The current issue of Social Science Computer Review (Winter 2005, vol 23, no. 4)has a piece by Mick Couper titled, "Technology Trends in Survey Data Collection," in which he describes the latest technology-related trends in survey research. The viewpoint is from one of the world's foremost survey methodologists and, as you would expect, there is a slight bias toward academic and government research. But his observations are interesting and useful:
- Interview Administration to Self-administration. He sees two things are driving us in this direction: (1) interviewer administration is getting too expensive and (2) self-administration delivers more accurate answers on socially sensitive issues.
- Auditory Communication. IVR data collection is gaining in popularity and experiments have shown that test to speech (TTS) can be used to make set up of these applications more efficient as well as customize voices to respondent characteristics. It's turning out that respondents do not object to computerized speech.
- Visual Communication. With the advent of Web-based surveys more and more visual information is finding its way into surveys. But it's also proving to be a two-edged sword. While images can be used to illustrate and stimulate, they also can produce unintended effects. We need more research to use them wisely.
- Mobility. Ten years ago the first laptops made CAPI the rage and smaller devices including PDAs have many applications in surveys. As we become a cell phone oriented society there are new opportunities but also imposing challenges to capitalize on cell phones for survey data collection.
All in all, it reminds one of that old Chinese proverb: "May you live in interesting times." For survey researchers, these are exceptionally interesting times.