res701

One credible witness better than 1000 pathological liars

One credible witness better than 1000 pathological liars cont… Alright, let’s get into these 3 domains and discuss them:

Commercial Domain  –  Information funded by, supportive of, and driving the best interests of the almighty dollar. In short, commercial spin tactics spawned by silver-tongued salesman and not worth the paper is is written on.

Bold statement! And actually, not an opinion I agree with. There are some great resources out there in the Commercial Domain. As examples, I point out the VMWare reference (http://store.vmware.com) and Microsoft Virtual Academy. In both of these examples, nobody knows their product better, and both companies have earned their market share as industry leaders in their respective fields. If I wanted to know why virtualisation was the obvious (and profitable) solution, I would turn to VMWare as the leading developers of commercial virtualisation solutions. If I wanted to compare Windows Server 2012 and Apache, who better to highlight the strength of Windows Server than Microsoft?

Does this mean that the word of the marketing giant is always true, accurate and unbiased. My-gosh no! I believe it does deserve respect, but… take it with a grain of salt and use it as a platform for further investigation.

Social domain  –  perspective, personal experience, opinion and outright sensationalism!

This is such a broad domain and includes sources such as blogs (like this VERY credible one), forums, media and social sciences. Often, information from the social domain is unlikely to rigorously tested – and in the case of many media outlets, it is likely to be more biased and sensationalised than the Commercial Domain. Don’t believe me? Pick up the Women’s Weekly and read about Brad and Angelina – that’s got to be 100 % accurate right? Then, turn on the 6PM news, you’d be surprised how often obviously hyped tabloid-material is also reported in the ‘factual’ 6 PM broadcast (and yes, it is worse in other countries that it is here).

So why bother with the social domain? It has a number of benefits. Firstly, it is more immediate than other sources that have rigorous compliance procedures. Take this blog as an example: this is the place you will find up-to-the-minute publication of my genius. If you had to wait until I had unequivocally proven my arguments, you might never get to read any of this 🙂

Public forums are also an interesting place to visit. Head to StackOverflow, Python Docs or Wikipedia (reference to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtualizationhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornell_University) and have a look around. The material you find here is as ‘public’ as you can get, with thousands of interested people offering their opinions and feedback. In these situations, left-field or radical opinions are pounced upon and really thrashed out! (here I draw the distinction from the Academic Domain). Often times, this is the best source of information that reflects the common consensus.

Academic Domain – scientific process, rigorous testing, peer reviewed and totally credible.

No one can argue it, this is the most credible source of research and information possible. Or is it… Who has written it? Where are they from? Who has reviewed it? Who has re-used it? Oh my, in attempting to offer the most unarguably credible information, we have to go through a process of verifying it. 

As an example, refer to reference (Eshet, Y. (2004)). What is this journal, who writes in it, who reads it, who cites it and who reviews it? Checking out the various editors of the journal, not one of them currently works in the top 20 universities (ref x.x), but over 120 people have cited the article. Compare this to (Widom et al) and (Otting et al), written by two of the world’s leading experts in their fields, both working at two of the world’s leading universities. Along the same veins, consider the virtualisation reference (http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~jrex/virtual.html) from Princeton. 

Conclusions

What makes Stanford, Princeton or Columbia more credible than NMIT (for arguments sake)? Is an Ivy league university more credible because it has prestige and a huge budget? Or does a huge budget make it more commercial and less credible? Is my Mother’s opinion lass important that Dr. Joseph-Expert-In-X? In the end, it is a question of context.

It is interesting that RES 701 has cycled back to epistemology. What we want to know, and the sources we explore will be directly dictated by the context of the question. An artistic question will lead us to creative and potentially controversial sources, in which case topical arts or media may be our best source of information. A question that sits within a social paradigm (for example data literacy) might be best answered by collection of social media, or government policies and evaluated within the realm of social science. And a quantifiable question is likely to be best answered through verifiable academic resources. But in each case, do these sources offer impartiality, a completely up-to-the-minute or unique or ‘outside the box’ perspective.

I would argue, that no single source is sufficient to completely answer any interesting question.  That context and perspective are only gained through considering a range of views. I believe in the scientific process, but leave with a quote from a reknowned researcher, Peter Checkland: “…one of the things that disappoints me about academics immunities is that they don’t question the conventional wisdom sufficiently.” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XA2i1n-o9L0, Peter Checkland, 20 April 2012 at Lancaster University Management School.)

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One thought on “One credible witness better than 1000 pathological liars

  1. Pingback: Blogger Award – Week 7 « Research Methods

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