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Virtual Tours: Enhancing Qualitative Methodology to Holistically Capture Youth Peer Cultures

Communication and Information Technologies Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78560-785-1, eISBN: 978-1-78560-784-4

Publication date: 23 February 2016



This paper introduces two methodological innovations for qualitative research. We apply these innovations to holistically understand youth peer cultures and improve participant-driven qualitative methodology.


It moves the methodological frontier forward by blending technology with the “go-along” approach used by ethnographers to prioritize participants’ perspectives and experiences within their socio-cultural contexts.


We introduce the youth-centered and participant-driven virtual tours, including a neighborhood tour using Google Maps designed to explore how youth navigate their socio-spatial environments (n = 64; 10–17 year-olds; 2013) and a social media tour designed to explore how youth navigate their networked publics (n = 50; 10–17 year-olds; 2013), both in relation to their local peer cultures.


Applicable to a wide range of research populations, the Google Maps tour and the social media tour give the qualitative researcher additional tools to conduct participant-driven research into youths’ socio-cultural worlds. These two innovations help to address challenges in youth research as well as qualitative research more broadly. We find, for example, that the “go-along” aspect of the virtual tour minimizes the perceived threat of the researcher’s adult status and brings youth participants’ perspectives and experiences to the center of inquiry in the study of local peer cultures.




We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the youth for granting us access their local peer cultures, the youth centers for granting us access to their communities, all the student researchers for contributing to data collection and transcription, the dedicated editors and reviewers who made this paper possible, and the IT personnel for helping us maintain the data secure. This research was funded by Connecticut College’s R.F. Johnson Fund, Research Matters Program, Susan Eckert Lynch ‘62 Fund, Judith Tindal Opatrny ‘72 Fund, Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Margaret Sheridan’67 Research Initiative, Career Enhancing Life Skills Program, Temple Institute, Mellon Undergraduate Fund, and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts Research Program, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Gracias.


Campos-Holland, A., Dinsmore, B. and Kelekay, J. (2016), "Virtual Tours: Enhancing Qualitative Methodology to Holistically Capture Youth Peer Cultures", Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 223-258.



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