Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We told you so...

As a researcher who regularly - but not solely - uses qualitative data, I'm often challenged by quantitative-centric colleagues as to the veracity of my findings and the robustness of my data. Which is fair enough. If I've got interesting numbers, and I do look out for them, I'll build them into my work as and where they are valid and robust although it must be said that numbers can be as woolly as drunken hearsay ($38 billion Maori economy anyone?!).

I accept we're often too quick to take on narrative approaches and re-articulate the stories of participants for their supposed insights. But here's a very interesting take on narrative from economist Robert Schiller who accepts "people remember – and are motivated by – stories, particularly human-interest stories about real people."

No shit Sherlock.

This morning I heard three inspiring Indigenous women who spoke at the opening of the 5th Biennial International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge and Development conference at St. Lucia camous of the University of Queensland. Each began with the story of their own families which framed their lives and work. While Tariana Turia threw in some numbers six children, 20-something grandchildren, some more grand children (the exact numbers escape me!), it is the interconnections of whakapapa and the lived experiences of a family that define who she is.

Schiller's point seemed to be that how people hear and retell stories about the financial crisis somehow affects their actions and responses. Again this is hardly new but perhaps a page has been turned in the methodologies available to economic analyses.

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Simon Lambert

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