← ESA 2015 homepage

Issues in Mixed Methods


Fri 28. 8.  11:00 - 12:30
room FA 550

Research through movements: mixed approach in social mobility studies


Strelnikova, Anna
National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russian Federation

In this paper we consider the problem of choosing an approach to studies of social mobility and inequality. Here we introduce a method which is called "biographical walk". Urban biographical walk is a qualitative method in which a biographical interview (or in-depth) is combined with participant observations during a walk in certain city routes. First, a researcher conducts an initial interview which includes questions about the perception of urban space, about usual urban routes from the respondent’s past, about general attitudes to the city etc. Having data collected, the researcher selects one of the urban places to walk with corresponding respondent. When walking with a respondent the researcher ought to capture the way the respondent describes changes in urban space. During or after this walk a second interview is being complemented with follow-up questions that are supposed to clarify details of the initial interview. Thus, the idea of the method is that walking should help unfold the biography gradually. Here we proceed from the premise that movements transform to living experience and simultaneously geographical mobility transforms to the social one. Mobility is the key factor of accumulation and structuring respondent’s experience, and it applies to personal and family biographical stories. The method allows researcher to reconstruct the past in terms of space-body experience, to clarify sensitive topics (exclusion, inequality) and to see the results of subjective perception of mobility. This leads the researcher to generalizations of life trajectories to social mobility as its projection on physical space.