine force, somehow this doesn't fit together, if they devaluate that they were only Egyptians and then I thought why would it be that they suspect a terror-attack - why do they get this idea that it might have been one? Only because Egypt is situated some place in the Near East and they throw everything into one pot. And then I also noticed that they talk about the seriousness of the airline Egypt Air in a way as if they would have to emphasize particularly that this actually is a serious air line and then I think that they somehow assume that someone might regard the airline as irresponsible and kind of junk and then they show scenes in Cairo where they were lamenting about the bad organization, that the Egyptians do not handle this correctly, that they do not deal with the relatives in a right way and again and again they assert security. And somehow they had pictures of this airline which really looked shabby and somehow of deteriorated buildings and the flag also was completely ragged ..."
(Protocol B) "The first impression was that it is a catastrophe and that I knew it already because I have heard it on the radio and that there is no more hope and that they found corpses and that everything should fly to Cairo and that there were no Germans, but that for the others there is no more hope and that it is a catastrophe. Then I looked at the speaker, whom I did not know, I noticed that he had a very nice hairdo - well, a good make up - then I learned that Boeing is a reliable air-company or has reliable airplanes and has maintained that everything was in order but there also was something about terror. Looking back, I could not verify if a terror attack was seen as possible or excluded. At any rate it is a mystery how everything happened and there are pieces floating around and in Cairo the state of emergency is announced - as a precaution announced - and a center will be established to console the victims or rather the bereaved and there are breakdowns which also are shown and there is a funeral service and a press conference where they say that Egypt Air has a good reputation and crashed 23 years ago."
(Protocol C) "Well, despite this task I noticed that for me it is routine to watch this newscast, this was nothing special. I had a piece of paper and took notes but nothing occurred to me and also regarding this report about the crash of the Egypt Air flight I observed that maybe I should feel pathetic about it but I did not succeed at all and I only could gain a certain amount of boring disinterest despite having to look at it. What I then noticed was this remark that, of course, there was no German aboard, the news mentioned this matter quite strongly anyhow, that Germans had no part in it and there was a lot of talking, a lot of things presented, but actually it was not interesting to me. And I noticed that this always happens to me if I watch this newscast, that routine emerges, maybe it should be shoking but was simply covered with this habitual boredom which I associate with it. Finally I found at the end that this news maybe encourages me not wanting to fly, well I don't have a tremendous fear of flying but I also have not been on a flight yet."
(Later in the protocol): " I would like to add something. I have been thinking about this report on the Egypt Air. There has been a continuous reporting during the last weeks. And despite this tragic event - somehow 270 people died - this in a way or other had something of an anecdote, which I realized somehow but what, as mentioned, had nothing to do with everyday experience, nothing concerning myself and I did not talk about it with other people or was tremendously interested, it was such an everyday blah-blah, such a background noise which one hears every day."
The method creates complex and detailed reports about feelings, ideas, reflections and associations during and after introspection. Obvious is a peculiarity of form: it tends to be a sequence of small pieces of information not much related to each other ("then ... and then ..." ) though the cast was better organized than selective reception. Verbal coherence would be stronger in narratives, e. g. TAT stories or narrative interviews, but weaker in emotional exclamations or free associations. Formally these reflections are placed between the level of verbalization of private (psychic) feelings and that of grammatically correct, well formulated sequences of sentences forming a story in a socially acceptable form.
4.4 The Art Film Research
Test object of research # 3 was a film of approx. 10 minutes length, the plot after a mystery story by the English author R. Middleton. The film is open to interpretation. Its content, according to the stage director, is:
"A tramp is on his way somewhere, meets another tramp. Walking the same route, they decide to walk together. Something must be wrong with the companion! After a short while the companion suddenly collapses ... and dies. The tramp continues alone until he sees the deceased leaning against a tree. Both continue their trip together without words and seemingly without a destination ... "
Introspection was done within the group, the research design and instruction corresponding to research # 2. Reports were tape recorded and transcribed.
Summary of results (more detailed in Burkart et al., 2000):
(a) Trying to find relations or the quest for meaning. All participants are concerned with the meaning of the film. Respondents ask themselves exploring questions: what was the effect of the film, how was it produced, what did it communicate? One person felt like laying in an ambush to find out what it means. Others are glad if they got the point, "made sense out of it". There are attempts to connect the film with personal experiences (as child, death of the mother, other films which have been seen, hobby filming) or known categories (art film, idealization of a plot). What cannot be reconstructed is rejected as strange and difficult to understand.
"Thinking about it, I tried to understand the meaning of the film. This was very difficult for me. I was constantly going around and around, what actually would be the message of the film? I went back from my contemplation which did not bring me further, back to the pictures of the film ... Maybe the author had a relationship with the actor, maybe they are friends. And the darkness in the film, whether this also had a meaning, whether this is a better alter ego ... I could not make any sense of it."
(b) Mental dialogues are used for exploration.They combine active and receptive modes and transformations.
"The music became very irritating, shrill, too loud. Then I asked myself who is it really, who is shown here? I wanted to find the meaning of this leading figure, the leading actor ... Then I observed that the leading actor has too long hair and that this is not fitting for the Fifties. And then I comprehended, he is supposed to represent a vagabond, a tramp. But this is not real life but role playing and show."
The report starts from the experience of an unpleasant musical impression (receptive), transforms the attitude into an (active) question about the person's identity, transforms him from a "figure" into an "actor" (active) with wrong hairdo proving his "role playing and show" - the transformation seems to be acceptable (receptive) and might also explain the impact of the music as unprofessional (would also be receptive).
(c) Discovery of meaning (summary):
(d) Three reception styles. We call them "involved", "detached" and "disinterested or bored". They roughly correspond to protocols A, B and C above. The styles present the predominant mode of mental interaction of a viewer with a certain communication form and content at a given moment.
" The pictures were a little confusing at the beginning because I thought it is summer, judged from the light. But then there was a leafless tree. This I didn't comprehend. Also the words I did not understand, which they exchanged. At the same time I noticed that it is not so important to understand the words but rather the feeling. And this was sympathetic. And then I thought: it is in harmony, they leave together."
Another person described the process as: "You will be addressed, you accept and are involved". The risk of involvement is that the film may bring strong emotions to the surface - in our group the death of a respondent's relative and the situation in a concentration camp. Protocol A is a good example of involvement which doesn't have to be positive but shows strong interaction between viewer and film.
"Well, the first impression was, that it is an art film. Yes. And that it is black and white and that it has music and that the music is very loud. And that I was somewhat disturbed. The sound was too loud for me." " I recall my own amateurish Super-8 experiments. We also filmed anything possible...". To legitimize emotional distance parts of the film are criticized: music too loud, too aggressive, unrealistic presentation, unpleasant associations, moral advise to the viewer, manipulation of him. Strategies of detachment are devaluation of the film, making fun of it, observing (constructing) contradictions between reality and film. That detachment is not equal to negative evaluation can be seen in protocol B above.
The respondent describes himself as a routine viewer, regarded the crash report as disinteresting and boring. However, thinking about it later, he discovered that the reason for his disinterest was lacking relationship to his private life and world.
4.5 Summary of Findings - a Preliminary View
1. Basis to establish a relationship between audiences and a communication "product" - a newscast, a film - is the mental interaction or the mental dialogue between a person and the product.
2. Interaction or dialogue are techniques of viewers to explore the possibility and their kind of relationship toward the product.
3. Meaning attributed to the product identifies its position of the audience in the social environment which serves as a background or a frame of reference.
4. Lifeworld research of actual or prospective audiences must be considered an important part of media research.
"Ground" (versus "figure") is the term used in perception psychology, "frame" by Goffman (1974). We prefer the concept "lifeworld" which has a philosophical tradition as it was elaborated by Husserl in his phenomenology and is part of later developments in this tradition. In empirical research lifeworld as a complex unit integrating socioeconomic, psychic, social and cultural condition of a person or social group. For empirical lifeworld classification see Krotz (1990); Kleining & Prester (1999).
5. Three interactive styles represent different forms of the dialogic processes. The interaction (or receptive) style is dependent both on the product and the lifeworld of the audiences.
6. Introspective research sees the individual as an active person who is constantly in dialogic interaction with his environment and with himself using particular techniques to learn about his outer and inner world, adjust to it and change it. It could help to design a generalized theory of communication processes which might go beyond media reception theories in their present forms (Shannon & Weaver 1949; Hall 1972, Jensen 1991).
4.6 The Method's State of Development and its Possibilities
The main attempt would be the integration of empirical research on intrapsychic processes into communication theories which tend to be social or cultural theories. The psyche should be the missing link rather than a black box.
In sum: Research so far executed with this method in a context of discovery definitely encourages continuation of the investigation and enlargement of its topics with an expectation to learn more not only about particular research questions as reception analysis in mass media but also about themes of general empirical and theoretical importance.
5. What to do with Qualitative Methodology?
The authors suggest to explore the possibilities of the qualitative-heuristic methodology in various fields of psychology both in basic and in applied research. It would stimulate methodological interest in classical research work and re-animate approaches which were dismissed or repressed during and following the Nazi period in academic research. Also it would offer a chance to bridge the gap between research associated with different forms of data (qualitative versus quantitative) or different topics (humanities versus natural sciences) which was seen as a border dividing different methodologies but actually is obscuring important differences in strategies of research: explorative versus descriptive, heuristic versus hermeneutic, critical versus affirmative research.
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