**BROWN BAG MONDAY: Please bring your lunch with you to this conversation**
WHEN: Monday, November 16, 2009; 12:00-1:20pm
WHERE: Mary Gates Hall 420
WHO: Joe Sullivan, Researcher with the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) and a PhD student in Human Centered Design and Engineering
WHAT: Quasi-experiments, attribution theory and the genre of success stories: A framework for evidence in Community Technology Research and examples from Bogota, Colombia
Producing community technology research which meets acceptable standards of validity is challenging due to inevitable methodological shortcomings and the apparent incommensurability of different contexts. Our approach is to embrace this “messiness,” developing a systematic strategy that acknowledges and even harnesses the relative strengths and weaknesses of various methods, applying the logic of quasi-experiments and attribution theory within and across individual sites. In this way hypotheses, sampling strategies, data collection and analyses are assembled and refined to maximize the relative contributions of the deployed methods. The evidentiary value of each data point — from massive quantitative surveys to systematic case studies to publicity reports to donors — can thus be interpreted in light of the pitfalls of each and the value that emerges from strategically assembling the varieties of data and perspectives.
Joe and fellow researchers are advocating inclusion of the genre of “success stories” as data worth interrogating. In the very difficult terrain of donor/grantee relations, where everyone has incentive to emphasize stories of success, how can evidence be drawn from the seemingly endless pool of success stories?
The conversation will lay out our theoretical approach, drawing on examples from recent fieldwork in Bogota, Colombia
1. Can any evidentiary value be drawn from PR stories?
2. Are their ethical dangers in research activities like unannounced site visits?
3. How can “failure” in Community Technology interventions be contextualized and understood?
4. How can we tell the stories which cannot be told?
Joe Sullivan is a researcher with the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) and a PhD student in Human Centered Design and Engineering. He’s working on the material for this presentation with Andrew Gordon from the Evans School of Public Affairs and Claudia Hernandez, Maria Garrido and also TASCHA researchers.