9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Mixed Methods Building II, C2.01

The mediating document in interviews and observations - capturing value creating processes in rural tourism businesses

The social construction of value in commercial contexts is often presumed to result in economic value. However, capturing the very process where value is emerging, articulated, categorised and performed as some kind of value ? economic or not ? is an area of research facing analytical and methodological challenges. With examples from an ethnographic study of small rural tourism and hospitality businesses in Sweden, such as B&Bs, galleries and horse-farms, the notion of value creating processes are addressed by the use of mixed methods. Interviews with the managers/owners show that the issue of value often oscillates between personal lifestyle-values and experience-values that are presumed to be attractive to the guests/customers. These values are more or less easy to articulate, more or less discursive ? relating to a general discourse of ideal tourist experiences and ?the good rural life?. Furthermore, they become gradually more objectified and thus often mechanically articulated when marketing practices enters as a topic in the interview, for instance when the interviewees talk about what they write in their brochures and what is included in the price. Document analysis of tourist-brochures, web-pages and price-lists, shows that the experience-value in these contexts is even more objectified, stereotyped and quantified as it is transformed into economic value. Furthermore, observations of interviewees interacting with these kinds of documents, for instance in meetings with producers participating in a joint tourism development project, highlights the performative character of value creation, where documents may facilitate as well as restrain the transformation of ?personal value? into ?economic value?. These meetings may, for instance, indicate resistance and ambivalence towards the process of transforming personal lifestyle values into economic value. The aim of this paper is to discuss the importance of mixed methods in order to capture the social process of value creation, and more generally, the mediating role of documents in interviews and observations, either as a physically present artefact or as a topic of conversation.