The Middle East is investing heavily in iconic structures, with two of the ten globally recognised iconic structures found in the region. The aim of the study is to investigate the current relevance of iconic structures in the Middle East and determine the future prospects for iconic structures in the context of present and impending developments in the region.
3.1 Research Approach
The research approach to addressing the aim of the study is case study to gather the data needed to provide a contextual understanding of iconic structures in the Middle East.
Case study refers to the empirical method of studying a contemporary event or occurrence within its real-world context when the relationship between the event and its context is complex and not clearly defined to require the consultation of various evidentiary forms and sources (Yin, 1994).
The case study has three elements that determine its applicability and appropriateness as an investigative approach. The first element is its nature as an empirical study set the in its real-world context (Yin, 1994), which means that this involves investigations of phenomenon in the context of its occurrence. This enables the investigation to capture an understanding of the phenomenon as influenced and as an influence on environmental factors. The second element is the applicability of the case study to investigations of complex or undefined phenomenon (Yin, 1994). The third element is the consultation of multiple evidentiary sources (Yin, 1994). The case study considers multiples resources to achieve a comprehensive picture of the phenomenon studied. The case study considers various perspectives to derive an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon.
As a focused and comprehensive method, the case study covers all forms of research questions including ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ (Stake, 1995). The question on the current relevance of iconic structures in the Middle East is a ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ question, while the prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East answers all the question forms. The alignment between the case study method and the requirements of the study justifies its applicability and appropriateness to the current study.
The case study method comprises an appropriate strategy in the investigation of iconic structures in the Middle East because of the alignment between the elements of the case study method and the requirements of the study. The investigation of iconic structures in the Middle East requires the consideration of the multiple facets of actual iconic structures within their environmental contexts to understand the current relevance of these structures and draw future prospects for iconic structures in the region. Using the case study method supports the empirical and contextual study. Understanding iconic structures in the Middle East requires the integration of evidence from different areas of study such as economics and business, sociology, architecture, and engineering and the piecing together of evidence from these areas to determine the current relevance of iconic structures and the implied future prospects for iconic structures. The case study method applies to integrative studies and use of multiple evidences.
There are benefits and downsides to employing the case study method. The benefits coincide with downsides. The appropriateness of this research approach depends on the extent that the benefits overshadow the downsides. In the present study, the benefits had greater weight than the downsides.
The case study method involves in-depth investigation of the topic of study but leads to the weakness in drawing generalisations (Feagin, 1991; Tellis, 1997). The case study focuses on a single case or group as well as on a particular topic or area of study and requires comprehensive evidence (Feagin, 1991). However, the evidence may not apply in general. The study of the current relevance and future prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East is a contextual study to require focus on iconic structures in selected countries comprising the region. Using case study can support generalisations for the region but not necessarily for other regions. Nevertheless, the insights drawn from the case study could have significance to understanding iconic structures in other regions. This downside of the case study has no significant effect on the validity of the study.
The case study method requires comprehensive consultation of existing sources of evidence but opens the downside of having a wide-range of data with little relevance to the study (Tellis, 1997). Collecting evidence on iconic structures in the Middle East considered various sources of evidence from different areas of study and perspectives. The evidence provided the conceptual framework of the study and pointed to existing knowledge relevant to the investigation. To augment limitations in existing data, the study also involved collection of primary data through observation to obtain evidence directly addressing the data requirements of the study. The collection of primary data counters the limitation on the relevance to the study of available data.
Employing the case study method can lead to new information or provide understanding of complex phenomenon but face the limitation of having sufficient sources of evidence (Feagin, 1991; Tellis, 1997). This has direct connection to the earlier downside. The study of iconic structures consulted various secondary sources including books, journal studies, newspaper and magazine articles, online reliable sources, business reports, and government documents. Exhausting these resources ensured sufficient resources. The collection of primary data filled any limitations in the sources of secondary evidence.
3.2 Research Design
The research design is qualitative study. The nature of the qualitative study and the distinction with quantitative study, as the alternative research design, explains why qualitative study fits the current investigation.
Qualitative study stresses on the social construction of reality, the role of the researcher in the investigation, and the situational factors that determine the research process. The qualitative study answers the inquiry on the manner that social experience creates and provides meaning. (Silverman, 2005) This research design applies to studies that intend to draw the meaning of real phenomenon within its social context. Investigating the current importance and future prospects of iconic structures in the Middle East determines the meaning of iconic structure within the context of the region and determines the future value of iconic structures to Middle Eastern countries.
Based on this definition, qualitative studies share three components. One component is the social construction of reality (Patton, 1990). This refers to the consideration of the phenomenon studied relative to its social context, particularly individual perspectives, relationships and social norms. This method involves accounts and descriptions of the phenomenon studied from those part or with direct connection to it (Creswell, 2003). The consideration of context is a characteristic that the case study approach and the qualitative research design shares. Employing qualitative study not only addresses the requirements of the investigation but also aligns with the case study approach.
Another component is the key role of the researcher in the study. The researcher acts as the instrument in gathering data by comprising an onlooker or participant in the phenomenon studied (Patton, 1990). The ability to capture perspectives depends on the role the researcher takes in gathering data. As a bystander, the researcher collects data on the accounts of the people involved in the phenomenon or based on personal observations. As a participant, the researcher can contribute a first-hand account of experiences relative to the phenomenon. The role of the researcher is important to the study of the current relevance and future prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East because it requires the consideration of perspectives of people and organizations or firms involved in the creation of iconic structures or for whose benefit iconic structures emerged. This would not have been possible or possible but in a limited manner in using quantitative study, as the alternative research design.
By playing an important role in gathering data, the researcher in the qualitative study has to develop the requirements of naturalistic investigations to be receptive to signals coming from the natural environment, collect multiple types of data simultaneously, and process data to provide feedback needed to confirm data (Patton, 1990). The researcher also needs to have ‘theoretical sensitivity’ as a skill, which refers to the ability of the researcher to understand and interpret data and separate the points important to the study from those that are not (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). In the study on the current relevance and future prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East, the researcher has sufficient academic knowledge on the research topic as well as insight into the social context of the study to be able to exercise theoretical sensitivity.
The last component is the application of a research process that aligns with the situational factors involved in the investigation. The method of collecting data in a qualitative study involves a certain degree of flexibility in terms of the research process (Creswell, 2003). Situations occurring during data collection can shift the research process such as when there are new data that emerge to point to a direction previously unconsidered in the initial stages of the study or when data does not jive with expectations. This degree of flexibility enables a qualitative study to derive a contextual understanding of the phenomenon studied or give way to new information (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). There are limited studies directly discussing the current importance and future prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East. Employing the qualitative study fits the research purpose of investigating this research topic.
A further understanding of a qualitative study emanates from its distinction with the quantitative method. One difference is the form of data. A qualitative study gives rise to textual or worded data while a quantitative study leads to numerical or measurable data (Creswell, 2003; Silverman, 2005). The qualitative study supports the requirements of the research to conduct an in-depth investigation to determine and explain the current relevance and future prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East. Another difference is the scope of data collected. A qualitative research targets in-depth data while a quantitative research involves a wide spectrum of data source (Creswell, 2003; Silverman, 2005). The qualitative and quantitative study is appropriate for different data requirements. The data requirement of the current study is in-depth textual data to come-up with an explanation of the phenomenon studied. A last difference is the purpose of the investigation. A qualitative study focuses on details to provide a thorough explanation of the research topic while quantitative study tests hypotheses or theories using measures (Creswell, 2003). The current study requires detailed explanation.
The use of the qualitative research design gives rise to the issues of reliability and validity. Reliability refers to two things, the consistency of data over time and the accuracy of representation of generalisations (Merriam, 1995). The repeatability of results is a measure of reliability. When compared to quantitative research, this appears to have stronger reliability through its methods of probabilistic sampling and use of measures. The contextual nature of qualitative data appears to prevent repeatability. Nevertheless, by consulting multiple sources of data and considering different perspectives, the qualitative study can achieve a certain level of repeatability as well as ensure generalisation, at the least within the context of the study.
Validity refers to how well the results were able to address the aim or purpose of the study and the degree of truthfulness of the results. Verifiable result is a determinant of validity. (Merriam, 1995) The qualitative study addresses the issue of validity by looking at different sources to represent multidimensional perspectives of the phenomenon studied as well as taking a focused and in-depth stance in the research process.
3.3 Data Collection
To ensure thorough data gathering, the study employed two data collection methods. One is archival research to draw secondary data. The other is observation to collect primary data.
Archival study is the same as desk or secondary research. Archival study refers to the collection and use of existing and previously reported data (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2007). This applied by consulting a wide range of resources such as books, journals, newspapers and magazines, online databases and websites, business reports, and government documents. The use of these sources established a background on iconic structures in the contemporary period, growth of iconic structures in the Middle East, and the role and prospects of iconic structures in the region.
The collection of secondary data was necessary to the study for a number of reasons. One, iconic structures comprise a new development in the Middle East and information on the phenomenon is widely dispersed and held by architects, government officials, business firms, and private sector organisations. Obtaining primary data from all these sources involves a tedious process, which the timescale of the study did not permit. Another is the existence of previously reported data, although focusing on certain aspects of iconic structures, for integration to address the data requirements of the study. Lastly, the employment of archival research provided key background information in the study. Primary data collection filled all gaps.
Using secondary sources carried the disadvantage of the risk of not having sufficient data or having data collected for a different purpose (Saunders et al., 2007). However, the exhaustion of various secondary sources relevant to the study represented different perspectives on the research topic. Furthermore, the case study method complemented the archival research approach by focusing on particular iconic structures in Middle Eastern countries that boast a number of globally known iconic structures built in the last decade and likely to continue building more iconic structures in the future. The collection of empirical data addressed the limitations of archival study.
The primary data collection method is observation. This primary data collection supports the derivation of descriptions of people, places and situations as well as the meanings that emerge from interactions in the environment based on observations of the perspectives of parties involved in the phenomenon studied. Observation provides in-depth understanding relative to using interviews because the view of the observer is comprehensive by considering perspectives that those with a particular view may not be familiar or unwilling to express. (Patton, 1990) This stance of the observer is necessary to achieve a comprehensive or in-depth description and explanation of the salience of iconic structures and the things to expect in the future relative to iconic structures in the Middle East.
The researcher as the observer requires receptivity to all explicit and implicit cues and expressing observations in clear or precise descriptions (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). The researcher has academic knowledge directly relating to iconic structures as well as insight on the socio-cultural and other environmental factors in the Middle East. With the guidance of the aim and objectives of the study, the researcher achieved the necessary stance for an effective observer to draw an understanding of the current relevance and future prospects for iconic structures.
There are various techniques in doing observation. The first is to remain outside of the phenomenon to prevent interaction. The second is inconspicuous presence. The third is restricted interaction. Last is full contact or involvement. These techniques fit different research requirements. (Hamel et al., 1993) The selected technique is limited interaction. The researcher needed to visit some of the sites to assess the use of the structure and interact with people whenever necessary to confirm observations.
In conducting the observation, the researcher employed criteria to all the selected iconic structures to ensure uniformity in the data collection process. The current relevance of iconic structures are observed in terms of 1) purpose, 2) benefit, 3) beneficiaries, 4) location, 5) years of construction, 6) cost, 7) height and/or land area, 8) architectural design, 9) engineering design, 10) unique materials or equipment used, 11) technology employed, and 12) expected longevity of the structure. The criteria for relevance emerged from the literature review.
The observation of the future prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East found guidance through the criteria on the current trends and direction of future trends relative to the function, aesthetics, cost and social value of iconic structures. These also emerged from the review of literature.
The observation was done by considering selecting modern iconic structures for observation in the context of the countries where the leading cities in iconic structures are located. The iconic structures selected were built in the last decade or since 2000 and appeared to have strong impact. The cities where modern iconic structures were concentrated are Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE, Haifa and Tel Aviv in Israel, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Amman in Jordan, and Manama in Bahrain. A list of twenty modern iconic structures was selected from these cities. These countries and cities comprised the context in observing the selected iconic structures given the guide previously identified.
3.4 Data Analysis
A number of analysis techniques fit the requirements of the study. One method of analysis used is thematic classification by organising data based on emerging themes and according to the objectives of the study. These themes were used as sub-sections throughout the research paper. Another method of analysis is case study comparison by identifying similarities and differences of the impact of the selected modern iconic structures and the likely prospect of the growth of iconic structures in different Middle Eastern countries. Generalisations for different cities have implications on the countries and the region. The last method is the derivation of implications to draw future prospects for iconic structures in the Middle East based on the direction of current trends.
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