On the reliability and validity of meaning in arch and urban research

ACTIVITYTHEORY BIGGS 3

  • Gibson_affordances: how it is that some situations and objects seen to present themselves to us as things we can use
  • Wittgenstein_language games: in which we share common attitudes towards the world and what it presents to us (constructivist view where we make an interpretation of the world that facilitates certain interactions and limits others) Questioning is a kind of malady, a disquiet that can only be satisfied by an answer that makes the question go away.” Our questions occur in a context.
  • Scientific worldview contrasts the constructivist one as “everything about the real world lies out there to be discovered.”
  • Popper_Science is as speculative as other disciplines
  • Feyerabend_ science is much more creative than is stereo-typically assumed
  • Latour & Woolgar_have exposed the the human, interested, motivated world of the science laboratory that is usually excluded from accounts of scientific inquiry
  • Bloor: all kinds of knowledge is motivated and arises in a context of values and beliefs. Many scientific or sociological advances are themselves based on ungrounded assumptions, or on a persuasive narrative, in favor of a particular position at the expense of the alternatives. “Unmotivated decisions are impossible”

ACTIVITY THEORY: An activity is an organized set of actions that combine together to construct our reality; activities are central to our knowledge production; activities are considered as corresponding methods in research and the worldview within which these activities are perceived as meaningful by the actors who deploy them, as methodologies. Methodologies are value and belief sets that provide an interpretative framework for understanding the impact and significance of those activities.

Activity situated in a social context and in an interpretative community of users provides us with evaluative tools, not only for assessing the appropriateness of the proposed methods, but also of assessing the appropriateness of data (…) one can use an activity-theoretic account to explain why an architectural activity is appropriate in response to an architectural question, i.e. a question posed in the context of architecture; or one can use it to identify the architectural worldview and values within which a response is perceived as meaningful by the interpretative community of architects (..) it is false to assume that data alone, or evidence-based assessment, has the potential to point us towards a single narrative or argument leading to an incontrovertible conclusion in research.

By legitimizing alternative ways of interpreting data, and indeed what we might accept as data, the field of architectural research is given a voice with which to express alternative socio-cultural values and to describe how these values give rise to alternative, productive insights and understandings to traditional models of academic research, i.e. significant research outcomes, based in professional practices, which have potential impact.

Science tries to make claims about an external world that exists independently of the observer/ The sociologist is interested in the social interaction of human beings that includes the opinions and personalities of the individuals concerned, it is essentially a science of the social world rather than a science of the material world

 

References

Biggs, M.A.R., 2014. An Activity theory of research methods in architecture and urbanism. In City, Territory and Architecture 2014, 1:16, http://www.cityterritoryarchitecture.com/content/1/1/16

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