I've just read a blog post - "Recording focus groups: An interview with Will Wright" discussing various technologies to record focus groups, which I found really interesting. It made me think about the way I’ve conducted and dealt with transcribing focus groups in the past.
The blog post is an interview of Will, a student in community development, about the technology he’s used to record focus groups for his studies. Interestingly, he argued that using his cell phone has worked just as well as a digital recorder. Given the quality of the audio supplied with the text of the blog post, I’m not sure I would agree! If anything, I think it’s actually a good illustration of how and where not to record an interview, at least from the point of view of a transcriber. Muddled audio with lots of background noise might be okay if you're just trying to get the main points, but for a research interview you need to ensure you can hear and understand 99% of what your interviewee is conveying to you.
However, the argument for recording focus groups (or interviews) on a mobile because it allows you to immediately upload to a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox is definitely compelling. I’m always convinced that in the few hours between finishing an interview and returning to the office to transfer my files to my laptop that something terrible is going to happen and I’ll lose all my audio. (Although I have to say, this has never actually happened to me... touch wood!)
The thing I found really interesting was their mention of the Livescribe pen, which I’ve heard of but never used myself. I’m interested in the idea of being able to retrieve segments of audio from the point at which you were writing notes. I really like this concept in theory for analysing focus groups – the thought that I could manually take notes and just click on them with my magic pen to hear that segment of the audio again. However, I then reminded myself about the state of my handwriting and what my notes look like when I’m conducting an interview...
So maybe a digital pen isn’t for me. I think I’ll stick to ensuring that I’ve got an excellent quality recording of any focus groups or interviews I do, and then transcribe them as normal afterwards.