During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been regularly highlighted how the pandemic will create opportunities for virtual/digital innovation and rebooting established ways of working. Remembering the research done in the midst of the pandemic, Sonya Marzi And Jane Tarr argue that in an increasingly volatile world, hybrid participation methods offer new ways to conduct active and international research, taking advantage of both the offline and online worlds.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems like a distant memory to many researchers, and in-person field work and data collection have resumed, including through transnational research. However, while it may be tempting to revert to the old ways of conducting research, we must learn from and reflect on the innovations that have emerged during the pandemic. For collaborative production and researcher participation in particular, the need to move research online has created challenges but has also opened up new opportunities. new opportunities for develop and rethink collaborative research projects.
During the pandemic, collaborative researchers like us have been able to bridge geographic distance through online interaction with participants. However, we also realized that online spaces cannot fully compensate for face-to-face collaborative research activities, either in terms of data quality or in terms of building trust between researcher and participants, especially for research on sensitive topics. However, hybrid qualitative and, more specifically, co-production and collaborative research projects involving online And In-person research provides an opportunity to combine the benefits of both approaches while mitigating the problems.
Therefore, we advocate the development and implementation of more hybrid participatory research and co-production projects that combine remote/online research activities with in-person presence to co-produce knowledge with participants now. In a changing research landscape driven by climate and health emergencies, humanitarian disasters and conflicts, social upheavals, and multiple crises in many countries, hybrid participation methodologies have not only become more relevant, but have become an important addition to the social science toolbox.
In our study, we successfully developed an innovative remote participation methodology using smartphones, co-production of knowledge and documentary film with displaced women in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia. This remote methodology provided insights into the past and present lives of women during emergencies (COVID-19 and the national strike in Colombia), while at the same time connecting geographical regions, creating an inclusive online space based on non-hierarchical practices. It also allowed for a more equal research relationship between transnational researchers and participants, involving them in the entire research process and thus allowing them to contribute ideas on how we could decolonize our research. In particular, in our work, we used smartphones for remote interactive shooting and online seminars, as well as for personal meetings and discussion of the content of the footage. While the innovative online/remote shooting method has allowed us to connect online for more than 10 months to co-produce knowledge and documentaryface-to-face workshops overcame participation restrictions and technological challenges and allowed discussion of more sensitive issues that women found difficult to discuss online.
As a result of testing this hybrid research co-production plan, we firmly believe that there are ethical and practical reasons why these types of research may be the best long-term solution for knowledge co-production with participants for impact and social change and to rethink what fieldwork might look like in the future. Here we highlight five main reasons why we believe this is the case:
1. Methodologies for hybrid co-production for the future research projects in light of the normalization of travel breaks and personal social contacts affected by emergencies and the climate crisis, especially (though not exclusively) for North-South transnational global research cooperation. While a lot of research has indeed moved online during the pandemic, advice has often been given with short time frames in mind. However, crises, emergencies and natural disasters are endemic in many places and climate crisis especially requires serious ethical reflection.
2. This point is also relevant for contexts of violence and insecurity, where it may be difficult for researchers to enter the field in terms of ethics, security, or logistics.
3. In our study, we included local researchers in Colombia as equal members of the research team, and the growing case for the decolonization of research practice through the assessment of local knowledge is one of the factors driving us development of remote/hybrid participation methodology. Such methods enable greater transnational collaboration and thus aim for a more sustainable redistribution of power in the research process, as well as more ethical and long-term research commitments.
4. Financial constraints limit travel and field work. Combined with rising inflation and energy costs, especially for aspiring scientists, it is becoming increasingly difficult to conduct transnational co-production and collaborative research, which traditionally involves staying abroad for long periods of time to gain the trust of the community and have many face-to-face meetings. face-to-face work with participants.
5. Hybrid research offers more inclusive research processes: giving participants more choices about when and how to participate. This is especially important for participants who have little time and who combine work, care and social responsibilities. The same goes for the researchers themselves, who may find it difficult to find the funds, time and support to take on their caregiving responsibilities and be able to travel for research purposes. Thus, it allows space to be consolidated, travel times reduced for participants, and groups to be brought together that might otherwise not easily meet face to face; for example, being in two cities.
Combining newly acquired methodological innovations with more traditional approaches to face-to-face collaborative research production could potentially open up new types of long-term collaboration with participants. Hybrid co-production processes provide an opportunity to communicate with participants throughout the process, receive feedback from them during data analysis, and engage them in online dissemination activities. Our project with women in Medellin and Bogota has demonstrated how online and face-to-face communication creates such long-term relationships, where we have been able to do just that, solicit feedback, organize outreach events, create impact projects that go beyond the original research, in while in the process of building bridges of neighborhoods, cities and continents. Thus, hybridity promotes further inclusion of participants after the completion of face-to-face research and potentially leads to more effective research methods that benefit participants during and after the research process with the ability to better respond to participants’ aspirations and needs. As the world moves on an unstable trajectory, hybrid co-production processes offer a way to continue working together across time and space to create research to improve the world.
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