Dissertation: Chapter 2 (Research Methods) – Draft 1

Below shows the first chapter of my dissertation as a draft, in line with the structure and plans made prior. These can be found on separate blog posts. This chapter outlines my research methodology and research methods, falling in line with my research and practical work to date.

Any feedback given from my supervisor will be implemented, recorded and documented.

Chapter 2 – Method of Practice

This chapter introduces the methodologies and ethical practices used throughout this cross-cultural study, in order to attain a body of information to understand the ways in which self-perception and body image of young women, is affected through the rise of a digital social media culture and the publishing industries alike.

2.1. Methodology

Two research philosophies have been utilised throughout research studies taking a pragmatic and an interpretivist approach, allowing for a large range of data to be collated and analysed. A pragmatic approach enables multiple research methods to be carried out, enabling both quantitative and qualitative findings, understanding that “there are many different ways of interpreting [and undertaking] research [and that], no single point of view can ever give the entire picture” accepting that their may be different viewpoints or realities to consider (Saunders, 2012), whilst an interpretivist approach allows for in-depth investigations to be carried out in order to collect specific pieces of information. An interpretivist approach, appreciates that “different people of different cultural backgrounds, under different circumstances and at different times make different meanings, and so create and experience different social realities” (Saunders, 2012), taking into consideration different viewpoints and perspectives.

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods that have been used for this cross-cultural study, exploring how data has been collected and analysed in relation to both subject matter and theoretical perspectives, in an aim to competently understand the scope of my working research question in context. Easterby-Smith et al (2008) claims that researchers should collect both primary or secondary data in order to build a viable body of research to support methodologies and working research questions.

2.2. Structured and Semi Structured Interviews

A range of qualitative structured and semi-structured interviews have been conducted in an aim to understand different cross-cultural perspectives of how the beauty and fashion industries may affect ones self-perception, whilst further exploring surrounding issues and sub-cultures derived from a modern-day cause for concern. An interpretivist approach has been carried out with interviews in both the UK and in Tokyo, Japan, appreciating and emphasising “the importance of language, culture and history” (Crotty 1998).

Interviews aim to provide a range of in-depth findings (Collis and Hussey, 2003). Semi-structured interviews aimed to provide findings through informal discussions with participants, whilst structured and formal interviews were carried out to ensure that specific information was collated to support or negate theoretical and cultural cross-perspectives, relative to secondary literary research methodologies and further research methods explored to date. Questions and/or audio recordings taken with a dictaphone, can be found in the appendix, along with a list of posed questions and summaries of findings relative to each interview.

Collecting comparative primary research during this study was reliant on accessing and visiting appropriate candidates in both the UK and Tokyo, Japan, using both existing and new, industry contacts and links to secure relevant interviews and meetings in order to collect relevant data. In total, 9 specific participants were chosen to interview, in order to gain diverse perspectives in relation to the cross-cultural study outlined within my research question. Participants were chosen due to working in, or having an interest in the nature of the posed subject-matter at hand. Some interviewees were unable to attend meetings to carry out the interview face-to-face, and have therefore completed digital interviews instead, as an alternative means of gathering in-depth data. In regard to interviews in Tokyo, Japan, an international research trip was planned and carried out accordingly.

The study adopted the Leeds College of Art Ethics Policy consistently, ensuring fair practice and confidentiality to all participants and their responses. Blumberg, et al (2005) describes ethics as the appropriateness of the researcher’s behaviour in relation to the personal rights of those who become the subject matter of an interview. Due to forward planning, the signing off of questions prior to interviews, and imposing a non-intrusive nature of research, no objections were made by participants in regard to the subject matter or questions at hand. In addition, each participant was asked to read an information sheet disclosing why they were selected, the nature of the interview and how the findings would be used, along with a consent form whereby each could choose whether they want to share their name, remain anonymous or disclose a pseudonym if data was selected to be cited.

A range of themes were chosen to be discussed with different participants, allowing for a range of specific, tailored and cross-cultural perspectives to be considered in context. This study allowed for an in depth understanding and analysis of the different ways in which social media and beauty publications in the fashion industry cross-culturally may affect the self-perception of women aged 18 to 24, whilst linking findings with the literature and theories noted in Chapter 1.

Interview themes included:

  • The Japanese beauty and fashion industries, particularly relating to use of Western models within advertising and the editorial design of Vogue magazines.
  • The Japanese beauty industry in relation to product range and trends.
  • The historical and socio-cultural influences of the Japanese beauty industry and the subsequent ‘ideal’ in comparison to Western beauty and ‘ideals’.
  • Social Media and Blogger (beauty and fashion) culture in both the UK and Japan.
  • Surrounding issues and sub-cultures of beauty in regard to social media use, particularly that of Instagram.
  • The use of polices within Fashion brands, such as ASOS, in order to understand how industry influences are approaching positive body-image and self-perception.
  • Modelling on an International and UK scale, and how this may affect ones self-perception and body image when working in the beauty and fashion industries, opposed to on a consumer or reader level.
  • The growing ‘fitness’ and body building culture within Instagram culture within the UK, gaining a different perspective on self-perception and body image in comparison to the beauty and fashion industries.

Interview participants included: CHECK ORDER AND APPENDIX NUMBERS

  • Tam Dexter (Appendix 01)
  • Toni Hollowood (Appendix 02)
  • Anon (Appendix 03)
  • ASOS (Appendix 04)
  • Nicole Takahashi (Appendix 05)
  • Luisa Omeilan (Appendix 06)
  • Kyoko Muramatsu at Vogue (Nippon) Japan (Appendix 07)
  • Brittany Rhodes (Appendix 08)
  • ? (Appendix 09)

2.3. Anonymous Participant Questionnaire

For further means of primary research, a questionnaire consisting of both qualitative and quantitative questions was designed in order to collate data regarding how ones self-perception and body image may be affected through the fashion and beauty industries links with social media and magazines. This research method embodied both pragmatic and interpretivist research philosophies.

The questionnaire was targeted at both males and females between the ages of 18 and 24, in order to gain comparative data in regard to different genders and the effects the media may have on them. By opening up the questionnaire to male participants also, this allowed for a different perspective to be considered in relation to the research topic at hand. By using both a qualitative and quantitative approach for this study, this enabled trends, thought processes, opinions and motivations to be uncovered and analysed in depth.

Collecting primary research during this study was dependant upon sharing the questionnaire with 18 to 24 year olds, using a range of promotional outlets. The questionnaire was shared via social media (Instagram and Facebook) by not only myself, but by a contact in Tokyo, Japan, in order to reach a cross-cultural and international audience of participants relevant to the line of enquiry. Social media platforms were used to access both males and females whom have active online presences, and therefore may be aware of, interested in, or actively involved in the beauty and fashion industries. In addition, the questionnaire was also shared with the BA(Hons) Fashion degree at Leeds College of Art to broaden the mix of respondents and perspectives. In total, 25 anonymous respondents participated in this study, of which, questions and responses can be found in the appendix, along with a summary of findings.

The questionnaire consisted of a broad mix of question types to generate a wide range of responses for analysis. This included; open, closed, multiple choice and scaled questions, which could be analysed and compared with findings from literature, theoretical perspectives and other research methods carried out over the course of the cross-cultural study.

2.4. Visual

In addition, to the pragmatic and interpretivist research philosophies discussed in 2.1., 2.2., and 2.3., a critical design approach to research was undertaken with practical work in Semester 1. This was in order to direct further specific research and practical work based on feedback from the study’s target audience.

A range of satirical and theoretical design work was produced and shared on social media, surrounding the modern, digital world of the beauty and fashion industries. Dunne and Raby (2007), state that “[critical design is] a medium to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies, [trends or products]”.

This approach allowed for initial practical work to be designed and shared via Instagram, using hashtags to reach the relevant target audience. Using this research philosophy allowed for a range of design work to be created “[challenging] narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens” (Dunne and Raby, 2007) of the noted industries.

Feedback given was beneficial for the future direction of aesthetics and covered ‘topics’, due to a highly positive reaction towards Kylie Cosmetics (Kylie Jenner) related posts (Figure 8). However, it was found that when questions were posed, more ‘likes’ were received than answers given, and found that this may not be the best approach to gaining quantifiable data, therefore alternate means of research would also be required, utilising pragmatic and interpretivist philosophies.

Other forms of visual research such as the analysis of both British and Japanese magazines, advertising campaigns and object based research (see chapter 2.5.) dictated further practical work opposed to utilising a critical design approach. A wide range of publications were purchased in both the UK and in Tokyo, Japan, gaining a comparative cross-cultural insight into aesthetics, trends and the use of both Western and Japanese models. In addition, this secondary research dictated the direction of practical work in Semester 2.

2.5. Object Based Research

A pragmatic approach was undertaken in regard to object based research, appreciating cultural differences between the UK and Japanese beauty industries, focusing in particular on the range of beauty (cosmetics and skincare) products that are available in two contrasting countries. Chatterjee (2007) states that in regard to object based research, “objects are employed in a variety of ways to enhance and disseminate subject specific knowledge, to facilitate the acquisition of practical, [whilst being used] for inspiration.”

Pragmatism “aims to contribute practical solutions that inform future practice” (Saunders, 2012), thereby undertaking this philosophical approach to research enabled for a contextual understanding as to why each culture, and the outlooks of 18 to 24 year olds are so different and contrasting in ideologies of women and ones self-perception. Furthermore, allowing for a pragmatic understanding, enabled theoretical approaches from literature to be analysed in line with this field of research.

In regard to the research carried out, objects were analysed in regard to packaging design, copywriting, product use and product promotion, in an aim to understand socio-cultural differences and perspectives from the view point of both consumers and brands.

Along with the broad range of visual research collated and discussed in chapter 2.4., object based research dictated the direction of practical work undertaken in semester 2 in regard to subject matter, visual direction and tone.