Katharina Lobinger / Cornelia Brantner

Q-Sort: Qualitativ-quantitative Analysen bildlicher Rezeptions- und Aneignungsprozesse. Leistungen und Limitationen für das Feld Visueller Kommunikationsforschung

[Q-sort: Qualitative-quantitative Analyses of Visual Reception and Appropriation Processes. Potentials and Limitations for the Field of Visual Communication Research]

This article provides an overview of Q-sort and Q methodology for visual communication researchers, exemplifying the method and its application with two studies conducted by the authors. Q methodology is a qualitative-quantitative method for the analysis of subjectivity that draws on the strength of both traditions. The interview technique of Q-sort is combined with statistical Q factor analysis. Q-sort is a particularly useful tool for the examination of phenomena that are difficult to verbalize, such as the associative impressions gained from images. First, respondents are asked to sort different pictures in relation to each other, second, statistical techniques reveal factors, that is, participants with similar viewpoints are grouped together. Particularly ‘intensive analysis’ settings that combine Q-sort with additional open interviews in the tradition of visual elicitation represent promising methodological approaches as they enrich the data and enhance factor interpretation. This is illustrated by two studies; the first identifies subjective views on the (un)favorability of photographs of politicians, the second examines subjective audience perceptions regarding the expressive authenticity of self-photography. Particular emphasis is put on factor analysis and interpretation. The article concludes that Q methodology enriched with visual elicitation, is a particularly useful tool for audience studies in the field of visual communication as it identifies the patterns of subjective, associative interpretations of visuals while avoiding the task of verbalization.