Communication breakdowns

Alfalab members Maarten, Joris and Smiljana talked today about communication breakdowns that sometimes occur between computer scientists  who are developing instruments for scientific research, and the researchers–particularly in the humanities and social sciences — who are the intended users of those instruments.

“There is a problem of translation,” Joris noted.

Not only those two different epistemic cultures use the same concepts to which however they assign dissimilar meaning (we came up with the term “token” as an example); also, and perhaps more importantly, their different ways of perceiving problems and solutions—as well as other conceptual, methodological, and epistemological differences—make those two groups and their collaboration easily susceptible to communication breakdowns.

What is the root of those communication problems? How can they be solved? How can the communication gap between computer and social scientists (i.e., between tool developers and tool users) best be bridged?

“Is it” Maarten asked, “that we mainly think and talk about tools, not about research problems and instruments that should address those problems?”

There is also a problem of expectations, we posit; people who are not really technologically-savvy often expect technology to “do miracles” (in social sciences it is known as the phenomenon of techno-magic).

All those issues are important and relevant for Alfalab, we concluded, so we will keep addressing them.

Comments are closed.