Week 6: 21st to 25th March 2016

One person workshop on conceptual framework questions

Three main questions types:

What, Why and How

  1. What- descriptive answers in the form of characteristics or patterns
  2. Why- cause and reasons for the existence of characters or patterns
  3. How- questions are concerned with intervention and practical outcomes

My lead questions:

  • What are the most effective environmental triggers that support play in cities?
  • What is the meaning of play in cities?
  • Why play in cities matter?
  • Why humans should play more often across cultures?
  • How can urban designers/ planners contribute to better play in cities?
  • How does a healthy neighbourhood for play look and feel?
  • How should environments for play be created that they support health and well-being?

(How to include play in city design – based on international case studies from an cultural perspective?).


Source: HDR Monash University http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/hdr/design/2.2.1.html (access on 21/03/16)

Research paradigm

a) ontological assumption

To what degree and in what way am I concerned with the nature of what exists? The external world that surrounds us at any given moment in time, while my mind is active (implying the state of being alive),  consists of a certain representation that is the result of the creation of many individual minds. Ultimately reality is what we as humans make or construct or believe is real. Humans see with our brain, while the eyes are tools serving the cause. –> core claim is that there is a difference between the natural and social phenomena, as humans have culture and live in a world of shared interpretation. Our social interaction can give meaning and value to the world around us. This socially constructed reality of shared interpretation, which social actors produce as well as reproduce as they experience their daily lives. (Blaikie, 2007,  Approaches to social enquiry, 2nd edition, p.17)

b) epistemological assumption

The constructionism view supports the notion, that knowledge is neither discovered from an external reality nor produced by reason independently of such a reality (Blaikie, 2007, p.22). Within the constructivism views a focus on social constructivism that is the result of collective  generation and transmition of meaning (Crotty, 1998, p.58). Humans as social beings construct the reality around us. Conceptualisation is a consequence of interpretation of individuals actions and experiences, others actions and experiences as well as the collective social situation. –> there is no ultimate truth.

c) status of knowledge

theories and knowledge are always tentative as knowledge is permanently constrained by the limitation of humans and their ability to comprehend in visually and hidden spheres. Observation and measurement is always theory dependent as we are unable to reduce the “language and culture, preconceptions and expectations, and scientific perspectives and theories, on the way we both see and interpret the world around us.” (Blaikie, 2007, p. 24)

Research strategy

About the way of answering the types of research question (Inductive, Deductive, Retroductive, Abductive) –> with respect to my my research objective and previous positioning within the research paradigm, the abductive strategy aligns closest. –> cyclic or spiral process that draws on everyday social life and actors. –> “most social life is routine and habitus, it takes place in an unreflective, taken for granted manner, the accounts of social actors do not usually reveal the largely tactic meanings that underpin their reaction.” (Blaikie, 2007 p.107) –> its a hermeneutic process finding the unknown in the known elements!!

Abductive, meaning: description and understanding of social life in terms of social actors’ motives and understanding –> understanding their constructions of reality.

Starting with: discover everyday lay concepts, meanings and motives
production of a technical account from lay account

Ending with: development of a theory and elaborate it iteratively

Everyday concepts and meanings
provide the basis for
social action/interaction
about which
social actors can give accounts
from which
social theories can be generated
or which can be understood in terms of existing
social theories or perspectives. (Blaikie, 2007, p. 90)

Giddens highlighted, that “while it is not necessary or usually possible for social researchers to become full members of such groups or communities, it is necessary that they learn enough about these ways of life to be able to participate in them at at least to some degree.” (Giddens cited in Blaikie, 2007, p.96)

–> Conclusion: Based on my believes and current understanding –> this research project may evolve most likely around people, constructing a narrative with respect to the research topic, questions and elaborating on findings to an existing theory.

hermeneutic circle –> the study of understanding itself in a psychological context, that tries to reconstruct the creative act that produces a social activity such play. Originated from Schleiermacher. Dilthey understood it in the context of lived experience as a method of understanding (verstehen) to capture the subjective consciousness of the participants, while the phenomena is being explained (erklaert). (Blaikie, 2007, p.119)

“The emphasis shifts from the empathetic penetration or reconstruction of other people’s mental processes to the hermeneutic interpretation of cultural products and conceptual structures” (Outhwaite, 1975, p. 26) Dilthey understood the “most fundamental form of human experience to be lived experience, first hand, primordial, unreflective experience.” He indicates further that is “willing, feeling, thinking, imaginative and creative human being interaction with the physical environment and with other human beings” and in consequence the process of creating their own world. (Blaikie, 2007, p. 119). This all can be expressed in gestures, facial expression, informal rules of behaviour, works of art, buildings, tools, literature, poetry, drama, laws, social institutions –> objectification of life through our thoughs in a cultural sense as well as on physical things.

Phenomenology: objects of consciousness works with natural attitudes (Merleau- Ponty, 1962). Heidegger informed the development of contemporary hermeneutics. He argues that in a everyday world, the need to understand occurs only when something does not work properly or something goes wrong. Heidegger view differs from Dilthey as he thinks that all understanding is temporal and not visible for humans outside of their social world. (Blaikie, 2007, p. 123)

Conclusion: Weber and Schuetz hold a balanced position as understanding as well as explanation has been applied (how to form objective concepts and objectively verifyable theory of subjective meaning structures (compare Blaikie, 2007, p. 132)

Top down or bottom up?

  • Top down: trying out the researcher’s idea -concept, theories or mechanisms -on the research situation in hope that they reveal the way reality works.
  • Bottom up: by deriving concepts and theory from the situation. When using abductive strategies (Blaikie, 2007, p. 10)

Conclusion: Why not both? Commencing with flow experience and testing frequently with my theory.

Posture (outsider- insider, expert- learner, research on people, for people or with people)

outside or insider – Professional distance or allowing myself not just to be influenced by those researched, but may have an influence on them?

Expert or learner – Learner aims to  set aside existing social scientific knowledge to help the researcher participants to reveal how they conceptualise and understand this part of their social world. Expert – knowledge comes from relevant existing knowledge in form of concepts and theories or previous research findings.

Conclusion: ??? unclear at this stage

On, for or with people – for and with people may be most appropriate, as I don’t want to satisfy exclusively my curiosity.  Findings should help the participants and society. The opportunity to facilitate is appreciated,as the participants can learn on their terms about the subject matter. This may have the most long term impact.

Reflective questions to myself:

  • Is it possible to be objective in a social/ design enquiry?
    Answer: No. The researcher should be aware of his research strategy and familiar with potential weaknesses. Through critical reflection and validation around his research method he will be able to find a balanced approach to find answers in his enquiry. His posture and hermeneutic approach may provide further clues towards his take on.
  • Is it possible to determine whether explanations are true or false?
    Answer: If there is no such thing as one truth. This type of question is polarizing arguing that there is just black and white, rather many shades of grey. Ideally the explanations should sit on the lighter grey spectrum in order to find appropriate answers to the research question.
  • Is it possible to observe directly a social reality that is assumed to exist independently of the social participation?
    Answer: From my perspective there is no thing such as a independent reality when it comes to social participation. I’d rather argue that there is a shared social reality and participation is the connecting point to this experience.
  • What use should researchers make of the ways in which research participants conceptualise and understand their own world?
    Answer: I believe that each individual creates their own unique world, through choices the individual makes in relation to social participation each individual contributes unconsciously to a shared understanding of physical objects that surround us. These unconscious clues of each individual may allow the researcher to observe their interaction with objects and draw certain conclusion of similar or dissimilarities on certain subject matters.
  • What should be the relationship between everyday, language, social scientific, technical language?
    Answer: Depending on research topic and context different methods may answer the research questions. If the research is designed in a way to work for and with people, technical language may be unhelpful. Everyday activities can be observed beyond language through visual stimulation, noise and smell. Language can be tricky and powerful when contextualising theory into practice as well as building a case within certain disciplines. However as soon the scientific approach becomes interdisciplinary clear definition and easy language may inform outcomes in a more effective way.

Source both images: (Blaikie, 2007)



Useful internet sources:








Conclusion: Not the information is the issue, rather the successful implementation and long term commitment on the ground.

Notes based on lit review on 23/03/16


knowledge gap (built environment, play, culture)

GIS lecture session on 24/03/16

Location or spatial data


landset website


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