Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Research: Granada Report

Peter Bittner (IPE '11) has just returned from Granada, Spain where he has been working on his IPE Summer Research grant project. Here is his report.

After 3 weeks in Granada conducting fieldwork and nearly seven months in Spain it feels great, yet very strange, to be back in the States again. After compiling loads of qualitative data regarding the social effects of the crisis, and political opinions regarding economic policies I am now reviewing and analyzing the results of my interviews.

I recruited the 50+ interview subjects through a long process of networking, using friends and contacts made in Granada during both the preceding 5 and a half month study-abroad semester and the 3 week period of fieldwork. In order to include a wide variety of perspectives and opinions, I made an effort to obtain a diverse and ideally representative sample comprising individuals of different sexes, ages, occupations and stratifications within society. Among the twenty individuals recruited for the formal interviews were male and female subjects including students, professors, business owners, journalists, bankers, construction workers, architects, social workers, immigrants, judges and local government officials. The interviewees ranged from twenty to sixty-three years of age. The astounding diversity of perspectives, rich content and massive amount of information collected is almost overwhelming.

After preliminarily reviewing the interview data it appears that testing the original hypothesis with any level of validity will be nearly impossible. Initially, I had dreamed of being able to assess whether “a greater perceived level of deleterious social effects of the crisis coincides with favored policies in contradiction to the long-term economic interests of Spain”. The naiveté revealed in those words now is shocking. Simply defining the two terms “social effects” and “long-term economic interests of Spain” is extremely difficult. That aside, the small sample size and amount of confounding variables further complicates matters in ways I had not previously understood completely.

For the time being, I will be content further reviewing my results to make sense of the massive amount of data gathered and the incredible diversity of opinions and perspectives encountered. With a little luck I may be able to make a paper out of this, but certainly not the one I thought I would be writing. In any case, as my advisor reminded me, the true educational value of the project is being reaped. Yaay for IPE!!!

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