Saturday, January 31, 2009

Qualitative trip

A classroom is an interesting space. Looking around in our classroom I see various ethnicities and approaches that make me feel like I´m right in the middle of very fertile ground when it comes to intellectual production. Nevertheless, I can´t shake the feeling that most of my co-thinkers have been raised on numbers. I´m also still fighting with the shock of coming to UT and finding the absolute dominance of quantitative research over qualitative; a brave, sheer disregard of the need to explain the unexplainable. Is it that scary to work outside our comfort zone?
Don´t get me wrong, I love UT. What I dislike is the intellectual inbreeding that goes on in academia. We have built an imaginary world in which we can do a web-based survey, throw the numbers on SPSS, do a regression, a few comparisons and boom!, we have an understanding of what´s going on, now lets go to a conference. But stop and think about it for a second: how many more agenda setting studies do we need this year? why are surveys such a predominant tool when an in-depth interview can open a little window into the brain, the place where the decisions are made? How longer are we going to ignore Gonzalo Abril, the brilliant work of Latin American culturalist like Martin Barbero, Eliseo Colon or Nestor Garcia Canclini, the relationship between psychology and communications, Michel Foucault, the individuality of each member of our audience, Jean Baudrillard, the power of written language, the magic of semiotics, "coolness" as a motor for consumption or the unspoken effects of netiquette? (I´m really just mentioning a few).
Now I take this class and I see an opening. Between this and Theory Building I can finally breath and let the "mischievous braingels" manifest themselves.
I still feel that quantitative research has a tendency to obscure qualitative when a good paper absolutely needs to have both.
Now we get Althusser, Marx, Gramsci and so forth... great!
I offered myself a truce: I played the game the first semester without straying too far form the things I like to do, now I will thoroughly enjoy this little qualitative trip as much as I can while trying to marry it to numbers. I hope I´m not alone.

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