Edinburgh Research Explorer

Unlocking the family front door: Using friendship to gain access to extended family networks

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 2015
EventInterpretive Consumer Research Workshop - Edinburgh, United Kingdom


ConferenceInterpretive Consumer Research Workshop
CountryUnited Kingdom


There have long been calls for greater methodological use of the feminist inspired ‘components’ of positionality and reflexivity in consumer research (Hogg, Bettany and Long 2000). An increasing number of studies have adopted the ‘insider’ position (eg Canniford 2005) building on researchers’ personal interests to ensure access to otherwise closed groups (eg Goulding et al., 2003). Such studies focus on the ethnographic/phenomenological nature of the research process and some note the ethical sensitivities of reporting on burgeoning friendships in the field. However, there are few consumer studies considering the use of pre-research friendships to gain ‘intimate insider’ access (Labaree 2002) yet Mick and Buhl (1992, p. 320) suggest using 3 brothers who were friends with a researcher ‘encouraged candour while providing us with a valuable stock of background knowledge for interpreting the transcripts…’. In my practice-based study of three generations of families and their use of personal communications devices (PCD), it was important to explore broad family networks to understand multiple perspectives on PCD socialization and consumption practices, crossing generations, households and sometimes national boundaries. Equally it was important to build trust within these intimate networks to encourage the sharing of stories, data records and PCD diaries. To facilitate this complexity, family friends became research participants.

Labaree (2002) notes four beneficial themes for such data generation: the value of shared experience, greater access, cultural interpretation and deeper understanding. Ongoing analysis to date supports these ‘intimate insider’ benefits in a number of ways particularly related to greater rapport with the core and extended families promoted by the common relationship bond. In turn this is leading to families enjoying participation and creating depth of detail in diaries and discussions; allowing me even deeper inside the family communities. There are also some developing concerns themed around: reciprocity and obligation, time management and ultimately ethical presentation of findings. It seems the intimate insider approach does allow friendship to open the door on the very complex and guarded realm of extended family networks and I was privileged to have the trust and empathy afforded to an insider. However, I quickly became an outsider as I spoke on Skype to pensioners in Australia and IT directors in Switzerland whom I have never met and am unlikely to speak to again. Overall, I remain separate – only a ‘partial insider’ – never truly able to be a part of anyone else’s family, ultimately still allowing a more etic view of family practice as a result


Interpretive Consumer Research Workshop


Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Event: Conference

ID: 19352895