Posts Tagged 'projects'

I like (and ramble about) science.

Now that one of my assignments (not the lit review) is off my back for the time being, I feel like I can think freely again. It’s nice! And when paired with tea, I managed to have some reinforcing thoughts on science, social science research, and my “going through life with love” plan.

(For background, I just did a group lit review.) Social science research is great, and difficult. I like that it’s a significant influence in information science research. I think we call them user studies here, and sure I’m biased (B.A. Sociology) but I want more. We had a hard time finding some user studies (and not query data mining) regarding digital image search results, which was a bit frustrating after a while, but I can understand. I think there are two big factors that produce research intended to help improve services to people but that don’t talk to those people, which I will set out forthwith.

  • Technical (by which I mean financial) limitations: These sorts of things are expensive. Finding people, finding people to talk to people, paying people, paying people to talk to people, paying people to record instances of these conversations, paying people to interpret/code/whatever. They take a lot of time and money. Also there’s a good deal of administrative hurdles to get through (and rightfully so). I mean, if you have to produce something on a deadline, it kind of is easier to theorize and publish that.
  • Belief in a unified theory of everything at all times: I think there exist people who hold this belief who still value social styles of research, but still. Coming from this perspective, I can really see why one would think it’s not that important to consult actual people when constructing services/systems for their use. People do this, people do that. They want this, they want that. The general user this, the general user that. One can’t actually armchair hypothesize about “general users” without coming from the belief that people act according to grand principles that we can imagine, pursue, and implement.
    • And there are plenty of people who hold pretty strongly to the unified theory of everything at all times, and they end up not liking social research, and qualitative research more specifically. Secretly (okay, not so secretly) I think it’s because they (like me) find theorizing really fun, and that joy informs their belief systems.

Luckily, we have science! (For background, I don’t use science in a strict sense.) So we didn’t solve the world in one research effort? Try it again, this time with a different angle. Have we maybe defined some part of the world in a particular study? Test it out again, this time with a different angle. Tinker with methodology and see what comes out! To adapt the text on a shirt I really want but would feel embarrassed to wear in public: Science. It’s iterative, bitches! Maybe I should add Science to the list of concepts/deceased persons I would date if they had living human form.

And finally: lit reviews, professional conferences, etc. shouldn’t be about tearing projects and ideas down. I’ve been a mean tearer, and I’m largely over it. It’s not fun, not satisfying. I guess it’s like potato chips. Anyway, while I have periods where I’m tired of deliverables and I just want to sit and think, I do love that I get to dip into building things in my courses. This is hard work, and makes me respect and sympathize with other people who do hard project-based work. I can’t tear that stuff down, as if someone didn’t think of this or that or the other and their project it worthless or totally not applicable to me. Not anymore.

Interestingly, I also feel less and less like I can tear down critics as well. One of my cohort’s hypothetical replies to a critic was “Well what did you do?” and my first thought was “That’s not going-through-life-with-love.” (as in, the plan; not this person’s general life attitude.) A couple of weeks ago I read (via Lifehacker) a post on how to take criticism well, and it was good but it required a certain personal shift that neither I nor the post seemed to really define. Maybe I’m making that shift, and I call it my going-through-life-with-love plan? Regardless, the plan seems to be working for me. I’m much less of a tearer, but I’m no less a breaker. I still like to look at models, ideas, and some software apps and try and break them. And I see how, when I…how do I say this…inhabit my plan, I can work towards construction of a better model, offer assistance in areas that want refinement, or adapt a model for my needs. How very Wikipedia of me.