A subjectivity/objectivity conversation + limitation of language

So I’m in this carpooling group and someone asked for a ride just as I was leaving campus so I offered. The person that got into the car with me turned out to be a girl I met and got to know at the airport in Madrid. Small world huh!?

We got to talking about our Masters Degrees, she’s pursuing Anthropology and I’m studying Education. It was such an intellectually stimulating conversation! I loved it.

In any case, the conversation stirred us into talking about research subjectivity and it’s funny how we both agreed that objectivity is actually not possible, at least in our disciplines.

I think all humans fall somewhere on the spectrum of objectivity and as humans we cannot be objective. Even if we do our very best to be objective in data collection, the choice of our research topic will always be a subjective one. In my opinion, which she said is a very anthropological one, there will always be a degree of subjectivity in any research. The good thing however is to address that subjectivity in the research study and to voice it out as a researcher. This makes it credible; not claiming that everything is objective because that in essence takes away the human researcher aspect out of the research, to me at least. Then I made reference to a conversation I had with another person who inspires me and one that I really enjoy talking to. He was talking about people with loud vs. low voices saying that people who have loud voices and project what they say are usually honest people because you can see how they speak naturally and you can conclude that they aren’t hiding anything. While people who speak in low voices with caution and lack of emotion in their voices or their way of speaking are ones you should be cautious of or could say they have something to hide. This of course is a theory that is based on his opinion. The subjectivity/objectivity conversation reminded me with that conversation and it kinda related. So the people who voice their subjective positions and are clear about them are the honest researchers because even if it seems like they should try to conceal these subjectivities, they address them clearly. While others who claim they are very objective and have absolutely no degree of subjectivity, can be related to those with low voices who do not project their emotions clearly to people and therefore are hiding something; even if it is their interest in the topic or theory or in making a certain point. Ironic right? How we always consider objective research as more credible than the subjective research?

As advocating to subjectivity as this post seems, it’s not to say that I support subjectivity in the data collection and analysis part. I would like to know when a researcher considers themselves as subjective, however I would not at all appreciate them letting that subjectivity get in the way of the way they collect data or analyze facts to align with that position. I want to know what all the facts are; not only the facts that researchers think would prove their point or the facts that they somehow twist to prove or perpetuate that subjectivity.

Then we got into a conversation on how language, as much as it provides a way for a person to express themselves, as much as it also poses a limitation as to how much a person can accurately express themselves. So I made reference to the seemingly cheesy line that lovers say, “words cannot express how much I love you.” And people might think that’s cheesy, but sometimes it IS difficult to express an intensity of an emotion, regardless of if it’s love, sadness, depression, joy…etc, through the words that are commonly used in language or the vocabulary we are familiar with, which makes this statement actually deep rather than cliché and cheesy.

Some quick, post awesome conversation, thoughts 🙂

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