Sunday, May 4, 2008

Partnering Qualitatitive and Quantitative Methods in Environmental Anthropology

This is from a presentation I gave at the 2008 SfAA meetings for a session entitled "Methods Madness."

Partnering Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Environmental Research
Urban Environmentalism in the Calumet Region of Chicago

Urban Environmentalism

Local level environmental activism in an ethnically mixed working class region of Chicago – how are the networks of activism formed and maintained; when and where, if at all, these local-level groups mix; and why they don’t join together on issues of common interest (as stakeholders in the environmental health of the region); how to encourage broader activism.

Further delineating the behavioral factors that contribute to maintaining network boundaries among ethnic groups; core environmental attitudes and interests among different social groups, particularly which institutional resources they use to carry out their goals (toxic waste clean up, industrial emissions, clean water, economic development, etc.).

“Not Good At Partnering?”
Original project
SfAA/EPA Technical fellowship
EPA wanted to know what a ‘legitimate’ community representative was
The “take me to your leader” approach to community outreach
Concern that minority groups were not involved with the EPA
“Communities are too busy with lack of jobs, gangs, drugs, to be interested in environmental issues.”

Why Anthropologists?
Tracing emergent relationships and beliefs that are so significant in political interactions
Often not ‘discursive knowledge’ – not easily consciously expressed
Our Motto: “When you have fuzzy data, you need a fuzzy scientist.”

Why Quantitative Methods?
Policy significance
In a diverse urban setting, numbers speak
Assuring policy-makers that analysis is based on a representative portion of a politically significant population

Goals of the Project
Training students in a mixed methods – the method to suit the problem
Training local people in methods for community service and environmental activism
Calumet Higher Education Environmental Ed Initiative, a consortium for science education in NW Indiana/SE Chicago
Facilitating interdisciplinary cooperation in researching environmental sciences (GCC!)

Goals of the Project
Policy & Education @ Chicago State University
Providing training, data, and tools for analysis to community activists
Fred Blum Neighborhood Assistance Center
Calumet Environmental Resource Center
Putting research and analytical tools in the hands of community activists
When community leaders take their plans to government agencies, they need solid research to support their plans

Research Goals of the Project
Research Topic
Explore the ethnic boundaries enacted/expressed in separation of White Ethnic and African-American community organizations and environmental groups
The everyday practice of difference

Use of Public Space
From Interviews: Original project noted people of different ethnic groups used space differently
Different activities, durations, and spatial and temporal segregation of public spaces

Debates about ‘ownership’ and ‘appropriate use’ of public space are flashpoints in ethnic relations
Definitions of public/private space
Neighborhoods and their parks as extension of domestic space
Issues re: freedom of access/civil rights.
Such green space is often urban people’s main point of contact with ‘the environment’ and is seen as environmental activists as key in encouraging greater interest in ‘greening’ Chicago.

Hypothesis re: Use of Parks
There is a significant difference in use of parks based on ethnicity
Will avoid class at this time as most local people are working and lower middle class

Instantaneous scan sampling based on activity
At set times, follow people on entry to park and record activity as soon as it is clear what they are doing.
Randomized sampling in terms of time, as time of day is a key issue; also need to consider season.
Do across school semester, but then must consider inter-observer agreement if different groups of students collect data over time
Difficulties: park is spread out; age, gender, and race of observer/observed; safety issues for observers
With sufficient # of observations, should be able to determine duration
Training and Education
Useful in giving students ability to gain knowledge, become ‘experts,’ understand research, etc.
Taking control of the production of scientific knowledge / and learning to be scientists …

Meetings & Networks
In diverse urban settings where family/home and work are separated, meetings become constitutive of community (Eve Pinsker)
We observed very different networks of meetings
Original method: snowball sampling
First entry point: Lake Calumet Ecosystem Partnership, carried us into predominantly white ethnic groups
Re-start for entry into Black networks
Role of “brokers” – social positionality congruent with info between multi-group (govt agency) levels and neighborhoods
White ethnic – retired, self-employed, laid off
African-American – ‘welfare mothers,’ ‘unemployable’ men
Each network has links to different sets of agencies
White ethnic – national, regional, and governmental environmental groups
African-American – civil rights groups and govt health agencies

Research Goals
Results for activism, connections with government agencies
White Ethnic more tied into and skilled at negotiating with regional and national environmental organizations and EPA
Activists: teachers, retired, self-employed, downsized (underemployed)
African-American ties with county/state health centers, local non-profits
Activists: “Welfare mothers,” young men unable to get regular employment

That different settings/atmospheres affect communication in multi-group meetings; African-American and White Ethnic are listened to differentially in settings that are mediated by upper middle class professionals and experts
Goal is to see who gets to speak, when, what reactions are, etc., to trace out cultural conflict and power relations as expressed in policy oriented meetings. Whose view gets validated and reinforced, and whose is cut out, and how?
Attention sampling
Observe speaker (demographic characteristics), who listens (length of time of looking at speaker), length of time speaking, interruption
Note of type of meeting
Location / setting
Organizer – who is at the front of the room?
Analysis: Is there a significant difference in attention paid to speakers based on identity of speaker and meeting setting?

Education & Training
Accessible to students
Different sort of behavioral observation experience from scan sampling @ parks
Experience in attending large multi-group meetings (umbrella organizations, government agencies)

Values, Beliefs
Observation and interviews showed different ways of talking about the environment and how people saw themselves in it
White Ethnic working and middle class
Discourse of rehabilitating their place in the interests of community development (regaining strong economic base)
Pride of place
Economic and social vibrancy
African-American working and lower middle class
Physical health, individual control
Community solidarity, community development
Civil rights (environmental justice)

“Hypothesis” (not there yet)
Is there a difference? What is it?
Interviews with community activists on their work, their perception of their environment, how they came to this form of activism, why it is important, desired end goals
Generally open-ended
Analyze the texts for key phrases
‘Discourse’ analysis – how often words/phrases are used and what other words/phrases they are in association with
Secondary: Main focus is members of different ethnic groups, but at another time might be useful to carry out similar set with ‘economic growth’ oriented activists? That is, specialist groups with different sorts of interests in environmental issues
Developers, aldermen, business owners
Extract important or controversial or opposing ideas from interview transcripts, continue to sort into a core of statements
Use this as basis of “fixed form survey” Cf. Kempton et al. (mapping from semi-structured interviews to corresponding survey questions)
Survey questions based on these statements in various forms
Strong, weak, opposite
Agree or disagree?
Which groups to survey?
Endless supply: academics, church-goers, women at Altgeld Gardens, fishermen, people involved in “Good Neighbor Dialogues,” developers, small businessmen, former steel workers (union lodge on 110th), neighborhood organizations
Focus, though, on community organizations

Goal is to determine agreement among individuals and groups – do data fit a cultural consensus model?
Is there evidence of shared knowledge within each group? (That agreement reflects shared knowledge.)
Is there evidence, therefore, of a common culture within these groups?
Provisionally assume there is, but be prepared for heterogeneity!
What patterns of shared cultural knowledge arise?

Methods / Training & Education
Interviews and analysis of interviews
This will be more intensive for students

Also consider: Cultural domain analysis
Free-listing, pile sorting
At entry level, this could be accessible to students and for informants
Especially as we move into study of non-specialist informants

Initial observation: Differences in ways environmental activism took place – interests, issues, partners

The PowerPoint looked better. As you can see, this is a work in progress.

1 comment:

The Gorilla Atheist said...

It is interesting to see what, at a glance, seems to be elementary observations, fleshed out on paper. I feel as though questions relevant to people and interaction can be so broad it is almost overwhelming trying to find a starting point. Good job.