Sunday, November 28, 2010

Strange thinking?

In thinking about ethics this week, I can't help but think about how many details you need to be concerned about when dealing with humans (or animals). How much easier, I thought, would it be just to study things?
And then I thought, well, there must be a good reason to study people.
And I started to think.
Isn't it odd that we can make claims (like Luker does) that we don't know what we're thinking until we write it down? It seems to me to be a common trend in academia, that we don't consider something properly thought-through until it's been committed to paper (well, computer. whatever). We may defend papers orally, and present in front of groups, but what we're presenting/defending are already written down. If we're so good with that, and uncomfortable speaking without reference to written work, how strange is it that we're so comfortable interviewing people, doing focus groups, and observing behaviour... without giving our "subjects" time to prepare? I've had discussions with people who are doing follow-up interviews with people following a workshop or some other initial-contact thing, and they truly expect different responses the second time-- and the implication is always there that the second time around, the information is somehow less valuable.
I can't help but think that there's an odd sort of thinking that goes on if we can expect more "honest" or "true" (note the lack of the capital 'T') or whatever it is we're going after by not allowing people to prepare, and then refuse to follow this up with our own 'unprepared' dialogue with each other.
Is our dependence on written work a product of this age, where we can go back and "check the facts"? Is our fascination with making sure the people we study aren't really prepared themselves a left over nod to Socrates?
We've talked a little bit about rhetoric in class, and I think at least a couple people have some actual background in this field. I don't. It's not even something that was remotely discussed in my undergrad- in science, everything comes down to the numbers, and the numbers are written down. End of story. Has this sort of "validated" scientific-method had such an effect on other disciplines that we are truly not comfortable talking - off the cuff - among our peers, but not enough of an effect to make us think that we're not missing out if we allow people to prep in our own studies?
I'm not sure I'm articulating this very well (in fact, I'm pretty sure I'm not).
But I'm struck with the idea that there's something... contradictory in that set-up. Strange.

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