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Towards a New Approach in Social Simulations: Meta-Language

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Towards a New Approach in Social Simulations: Meta-Language
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    ESRC National Centre for Research Methods Innovations in Social Science Research Methods 1   Maria Xenitidou & Nigel GilbertUniversity of SurreyMay 2009 1   DO   NOT   CITE   WITHOUT   PRIOR   PERMISSION   FROM   THE    AUTHORS      2 A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS   This work was carried out with the co-operation of the NCRM Hub which assisted us in identifyingresearch participants. The project, however, was undertaken solely by the authors and they areresponsible for the findings presented hereafter.We would like to thank the people who responded to our call, participated in our survey andinterview sessions and provided information or fora for networking and disseminating the project.    3 E XECUTIVE S UMMARY One of the aims of the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) is to identify and foster methodological innovation in the UK. The aim of this project was to identify methodologicalinnovations outside the UK and draw NCRM’s attention to them. The project sought out research practices that have not yet filtered through to typical research methods courses or that impact on theresearch process in novel ways. These usually entailed (i) technological innovation, (ii) the use of existing theoretical approaches and methods in new ways and (iii) interdisciplinarity.The project’s focus on innovative research practices ranged from data collection to analysis andcovered disciplines such as (social) psychology, sociology, social work, socio-legal studies, political science (including public health and public policy) and international studies, (social)geography (area studies, demography, environmental and urban planning), (social) anthropology,(socio-)linguistics, education, communication studies, economic and social history, economics(management and business studies), science and technology studies, statistics, methods andcomputing.The work was conducted between October 2008 and March 2009 and written up in April and May2009. The project gathered evidence by reviewing previous reports, carrying out desktop research,conducting an e-mail survey with academics, practitioners, research methods experts and others(N=215) - registering data entries in the form of nominations of experts, institutions and links toexplore (N=670) - and holding interviews with gatekeepers (N=36) and telephone interviews withnominated experts (N=40).The project concluded, firstly, that innovative methodologies usually entail the use of one or moretechnological innovation(s) (visual, digital or online). This could be the advent of new software or the development of online methods and the use of the Internet to conduct research. Secondly,innovative methodologies often entail crossing disciplinary boundaries. This is observed incombinations of disciplines and methods such as in ethnography, anthropology and psychology.Thirdly, innovative methodologies often entail the use of existing theoretical approaches andmethods in reformed or mixed and applied ways. This is observed in participatory methods, actionresearch, professional work, social and consultancy work. Finally, innovative methodologies reside both inside traditional academic institutions (universities) and outside (research centres, institutes,consultancy agencies and organisations), yet even in the latter methods developers and expertsusually have academic backgrounds and previous or current affiliations, status or posts.Overall, psychology figured prominently in methodological innovations and developments followed by survey methodology, ethnography, sociology and management. These developments wereclassified into mixed (N=8), qualitative (N=7) and quantitative (N=7) types of research. Theinstitutional structures identified as ‘hosting’ these developments are primarily Academic followed by both Academic and Professional, then Research Centres and finally Professional andConsultancy institutions. The majority of the innovations are a consequence of working acrossdisciplinary boundaries, followed by developments within methods and disciplines and then bydevelopments in technology. Innovations were mainly spotted in North America – the USA andCanada – Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.The report includes summary descriptions of the methodological innovations located by the project.As a follow up to this project a workshop will be organised to bring together some of the developersand experts identified of these innovations. The workshop is planned to be adjacent to the NCRMResearch Methods Festival to be held in July 2010.    4 C ONTENTS Acknowledgements.................................................................................................................2   Executive Summary..................................................................................................................3   1.   Introduction.........................................................................................................................6   2.   Background to the Project....................................................................................8   3.   Methodology......................................................................................................................10   Data Collection.................................................................................................................................10   Analysis............................................................................................................................................10   4.   Summaries of innovative methods....................................................................11   Method Descriptions.........................................................................................................................11   Technological Innovation..........................................................................................................................12    Managing Historical Longitudinal Data: Intermediate Data Structure......................................................13   WeSearch..............................................................................................................................................15   Virtual Agents (Avatars).........................................................................................................................17   Internet Survey Software Tools: Human-Survey Interaction Framework...................................................19   Methods for Achieving Equivalence of Samples in Cross-National Surveys: The European Social SurveyExperience.............................................................................................................................................21   Item Response Theory – Tests without Items...........................................................................................23   Orbital decomposition............................................................................................................................24   Crossing Boundaries .................................................................................................................................26    Folkbiology............................................................................................................................................27   Ethnography as a Non-linear Dynamic System........................................................................................29   Institutional Ethnography.......................................................................................................................32   Water Cooler Logic: Participatory Ethnography at Work.........................................................................34   Genetic Transmission of Political Orientations........................................................................................36   Kinship Algebra Expert System (KAES)..................................................................................................39   Netnography..........................................................................................................................................42   Journalism as both Reporting and Research............................................................................................46   Appreciative Inquiry as a Research Method.............................................................................................48   Reflecting Interview................................................................................................................................50   Intuitive Inquiry.....................................................................................................................................51   Situational Analysis................................................................................................................................55   Towards a New Approach in Social Simulations: Meta-Language............................................................57   The Research Poem (in Social Work)......................................................................................................60   Research-based drama............................................................................................................................63   Transformative ........................................................................................................................................66    The impact of multi-sited ethnography on researcher involvement............................................................67   Participatory Learning and Action..........................................................................................................68   Narrating Sensitive Topics: Applied and Basic Research..........................................................................69   Software ..................................................................................................................................................71   Intelligence-Led Policing Software..........................................................................................................72   Dialectometry: Measures Structure in Geographical Dialect Networks: Rug/Lo4 Software.......................73   HyperResearch: Computer-assisted programme for analysing qualitative data..........................................74   HyperTranscribe: transcription tool.........................................................................................................74   Personal Network Analysis & EgoNet Software......................................................................................75   Verbal Autopsy Software........................................................................................................................77   Others .....................................................................................................................................................79    Facility for online data collection: Advanced Multi-disciplinary Facility for Measurement andExperimentation in the Social Sciences (MESS).......................................................................................80   Integration and Implementation Sciences (I2S)........................................................................................81   Critical Demography..............................................................................................................................83      5 5.   Discussion and Reflection......................................................................................84   6.   Conclusion...........................................................................................................................94   7.   References...............................................................................................................................95  
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