During the class, Disruptive Insights, in my MFA Design for Social Innovation program, we learned about the value and techniques of first hand qualitative research. My group of four people conducted research on the topic of gun ownership.
Problem: Gun control is a polarizing topic in America. Everyone has their own, often very strong opinion, on gun ownership and gun control, and it continues to be a devastating issue in this country. We surveyed and interviewed gun owners and non-gun owners with the goal of learning if one group really felt more safe than the other.
Users: Because we were focusing on the subject of safety, we felt it would be most relevant for us to focus on people with families, either people who lived with their parents, or others who had children. This ended up ranging from empty-nesters on the Upper West Side, a son living in his parents house in Bed-Stuy, with equal numbers of gun-owners and non gun owners.
Results: After gathering all of our notes from the interviews it was time to dive deep into developing insights. We started by listed interesting things we observed and as we started to notice patterns, we moved closer and closer to insights based on what the interviewees said, what they didn't say, and their body language. We moved from observations, or "duhs" to human insights, or "gasps."
Because what we had found, we were personally surprised by, we wanted to take our audience through the journey that we had been on. Instead of presenting a paper or announcing the insights we had developed, we created an experience to take our audience through. Because our team went through a personal journey of breaking many assumptions that we had about gun owners, we wanted to use that as a story telling device.
Our first experience was a guessing game. We played video clips from our interviews of our users talking about the police with a range of opinions. Our audience members then had to guess who they thought was a gun owner or not. Similar to my group members original assumptions, the audience thought that gun owners would express more negative sentiments about the police, however the opposite was true. Our audience members were surprised to find that we had found that gun owners speak much more positively about the police than non gun owners. At this time we also introduced the insight that there was a scale of sentiments, and that gun owners and non gun owners are not two totally separate groups of people, but their beliefs were on a spectrum.
The next part of our workshop involved another insight that we had not expected. It was related to the second Amendment, the right to bear arms. We started off by getting our audience members to build their own set of Amendments had they been starting a new country. This naturally helped us begin a conversation about the right to own a gun in America and the implications of this.
We then showed quotes from our interviews when we spoke to our interviewees about the second Amendment. We gave stickers labeled "gun owner" and "non gun owner" to our audience and asked them to go through the quotes and post whether they thought who said it was a gun owner or non gun owner.
When we looked at how our audience had answered, it was a mixed bag for each quote. The quotes either got very mixed responses or the opposite of what they had thought was true, something that we had pulled out as an insight when it came to views on gun ownership as a right as an American.
All of our participants, both gun owners and non gun owners agreed that there needed to be more regulations, more policies about gun safety and who should be able to own a gun, but no one felt comfortable questioning the second Amendment. We found that this belief was so engrained in their identities as Americans, that even though much of what they said alluded to them disagreeing with the second Amendment but they could not actually say they disagree with the Amendment specifically. Freedom is heavily linked to America and questioning whether to remove that Amendment made them feel uncomfortable because they understand the right to bear arms to be so attached to the idea of freedom.
We then concluded our workshop with a couple of our team's key takeaways from this process. From our insights, we wanted to show how gun ownership is not a black and white scenario, but is more of a spectrum in terms of beliefs, an assumption that we had going into the research. With that, the insight of being aware of the assumptions you make about people before you know them, related to our first insight. Related to our second insight, to be aware of the ideals and values you adopt and question them.