Epistemology is a part of philosophy that deals with the scope of knowledge and its nature. It questions the knowledge and how it was acquired. It also goes further to looking into the magnitude at which a concept is known or can be known. It connects knowledge to such notions as justification, truth, and belief (Ormond, 2013, lec. 3). This paper will analyze the NFP research experience and identify the influence of epistemology in the research using a positivist approach. The main goal is to examine the research methods used and to clarify what the researchers believe to be the prevalent situation at hand.
1. Epistemological Approach Taken in the NFP Research Experience
The National Field Project used positivism as an epistemology approach in gaining a conclusion about the relationship of tourists’ happiness with the number of photos taken by the same. The findings of the research showed that the observable facts had their influence, while excluding metaphysical speculation on the origin of the tourists’ happiness. The knowledge was not based on any prior knowledge but was contracted in a contextually based manner.
The research dwelt primarily on tourists and the number of photos taken upon their visits. This became the basis of determining the truth and knowledge of the dependent variables. In this case, the dependent variables are the tourists, and the object that helps in determining their happiness are the scenes and the number of photos taken. Knowledge here targets the way people construct and make meaning depending on the beliefs that they hold. Faith becomes the explanation power or the reason given (Ormond, 2013).
The understanding of a specific phenomenon is largely dependent on the information derived from participants of the research, thereby establishing the truth thereof. The questionnaires were used with an aim of gaining the relevant data that would put reason to concepts believed to be true. The data was used to bring in the objectivity to observations made. Naturalism as an assumption of positivism was highlighted. Assumptions and methods of natural science were transferred to study of social objects. The results from this project revealed the effect of tourism on individuals and reflected the emotions displayed through photo taking. Viewing the results through epistemology helps in establishing the accuracy of the material in view of scientific rationalism in relation to human conduct (Ormond, 2013).
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2. How the Approach Defined Causality
The research method brings out the essence of cause and effect. The happiness of the tourist is believed to be dependent on the events that can prompt rampant snap taking. That is to say, everything depended on a specific event that would cause the snap taking response. At the end of a trip, the amount of joy the tourist may have felt during the tour experience was measured by the number of photos taken.
The happiness of the tourists is stated to depend largely on the photo taking, and it is upon such frequencies that the level of happiness or a lack of it was determined. The positivist epistemological research method of establishing the truth or knowledge occurs by observing the object in relation to the result and making a conclusion based on faith in interpretation. The two variables in this instance are happiness and photographic behavior (Okhun & Hammacher, 2012). In this case, the objects in the form of photo taking are determined by a cause, which is a triggering factor for taking a photo, namely, the scenes of a particular location.
The photographic behavior of the tourists is a form of memorizing as photos serve as a reminder of the moments enjoyed. Whenever they see something that they would want to keep in mind, photographs are taken. With an intention to share the pictures with friends and families, tourists find photo taking as a source of their long held happiness. With an increase in the use of social media sites, tourists post these pictures for others to view. However, not a very high percentage of tourists are seen to post pictures on these sites. Happiness is a source of subjective well being that results from actions of an individual. For the tourists, photo taking remains their cause for happiness.
3. How positivism approach considers the relationship between the production of knowledge and its concept of reality
The approach put in place is designed to make an assessment so as to prove the truth of the knowledge relayed. The need is to verify the truth of the claim that happiness of tourists and their habits of photo taking are interrelated dictate the kinds of materials that find use in this research. In the research, the assumption made was that images and the process of photo taking itself have a lot of impact on the happiness of tourists. To this effect, the literature used in the research alludes that one variable depends on the other variable, which is independent, to establish knowledge that affects. The ability of individuals to view images taken over a trip at a later time in order to remember the enjoyable moments determines the relationship between knowledge and concepts of reality in the NFP research (Okhun & Hammacher, 2012).
4. How positivism approach saw the relationship between knowledge and values
Human beings are not static. They are mobile and social. This is to say that, with time, knowledge is bound to change and knowledge varies with the context. Human beings are endlessly trying to make sense of their world (Smith, 1998). This is the main motivator of carrying out the research using the positivist model. The model allows humans to make meaning out of their faith or what they see and believe to be the reality behind a situation. It is also true that people experience the essence of reality in different ways. This is true to the extent that the experience of one person or a group of people would change depending on the value held.
The knowledge that warrants a specific response differs from one person to another. The world itself is not static. It is dynamic; therefore, it requires a broader perspective of truth or knowledge establishment in relationship to a specific model of interest. The values that emerge in this model are those that accept the diversity of people and those which take into account the opinions from varied angles of concern.
Social science comes in as a situated practice, which comes into play in all sorts of social relations. It attempts to explain objects while bringing understanding to matters and emotions. Since social science in our time does not exist in just a vacuum, we live in a complex world that keeps changing every minute. The complexity of how people communicate and organize individual matters brings in variations to different theories of knowledge (Smith, 1998).
5. Challenges faced as a researcher in undertaking positivist approach
The positivist research method is not an absolute measure of gaining full knowledge of a phenomenon. There are various challenges that are often associated with this method. Positivism can be extended to the social sciences. There is the use of social sciences in studying social phenomena and in refining objectivity, causality, and rationalism (Ormond, 2013, Lec. 3). Positivism often gives room for speculation, which is a major inhibiting factor to attaining accurate knowledge. Due to the generalizations made on certain aspects, this method cannot be deemed as the surest way of coming up with the knowledge sufficient to make a claim.
Barrier in communication comes as a disadvantaging factor since it cannot allow one to derive concrete and dependable results. The contexts may differ from one individual to another. Positivism brings to the fore the beliefs of the researcher, while one seeks to find any material that will support the conclusion made regardless of the possibility of the facts being fallacies. It might be fallacious to make a generalization that a constant cause derived will always instigate a specific effect when basing one’s argument on the results attained from a specific place. The unreliability of the interpretative method is also caused by the fact that some questions asked are dependent on the season, month or the hour of the day. This difference in time may prompt effects and responses that would be not true in other contexts. In this method, knowledge of a specific thing is not dependent on the context, or the season, or the time of the day. It holds that truth is constant. Truth in this school of thought holds that knowledge is objective; it exists, and it is a result of the natural cause-effect laws (Smith, 1998).
Since sociology is not a science, it becomes challenging to prove the truth of the facts stated. Besides, the statistics involved in positivism are a not in a position to tell so much about the behavior of humans that keeps changing from time to time. The questionnaires used may have brought in inaccurate information from the participants who may have failed to understand the questions well, thus giving inaccurate answers.
Part 2: A different Epistemological Approach
1. How does interpretivist approach define causality?
Interpretivism views that all knowledge is contingent on human practices due to its meaningful reality. Interaction between humans and their world seems to have an effect on every individual, thus the need to view every individual from a personal point of view. The spontaneous ways in which individuals take actions and their engagement in relationships, which also has an effect on individuals, are captivating (Ormond, 2013). Interpretivism actually discovers what you as an individual believe to be true or something that you desire. It involves viewing social science as different from what is in the natural world. Thus, a researcher has a need to make a careful analysis to understand the social actions of individuals from the group that is under study.
Interpretivism defines causality in a more analytical manner by examining the case of each individual. In the case of tourists, rather than basing the general decision of the effect that photo taking has on the tourists, interpretivism would look into the action of taking snapshots as an independent action that is not correlated to happiness. It would also differentiate the effect the number of times that a person visits a particular place has on an individual’s happiness.
Thus, examining each individual to get the basis rather than looking into the matter in a collective manner would lead to a better conclusion on the cause and effect. This may vary between individuals as different people have different preferences. This, however, does not omit the possibility of similarities because of relationships between people that affects the view individuals may have (Ormond, 2013, Lec. 4).
2. How does Interpretivist approach consider the relationship between the production of knowledge and its concept of reality?
Interpretivist epistemological approach describes knowledge in a systematic manner. It provides a logical framework of proving its claims. Knowledge is not determined by the subject, and the effects are constant or can be verified regardless of the prevailing beliefs. The approach looks into an individual’s object of interest and analyses every comment made by the individual under review. Rather than letting the data collected remain general, it allows for in depth questioning that gives more accurate answers as to the matter in question (Ormond, 2013, Lec. 4).
A hypothesis here undergoes testing in a controlled environment and its proof or rejection entirely depends on the reality that is verifiable universally. All forms of generalizations are eliminated, thus making it possible to receive accurate data. Any unstructured form of interview is eliminated in interpretivism, thus ruling out any form of ambiguity and speculation. The possibility of inaccurate answers is also eliminated (Ormond, 2013, lec. 7).
The truths are a result of an in-depth observation since it is a fact that not all knowledge amounts to truth. Therefore, in reality, knowledge not only arises as truth even if it is observable and measurable. Moreover, since research is always conducted on samples, its truth-value is determined based on the fact whether it can be replicated to meet the expectation and whether it gives the same results on other population. The truth further emerges from the observable phenomena and behavior.
3. How does interpretivist approach see the relationship between knowledge and values?
When knowledge is largely dependent on specific variables, it becomes contextual. The prevailing claims and beliefs determine its authenticity. There are various approaches that can be taken to prove a claim when using interpretative epistemological methods. Knowledge of a particular aspect or a phenomenon is determined by circumstances and situations. The claims can also be re-enforced by adjusting the variables (Smith, 1998).
4. If I were to re-do the NFP research experience using interpretative approach, how would it change?
a. The underlying values and motivations of the research project and its design
The major intent of carrying out the research would be to establish the reality, which is independent of the context. It would be to seek knowledge that exists independently from contexts. The reality emanates from unchangeable rules of nature. The establishment of these natural factors would be the primary objective of this research method. Another motivating factor would be to study how effects occur independently, regardless of environment or the prevailing beliefs of the time. The establishment of how people would engage in a specific behavior under certain conditions is also among major areas of interest. According to the positivist view, knowledge is not circumstantial, but rather the situations reveal the reality that underlies events. According to this theory, human beings are rational and they comprehend events. People’s perceptions are a product of external events and not vice versa. The research would not look into generalized questionnaires but would take a more personal interview approach.
b. The way in which the general research question is formulated
The research question is formulated with various factors being put into consideration. First, the natural phenomena through which an effect emerges should be considered. For instance, in the NFP, the question would be to find out what brings satisfaction to the tourists. Nature and events are the primary interest of tourists; and experiencing the beauty of nature and events would be the cause of joy, but not the mere snap shots. Secondly, there would be a need to establish whether there are constant reasons that make people happy or intrinsic things that cause the same effects in a variety of population. This research method presupposes that events have general effects and that they are not bound by a particular situation or circumstance. Lastly, the determinant of the attitude of the participants is their perception and treatment of the events rather than the way in which they express their excitement.
c. The literature reviewed and the academic debates/concepts with which it seeks to engage
The literature reviews seek to establish the independence of truth from the perception of the observer. Smith’s positivist perspective holds that knowledge is not dependent on circumstances and that it does not shape, determine, or frame the known (Smith, 1998). Reality exists regardless of the prevailing belief. For positivists, the rule of knowing shapes the reality, and indeed, it represents the reality without errors. The ultimate results are trusted to be true and they rank high in truth-value. For truth to be certain, it has to conform to other claims. With this, it becomes easier to verify a claim.
d. The methodology and choice of research methods
According to the positivist method, the researcher is independent of the reality and he has no place in its establishment. In the interpretative method, on the other hand, the reality is already established and the researcher has no control over the object of research to establish the reality. The investigator is often in control of the investigated, but the cause of effects is dependent on the natural phenomena, which are responsible for the outcomes. The structure of the research is verifiable. It is also observable. When conducting the research, the truth is being established without any biasness (Smith, 1998).
e. The interpretation/analysis of the data
A photo a tourist takes determines his/her emotional condition. The frequency with which one engages in taking snap shots establishes and ascertains this knowledge. The research seeks to prove that one’s positive emotions may be determined by the frequency of photo taking. The amount of photos tourists take during their holiday has a direct correlation with their levels of contentment and satisfaction. The number of times an individual visits or takes pictures explains the tourists’ feelings about the place. The familiarity of an individual with the place would create a need to look for new features to avoid a capture of the same scene.
f. The nature of the results
The results of the research would show a slight variation from the results revealed. The results would reveal a more conclusive report, which is obtained from the in-depth inquiry that often leads to examining more from an interviewee on feedback given.
g. The challenges you might have faced in undertaking that approach?
Distance is one of the challenges that would be faced. Distance between the object of study and the human form of understanding would stand as a big factor in the research. It would easily lead to the forming of conclusive results that are flawed. Reification is another challenge that would be faced. Here, it would be easy for an individual to intertwine what they sense as the truth making it the fact instead of searching out accurately for the absolute truth (Ormond, 2013, Lec. 7).
6. How the interpretivist epistemological approach would critique the approach that was taken in the NFP research project?
Positivism examines a group of tourists from one social circle. This, thus, leads to focusing on macro sociology. The research has perceived sociology as a scientific area of study, thus analyzing social facts as if they were scientific. The research is based on the general view of a variety of individuals to form a conclusive report on the effects of photographs and happiness. Quantitative data that was collected has a high possibility of being inaccurate, thus leading to an inaccurate conclusion. Positivism, thus, proves to be an inaccurate method of analyzing findings of the research conducted among a group of people who had to fill in close-ended questionnaires.