The subject of Peripheral Research is derivative of the idea of conducting qualitative research while “orbiting the hairball”. “Orbiting the hairball” is a phrase referred to in John Bielenberg’s Design Thinking out Loud: Outside In, as the ability to step outside of existing ways of behavior and work with heuristic biases. Heuristic biases develop from the brain’s creation of pathways of thought and learned behaviors and patterns that we follow. For example, one of your heuristic biases may be to always play music while studying. Orbiting your hairball may be to try studying without music.
This is relative to qualitative research in that it must be conducted outside of self. GRDS 701-OL Unit 4 Reading, Types of Data Collection: Fieldwork states:
In The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “People only see what they are prepared to see.” Much of the research work you do as a designer centers around fieldwork. You will be involved in observing, interviewing, and analyzing documents. Therefore, you must develop the skills to do so. Educator, writer, and designer Eric Heiman describes the fieldwork process as having two facets: “‘empathy’–looking at the human experience with a sympathetic eye to see what is truly needed by the audience–and ‘curiosity’– having an interest in the lives of the audience so as to further an understanding of what is needed in a product.”
This simply means that in order to properly explore our subjects through qualitative research, we must take a legitimate approach to understanding them, without allowing personal goals and objectives the steer the process. For example, ever notice how in the court room when one lawyer is questioning a witness and the other lawyer yells, “Objection! He’s leading the witness!” We must take the same approach to qualitative research, shaping our questions in a way that not only deliver the answers to the information that we are seeking, but also in a way that allows for natural flow of dialogue and new discoveries. Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris concluded that,
“We don’t see things that we don’t focus our attention on.”
Think about your favorite movie. You may have seen it a thousand times, but each time you watch it (without waiting for your favorite part of the movie), you discover a new scene that you have never noticed before. This is because you are seeing it with fresh eyes. This too, is a practice relative to conducting qualitative research. Reviewing content several times, allows you to make new discoveries.