Are Natural Conversations Natural? Critical Reflections on Using Participants’ Self-Recorded Conversations, the Positioning of Researchers, and Participant Self-Censorship

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

This chapter reflects on two dilemmas that emerged in audio recorded conversations for study abroad research and reveals the role of research and researcher in shaping conversations that were intended to be spontaneous. The first dilemma relates to how the researcher was spoken to in recorded dyadic conversations in which they were not present. In one project that involved 17 dyads (17 American students in China and their 17 Chinese roommates), each participant was instructed to record their routine, spontaneous conversations. Yet, the NVivo coding process shows that these participants frequently addressed the researcher during these recordings. In other instances, their conversations centered around the research goal provided in prior consent forms. While these conversations can still be considered spontaneous, they show the need to reflect upon the relationship between researcher and researched in language use research (Cameron et al., Researching language: Issues of power and method, 1-28, 1992). The second dilemma relates to participants’ requests to delete parts of recordings or switch off the recorder during recording sessions. Two such requests took place during an ethnographic project focusing on interactions between study abroad students and their Chinese hosts. Both requests were from the Chinese hosts and concerned discussions about a widely known political scandal in China’s central government. These requests were moments when the researcher was seen more as an insider and trusted member the conversation and less as an outsider. The Chinese hosts felt this need as they became aware of the eventual publication of findings. This chapter argues for study abroad scholars to more broadly consider ethics in study abroad research conducted in contexts where participants engage in political censorship and self-censorship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDesigning Second Language Study Abroad Research
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Reflections on Methods and Data
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Pages133-153
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783031050534
ISBN (Print)9783031050527
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

Keywords

  • Audio recording
  • Discourse analysis
  • Peer interaction
  • Qualitative research
  • Self-censorship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences

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