COVID-19: all changed, changed utterly

I’m going to be blogging more now – if only to help my sanity.

“Does anyone know any other words for ‘unprecedented’?” someone asked today on twitter. In the UK, we thought we’d been through 3 years of ‘crisis’ with Brexit – and then came coronavirus.

This link is John Hopkins University’s running tracker of the global spread of coronavirus (see the snapshot pic above): https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

This will change the world dramatically, for ever, and nothing will ever be the same again.

It is utterly discombobulating. And in a week in which my mum died (of Alzheimer’s, aged 90, not coronavirus), to say I am punch-drunk would be an understatement.

One way of anchoring myself in these high seas is, you guessed it, research. Not the kind of research I do, but some science: I have signed up for a free course Imperial College London are running through Coursera, seeking to explain the science behind COVID-19. I am not a scientist (I did languages at A Level and a Law degree) but I love science well-explained – I like grounding myself in smarter-people-than-me’s best guess about how the planet works. I prefer to get my intellectual kicks from reading novels, looking at paintings, listening to music and watching films, but a bit of science now and then keeps me honest. Anyone interested in signing up, here is the link: https://www.coursera.org/learn/covid-19

Qualitative research will change dramatically for the foreseeable future, even when projects start getting commissioned again. Over the coming months, I need to work out how to continue in qual business in an online-only qual world. I am lucky in doing a lot of online qual already and I genuinely really enjoy it; but qual without any face to face at all is going to take some getting used to.

I may need to re-invent myself, or maybe just need to let clients know they can still do qual, and I can guide them on how.

What I do know is that the new world we are experiencing during and after this crisis is a very different place. Things we thought we knew about consumers, about audiences, and what they need and want, we can no longer take for granted. Organisations who need to understand the public, whether retailers, governments, broadcasters or whoever, are going to need research. A LOT of research. Once I have got my family through this, I am very much up for being part of that.

Published by Simon Riley

Qualitative researcher in the UK. I listen to people from all walks of life and think about what it all means. I work for leading brands, media companies and government.

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