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Arts-based Research Methods

This project evolved from an initial class assignment, aiming to enhance the analysis of qualitative data we had gathered. Through this endeavor, I delved into various Arts-based Research (ABR) techniques, allowing for a deeper exploration of intricate emotions and helped me better align the findings/insights from data with the theoretical frameworks. This approach not only fostered better participant engagement but also expanded the reach of my research findings beyond just academic papers.


About the project

Title of the project: Understanding the interpersonal relationships development in online fandom community of BTS

Objective of the project: In the backdrop of growing online communities struggling with meaningful conversations and strong bond formation, the thriving online fandom (BBC News, 2022) of the K-pop band BTS, known as ARMY, stands out. This community's success is attributed to its participatory culture, the welcoming nature perceived by fans, and the strong interpersonal relationships formed (Chang & Park, 2018; Chung 2022; Galvan, 2021; Park et al., 2021), partly driven by the socio-critical, high-arousal content of the band's lyrics (Cruz, 2019; Hyun-su, 2018; Poor et al., 2022). These lyrics elicit varied emotions among fans (Bhattacharya et al., 2023; Herman, 2018; Lazore, 2023; Lee et al., 2021), who then engage in deeper, personalized exchanges, including daily updates and self-disclosures. This research aims to understand how interpersonal communication, especially self-disclosures, fosters strong relationships within online fandom communities, focusing on the shared experiences of fans resonating with the socio-critical themes of BTS songs.

Research Questions: 

RQ1: How do the fans describe their experiences listening to the socio-critical lyrics of BTS songs?
RQ2: What do fans share as realizations when listening to these lyrics of the songs?

RQ3: How do fans describe their experience demonstrating a strong connection with other members of the fandom community while listening to these lyrics or sharing their realizations?


Research Design

(Read more about this section in the previous project)

Methodology: Phenomenological Case Study

Theoretical Frameworks: Symbolic Interactionism, Phenomenology, Social learning theory, Third space

Data Collection Methods: Diary Studies, Participant Interviews, Digital observations

Data Analysis Methods: Traditional Methods of line-by-line in-vivo and Open coding; Poetic Analysis; Comic-based research method

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Pilot data - Diary Study

In my research, I gathered extensive data from various sources. This included digital observations from the online fan community on the subreddit r/bangtan. Additionally, as a part of the pilot studies, I conducted two interviews via Zoom and organized three diary studies using tools like Google Jamboard and Miroboard. All the gathered information was transcribed into interview transcripts, fieldnotes, artifacts, and author's memos, utilizing the Dovetail application

Link to the full data of the Diary Study for Participant 3

Note: To ensure privacy, I haven't included the full data of all the 10 participants from the Diary studies here. Instead, I've showcased sample data from my Pilot Study for demonstration purposes.


Traditional Method of Analysis

In my first attempt to conduct the traditional method of analysis, I chose to go with line-by-line in-vivo and open coding method as I was familiar with this concept from my previous projects.

While the open codes were interesting and have captured the essence of “socio-critical lyrics,” but it didn’t help me understand how these can be used to understand their felt experience in connection with other members of the fandom community, which could help me understand the development of the interpersonal relationships. Going back to the research questions to have the coding cycles of deductive & inductive analysis (see the screenshot on the right) as mentioned by Vanover et al.(2021) and creating themes out of these codes using thematic analysis.

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Poetic Analysis

In light of the theme of my research, which focuses primarily on the songs, lyrics, and music of BTS, I opted to use Poetic Analysis as a method of data analysis for this exercise.

To conduct the Poetic Inquiry of my data from one participant, I read the text carefully and identified key phrases, emotions, and themes that stood out to me based on the three research questions.

The goal of this inquiry was to capture the participant’s subjective experience in a creative and evocative way that emphasizes the emotional and personal impact of BTS’s music, placing this inquiry in the category of “Vox Participare” (Cutts & Waters, 2019). During this inquiry process, it became evident that the data was inherently aligned with some of the research questions.


Comic-based method of analysis

Taking cues from Tufte's principles of visualization and Sally Galman's three-step Comic-drawing process (Vanover et al., 2021), I commenced my project by re-reading my data several times. As I was poring over my data, I simultaneously wrote my story for the comics that not only encapsulated the research questions but also adhered to a coherent narrative structure.

  • Capturing the idea through Exposition: Following Kurt Vonnegut's words, "What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured," I introduced my character, Maggie, and her current state of anxiety and loneliness. I also highlighted her desires and limitations, thereby setting the stage for her story arc.

  • Rising Action: The second stage involved creating an inciting incident, which for Maggie was her realization that BTS Lyricism provided her with solace from her troubles. She subsequently shares her experiences with her fellow ARMY friends.

  • Climax: this is where they all discover that they were dealing with similar issues.

  • Resolution: This realization provides them with the impetus to form a stronger mutual support

    system, presenting a new reality for Maggie.


Summary of the project

This video provides an overview of the project, covering its ideation, literature review, RQs to answer, theoretical foundations, data gathering and analysis, and how the findings align with the initial theoretical perspective. Embracing an arts-based approach, the project's final presentation is an interactive comic book style.

Note: Apologies for the background noise; using my older microphone for the voice recording wasn't the best choice.


  • Starting with a deductive analysis was beneficial, highlighting key topics from existing literature related to the research questions.

  • These identified topics served as anchor points during inductive analysis, ensuring focus on the core research area.

  • Themes from this analysis were valuable when transitioning to arts-based evaluations.

  • Engaging in Poetic analysis was a new and challenging experience, with initial doubts about extracting central themes and crafting a relevant poem.

  • Concerns arose about potentially overlooking significant insights by overly condensing the data.

  • With the comic-based analysis method, there was uncertainty in visualizing qualitative data and crafting a narrative that was both insightful and engaging.

  • The primary aim was to produce a clear, informative, and captivating comic without overwhelming the viewer.


  1. BBC News. (2022, February 23). K-pop: BTS agency Hybe grows profits by 31%. BBC News.


  3. Bhattacharya, A., Backonja, U., Le, A., Antony, R., Si, Y., & Lee, J. H. (2023). Understanding the

  4. Influence of Music on People’s Mental Health Through Dynamic Music Engagement Model. In I. Sserwanga, A. Goulding, H. Moulaison-Sandy, J. T. Du, A. L. Soares, V. Hessami, & R. D. Frank (Eds.), Information for a Better World: Normality, Virtuality, Physicality, Inclusivity (pp. 91–108). Springer Nature Switzerland.

  5. Chang, W., & Park, S.-E. (2018). The Fandom of Hallyu, A Tribe in the Digital Network Era: The Case of ARMY of BTS. Kritika Kultura, 0(32), Article 32.

  6. Chung, Y. R. (2022). BTS & ARMY: A South Korean Music Group and their Fandom Create a New Grassroots Movement for Social Change.

  7. Cruz, L. (2019, July 18). What It’s Like to Become a BTS Fan Overnight. The Atlantic. 543/

  8. Cutts, Q., & Sankofa Waters, M. (2019). Poetic approaches to qualitative data analysis. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education.

  9. Galvan, J. (2021). Fans of Change: Community Organizing, the BTS ARMY and Aspirational Fandom.

  10. Herman, T. (2018, February 13). BTS’ Most Political Lyrics: A Guide to Their Social Commentary on South Korean Society. Billboard.

  11. Hyun-su, Y. (2018, September 25). BTS’ motivational UN speech transcends race and gender identity. The Korea Herald.

  12. Lazore, C. (2023). Ethics of Care through BTS’s Lyricism. The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series.


  14. Park, S. Y., Santero, N. K., Kaneshiro, B., & Lee, J. H. (2021). Armed in ARMY: A Case Study of How BTS Fans Successfully Collaborated to #MatchAMillion for Black Lives Matter. Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–14.

  15. Poor, N., Skoric, M., & Lampe, C. (2022). Death of a child, birth of a guild: Factors aiding the rapid formation of online support communities. The Information Society, 38(3), 188–199.

  16. Vanover, C., Mihas, P., & Saldana, J. (2021). Analyzing and Interpreting Qualitative Research. SAGE Publications, Inc. (Chapter 8 – Deductive and Inductive Approaches to Qualitative Analysis, pp. 133-148

  17. Vanover, C., Mihas, P., & Saldana, J. (2021). Analyzing and Interpreting Qualitative Research. SAGE Publications, Inc. (Chapter 9: Coding, Categorizing, and Theming the Data: A Reflexive Search for Meaning, pp. 149-167)

  18. Vanover, C., Mihas, P., & Saldana, J. (2021). Analyzing and Interpreting Qualitative Research. SAGE Publications, Inc. (Chapter 22: Follow the Headlights: On Comics-Based Data Analysis, pp. 391-409)

Thank you

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