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Chapter 3.2: Dialogic and Positivist Research in the Social Sciences

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Abstract

In this chapter we continue to compare and contrast dialogic and positivist research in the social sciences, and we attempt to carve legitimate territory for both the positivist and dialogic research approaches. We claim that dialogic research focuses on dialogic meaning making as an encounter of two or more consciousnesses about another dialogic encounter. Thus, in dialogic research, an encounter of two or more unique consciousnesses is both the focus of research and the way of doing research. In contrast, in conventional positivist research in social sciences where the research participants’ voices and subjectivities are finalized into statements of findings only to be verified and generalized, they become predictable and stable “things” among other things and, thus, ironically, they stop being truly voices and subjectivities—they become objective voices and objective subjectivities. We describe dialogic research stances: dialogic subjectifying, dialogic problematizing, and dialogic finalizing. In addition, we discuss the status of disagreement in positivist research method and in dialogic research art, claiming that, while agreement is necessary in the positivist approach as a proxy for truth, dialogic research art is about arriving at unique and authorial judgments where the researchers, research participants, and research audience explore their multiple, permanent, and necessary differences and disagreements, taking responsibility for these judgments. We also analyze the legitimacy, importance, and limitations of the positivist approach in social science, providing examples when its approach is necessary and legitimate, and drawing a boundary of its legitimacy whenever it is necessary to objectivize human subjectivity and reduce dialogic meaning making to pattern recognition and pattern production, that is, to describe apparent potentially universal forms and structures, and process dialogues without focusing on authorial meaning making. Similarly, we describe and analyze the legitimate “territory” of dialogic humanistic research and its boundaries.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This principle of agreement as proxy for truth is often used in social science methodology as a verification of coding; cf. “intercoder reliability”: when an agreement between or among two or more trained but independent coders is statistically high, the reliability of coding has been established.

  2. 2.

    See http://www.hp-gramatke.net/perpetuum/english/page0060.htm

  3. 3.

    Although not the debate about the reason for its infeasibility, which continued until around 1840, when the principle of conservation of energy was established, thus, ending another limited critical dialogue for some time.

  4. 4.

    Although it may be also changed through this limited critical dialogue testing it.

  5. 5.

    Here we provided a very brief dialogic analysis of positivist science “in-action” (cf. Latour, 1987). A dialogic analysis of “ready-made” positivistic science is beyond the scope of this essay.

  6. 6.

    We do not mean to claim that positivistic science succeeds in its enterprise of eliminating authorial subjectivity and dialogic meaning making in general and from its own practice specifically but a nuanced discussion of this is beyond the scope of this essay.

  7. 7.

    Some cultural critics and scholars (e.g., Sprague & Kobrynowicz, 2006) consider the practice of science as inherently positivistic. We are rather ambivalent about that. Eugene and Ana gravitate to disagreement with these scholars—they view the practice of science as a particular inquiry that may or may not be positivistic. In contrast, Mikhail is more sympathetic to the view that science is inherently positivistic.

  8. 8.

    “Art is never finished, only abandoned”; see a discussion: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Leonardo_da_Vinci

  9. 9.

    We found several places in Bakhtin’s texts of such illegitimate penetrations of dialogic research into the realm of positivist science that, in our view, led to Bakhtin’s religious mysticism (see Groys, 2017; Matusov & Marjanovic-Shane, 2017). For example, Bakhtin insisted that “It should be pointed out that the single and unified consciousness is by no means an inevitable consequence of the concept of a unified truth [istina]. It is quite possible to imagine and postulate a unified truth [istina] that requires a plurality of consciousnesses, one that in principle cannot be fitted within the bounds of a single consciousness, one that is, so to speak, by its very nature full of event potential and is born at that point of contact among various consciousnesses. The monologic way of perceiving cognition and truth is only one of the possible ways. It arises only where consciousness is placed above existence” (Bakhtin, 1999, p. 81; italics in original). In our view, a unified objective truth, istina, rooted in a plurality of opaque consciousnesses, is a mystification, bounded with religion.

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Matusov, E., Marjanovic-Shane, A., Gradovski, M. (2019). Chapter 3.2: Dialogic and Positivist Research in the Social Sciences. In: Dialogic Pedagogy and Polyphonic Research Art. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-58057-3_10

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-58057-3_10

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