Collaborative online Interpretation

In my opinion, transparency is the most important quality criterion of qualitative social research and has been a concern of mine for some time now (Steinhardt 2015). With my project “collaborative online interpretation” I therefore applied for a fellowship in the program “Freies Wissen”, which is jointly sponsored by Stifterverband, Wikimedia and VolkswagenStiftung. In my project I would like to test whether it is possible to do collaborative sequential analyses of e.g. interviews with an online tool. This should make transparent how sequential analyses are created and at the same time make the entire research process transparent.

But why do I think it is important to increase the transparency of qualitative methods? For the explanation, I have to take a step back. I have been offering consultation on methods for almost two years at the “Competence Center for Empirical Research Methods” at the University of Kassel. In these consultations I have noticed that interpretation of data material (such as interview material) can only be learned in practice. But often the practice of interpretation is not taught in universities or students do not attend the relevant seminars, which is why they first come into contact with the need to learn to interpret in their thesis or doctoral thesis. Accordingly, students and doctoral candidates are often faced with the challenge of learning to interpret without instruction. In order to help with this challenge I would like to implement “collaborative online interpretation” in the next six months for learning and testing interpretation via sequential analysis.

The first step to make collaborative online interpretation possible is to find an open access tool. Most likely there is no such tool yet, so it is necessary to find out how to develop a tool. This is where the greatest uncertainty exists with regard to the project. In addition to searching for and testing the tool, a scientific research on the state of the art of collaborative (online) interpretation will take place. My current assumption is that there is literature on collaborative interpretation, but not online-based interpretation. Both the research about the tool as well as the literature will be published on this blog and via twitter (@sozmethode) to make my research transparent (for a more detailed plan see the roadmap – but only in German). However, in order to be able to interpret something collaboratively, material for interpretation is required. Therefore, in the next month’s interviews will be conducted that are part of my research project “Use of digital technologies for the study and habitus of students”.

Project description “Use of digital technologies for the study and habitus of students”

Digital technologies have found their way into higher education institutions, but little is known about the practices of students using these technologies. Digital technologies are seen on the one hand as an opportunity to reduce inequality in the higher education system. On the other hand studies show that digital technologies do not equalize the inequality – there is rather a digital divide (van Dijk 2005). But how exactly does the digital divide show, i. e. which inequalities increase or arise in higher education through digital technologies? To answer this research question I will use the Bourdieu’s habitus theory (1987) and the milieu-studies about Germany (Vester et al. 2001) to analyze which user practices students have with regard to digital technologies.

Based on Bourdieu’s theory, there are schemes and practices of everyday behavior (everyday routines) that are based on the respective affiliation to a milieu. These schemes and practices work unconsciously when a person is using digital technologies. To uncover and reflect on these practices and schemes Bremer and Teiwes-Kügler (2013) introduced the habitus-hermeneutic method which is based on the analysis of “lebensweltliche“ (life-world) interviews and results in types (ebd.). The habitus-hermeneutic is a sequential analysis i. e. individual text passages are analyzed one after the other without knowing the entire material.

One requirement of habitus-hermeneutic (as with all hermeneutic methods) is the interpretation of data in groups. The aim of the interpretation in groups is to broaden the spectrum of possible readings of the material, since it is assumed that the interpretation is always based on one’s own experience and perspective. In this respect, the interpretation of data becomes more diverse when people of different social backgrounds, gender and age are involved in the analysis. This closes the circle, because the implementation of “collaborative online interpretation” via an open access tool could make the participation of different people possible. If the implementation is successful, it would also be a step towards more transparency of the interpretation process and therefore the whole research process.


Bourdieu, P. 1987b. Sozialer Sinn. Kritik der theoretischen Vernunft. 1. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Bremer, H., Teiwes-Kügler, C. 2013: Habitusanalyse als Habitus-Hermeneutik. ZQF 14:199–219.

Steinhardt, I. 2015: Lehre stärkt Forschung. Studiengangentwicklung durch ProfessorInnen im Handlungssystem Universität. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. doi:

van Diejk, J. 2005: The Deepening Divide. Inequalities in the Information Society. London: Sage.

Vester, M./von Oertzen, P./Geiling, H./Hermann, T./Müller, D. 2001: Soziale Milieus im gesellschaftlichen Strukturwandel. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.

Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Isabel Steinhardt (2017, 13. November). Collaborative online Interpretation. Sozialwissenschaftliche Methodenberatung. Abgerufen am 23. Mai 2024, von

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