[URBANTH-L]a question concerning methods/ethics

John McCreery mccreery at gol.com
Fri Jul 31 07:54:19 EDT 2009

On Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 10:39 PM, Lisa Maya Knauer <lknauer at umassd.edu>wrote:

I can't speak for other researchers, but I think one has to be very
> conscientious and think about the larger social and historical context. It's
> hard to answer in the abstract, or in general. I can only write from my
> experience, and  I've often used people's actual names. My dissertation
> research focused on rumba performers and enthusiasts in New York and Cuba --
> one of whose "issues" is how they have been rendered invisible. Some of them
> are very explicit about what they see as my role within the community -- to
> document their presence and let people know about them.

I would like to support what Lisa says here. I, too, work with people who
are pleased to have me use their names; to which, I might add, that as top
professionals in the advertising world in Japan, they are fully capable of
grasping legal and ethical issues surrounding the public use of names.
Negotiating contracts with models or celebrities that specify precisely
where and how names are used is an everyday part of their world.
But, why would I want to use their
names? My current research involves the use of Social Network
Analysis, and this is what I wrote for a presentation introducing the
work a year or so ago.

In my own case, I believe strongly that the proper response to the
postmodern critique is to embrace it and think about how to do something
approximating science in an intensely personal way. So I try to do research
that both (1) systematically

collects data and constantly questions hypotheses and (2) shows a proper
respect for the individuality of the people who  collaborate with me and the
circumstances in which our lives intersect.

• So, for example, in my current project I take advantage of data collected
for other purposes that allow me to identify precisely the people with whom
a copywriter named Maki Jun worked on winning ads in 2001 and situate them
on a map of  relationships that tie the top of an industry together. But I
don't want to leave Maki as nothing more than a labeled node in a network
analysis diagram. I want people to know that, like me, he grew up beside the
sea and played the trombone in a high  school band. They should also know
that he has recently published a book suggesting that advertising copy, with
its business  suit removed, is a new form in a long tradition of one-line
poetry that includes haiku, tanka, and senryu, all traditional forms of
 poetry for which Japanese literature is justly renowned. He is a man
addicted, as I am, to wordplay and a genuine master of the art.

• Maki’s latest book is prefaced with the line *kotoba no happa wa, itsuka
ki ni naru mori ni naru *(the leaves on words sometimes become a forest),
which pivots on his substitution of the Chinese character for "tree" for the
usual character for  "breath" in the phrase *ki ni naru,* turning "notice
and are concerned about" into "become trees, become a forest" (a
more literal way to translate the way the line ends). The whole thing is set
off because the *ba* in *kotoba* (word) is written with the

Chinese character for "leaf." So the whole thing might have been rendered
"The leaves in "spoken-leaves" (words) sometimes become trees, become

• Today, I use Maki as an example because I had the privilege of meeting
with him a few days ago and am in a glow because he has agreed to lend a
hand with my project. But, returning to our starting point, what I love
about this research is the way that it uses both the numerate and literate
sides of my brain and produces both the elegance of the structural diagrams
and insight into the thoughts and lives of some truly extraordinary people.
That’s anthropology to me.

Maki Jun died a month ago. Last night I was at a memorial reception in Tokyo
dedicated to the man and his work.  He more than deserved to be remembered
-- his name will live for quite a while, and he wouldn't have wanted it any
other way.

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324
jlm at wordworks.jp

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