Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Edward Hackett and Emergent Technologies in the Human Sciences

Hackett, E. (2011). Possible dreams: Research technologies and the transformation of the human sciences.  In The Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research, edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber.  Chapter 1:  pgs 25-46.  Publisher:  Oxford Press. 

Hackett has made a follower--me!  This was a great chapter to lead off this volume--BIG PICTURE!  I note that he refers to "the human sciences", a term that takes me back in my mind to Dilthey, but he brings a new twist to the idea with the notion of "complementary research in the social and behavior sciences" (p. 27).

Another term that brought back memories to me was "ensembles" as in "ensembles of research technologies".  Years ago when I was working on the Hanau Model School Partnership I wrote about the ensembles of school technologies (I presented this at AERA, wrote the paper, but never finished the revisions--such is life).  Hackett points to environmental studies and the ways they have made strides through assembling new "ensembles of research technologies", urging the human sciences to consider this model.

Hackett brings experience working at NSF to bear on the discussion.  Clearly it provided him with the opportunity to look across emerging areas of science/social science and consider the lessons that were being learned. 

I like the way he has integrated history (a discussion of the development of the survey) and the future (the new models described above) to provide a context for thinking about the integration of research approaches.

He identifies four critical domains that research in the human sciences must contend with:  place, scale, time, and engagement.  Here's the quote that ties this all together for me:
In sum, ongoing changes in the importance and nature of place (from local to virtual), the scale of phenomena (from genetic or neural to global), the scope of time (from briefer than a blink to evolutionary), and the terms of engagement with research subjects and users are combining to form the ensembles of research technologies that will be developed by the social and behavioral sciences (p. 35).
  He offers 8 "categories of innovation" (p. 35) that address these issues--not to be missed.

What I take away in my quest to understand what this all means to qualitative research is:
-he doesn't mention qualitative research (nor quantitative research specifically)...he is talking on another plane
-he doesn't mention qualitative data analysis software...and yet is talking about the next generation of technologies that build on the CAQDAS base

-he IS talking about the kind of inclusive (multi-disciplinary/multi-methodological) research that I blogged about not to long ago.
-he IS talking about constant experimentation and purposing/repurposing of technologies to support the goals of research

A very good start to the reading of this book.  

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