cultivators hunter gatherers and scavengers – the future of research

Just a short summary post to clarify what I had to say yesterday in a great hurry on a panel led by Richard Gilmore. We did get shortlisted for best conference contribution too (which was nice) – well done Richard!

One of the things I talked about was the distinction between

A Classic market research which uses the Farmer/cultivator paradigm. Growing plants in artificial conditions in systematic and comparable ways. Using orchards and greenhouses. And fenced fields (I spent a year of my life on a Kiwi sheep farm!). Representativeness is everything. There is nothing wrong with this. Most research is like this at present (on or offline – because online is trying to emulate offline research mostly)  and it isn't going to go away.

B The emerging form which uses the Hunter Gatherer paradigm. This is often online  but also includes bricolage, ethnography all sorts on and offline. The hunter goes off and collects wild things. They don't pick up anything and everything. In fact there is a considerable skill to locating and getting hold of the wild fruit/wild gamefish they have gone after. They get the freshest wild fruit. They get strong and plump game.  What they catch isn't better than what a farmer grows. Its different and looks and feels different.

C the Scavengers – a debased version of the Hunter Gatherer. The scavenger will pick up anything and bring it in even if its dead or dying. There is no particular skill and no guarantee of representativeness. Showing a video clip/blog reference which turns out to come from another market entirely (USA?) just because it backs up your argument is a classic case of scavenging – so is treating your group quotations as a vox pop to pull out extreme comments to get a reaction.

Farmers and Hunters have never got on. They live in different places have different skills and often compete for the same resources. So farmers are always prone to accuse hunters of being scavengers. Because they can't perceive order in what the hunters collect.  Farmers make bad hunters and vice versa. But please don't believe the propaganda being put up by either side. Talk to hunters to find out what good hunting entails and who they perceive to be the good hunters and why. Talk to farmers for exactly the same reason. And go on using both! They're equally valid. Avoid the scavengers.

If you have no time for research and are the sort of person who thinks you can get inspiration from 'weird shit' or things you find 'interesting' then don't be surprised if you are accused of being a scavenger.

Research requires a methodology and an analytic framework which is susceptible to objective assessment by a third party. It always has been. And both farmers and hunters are subject to it. 

That'll do for now.



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