2012-11-07

My Perspective, Bias & the Blog

    Writing this blog over the last few months has been very educational for me.  I've learnt so much, and not just about the industry.  Something I have found, which I never even thought of, is that my perspective and assumed knowledge confuses people.  Things like my terminology, word choices and so on are strange and foreign to many.

    Here I describe my perspective, bias and how my assumed knowledge has sometimes confused the point.  That one has to write for ones audience and develop a completely different language and mind frame depending on the medium.

    I have a strong bias when I write posts and essays.  We all have bias, so it is better to acknowledge it and work with it rather than pretend we are objective.  Also, there is a good chance 'truth' isn't even a real thing.  Since the Ancient Greeks Western philosophy has been looking for the definition of truth and Knowledge, unsuccessfully.  On the other hand Asian philosophy has been trying to figure out what it is to know.  Even putting these together and with over a thousand years of debate we still don't have an answer.

    As such I never aim for 'truth' or objectivity.  Instead I focus on my views, my perspectives and understandings.  But then this raises a question, what is my perspective?  It plays a major role in my blog and will be part of my honours thesis.  So it is something worth addressing.

    Firstly I am a straight up capitalist.  Things like profit are not bad to me, in fact they are healthy.  Organisations like charities do a lot of good, but they need money to operate.  Companies make profit, then they pass on some money to these charities to get publicity and more profit.  Everyone wins from this, the company makes money, the charity does good and nobody is hurt.

    It is not a perfect system, not at all, it is simply better than other options.  Companies like InvoCare do so much good for society, supporting local sport teams, charities, helping the homeless and many other worth wild groups.  None of which would be possible without profits.  Another good thing this profit hunting does is to bring the funeral industry out of the shadows and into the public sphere.  Every time InvoCare (or another company) makes an advertisement they help make funerals ok.

    I could go on for days about why companies and profits are not a bad thing.  That to make money off death is doing a lot more good than bad.  But that's not what this post is about!  Simply put I have no issue with making money.  While not motivated by being rich I understand how useful money is and how much good can come of it int he right setting.

    My main framework is from an 'anthropology/sociology' (here after referred to as SOCA) stance with a hint of psychology.  I originally started university in psychology, getting a decent grasp of the field.  But then I found my calling, SOCA, it just suited me better.  Since this realisation I have spent the last 4-5 years studying SOCA as part of university and in my own time.

    When I look at the funeral industry I see SOCA concepts.  Take for example funeral advertisements, I don't look at them from a marketing, business, legal or any other perspective.  Instead I see them as a way to look at changes in the industry and society.  As a way to look at how the industry and society influence one another.  I use the ads to explore the concept of 'the gaze' through a funeral industry case study.

    While my perspective is fine in an academic setting it does cause issues with others.  Until the blog I had never discussed SOCA or psych concepts outside university.  I had always talked about these with other students, or with lecturers.  Then I started the blog, and began emailing/talking to people within the industry and people interested in the industry.  Here I found a fair few misunderstandings, especially at the start.  A great example is when I talked about McDonaldisation and InvoCare with someone.  They mistakenly thought I was comparing InvoCare to McDonalds the company, even in terms of quality.

    Even my language has been an issue.  The way I use 'one' to mean multiple things is often overlooked.  Or more obviously my formatting and sentence structure.  Part of the blog has been an experiment with the public (yet, if you're reading this then I'm studying you).  I have found posts with shorter paragraphs to be more popular and get better actual reading rates.

    On way I look at actual reading rates is by putting links within the post.  I then look at how many people accessed these links throughout the post.  If the link at the end and/or start got a lot more clicks than in the middle then I assume people did not read the whole thing.  That they read or at least skimmed the start, then moved to the end.  While this is not my only measurement it is my main one.  And I do believe it to be reliable enough to draw a rough (but not certain) conclusion.

    This means the whole way I format my writings is different on the blog compared with other things.  The way I structure and format is the way I think and argue.  For example on an essay I use the P.E.E system, Point, Evidence, Explanation.  The end of the paragraph should link to the start of the paragraph, which should link to my overall argument.

    However, on the blog paragraphs are nothing like this.  I separate a lot more, P.E.E each become their own individual paragraphs.  Which then means I need more linking language at the start and end of each.  Thus I have to condense the actual information down, distill it to the core so I can save space. This is demonstrated above, each paragraph is only a handful of lines.  And usually the same length as each other.  This consistency is also important, unlike in an essay.

    I have also found formal language to be less effective on the blog.  In essays I might say 'I' and other such things, but I would never say "don't" or anything like it.  Rather I would say "do not".  I would also never write with single spacing!  I always use 1.5 spacing between lines, it removed the 'crowding effect' on the eyes and makes it easier to read.  But the blog is a completely different story.  My language and thus my thoughts and arguments, are informal.  Casual in fact.  I have chosen to encourage this casual style by not reviewing or even proof-reading my posts.  I write them and publish them, no checking for spelling or grammer mistakes.

    The blog has also been useful to see what people find interesting.  Certain topics get a lot more attention than others.  For example the posts of pictures from inside a mortuary and funeral home are much more popular than other things.  Photos and videos are also popular compare to long text based posts.  Because of this I try to post photos regularly.  It's what people want to see, and not too difficult to do.

    So this is how I write, my framework and style.  It is from an anthropology sociology (SOCA) perspective.  This is what I know after all.  Yet I also aim for a casual and relaxed style, while understanding others do not know everything I know.  To assume knowledge is short sighted and the blog has been great in helping me understand this.

    Through writing the blog I am able to create better surveys and convey my message more accurately.  Which will be a great help in my thesis work next year.  None of this could be possible without you, the reader.  So a big thank you to everyone who reads the blog, even those who haven't commented!  Simply reading the blog has helped shape my understanding so much.

An~~

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