My Own Research

I just got a research proposal back that had been given in for grading and review. The topic is on urban renewal and several related areas as they pertain to Canadian cities. Now, in my proposal I cited numerous sources that I will be using. I did, however, state that I would base a certain amount of my final research paper on some personal research and observations that I have conducted in the area. I got a good grade on the proposal and all that, but was actually shocked that the grader took objection to the fact that I would use my own research, and didn't quite understand what I meant by the comment. What? You have thoughts? You've examined a situation? Impossible!

This goes back to what we were commenting on a little while ago about the arrogance of the education system, thinking that everything absolutely must be cited from academia who are clearly more educated in the area than someone like me who has gone out in the field and seen the results of urban renewal projects. Surely I will base myself on many other accounts of the phenomena, but my own views and experiences on the topic are, and should form, an important component of this. Of course, with the arrogance, as I said, nobody actually understands this. You have to be an expert and have a Dr. in front of your name in order to pronounce yourself with any credibility on a topic of social sciences. Get real. As for urbanization, rural developments, urban renewal and sprawl, I feel these are topics that I have a certain degree of competence in due to my own long-term interests in the field. I have also been able to travel the streets of cities and to see with my own eyes how these phenomena are present in Canada today. It seems to me that anyone who has any observation skills and intelligence whatsoever, and has lived in or around a city for most their lives, should be able to form an opinion on such a topic.

Unfortunately, the reality, as I stated in my post on sedentary lifestyles, is that we've only really seen a minuscule fraction of the cities in which we live. If you think of Montreal, how many people do you know who basically have seen the Ste. Catherine St. area downtown, the few blocks surrounding their house, the few blocks surrounding their school, and then just the links in between. It is absolutely astonishing. When you have been living in the same place for years, yet can travel 10-15 blocks and be completely disoriented, you have a major fucking problem. No wonder why there is so much arrogance in academia. Of course you're not qualified to speak of issues affecting cities....you live in one!


At 16/12/05 6:40 PM, Blogger Chartier said...

Don't you also find it somewhat funny that the purpose of education is to make young minds push current topics further, yet we discourage it completely?

At 18/12/05 2:43 PM, Blogger Portelance said...

Yes, absolutely. It appears to me, however, that this will to push further is only in the context of what you're being taught in school. Don't try to further your knowledge on your own time and try to apply it, that would just be wrong...

At 1/1/06 4:29 PM, Anonymous ben said...

"we've only really seen a minuscule fraction of the cities in which we live"
The fraction of the city we know is closely related to the transport system(s) we use. For example, ask someone that doesn't have a car in downtown Montreal and you'll see he knows the subway stations and their surroundings much better than another. In a word, the more mobility you have, the more you can explore. Some cities are much more accessible than others. Take Paris. Forget about exploring Paris in car, it's just insanely long and painful, and you'll probably get lost even with a good map. It's just harder to get around. The metro, trams, RERs and trains, however, cover a very large portion of the city, including suburban areas. For this reason, tourists can rapidly find their way around the city. Now the issue is really the interest in discovering new places when your mobility is limited (ie. you actually have to plan your way around). That's where we can start discriminating Montreal's west island population :)

At 1/1/06 4:33 PM, Anonymous ben said...

"You have to be an expert and have a Dr. in front of your name in order to pronounce yourself with any credibility on a topic of social sciences."
This issue applies to sciences at large, not just social sciences. In fact, it is the basis of the scientific approach. It states that any information should be backed up by research and proven facts. This also explains why social topics have a hard time proving they deserve the "science" suffix.

At 1/1/06 10:06 PM, Blogger Portelance said...

Yes, well, I speak of what I know. Some of the most referenced and concise works in many fields have been written by people who don't have a doctorate. On the other hand, I've read so-called scholarly analysis written by doctors who just can't properly convey the material.

Re: social sciences, it's part science, part art, by definition. The science is mostly because of the scientific method. It's much closer to art in practice, though, by the definition of "studies intended to provide general knowledge and intellectual skills". I'll never forget when my policial science teacher in CEGEP came in the class one day wearing a lab coat and calling himself a "political scientist". It was to raise this exact debate about whether it's a science or an art.


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