Wrap-Up: Considering the Intermingling of Subjectivity and Objectivity in Academic Research

This week on gnovis and around CCT, writers examine topics that reinforce the notion that objectivity and subjectivity are hopelessly intertwined. So what does this mean for our academic pursuits?  Survey says…

On gnovis

Margarita takes David Brooks to town for his recent New York Times column, in which he champions a new view of morality as innate (put forth by psychologists and cognitive scientists) over the ‘old’ view of moral reasoning originally proposed by Socrates.  She writes of this idea: “As Trish points out…’seeing is trained by discipline: punished when wrong and rewarded when right.’  And these punishments and rewards, as well as what is punished and rewarded, are established by that society, thus making individual emotional reactions very predictable according to the current, societal accepted view of what is moral.”

In a post about his future trip to Budapest, Jason considers the role that photographic images play in framing our experience of a place. If we see photographs of a destination before visiting it ourselves, are we compromising our ability to have an authentic experience and to see a place through our eyes alone? Jason posits:“I can’t picture a popular food or festival. And I have never met a Hungarian before. If I can resist images just a little while longer, I many have a more authentic experience there, with no neatly packaged narratives, no checklist of tourist traps to see and no expectations to benchmark. But is this authenticity or ignorance?”

Around CCT

For her class on “War, Media and Technology,”  Ashley posts a haunting video of Oppenheimer’s reaction to the first sucessful atom bomb test. Considering Oppenheimer’s awareness of his status as both world citizen and scientist, she writes: “I found this clip of Oppenheimer so moving the first time I saw it and, quite frankly, I don’t think it looses its power the second, third, or even eighth time.  Seems like Oppenheimer understood so much of what we talked about in class: guilt, morality, death, creation, and man’s power for good and bad.” Watch and read for yourself here.

Lauren Burgoon writes about her Kiva research project for her class on “Social Media in Business, Development, and Government.” Arguing that personal connections are the key element driving Kiva’s success for both donors and recipients, she writes: “As part of my research project, I’m participating in Kiva, DonorsChoose and Facebook Causes both to better understand how they operate and to gauge what I argue in my paper is key to these sites’ success – creating personal connections. With Kiva, I’m finding that much of the connection comes upfront in choosing the project. Then, it’s the responsibility of the lender to stay involved.”

Of interest in the blogosphere

On his personal blog, Lawrence Lessig introduces us to an amazing new tool developed by the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan.  This tool allows users to visualize the network relationship between “money and government” and one entry even highlights the individuals and entities who will recieve TARP funding. It is truly stunning in its detail and complexity.

TechCrunch writer MG Siegler reflects on the superior functionality of FriendFeed, also known as something close to the “coolest app that no one uses.” In a comparison of FriendFeed’s functionality to Facebook’s redesign, Siegler argues that the downside of Facebook’s redesign — which touts that users can view friends’ up-to-date information even faster — is that users actually have to refresh their page to receive the latest updates from friends.  FriendFeeder updates users faster and also provides superior filter options to prevent unwanted information overload.  Will Facebook change its design to mimic FriendFeed?  Read more here and decide for yourself.

Lauren Alfrey

Lauren worked as the Managing Editor of gnovis in 2009 and graduated with an MA in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University in 2010. Lauren is currently a doctoral student in the Sociology Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Lauren joined gnovis and CCT after working for three years as an online fundraising and advocacy consultant for progressive nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to her professional work, Lauren graduated with honors from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she majored in Communication and minored in Art History with a focus on women's representation in print advertising and high art.