Experimental governance and pre-scientific knowledge

In a previous post it was addressed the concept of experimental governance, understood “as a means to launch an environmental project in spite of uncertainties and uphold the project without disrupting the overall process” (Gross, M., & Heinrichs, 2010:283). This point, the authors continues “is wholly pragmatic to create and facilitate the building of a community of inquirers who locally deliberate social problems, form hypothesis about appropiate means and ends of practice, and put their assumptions to test”.

In this context, insofar non-scientist community members are enriching the research process with “pre-scientific” knowledge (formation of hypothesis and ends of practics to be test) they are taking actively part of such process. This moves away the experimental governance from the Habermas communicative approach or “participatory paradigm”. The pragmatist ideas developed by Habermas “have trickled down to environmental planning discourse since the 1970s and researchin environmental sociology has examined a wide range of participatory decision processes” (Gross, M., & Heinrichs, 2010:282). However, the authors argue, in the ideal case, it is not enough to bring local actors into deliberation where their varying presumptions and biases will succumb to the force of the better argument (by scientist and practicioners?). Hence, the actual power to have a say in political decision making is easily taken away from the participants (the lack of arguments among local actors and the consistent of the scientifist discourse ultimate take the former ones away from decision making. Public participation is reduced to a information session where scientist show how powerful they are in base of their consistent discourse). Furthermore, the authors suggest that the Habermassian ideal type case could not be further from real-world decision making which is characterized by many unknows and uncertainies that cannot even be fathomed via risk assessment and computer modeling, let alone by mere citizen participation.

But the experimental governance consists of not only bring local actors into deliberation but also allow them to “form hypothesis about appropiate means and ends of practice, and put their assumptions to test”. In other words, the experimental governance consist of allowing local actors for forming hypothesis based on their everyday experience, i.e. pre-scientific knowledge, as a previous step to objetivize the phenomon, it is, to produce scientific knowledge.

Gross, M., & Heinrichs, H. (Eds.). (2010). Environmental sociology: European perspectives and interdisciplinary challenges. Springer Science & Business Media.

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PhD workshop on social ontology

Some time ago I published a post on ontology in order to explain why it is important for any research project. There I emphasized the difference between adopting a objectivist and subjectivist ontological position. The former focuses on the formal structure of the organization under study, usually via quantitative methods, while the latter do it on the informal structure (i.e. one assumes the condition of social actors of the organizational member). Hence qualitative methods are usually more connected.
This is actually a dilemma that I have dealt with in my PhD project. As I mentioned in the past, the topic of my dissertation was the social impact of a large scale mining industry in a rural area. The research question was What social changes in the community around are associated with such development? Adopting a subjectivist approach I would have taken into priority the discourse of social actors involved, i.e. neighbors, politicians, associations representatives etc. The point here would be studying how social actors have experienced the phenomena under study. On the contrary, under a objectivist approach, I would have avoid this and focus on statistics in order to analyze, for instance, evolution of employment or social disruption indicators such as divorce or suicide rate. The point here is to come up with objective indicators of the social change. The truth is that I did a kind of combination of both, since I consider that both could enrich the research process. Social actors perception provided me with good insights that later on would give way to hypothesis to be tested via qualitative methods. But the truth is that it took me a while to distinguish between both perspectives, as well as realized which one better fit for my research.
This dilemma came to my mind this morning when reading this interesting announcement about a workshop on ontology. I would just like to paste here the content and provide you with a further details link.

Ontology can often prove a contested and confusing issue within social research. Everyone has on ontology, explicit or otherwise, but the process of drawing this out and thinking through its implications for research can often be a confusing part of the PhD process. This participatory workshop explores the practical significance of ontological questions for social research, inviting participants to reflect on their own research projects in a collaborative and supportive context. It aims to help participants negotiate the sometimes abstruse matter of social ontology, linking theory to practice in the context of their own research projects. The main focus throughout the day will be on how ontological questions are encountered in social research, the questions posed by such encounters and how engaging explicitly with social ontology can often help resolve such issues.

All participants will offer a brief (5 minute) presentation of their research project and the ontological questions which have been or are expected to be encountered within it. Those still early in the PhD process are welcome to substitute this for a discussion of their research interests and potential project. We’d like to ask all participants to reflect in advance on their own social ontology and how it pertains to their project. Uncertainty here is not a problem, in fact it will be a useful contribution to discussions on the day!

We also invite two more substantial presentations (10 mins) for the first afternoon session, reflecting on your engagement with ontological questions in your own project in order to help begin a practical engagement which encompasses the entire group. If you would be interested in leading the discussion in this way then please make this known when registering.

To register please contact socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with a brief description of your research and your interest in social ontology (500 words or less). The event is free but places are limited. Travel bursaries are available, please ask for more details.

The Centre for Social Ontology

http://go.warwick.ac.uk/socialontology/

 

Understanding research philosophies

The point of this post is not about choosing one or another philosophy for your research. Actually, you could skip this topic and begin thinking about whether you will use questionnaire or secondary data method. The point here is enhancing your understanding of the way in which we approach the study of a particular field. Bear in mind that the philosophy you assume will influence the way you answer your research question.

Although philosophy might sound very profound, this term just refers to the development of knowledge and the nature of such knowledge.

Three questions you must answer for a major understanding of the process of developing knowledge and its nature:

  1. Is your organization independent of its members? (Ontology)
  2. Are you a “resources” or “feeling” researcher? (Epistemology)
  3. What roles do our values play in our research? (Axiology)