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  • 1. Structure or Consciousness? In discussing objectivity and subjectivity you will of course be considering the basic research definitions of each. However as we have seen, what side of the theoretical argument the researcher stands on will inevitably lead them down divergent paths: Your starting point as a researcher: Testing your theory What do I want to quantify or measure? My preferred data type. My methodologies. Q: Are the above ideological choices themselves? http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/829/1800
  • 2. Structure or Consciousness? • Example: • Q: In regards to religious belief, what evidence is there to ‘prove’ that god (of whatever denomination or faith you like), heaven, hell and so on exist? • Irrespective of your response, the fact is that billions of your fellow human beings do subscribe to a specific faith system. • Q: For Positivists, Objectivists and those concerned with empirical data (definition?), can you speculate on what challenge this poses? • Comte wished to defy the superstitions of religion, but accepted what? • Q: Is this an implicit recognition that consciousness – irrespective of external structure – has to be factored into our thinking? • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TcdAkQJpQE
  • 3. Structure or Consciousness? • Of course, religious belief generates measurable social phenomena: • Q: Where might we look for empirical evidence of the effect of belief? • W.I. Thomas: "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" • Q: What is Thomas getting at here? Does this turn of phrase support the objectivist or subjectivist case? • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2HgzRMN- TM&feature=youtu.be
  • 4. Structure or Consciousness? • The following is an abridged anecdote from ‘The Speech’ (2013), by Gary Younge. • 5 year old Jacob Philadelphia was visiting the Oval Office at the Whitehouse to meet the President, Barack Obama. His father was retiring from the Whitehouse staff and Jacob and his brother had been invited to ask the President one question each. • Jacob asked, ‘I want to know if my hair is just like yours.’ Why would a youbng African American ask such an apparently arbitrary question? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0we6oB3MhU • Obama said, ‘Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?’ • Jacob paused, the President said, ‘Touch it, dude!’ • ‘Yes, it does feel the same,’ Jacob said. • In regards to consciousness and Jacob’s ‘meaning systems’ as a young black American, what significance might subjectivists place on his question? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybDa0gSuAcg • During Obama’s two terms as President of the USA, polls have identified marked rises in confidence and optimism amongst the African American population. Practicing empathy (‘verstehen’) can you speculate why that might that be?
  • 5. Structure or Consciousness? • Subjectivists would place great import on this quantifying of ‘consciousness.’ As previously noted, they may argue that,"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.“ (WI Thomas) • What do you take this as meaning? • However, how might the following empirical information reassert the importance of external structure on our lives, and the empirical data which quantifies and measures that relationship? • Black unemployment is almost double that of whites, black male life expectancy in Washington DC is lower than that in the Gaza Strip, black child poverty is almost triple that of whites. One in three black boys born in 2001 stands a lifetime risk of going to prison; more black men were disenfranchised in 2004 because they were felons than in 1870, the year the 15th Amendment ostensibly guaranteed the black male franchise following the abolition of slavery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE • The question posed by Objectivists is that, although African Americans may be feeling better under Obama, they are not in any material way better off, in fact quite the opposite.
  • 6. ‘Learning to Labour’ (1977) • Watch Paul Willis discussing his research into working class male culture in an English secondary school. • Q: What two apparently contrasting theories does he seek to merge during his research? Why are they so seemingly different? • Q: What insights does he take from both in regards to the topic of class and educational achievement? • Q: Is his defence of the method of ethnology/ethnography a convincing one? What data type would this be likely to generate?
  • 7. Criticisms of Objectivity • Some Cultural Theorists dispute the assumptions of science. Its claims to offer a value free framework are not beyond criticism they argue, as the discipline exists within historical, ideological and cultural boundaries and not separate from them. • Might Objectivists then be unwittingly exercising ideological choices, thereby undermining their own principles? • For example, why do we spend as much on researching and developing the means to effectively kill our fellow human beings as we do on the cure for cancer? • "To tell the truth, on this account, is not to furnish an accurate picture of what actually happened but to participate in a set of social conventions ...To be objective is to play by the rules within a given tradition of social practices ...To do science is not to hold a mirror to nature but to participate actively in the interpretive conventions and practices of a particular culture.” • (Gergen 2001) • One never really sees or talks about the world, per se. One only sees and talks about what one's values dictate. In other words, the world may exist beyond our values, but it can never be known as it is, only as our values shape our knowledge of it. • Consider the following slide, a portrait of celebrated Victorian scientists. What does it tell us about the meaning systems, or even ideology associated with science?
  • 8. ROWE, WERTSCH, and KOSYAEVA (2002) • "K: See here? It's the Winter Palace, and in 1985 I lived in St. Petersburg for a summer with a friend in her apartment down this street here. • S: You lived right there? • K: Yes, well, not right in that building but down the street here a little way and I would walk down to the square everyday." (p.105) • From this minimal interchange, the authors conclude that the two patrons have transformed social meanings into personal ones. They state: • "Instead of bringing autobiographical narratives into contact with official culture as part of an attempt to enrich the latter, it seems to us that this [narrative] involves an escape from the public memory sphere...These visitors are refusing to engage in the museum's public memory space ... It is meaning making on one's own terms" (p.106) • From this minimal interchange at the Winter Palace Museum in St Petersburg, the authors conclude that the two patrons have transformed social meanings into personal ones. • Do individuals always transform social meanings into personal significations? If so this testifies to their activity, creativity, and agency. • For them, the Winter Palace does not objectively exist outside of how it exists for them.
  • 9. Science, Profit and Ideology • The Human Genome Project: • In 2003 the completion of the Human Genome Project was announced, and with it the boast that soon the new genetic information would lead to miracle cures for everything from cancer to schizophrenia. • It is not only illness the new biology promised to decipher, but human personality itself – whether that meant greater intelligence or a tendency to crime. • In ‘Genes, Cells and Brains’ (2014), authors Hilary and Steven Rose identify two critical flaws in modern biomedicine – its tendency to reduce human behaviour and society to genetics, and the drive for profit that defines scientific research. • Both developments reflect ideological priorities; as psychologist Oliver James has pointed out, ‘It is hard to think of a single prediction made by evolutionary psychology that does not give succor to (capitalism). The rich are rich and law-abiding, and the poor are poor and criminal, because of their genes, says the US sociologist Charles Murray; those at the bottom of the gene pool have sunk because of their defective DNA…’ ‘A closet sexism has also crept in. Men have to be real men and women have to look like "babes" not because it serves advertisers so well but because of our ancestral past, according to the US psychologist David Buss.’ (2014). • http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/dec/19/genes-cells-and-brains-hilary-steven-rose- review
  • 10. Genes, Cells and Brains (2014) • The Roses argue that while previously genetic research has been carried out on a small scale, now it is dominated by industrial labs and the interests of the pharmaceutical giants. • The ideology suits the Social Darwinists – the rich are rich, the poor poor, men are in charge and women subservient not because of a social structure engineered and maintained by the powerful, but because of genes, biology and nature. • Similarly, given the corporate profits to be made if behavioural/personality/disease genes could be isolated and ‘fixed’ by costly medecines, despite the failure to identify any of these, the pharmaceutical industry has now ploughed money into other areas such as stem cell research. • And all the while, public discourse looks the other way as the ills rooted in social structure continue to make us sick… • Ironically, perhaps this proves the Objectivist’s point after all. If scientists are swayed in their research by ideological assumptions they are unaware of, while this may compromise their objectivity, it nonetheless demonstrates that we are all, scientists too, subject to the external pressures and constraints of social structure.
  • 11. But… • Would you wish to experience gravity through the filter of your own meanings system?
  • 12. ‘Rock star’ Economist Comes Under Fire • And as anyone seeking to critique the established order of things will confirm, there are always powerful voices waiting to attack counter-hegemonic narratives. Just ask Thomas Picketty: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/26/piketty- financial-times-attack_n_5393069.html • Even Social Science academics should take care. Economists (academics of the so- called ‘dismal science’) have been accused of propping up the global elite by declining to reassess their theories in the light of the experiences of the banking crisis. • So much so that Economics students at Manchester University initiated their own curriculum and lectures after refusing to be complicit in the complacency of their lecturers. • http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/28/mainstream- economics-denial-world-changed