The human factor and the big picture | FREE


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December 22, 2012

The human factor and the big picture

Guest contribution by Bartosz Wiśniewski, research assistant to the FREE team in Poznan and currently writing his master thesis on media-created football fandom image. Bartek recently attended the conference ‘Football: Politics of the Global Game’ organised by Faculty of Journalism and Political Science of the University of Warsaw.

Bringing together global and local perspectives on a widespread sociocultural phenomenon is a difficult task. Is it even possible to examine globality and locality with the same tools? Of course not, which is why interdisciplinarity is essential. But are qualitative and quantitative methods really commensurate? If you leave out the former, you reduce your study to statistics and will hardly escape harmful generalisation, losing sight of the human beings that are behind the figures. On the other hand, if you abandon quantitative methods, you reduce your work to a somewhat simple comparison of two or more mainly local communities, which excludes the big picture you also need for understanding the phenomenon.

Similar things can be said about political research, especially when it focuses on discourse analysis. Discursive structures are important only when they also manage to take into account the human factor on the level of the individual.

Identity research, a favourite topic for anthropologists, also often leads to dramatic misinterpretation. The main dangers are “essentialisation” of what in fact are rather mobile and fluid identification processes, which in turns produces over-interpretation through extrapolation of individual cases. Without intelligent triangulation of your research you run the risk of developing elegantly named, but rather meaningless categories that in principle stand for nothing more than a rather artificial classification of observations.

All football researchers are prone to be victim to the pitfalls outlined above. The FREE project, however, has a good chance to avoid them. It seems to me that the one-in-a-kind integration of a number of different theoretical and practical approaches in a single structure is the key innovative feature that should allow FREE to produce a convergence of approaches, ideas and findings over time. Most certainly, some elements will be lost along the way, others will emerge and be added. Most likely, we will witness clashes of opposites in this dialogue of ideas. But we’re not here to applaud each other. What we should try to realise is a mutual mediation of meanings. We have a chance to reconcile the big picture and the human factor. If that’s not innovative!

Bartek can be contacted under

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