12th and 13 of September, 2019

Thinking Through Technique. A workshop with John Levi Martin

Brussels, BOZAR LAB
In the age of the internet, touchscreens and digital media, sociologists often prove remarkably old-fashioned in their methodologies and continue to place their faith in traditional techniques of data-gathering, like the questionnaire or the interview. However, the validity and sustainability of these ‘paper & pencil’-techniques is facing increasing challenges. On the one hand, over-questioned and over-surveyed respondents show declining appetites for lengthy questionnaires and interviews leading to low response-rates and superficial answers. On the other hand, new theoretical developments within the field (practice theory, dual-process models, cognitive science, etc.) increasingly question the ecological validity of the type of data that can be gathered through surveys or interviewing. Such developments force sociologists to seriously explore the potential of new research techniques. Crucially, such an exploration needs to go further than the blind faith in the power of “Big Data” or “behavioral algorithms” to a serious discussion of the theoretical, epistemological and ethical challenges posed by new research-technologies.

Thinking Through Technique” was the official launch event of ECCI. With John Levi Martin (University of Chicago) as special guest, sociologists from France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway and the United States came together to discuss the sociological potential of novel research methods. The proceedings of this workshop will form the basis of an upcoming special issue of the journal Poetics.