Tuesday, 12 February 2013

"Real life in real time is lots of noise and not much signal." (Luker, p. 101)

...and thus we sample. We sample because there is no way we could gather all of the possible bits of information that would illuminate our research interest. We sample because others, including federal institutions and large organizations have gone before us, and paid the big bucks necessary to produce random probability surveys. We sample because it's what we do, we do it when we read a book, watch a movie, attend a class or taste something new. We sample to gain familiarity.

In terms of research, Luker notes that sampling allows us to get a better handle on the "subset of facts, observations, people ... we will pay attention to." (p. 101)

Luker goes on to outline why we sample, and concludes that it's not about numbers, but about observable phenomenon that we 'just can't put [our] finger on [as] yet. (p. 103) In thinking about my research question so far, I've thought about the surveys and interviews I'll need to conduct in order to collect the data necessary to add value, and which I've sort of indirectly assumed could serve as population samples. I'm not sure how the two intersect, or whether they are in fact the same thing...sampling, versus interviews, vs. surveys. It goes back to the point of "real life in real time' being lots of noise and not much signals. Mass quantities of information, much of which intersects, is constantly washing over us and forcing us to decide what's worth paying attention to.

-Mandi Arlain

References: Luker, K. (2008). Salsa dancing into the social sciences: Research in an age of info-glut. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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