Would you be friend with a bird-legged crab, a little boy who talks to his stuffed tiger, or simply with a wise academic? "Not sure", will probably answer the young people contacted by the Project Experiences. It is therefore a real challenge that the five representatives of a research team of NCCR LIVES - Overcoming vulnerability, life course perspectives – have set by creating www.ProjetExperiences.ch, a new social network whose members may appear under the most unusual avatars.
Veronica Eicher took the face of Calvin, the little boy of Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. This 31 years old young researcher admits eclectic tastes such as sewing and the music of the Killers. From April 30 to May 4, 2012, she and her colleagues will try to convince 240 young people in career orientation or preformation at the Center for orientation and professional training (COFOP) in Lausanne to create their own profile on the new online club.
"Correct preconceived ideas on Youth"
The difference with Facebook? Here everything that is said will be used for scientific purposes, in order to "correct the preconceived ideas on youth", the researchers explain. They want to understand what particular resources are mobilized by young people to address their problems and why some are doing better or worse than others in accessing training and work.
For this, the team will start by distributing a questionnaire of eight pages to COFOP classes, in order to identify different dimensions of these teenagers’ life: what group identity do they feel part of, what is their degree of satisfaction and well-being, and on the contrary what are their reasons for concern or stress, what are their plans and their means to achieve them.
The same type of questionnaire will also be sent to a thousand apprentices and young employees of the City of Lausanne under the age of 30 years. These initial data will give an overview of the current situation of a representative sample of youth.
Share concerns and successes
All participants will receive the proposal to open an account on www.ProjetExperiences.ch, so that they can report their experiences over time related to the workplace, share their concerns and successes. The team hopes that discussion groups will be formed, and that the network will be joined by other young people from the French speaking cantons. These testimonies will allow researchers to analyze the evolution of each and retain key events over a period of two to three years, information essential to the study of life course.
Created with the content management system Wordpress and the help of staff of the Computer Centre of the University of Lausanne, this website provides an innovative way to conduct social science research. Mouna Bakouri, a doctoral student in the project who has been heavily involved in its design with another doctoral Student, Marlène Barbosa, explains that "this type of tool is known to unite people in the voluntary and activist circles. In our case, it seemed appropriate to the age of the population of interest, and to our mixed methods, with quantitative and qualitative analyzes. The advantage for users is that the knowledge shared on the network cannot be used commercially."
The team also plans to conduct face to face interviews. “We will meet those who are voluntary and who match a certain profile, says Christian Staerklé, professor of social psychology and project leader. We will seek for example those who have an ascending life course, who succeed in facing their problems and getting rid of them. What interests us is the impact of the relational regulations, the support from family and friends, and the impact of political regulations, concerning those engaged in a collective project as an association or a civic movement.” This qualitative part will allow researchers to better understand certain life courses… and participants to find out who was hidden behind the louse with Martian antennas.