[hackerspaces] Master's thesis

maxigas maxigas at anargeek.net
Thu Jan 16 18:57:27 CET 2014

From: Andrew Schrock <aschrock at usc.edu>
Subject: Re: [hackerspaces] Master's thesis
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2014 22:40:56 -0800

> On Jan 15, 2014, at 9:45 PM, discuss-request at lists.hackerspaces.org wrote:
>> On Jan 15, 2014, at 2:31 PM, matt <matt at nycresistor.com> wrote:
>     > 
>         It is not that the authors of such studies are of malicious intent,
>         > but rather that the studies can be used as a means of developing
>         > policies, counter tactics and infiltration programs. 
>         Just because someone might use statistics to further an agenda doesn't
>         mean all research into a subject should be curtailed. 
>     I work for a massive corporation and had the pleasure to get to know one
>     of the guys in the marketing department. His job was doing voice of the
>     customer surveys. 
>     I mentioned interest in what we can learn from his surveys and this is
>     what he said. Never trust the results of a survey. The person righting
>     them always has an agenda and will word the questions to get the results
>     they need. 
>     Should we trust the results or be worried our hackerspace will be
>     infiltrated? No. You should be aware that surveys and studies are done to
>     prove something and the participants rarely know what it really is.  
> There are many different types of surveys. Consumer opinion surveys are very
> different from say the type of surveys that the pew center for internet and
> american life conducts. 
> Sure, surveys can be used to push an agenda. Around election time you might
> get calls that go something like this: "how angry does it make you that Obama
> is trying to force healthcare reform?" If you are an Obama supporter, you hang
> up. If you are anti-Obama, you get all riled up and are paying attention. The
> next question is probably if you'd like to donate to a super pac. 
> The bigger question is who you are and what you do with it a methodology. Any
> methodology can be crap or harmful if you use it incorrectly. Think about
> experiments. They can be used in ways that help a scientific community better
> understand how HIV works - a great thing. Or they can be the tuskeegee
> experiment - you know, a not so great thing. 
> Surveys are no different. Except they usually don't kill people. 

Hello Andrew,

Every survey has an agenda, which it can push more or less strongly, or more or less consciously.  But there is one rule: no agenda = no survey.  That is because surveys don't come from a vacuum but from a historically constructed political environment: personal socialisation, institutional cultures, disciplinary biases.  Without opinions, the objective knowledge we gain would be neither interesting or relevant for us.

The survey posted by Sophie, on firts sight, has the following interesting assumptions, for instance:

 * Hackers mainly work with computers.  This will be mainly confirmed because people there are many people who learnt programming and now claim "programming experience".  My assumption is that the hacker scene general macho attitude has a norm that you have to try to appear competent.  On the other hand there are no questions about "knitting experience", "soldering experience", or "social engineering experience".  In the framework of the survey the expertise of hackers is strictly defined as "computer programming" or nothing.  This is a literature bias as well: in academic literature, studies of hackers are usually studies of free software developers.  (We are trying to change this perception at peerproduction.net).

 * Hacking and politics are linked.  Political participation is participation in formal organisations.  Political activists like to announce publicly all the activities they are doing, and share their affiliations with Google (therefore: the NSA and other collaborating authorities) and with researchers they only know from an email to a mailing list.

 * The left and the right are what defines politics.  The corollary is that liberalism (maybe located at Centre) is not a "biased" political ideology, it is simply the eternal truth, the common sense that everybody who is supposed to be apolitical knows.  Of course, this kind of thinking does not reflect on that if an ideology is strong (hegemonic), then it takes the place of common sense.  To quote a classic, "The ruling ideas of the day are the ideas of the ruling class."  This is how many respondents will happily declare themselves apolitical, despite their actual views and how they do things in their life is deeply influenced by liberal political ideas.

 * Left and right mean the same thing in all countries, all continents, etc.  Well, this is a classic problem in global surveys, don't need to comment more.

Well, one could elaborate, but this is enough to show that even if conceived naively, research (not just surveys actually) is shaped by the environment where it is created.

ps: I guess people who care about privacy will not fill out a Google form, and an "apology" is not enough to convince them that just because the researcher did not put in enough care and effort into the research, Google will suddenly reverse all its data handling policies.. :P

maxigas, kiberpunk
This allows a user to return or destroy all copies of Project Gutenberg.

 * *  |metatron
*   * |research
 * *  |unit

FA00 8129 13E9 2617 C614  0901 7879 63BC 287E D166

More information about the Discuss mailing list