Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sickensore / Lab Rats

Two paper cuts and one sore throat mark the end of a week cooped up in a very small, very white and very cold research facility in downtown KL. For company, I had a sick research partner, loads of A3 paper, marker pens, a videocam, ciplak Post-it Notes (not from 3M), a one-way mirror and 25 strangers who came and went out a little richer. My colleague poisoned the air with her germs and took it upon herself to help them breed and inherit the earth. This morning, another colleague and I fell sick: wet stuff was coming out of his nose while he questioned the day's first participant; I remained sullen, taking notes while my throat burned.

Research work is both boring and fun. I'm not an extrovert or people-person to begin with, so listening actively to people talk (and trying to be interested) did stretch my personality quite a bit. I had to learn to ask questions clearly—I tend to stop mid-thought in conversations, especially if I start concentrating on the sound of my own voice ("Oh gosh, what am I saying? Do I sound that bad? La la la la la la...") or alternately, if I have one of those 'moments' that exist only in my head—and responding with appropriate follow-up statements/questions. I also tried varying the tone/drone of my voice so that participants wouldn't fall asleep, framing questions in as neutral a way as possible, and adjusting my language and word choice to match the other person's lingo.

The first few sessions I was forced to moderate required a lot of energy. I needed time to hype myself up and mentally prepare. But as I got the hang of it, it grew easier. I pretended I was acting out a stage role; here, (duh) the role of a researcher. In some cases, I tried giving 'fake' responses by acting casual or ignorant about a subject, but what I was really trying to fish for was their honest opinion of things. This role-playing was fun.

So it's been an interesting week out of the office, to say the least. I've been very pooped, but it was cool learning new things about myself and trying on a different work scope. It's all gooooooooddddd.... :)

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