Re: Serious thoughts about objectivity

Wade Tarzia (tarzia@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU)
Tue, 8 Oct 1996 15:16:01 -0400

>If the distinction between "events composed" and "events observed" is
>accepted, then the next step might be to distinguish "events composed" from
>"events interpreted." Where is the line between interpreting events and
>fictionalizing them? -- Mike Cahill

--- I'll ask a Dumb Question, but since I seem doomed to do this this week
on other lists, why not here too? ;-)

So: To what extent will "interpretation" involve invention of actors and
their roles? Actors (informants, rather) seem hard to invent, they're
there or not, but their roles could be invented from some point of view --
the informant's!
Roles could be invented/fictionalized, but this event can also be
interpreted in various ways. So does this mean that the observer must
include a meta-view over her own research reporting (ie, play Devil's
Advocate against herself) or did I just use jargon to seem as if I'm real
cool and up on things?

So the informant says, (if asked) "Why, no, I'm not involved in this issue
with that group, I just went over there to talk and arrange some little
things." Meanwhile the ethnographer says to herself, "Hmmn, he sure looked
like a ritual go-between to me, because I've observed other actors
fulfilling the same role in similar situations. So I'll just call him a
ritual go-between in this very real role no matter what he calls himself or
how he explicates his acts."

But then, when is the informant this ritual go-between and when not? What
was the timing of the event? To what extend can we assign values to the
"intensity" or "role-depth" (yucky terms, yuck, spfft!) of the actor, as
plotted against his other roles in the day and the season, etc.? When does
the role end and begin, and can we say that it ends and begins? Thus how
many formal roles does the informant fill, versus how many did he seem to
recognize, etc? Isn't this where the only recourse to share all data,
though sometimes awkward and voluminous, as well as meta-views?

I am wondering if some kind of 2D or 3D represnetation of events and
relationships is needed in ethno-reporting to be fair to simultaniety of
events as well as gradations of roles through time, and simultaniety of
roles, etc. It might look like the bridge display on the Starship
Enterprise, though!

-- under-read but interested and gabby -- wade tarzia