Sunday, September 27, 2009

No, we can´t all just get along

The Adler and Adler piece was a good way to kick things off. I particularly enjoyed their critique of the “detached and sterile view of observation” that we know have and that’s “based in the quantitative observational paradigm” (p. 81)
The piece also raises some good questions: Why does perception impair validity only if I work alone? (p. 87) Isn’t there something like group perception? Don’t all great fiction writers posses “vraisemblance”? (p. 88)
Once again, we ran into the “generalizability” (p. 87) of our findings… I guess that, in order for us to end this debate once and for all, we have to decide if we want to work with an audience or with humans/individuals. I already said it in the other post: quantitative tells us what the audience thinks or does, qualitative gives people back their voice, their individuality. In the end, I guess I’m just “an observational sociologist among number-worshippers” (p. 94) (I loved that!).
The Humphreys ordeal (p. 96) made me think a lot about ethical behavior and research. Although I’m still in the midst of a heated brain-debate, I think that men, or women, that have sex in a public bathroom sort of set themselves up to be… screwed with one way or another, right? The person that chooses to have sex in public, just like the guy that commits suicide on the Internet, is fair game in my book when it comes to research. What is the role of the IRB when it comes to observation?
Last but not least, are we supposed to believe that “subject bias, self-deception, lack of inside and dishonesty” (p. 99) are only present in qualitative research?!
The Flick piece proves two things beyond the shadow of a doubt: observation is an open methodology that we can adapt to all of our research and people usually prefer to conduct research from the comfort of their desk rather than going out there and getting exposed to the “raw real” (p. 227). That last line echoes what Adler and Adler also hinted at: the research about what’s going on out there is now mostly done from behind a desk… why doesn’t that preposterous idea raise doubts about validity?
The Hopf piece was interesting, but I think even the author hinted at the idea that, although we have certain structured ways of doing interviews, as longs as you pay attention to scope, specificity, depth and personal context (p. 205), the interview is a malleable tool that can be changed and adapted in order to answer your specific research questions. Hopf says that the “ability to conduct qualitative interviews is generally viewed as an independent and relatively unproblematic component in the qualifications of social scientists” (p. 207). These makes me think about non-fiction writers and journalists… why are we trying to drag research in journalism so far from this type of research (qualitative) if it so closely resembles what we do in the field?
Everbach was an interesting read. My only problem with the article is that the author seems to put what males and females bring into the field in opposition. I think that women bring that holistic way of doing things on top of bringing whatever men can bring. It was also funny to read that one woman was bummed out because she couldn’t seduce her boss. Should authors keep publishing feminist pieces in which the idea of strong women being bitches and the classic catfight idea are discussed? Why not just forget about all that and move on? In any case, somebody should stand up and defend those poor rich, white, middle-aged men.
Fontana and Frey give a nice overview of the interview and I loved the line: “the fine little mill of the Statistical Ritual” (p. 50). Their definitions and explanations on the different kinds of interviews serve as a guide for folks that don’t have much experience with interviews. What the authors don’t say is that the structured interview is more or less a survey and it closes the door to pursuing new avenues of knowledge that can open up every time you get somebody talking about something.
The reading also brought back a question I had in my Straubhaar class: how long does it take for me, researcher, to truly become part of what I’m observing? How much do I need to understand of a certain subculture before I can really get down to what they mean when they answer my questions?
Also, I feel like postmodern interviewing is just another name for open interviews conducted with an open mind. Last but not least, how come gaining trust and establishing rapport don’t raise more “ethical” questions?

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