Digital modes of data collection in mixed-methods longitudinal youth research
Contemporary youth research has witnessed growing interest in digital methods, often drawing on ethnographic approaches. While research of this type has been particularly successful in revealing some of the intricacies of personal experience and expression, it has not commonly been integrated into large-scale mixed methods studies. In this chapter we discuss a recent use of digital data collection as part of the Life Patterns study, a long-running mixed-methods study of two generations of Australian young adults. We discuss some of the challenges that we encountered as well as, in many cases, the opportunities that these challenges afforded us. Specifically, we focus on research design, operationalisation of the method and how the study was placed within the wider mixed methods research program. On the basis of this discussion we ultimately contend that the integration of digital modes of data collection into existing studies holds the potential to produce valuable insights. Moreover, we contend that many of the challenges, setbacks and unexpected findings that we encountered actually afforded us valuable opportunities to better understand the complexities characterising young lives.