In this specific proposal I used a research strategy in which different tools — such as a Twitter account, a smartphone, and a website — could deliver methods that yield insight on the students’ modes of communication with the downtown community in Raleigh, USA. The purpose was to reveal their frequency, and the spatial environment where they happen; all of these visualized through a website in the form of a Digital Quilt.

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During the Spring 2012, I was part of a group of students from the Master of Graphic Design Program at North Carolina State University who undertook the study of methods for collecting citizen opinions regarding issues related to an area designated as Southwest Raleigh. Using anthropologist Dori Tunstall’s inventory of aspects that define communities, we set about proposing research strategies in which technologies (high and low) could deliver methods that yield insight on the community’s sense of historical consciousness; life goals; structure; relationships; and individual agency. Of particular concern to us was to gain information that is not likely to come from traditional marketing surveys.

This project is one of my proposals, an example of how the design of a strategy using technology could deliver research methods to gather insights on the community’s sense of relationships. And, even though it is a concept description only, is technologically feasible and scalable.

Research Method Used: Story Gathering

The Digital Quilt asks NC State students to share why they think downtown is special for them using their Twitter accounts, smart phones, and a website. This investigation explores students’ modes of communication with the downtown community, their frequency, and the spatial environment where they happen.

Story gathering is a qualitative research method that is usually conducted by recording oral or written histories and information. Story gathering can be focused on one specific moment or topic, or can take the form of an undirected life story. In order to impact the participant’s stories as little as possible, a researcher using this method generally takes a role as a nearly invisible listener if present at all. One method of story gathering is to give participants an audio or video recorder and instruct them to record their feelings and life events over the course of weeks, months, or even years. In this way, story gathering differs greatly from an interview, which has a course that is typically influenced by the interviewer. In the story gathering method presented here, participants are involved in creating shared histories of events and places in Raleigh.


Participants can interact in two ways, posting tweets* via smart phone (1–3) or visiting the website (4–5).

1. The participant is prompted with the question “What do you find unique about downtown and why?”  through his Twitter account. He composes a tweet using the hashtag** #DigitalQuilt and a phrase in response.

*A tweet is a text-based post of up to 140 characters from Twitter, a micro-blogging social networking service.

2. He/she takes a picture that illustrates his answer, now attached to the tweet.


** Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to tweets. They are added inline to the Twitter posts with a hash symbol: #DigitalQuilt

3. The participant posts a tweet. The picture and phrase are published on the website.

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4. A participant visits the website and looks through the pictures.

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5. He/she posts a comment on that picture to show support. A virtual stitch is added to the quilt and the picture’s size increases, giving it a more prominent place in the digital quilt.

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The project generates interest in an audience that may not be directly linked to the area. Uses the website as a resource to find unknown activities and places.


It uses social media as a tool to gather information allowing rapid data collection that can be visualized in real-time. It also serves as a tool to promote the area in social networking environments.