Research in China: The Unexpected and the Unbelievable August 3, 2010Posted by Andrew Broderick in China, Graduate, Individual Fellowship, Master's.
Tags: research methods, urban infrastructure, water
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I have several reflections about my research on urban innovation strategies in East Asian Megacities. As expected, while conducting my research, a few things surprised me and a few things limited me. However, more than a few things amazed me, and I am learning more about East Asian cities than I ever expected. This trip is an experience of a lifetime as I’ve broadened my horizons considerably. This trip has changed me. In this post I will discuss the unexpected and unbelievable lessons and impressions of my research.
As with any adventure to a foreign place, one must expect the unexpected. In terms of my research, I was surprised by the lack of quality information offered by the majority of Urban Best Practice Pavilions at Expo 2010 in Shanghai (see my previous post). I was a bit dismayed at the efforts many cities made to brand their image without putting much effort toward actual urban best practices. This was unfortunate as, in many cases, I didn’t have a substantial baseline of information in which to proceed with my research. However, I found just enough substance at several pavilions to complete my task. Additional constraints including a lack of access to government officials and some language barrier problems limited my ability to get in-depth information about urban innovation.
The Unbelievable: Developing New Eyes
The importance of on-the-ground field reconnaissance has proven immeasurable over the past few weeks. Academic research papers and quantitative analysis techniques can’t supplant visiting a place. Seeing and learning about new cities on the ground provide me with a new set of eyes so to speak. This new way of seeing enables me to really begin to make substantial observations about a particular place and connect that place back to the city’s pavilion at Expo 2010. I believe in getting the “thick description,” which is a term used in anthropology to describe both the behavior AND context of a particular phenomenon in order to understand it. In my research I seek the “thick description” of place by immersing myself in a location as much as possible and researching through field observation and analytical conceptualizations.