Sample of one – Research Magazine piece

I have found myself in print again. Following some conversations last month which turned into a blog I got interviewed by Research magazine for an article featuring some renegades whose thinking could impact positively on research. Here's their site but I suspect they won't post the article for another month to protect their printed magazine.  My point in a nutshell is the way that 'significance' in research has become tied to having a variety of perspectives and that there are many areas in life where we do use single authoritative sources – my question is whether the volume of data points provided by that single source is what gives significance. A single tweet from Samuel Pepys wouldn't have much to commend it. A diary does. And as I have meandered around the web I have discovered that when you follow (stalk!) an individual through more than one channel they become multidimensional – is it every possible to consider that we might have enough data to take their experience as representative of more than themselves?  Philosopically of course the whole point of sampling is that participant is chosen precisely because they are representative. We have no interest usually in 1 to 1 correspondence between sample and universe: what do you want for your birthday Mum? But in what are on all mothers' wishlists. The techniques for building a perception of what an individual thinks and feels require skills closer to those of the novelist than the scientist.  And much of what passes for research is actually closer to imaginative construction. Lucky that so many researchers have arts degrees and not science ones. Funny that.

I'll blog in the next few days about other renegades – Matt Mason and piracy from the margins, Stephen Brown , Harry Potter and putting magic back into marketing, Peter Kellner and what political hacks can teach us about polling. And finally my favourite – Tom Ewing and why an online survey are like online computer games – very bad ones at that. 



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