DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
Data for the study was collected over a span of fifteen months which included two visits, 63 days in 2006 and 49 days in 2007, studying Web sites and follow-up conversations over telephone. During the first visit, the authors spent time talking to people and collecting secondary data about matrimonial Web sites, investigating the sites and the success stories posted on these sites. In the second visit, secondary data was used as a basis for identifying broad issues and research questions for primary data collection. A majority of the time on both visits was spent in Mumbai, and supplemented by data collected from other major metropolitan cities over brief visits. As in studies ofthis nature, the emphasis is not as much on using a representative sample as it is to develop a deep understanding of the phenomenon. At the same time, we did wish to get a sampling of different families and the roles played by different members ofthe family in using online matrimonial services. The data collection process involved conversations with prospective partners, parents, siblings and close relatives which ranged from informal interviews to just observing conversations as they took place in households.
Since the focus of our investigation was online matrimonial services, a considerable amount of time was spent in understanding the technology itself. This involved two aspects; the first was to understand the nature and type of services provided by different Web sites2. We document these using the search, matching, and interaction framework (SMI) proposed by Ahuvia and Adelman (1992) in Table 1. The SMI framework is based on the primary roles performed by any market intermediaries namely, searching, matching and transacting. Ahuvia and Adelman (1992) developed the SMI framework to categorize the processes that are involved in the marriage market and proceeded to describe the marriage market intermediaries in terms of how they performed these processes. As marriages do not happen in a vacuum, the search-matching-interaction framework integrates the context in which the relationships dyads are embedded with the interpersonal processes involved in the formation of the relationship. The second aspect involved observing the ongoing appropriation of the online service by users as reflected in the profiles and success stories documented on these Web sites. These success stories are obviously intended as testimonials by other users for the service, but they provide an additional source of information and details on how the partners decided to adopt the service, how
they used the service, and the role of other family members. While these secondary sources of data are not central to this investigation, they helped us in understanding of the context and develop a more complete understanding ofthe phenomenon.
During our visits, we spent a considerable amount of time talking to different families that were actively engaged in the process of finding a suitable partner for a family member. They were in different stages ofthe process; while some had just begun to test the waters, others were actively evaluating candidates. In one instance, we were able to follow the process right up to the actual wedding ceremony itself, which was attended by one of the authors. Our time in the field was spent initially in identifying families that would be suitable candidates for collecting data from the social network of our relatives in India and introductions made through this network. Conversations about arranged marriage took place in a variety of settings. A considerable amount of time was spent in participating in day-to-day activities of the participants, many of which involved shopping, eating out, or simply sharing a ride with them as they commuted either for work or social engagements. When a search is active, it was not too difficult to get a family talking as it would invariably be at the top of their minds. While families were observed as such, discussions
took place over afternoon tea or a meal; there were many opportunities where there were one – to-one conversations. Apart from group settings, the cultural context and topic are such that women are more apt to discuss and share their feelings, emotions and thoughts on the subject in depth in a one on one conversation.
Ethnographic research suffers from unique issues of validity and reliability (LeCompte & Goetz, 1982); replication of these studies pose problems of variation in context. Collectively, we spoke to about 39 individuals during our stay and during subsequent follow-up telephone calls. Of these, 23 were women and 16 were men. Of the men, six were fathers of the women, four were brothers of the women, twq were uncles of the men and four were the men in the marriage market. Of the women, 12 were the women who were candidates for marriage, six were mothers of the women, four were sisters of the women, and one was the mother of a man in the marriage market. About three-fourths ofthe respondents were from the northern part of India and the remaining were from the southern part of India. All of our study participants were from metropolitan cities and because of the nature of our sampling process, we did not have access to people in small towns and rural India. The average household income of the participants likely ranged from 25,000 rupees per month (about 600 dollars) to about more than 100,000 rupees a month (2,400 dollars). We did not ask direct questions about income because such questions were not appropriate in the social milieu in which we were interacting with the participants. Thus the participants constituted members of the Indian middle and upper middle class. It is also our assumption that many lower – middle class families do not use the Internet for matrimonial matchmaking. Almost all of our participants belonged to the upper three castes in the Indian caste system, and our social network limited our access to lower castes. The first few of the participants were members of the authors’ extended family, friends and larger circle of acquaintances who then directed us to others who were participating in matrimonial Web site-based matchmaking. This limitation in our sampling limits the generalizability of our study. Our study is limited in scope to urban middle class families participating in the Web-based matchmaking and is influenced by the authors’ perceptions of traditional arranged marriages in India, as well as what our study participants, especially the fathers and mothers, recounted about how arranged marriages used to take place in their time.
The nature of our conversations focused on information included in the profiles, how the process of arranged marriage was conducted using the Web sites, the role of the family versus the partners themselves and interactions between families and partners before and during the decision making process. The questions were woven into the conversation, sometimes requiring repeat interactions and were transcribed at the end of the day. Due to the nature of immersion in the field, it is not possible to precisely draw a boundary on how many hours of actual conversation form the pool of field experience. In order to keep track of our conversations, we kept a daily log individually that included both field notes and our own reflections. Once every week during our visits, both authors would spend a couple of hours going over their own and each other’s logs to fill gaps and discuss progress.
Data coding and categorization was done manually by the each of the authors at the end of the study. The next step was discussion and synthesis of the variations in coding and categorization schemes used by the authors. At this step, where needed, further data was collected through follow-up phone conversations. Or coding and categorization schemes centered around our key research questions, the role ofthe family in initiation and the decision making process, the degree and length of courtships, the sequence of courtship in the matchmaking process, and the preferences of the participants and family members about the chosen characteristics of the potential partner.