Sunday, August 03, 2008

Oh, and theory

I was just reviewing a book I bought for Dr. Northcutt's class last summer (an overview of qualitative research methods) and it occurred to me as I prepared to review for the nth time all the various theories of social science, the philosophies of science and quantitative and qualitative methods, that maybe there's no magic theory that I have to latch onto to look into the question of the effectiveness of best practices over guidelines. Maybe it is a simple as my own intuition (my own theory?) that people have an intuitive sense of right and wrong, and an intuitive sense of what will work in their day-to-day lives, and they react positively to, are more receptive to, "norms" that don't offend their intuition. That's always been one of the most perplexing things about trying to explain copyright law to people: it confounds expectations, logic, and intuition. What a normal person expects or thinks the law must be is not what it is. It is horribly counter-intuitive. Maybe best practices are, well, they actually are, what people are doing, that is, what they believe is ok, so they are much more in line with intuition, not bent ("negotiated") to the bizarre fears of copyright maximalists.

So, theory would be that best practices, being documented practices of a representative sample of teachers or librarians or whatever, inspire confidence because they make sense at an intuitive level. This puts me squarely on the subjective/interpretive side of things. I am interested in how and what people perceive as fair, rejecting that there is some objective fairness out there to be discovered. It is subjective, what's fair. We won't all agree. But we can document what many teachers or librarians think, and put it out there for others to see, and they either will or won't feel validated in their own subjectively held beliefs about what's fair.

Feels too thin. Too easy. Too superficial. I need to talk to other grad students about this and what it is part of (I feel that it is part of a bigger picture, but I can't see the rest of it).


Danielle Cunniff Plumer said...


Look at PAR -- Participatory Action Research -- as a possible theoretical approach (although Andrew Dillon has questioned its status as theory, given that it has no predictive power). Beth Letalien had been planning to use it in her work in Brazil.


Carlos said...

I've been thinking about something similar, or at least tangentially related to this. I've started moving the older copyright interviews I did for INF 312 to another site, along with some new ones, and I was trying to figure out how we determine if a given action is fair, and not in the legal fair use sense... Fairness and copyright don't seem to have been very related. I know that it's partly because people won't agree on what's fair- I'm specifically thinking of the "stakeholder" and CONFU posts and comments on Collectanea when I say that- but there's got to be a different way to look at things.

I really think that some kind of empirical research is the best way to approach this without getting into the "negotiating" you mention.

I'll bet that you can find some method to show these norms and practices. Ethnography, discourse analysis and related methodologies might fit well, and you'll get something useful out of it for others as well as yourself.

Erica-Liis said...

Hey G!
Happy Birthday!
Been trying to get in touch, finally found you here.
Let me know when you are available for lunch.
Hope you are well!
Love, Erica-liis