At the time of writing this, I am in Athens, on the occasion of an international conference. After our respective presentations, which were very well received (I believe), we took the occasion to relax a bit and have a couple of beers and a good conversation.
Between jokes and serious talk (both these tones use to get confused in a dialog among friends), we were talking about some of our favorite topics as we do whenever we have the chance to meet. With this friend we talk about our experiences studying our PhDs abroad, the copyright industry’s battle against piracy, open access, alternative business models, the good “old” Wikipedia, the Internet, and digital culture in general. Today’s conversation was about how, in a way, we see ourselves almost as outsiders when in conservative academic circles. This isn’t the case of this conference, I must point out, as we were not criticized and I believe both our researches were well received by the academics present.
For example, on one side, my friend is using a grounded theory method on his research about metadata, he is interviewing mostly young researchers and academics from the LIS field. He told me he has been highly criticized because of the method he is using and even some have told him: “why metadata?” (WHAT!!) More than as a friend, I think even as a colleague, I believe in his research. I told him: what is the problem? Aren’t there already enough research done in a more traditional top down way with tried and good approaches or theories?
This is also applicable to my own PhD research, where I take an action research perspective to study the use of social networking tools in higher education. Possible critics may very well point out the highly subjective charge of my research, by making direct interventions on the activities I give to the participants. But then, isn’t learning one of the most subjective processes? We are not machines.
We argued that we get very weary and a bit tired at times of the old debate of positivism vs. constructivism, or objectivism vs. subjectivism. I believe there is not a single phenomenon in social sciences or humanities for which someone has found an absolute, universal, measurable and replicable truth.
I don’t remember where I saw it, perhaps you can identify where I got this piece of quote without author: “The outcome or goal does not matter, the most important thing is the journey.” All the insights you could get around a problem or a phenomenon subject to study; or all the discussion that leads you to your findings. Isn’t that good enough on the social sciences and the humanities?