Here at FACE, we live for the moment – and we especially like to do it in the name of research. Researching live experiences used to be a matter of showing up, doing interviews at various points, and taking down notes throughout, maybe a survey here or there. But that’s not our style and things have changed (we love change!). Now, people can experience everything the world has to offer in real time while simultaneously contributing and sharing experiences with others through mobile and social media. It’s been great news for us, because we get even more opportunities to delve into understanding what is happening and why.
We’ve been doing more and more research in this area and are fascinated by it. So in the spirit of experiencing and sharing, here are some tips that have helped make our live research live up to the definition on Urban Dictionary: “jumping, full of people, exciting!”
Image by Flickr user Shine 2010 – 2010 World Cup good news
When going into any kind of live event (whether physical or digital, or both) having a clear objective and a plan are incredibly important. Whether we are looking at engagement with a message, understanding behavior in context, or identifying opportunities for improvement, having a focal question helps to narrow in on exactly what kind of information the research should prioritize over all of the other (distracting!) aspects that make live events so fascinating.
Even a few years ago, asking people to do things while they were doing something else was fraught with difficulty (think paper diaries, and intercept interviews). But now, online behaviors have really shifted in our favor in regards to collecting data during live events. Liveblogging, livestreaming, updating, checking in, – all of these methods act as shortcuts that help participants get their thoughts directly to us without getting in the way of the experience itself.
And the best part is that people are already engaging in these behaviors in their personal lives. We’re just extending an already existing behavior into a research situation. Just be sure to choose your technology medium carefully. Make sure that it fits within the situation you’re looking at. For instance, check-ins are useful if you’re studying gym-workout behavior. But they’re not really that useful if you’re looking at the experience of a live concert.
3. Real-time integration
This should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway. In order to capture what happens ‘live’, the research simply has to be happening at the same time. The information you get from people experiencing something in the moment (even if it doesn’t seem relevant at the time) is extremely powerful and should not be left out of the picture. When people look back on experiences in retrospect, it is often lacking a lot of the rich contextual information that is key to understanding what is really going on in the moment.
4. Thinking about dimensions
Live experiences are akin to animated objects – constantly changing in look, feeling, and experience. There isn’t always a clear beginning, middle, or end, and things can take dramatic turns. There is a lot of reading between the lines.
Where traditional research might normally have limited perspectives across a few points in time, a live research approach gives us the opportunity to explore multiple vantage points over the entire duration of an experience. The added dimension of change over time means that we can better understand the subtleties of live experiences in ways that people might not be aware of in the moment or even after the fact.
Ultimately studying live experiences can be a whale of a proposition but it is always worth it. We are looking forward to the next opportunity to lose ourselves in the moment.