Participant observation is a qualitative data collection method used in many disciplines, particularly cultural anthropology and ethnology, sociology, and communication studies.
For 12 months, I conducted participant observation with the Suicide Prevention Social Media (SPSM) community and Our Data Helps. Specifically, I joined Our Data Helps and participated in their SPSM community, as is shown in the below video of the SPSM Sunday live YouTube stream session. This method enabled me to develop a familiarity with the language used by suicide survivors and fundamentally informed the semi-structured interviews. Given that the data donation community is comprised of anonymized individuals, participant observation also helped source participants for the semi-structured interviews.
The keeping of field-notes was integral to the analysis of the participant observation conducted. Notes taken to capture data included records of observations, informal conversations I had, and records of activities I engaged with in. I divided my notes into two forms and threaded throughout both is an etic voice with postmodern auto-ethnographic information, combined with the participants’ voices providing an emic perspective (Pike, 1966). My analysis of this data constructed a model of data donation culture, one that highlighted specific themes, with many viewpoints represented.
1) An online document containing questions to be answered.
2) a physical notebook which contained personal observations that did not fit the first document.