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Statistical practice: putting society on display

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journal contribution
posted on 28.01.2015, 13:37 by Michael Mair, Christian Greiffenhagen, Wes Sharrock
As a contribution to current debates on the ‘social life of methods’, in this article we present an ethnomethodological study of the role of understanding within statistical practice. After reviewing the empirical turn in the methods literature and the challenges to the qualitative-quantitative divide it has given rise to, we argue such case studies are relevant because they enable us to see different ways in which ‘methods’, here quantitative methods, come to have a social life – by embodying and exhibiting understanding they ‘make the social structures of everyday activities observable’ (Garfinkel, 1967: 75), thereby putting society on display. Exhibited understandings rest on distinctive lines of practical social and cultural inquiry – ethnographic ‘forays’ into the worlds of the producers and users of statistics – which are central to good statistical work but are not themselves quantitative. In highlighting these non-statistical forms of social and cultural inquiry at work in statistical practice, our case study is an addition to understandings of statistics and usefully points to ways in which studies of the social life of methods might be further developed from here.

Funding

This research was made possible by the ESRC through funding to the NCRM [grant number: RES-576-25-0022].

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Theory, Culture and Society: explorations in critical social science

Volume

n/a

Issue

n/a

Pages

n/a - ?

Citation

MAIR, M., GREIFFENHAGEN, C. and SHARROCK, W., 2016. Statistical practice: putting society on display. Theory, Culture and Society, 33(3), pp.51-77.

Publisher

SAGE Publications © The Author(s)

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Publication date

2016

Notes

This is an Open Access Article (CC-BY 3.0). It is published by SAGE as Open Access at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0263276414559058

ISSN

1460-3616

Language

en