Introducing my research – operationalisation

Words have different meanings, with different intonations and in different contexts they may even have more meanings from the officials you can find in a dictionary. Paulo Freire knew about this power and complexity of the word, how can communication may facilitate or discourage a process, how it could both oppress or liberate you. He said that by knowing how to read and write words, people can better understand the world in which they are living in, and by doing so, they may “awaken” from the state of oppression they are submitted to (Freire, 1970). In essence, understanding what is being said by others, not just the “official” meaning, but all the emotions and messages that are carried through words and intonation, is what allows us to fully comprehend a situation.

But, how can we communicate complex messages to a wider mixed backgrounds public?

This has been one big concerns on my research project. For the past (almost) two years, I have been working on my PhD research project, which is interested in finding out what kind of impact a basic computer skills training has on the participants, and weather or not, the methodology used is related to its success or failure.

In order to be able to understand this situation, I developed a theoretical framework, based on three authors, Kleine (2011), Gigler (2011) and Van Dijk (2006). The intention of this framework was to help identify elements that may support the individual to successfully use ICTs for her personal development. It is important to clarify, that development is being understood from a Capability Approach perspective. This means that an individual will improve her development if she is able to do or be what she values and has reason to value (Sen 1999). Therefore, ICT usage will support the individual’s development if its use is helping her to achieve these doings or beings that she values.

As  you can imagine, to define a person’s capabilities to achieve her values is not an easy task, and it is not an easy message to communicate. That is the reason of the theoretical framework developed for my thesis. Its elements show characteristics which are much easier to communicate and to measure and that can be analysed in conjunction to identify the individual’s capabilities. As it is possible to see in the Diagram shown below (Diagram 1), the elements of the framework are: (1) motivations -which show the individual’s values; (2) portfolio of resources -which represent all the resources that may influence an individual’s capabilities (Kleine 2011); and; (3) Usage -which shows the use the individual is giving to ICTs.

Diagram 1: Theoretical Framework (Poveda 2013, based on Kleine (2011), Gigler (2011) and Van Dijk (2006))

Besides providing guidance on data collection to the issue at hand, this framework is intended also to provide help in communicating the findings, which is connected to the initial concern described above. Data collected from questionnaires can be translated into quantitative values that, then, can be shown in graphics, allowing us, first, to compare the different values each element has and evaluate where the individual may need more support or training to achieve better ICTs appropriation, and second, to compare different data sets on a longitudinal way, namely, making visible changes over time.

Diagram 2: Operationalisation of the Portfolio of Resources from the Choices Framework (Poveda 2013 [1])

Diagram 2: Operationalisation of the Portfolio of Resources from the Choices Framework (Poveda 2013 [1])

After presenting some initial findings to my research partners at the end of the fieldwork, the graph that caught most of the attention was the representation of the Portfolio of Resources (Diagram 2). Because all of them represent a same category, a spider diagram was chosen to present its results, providing us with a powerful tool to present and communicate ideas, which was one of the aims of the theoretical framework as explained before. Also, having this way of collecting data, analysing and presenting results, allows a much better communication with a wider public, principally because of the visualisation of the longitudinal data. This works as a visual support, not just to explain findings, but to engage with the public for further discussions.

Much analysis has still to be done and the challenge of how to include the qualitative data on this tool is still to be addressed, however, initial responses show that it is an useful tool to support the communication and discussion of complex ideas.

[1] The initial idea for the diagram was produced over discussions on a joint supervision meeting with Dr Dorothea Kleine.

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This work by Sammia Poveda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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