methodological innovations

Jill Weinberg is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Tufts University and an affiliated scholar at the American Bar Foundation.  In this episode, we discuss her research on how ordinary people define justice and injustice and how social context informs their definitions. In particular, we focus on Jill’s use of post-it notes to gather responses and how this methodological choice mitigates the researcher’s impact in the field and empowers respondents as they engage with what many view as a highly emotional topic.

 

In this episode, we talk with Alejandro Baer, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota.

In this study, Alejandro and his colleagues sought to understand the specific discourse around anti-semitic sentiments amongst different cultural groups in Spain. To study this difficult to measure construct, the researchers created homogenous discussion groups of 7 to 9 people, led by a trained moderator. Participants were of similar demographics, leading to a ‘group discourse mode’ that revealed the structures of meaning different groups use to discuss their views on minority groups.

“When you design your groups, they have to be internally homogenous and externally heterogeneous. All of the individuals of one group share certain similarities in terms of age, political orientation, or of religious origin. You cannot put together left wing activists with conservative religious individuals of a totally different age. That’s not the idea. We want to capture the discourse they will share, not what makes them different.
– Alejandro Baer – 

In this episode, we talk with Christopher Wildeman , Associate Professor of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. His research and teaching interests revolve around the consequences of mass imprisonment for inequality, with emphasis on families, health, and children. He is also interested in child welfare, especially as relates to child maltreatment and the foster care system.

We talk about his article on child maltreatment, published in Pediatrics, and discuss how his research team used existing datasets in new ways to reveal better estimates of child maltreatment rates.

“Most of the statistics that we have are based on either annual rates or daily rates of experiencing some specific event. And so the technique that I use, which is called synthetic cohort life tables, is basically just a way to say: based on one year’s data, what proportion of folks could expect to experience an event at some point in their life?”
– Chris Wildeman –

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Clifton Evers. Clifton is a member of the Media, Culture, Heritage unit at Newcastle University. He joins us to discuss mobile video ethnography and his use of GoPro cameras to better capture and understand affects, emotion, and masculinity through the study of surfing. Clifton’s chapter on this topic can be found in the recently published edited volume Researching Embodied Sport: Exploring Movement Cultures

I started carrying a very old Handycam everywhere and shooting footage. I eventually got frustrated because I was stuck on land. And, what a lot of the men would speak about or what they would experience in terms of emotions, affects, and embodied experience was happening in the water. So how does one do video research in the sea?

– Clifton Evers –

 

In this episode, we talk with Stefano Bloch. Stefano is an urban geographer specializing in social and spatial theory, cultural criminology, and subcultures. He is currently a Presidential Diversity Fellow in Urban Studies at Brown University. Stefano joins us to reflect on his use of personal autobiography as a source of data and methodological asset. In particular, he turns to his own experience as a member of the graffiti subculture when researching the destruction of the LA Olympic freeway murals by writers over the last 30 years. Stefano’s article on the subject titled “Why Grafitti Writers Write on Murals” is forthcoming in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 

“So often I hear students say the same few things. One of which is, “well, I’m from such a boring area and nothing happened there—we were so monotonous in the way we lived our lives, I didn’t do anything”. And, I remind them, if what they mean by boring is the traditional suburban, homogeneous enclave in the middle of Connecticut, that is, in fact, a revolution in the way in which people have lived. You know, the family with two-parents, two-point-seven kids, the dog, and the attached garage is a rich source of data…You need to de-familiarize your own upbringing. There is no such thing as boring.”
– Stefano Bloch – 

In this episode, we talk with Justin Picket of SUNY-Albany about using web-based surveys for public opinion polling and experiments. He provides guidance, tips, and tricks for using services like Amazon Mechanical Turk.

“A lot of people have great ideas, and they just don’t have the resources to go out and go a longitudinal study. Giving people the tools to initially test their idea and get it out there can really benefit science….it opens the theorizing and the research to broader set.”
– Justin Pickett – 

 

Alice Goffman’s ethnographic foray into a black neighborhood in inner city Philadelphia has attracted attention both inside and outside of academia. While On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City was a critical success and Goffman was initially celebrated for her accounts of over-policing and over-criminalization, questions are now being raised about the accuracy of Goffman’s accounts, her participation in illegal activities, and the claims made in the book. Today, Douglas Hartmann, Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, President of the Midwest Sociological Society, and co-editor of The Society Pages joins us to discuss lessons that can be learned from the attention the book has received as well as the larger implications for sociologists and urban ethnographers.

“What’s a good ethnography? There is not a single answer to that. The reason there is not a single answer is because there is a number of different questions and goals that ethnographers can take on…On the one hand, what are the goals and objectives that the researcher him or herself has and try to evaluate the work on those terms. And then, there is another set of terms on what else do we want to learn from that project. That is a different set of standards.”
– Douglas Hartmann –

In this episode we discuss an innovative methodological approach to understanding reflexivity and identity when doing ethnographic fieldwork. We talk with Elizabeth Cherry, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Manhattanville College, who collaborated with fellow ethnographers Michaela DeSoucey, Assistant Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University and Colter Ellis, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Montana State University.

We discuss their article, “Food for Thought, Thought for Food: Consumption, Identity and Ethnography,” published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (JCE). This article brings together their field experiences studying animal rights, local food production, and cattle ranching and examines how those experiences re-shaped their own food consumption practices.

For anyone who is interested in being able to defend their claims and say that the research that they gathered was at the very least valid and that they know they were getting answers to the questions they asked, this is a good way to gauge the extent to which you as an individual may have affected the data collection process…. It’s interesting to see the ways in which our identities might shape what we find. It’s a good added methodological tool.
– Liz Cherry – 

Bonus podcasts! Check out Colter Ellis on TSP’s Office Hours Podcast to learn more about his work on beef production and labor and Michaela DeSoucey on TSP’s Office Hours Podcast to learn more about her work on food and cultural authenticity.

In this episode, we are joined by Shamus Khan, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. Professor Khan studies cultural sociology and stratification, with a strong focus on elites. He is the author of Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School and The Practice of Research. We discuss using historical data for his new research project, in which he uses the New York Philharmonic archives to uncover the character of their subscribers from the 1870s to the present.

“I love very micro-level analyses where you can see what one person is doing or what is happening on the ground…It is super exciting to see where did the Vanderbilts sit, who was sitting around them, and what kind of things they were listening to…The main advantage of this methodological approach to me, is that I find it really exciting. It is not hard for me to get up and go to my office everyday to do something like this because, as time consuming as it is, I get to really know something that happened, and I am able to document it and provide a really clear account of what was going on in what is often a cloudy past.”
– Shamus Khan –

In this special edition of Give Methods a Chance, we talk with Chris Uggen to get context and insight to a recent retraction of a political science article in Science and the resulting public discourse around the study under question.

“Outright fraud, where people make up data, is likely to be exceedingly rare–in part because it is not sustainable over a long term. As academics, we rely on our professional reputation. So you might be able to get a paper published, which might even get you a job, but, long term, it just isn’t in anyone’s interest to falsify data.”
– Chris Uggen –