I’m still surprised by some of the implications that stem from a postmodern approach to inquiry. To my shame I must admit that I did not read all the articles for class today, shame on me. So we had this discussion in class about one of the articles (of course the one I didn’t read), which addressed the issue of reflexivity with regard to the relation between the researcher and the research community. I told you before that researchers should reflect both upon the reflexivity of the subject as well as on their own position. However, Hardy et al (2001) introduce another kind of reflexivity: that of the research community.
They state that there is a difference between the social subjects that are produced in their social settings, in every day life, and the research subjects, that are produced by the researchers and their research community. This is very logical, when you assume that social reality is constructed by acting and intervention. Then the social subjects are created by acts in their social setting, but when researchers start to study these social subjects they are turned into a research subject. They are constructed by the researchers, and because these researchers act according to the research community they belong to, that affects the way the research subjects are ‘real’ in that sense. This also means that what is shown in research texts, what we read about, are the research subjects and not the social subjects.
Still not clear on what this means? Well, I’ll give you the four important issues mentioned by Hardy et al. that are related to this kind of reflexivity. It gives you something to think about.
- You need to recognize that the social construction of science is carried out through a network, which is the research community. That is mostly where it is constructed what is science and why.
- Further you need to recognize that the nature of the subject is constructed as well, and that the role of the research networks in the research shows that there are two illusions you should not hold on to: that there is a real subject and that there is any true or objective knowledge. The researcher is not some kind of hero that can avoid or eliminate any bias.
- When you realize there is a difference between the social subject and the research subject, it gives you a framework to be more reflexive about the role of the researcher and his community in these constructed differences. It also means that research can have two effects: it changes the research subject trough the intervention in practices, and/or it affects how the research community constructs its reality.
- the difference mentioned between social and research subject is not the consequence of any bias or activity by the individual researcher, but of the discursive practices that are performed between communities.
All this boils down to the definition of reflexivity as an awareness of the situatedness of scientific knowledge and an understanding of the research and research community from which the knowledge has appeared, as spoken by Hardy et al.
I recently found this very interesting videoblog from Julia Galef, about the dangers of a Granfalloon. It does not speak about the research community per se, but her ideas are very interesting and I think that what she says can be applied to the reflexivity of the relation between a researcher and the research community.