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Data Produced Or Found Notes

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Data - Produced or Found?
Notes to discuss whether data is produced or found, presenting arguments for both and how this debate occurs in both physical and human geography Contents:

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Data History of Data in Geography Data are Found Data are Produced Geographies of Science Examples in Geography Modelling

Key debates
 Is research just a simple objective act of collecting appropriate data?
 How does modelling 'produce' data?
 Data production in human vs physical geography

Synoptic links This topic could come up explicitly, or be used to support questions around:

What makes good research = Need to appreciate the subjectivity and social construction of data for it to be 'good' Big data = Some empiricist arguments stating that big data removes the positionality/construction of data, which isn't true- construction through technology/viewer Role of models = How models construct data rather than represent the reality

Notes

1. Data Data: 'things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation' (OED, 2014) Science: highly loaded term, uniquely associated with the ideals of truth, objectivity and accuracy - Chalmers (1990: 1) 'scientific knowledge is seen as proven knowledge' Castree (2005) - Three aspects that scientific geography must embrace to find data:

1. A scientific world view

2. A standard investigative procedure

3. A desire to carefully measure phenomena using statistics/quantitative techniques Science vs Data

Privilege of Science: Consensus that 'scientific knowledge is proven knowledge' Chalmers 1990 - elevates status of found data above other kinds, such as those inferences based upon peoples cultural perspectives.. implies that there is only one truth rather than multiple truths o Castree (2005)- science performs boundary work, dividing scientific insiders from lesser non-scientific outsiders Science assumed objective: Scientific knowledge 'the objective result of careful observation with a view to explaining how the material realities of people, environment and region came to be' (Castree, 2005) o Based upon positivism, scientific knowledge value free o Traditional belief that scientific knowledge differs from other types as provides objective rather than subjective view of the world (Greenhough, 2010) Dichotomy: o Qualitative- subjective, to be observed only o Quantitative- objective, measured ..scientific method favours collection of quantitative data o Actually the distinction between these are not so clear cut (Powell, 2007)

'Scientific approaches, whilst maybe appropriate for the material world of rivers etc, are WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE in exploring the lifeworlds of sentient human beings' (Castree, 2005)

2. History of data in geography Geography originally presented as a science in order to align it with others/have academic prestige (Castree 2005)
 Resulted in Geog being based upon empiricism/ finding of data
'Geography evolved to be the objective result of observation with a view to explaining how material came to be'
 Scientific method: systematic observation, measurement, experiment and formulation/testing/modification of hypotheses --> Castree et al (2005) believes that branding geography as a science in which scientific method is used is highly restricting and neglects social, political perspectives 1950s- Quantitative Revolution

After WW2

Effort to make geography a spatial science-prioritising positivist/empirical methods

1960s- Cultural Turn- greater emphasis on urgent issues such as civil rights and environmental degradation (Castree, 2005) 1970s/80s- Radical Geographies - arose amid protests against Vietnam War and pro human rights.. new ways of perceiving power/truth being utilised by Marxist, Feminist and post-colonial geographers 1990s- Science Wars (Hess, 1997)


Realists v Constructivists/relativists Realists- data presents real, objective truths about the world- data is out there waiting to be found Constructivist- data are social constructions

Constructivist v Realist (the debate was far more than between feminist v positivist) Definition

Ontology

Epistemology- what is knowledge

Constructivist How we see the world depends on existing ways of thinking, each individual sees the world differently, constructions of the world are modified continuously Not that simple that there is a 'real world' Facts/truth depends on position/interpretation Knowledge obtained through variety of means, subjective Reflectivity, positionality

Realist Reality exists independent of the mind, facts speak for themselves and explanation is logical and inductive

There is a real world out there

There are facts and truth Knowledge obtained from systematic observation, falsifying hypotheses, objective and apolitical, approaching universal laws

Why does the construction of data matter?

Affects how we interpret the results of scientific research

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