Social science is police science’. Researching grassroots activism
Arne Hintz, Stefania Milan
This article can be read here.
The processes by which knowledge is constructed, that is to say the research questions, the methods and the researcher’s epistemological commitments, have an impact on the knowledge that is generated. The way the researcher approaches and relates to interviewees influences the type and quality of information that she or he gathers, and thus affects the research findings. This is particularly so in cases where a strong social, cultural and/or ideological gulf exists between the researcher and the interview partner, or when interviewees are skeptical toward academic research. In this essay, we describe the obstacles we encountered in the course of a series of interviews with media activists and members of what we call “grass-roots tech groups.”
We focus on the clash of organizational cultures (grass-roots activism vs. academia), and derive methodological implications for conducting “engaged” research with social actors who, like radical activists, usually remain outside the academic spotlight. This text is written from the perspective of former media activists who are passionate about social movement media and who try to select research questions that matter to those who are researched.
Hintz, A. & S. Milan (2010). “‘Social science is police science’. Researching grassroots activism”, International Journal of Communication, 4, pp. 837–844.