A researcher at Edge Hill University Business School has been questioning the axiomatic methodological understandings found in the majority of academic texts. Such texts frequently and uncritically assume that objective observations depend on the visual ability to see.
Dr. Peter Wheeler, who has undertaken ethnographic research into issues of disability over many years, focused his research on the assumptions which provide accounts of how to create basic academic social research. His findings entitled ‘Sightless vision: Reflections on a paradox’ and published in the Taylor and Francis journal Culture and Organisation are based on critical self-reflexive approaches illustrate how discrimination is frequently rooted in the everyday taken for granted assumptions which are often based on an illusory belief in objectivity.
As Dr. Wheeler points out:
“For many people it would seem to be only common sense to expect that to observe something relies on your ability to see what you are trying to observe”.
However, through a series of examples based on experiential knowledge of conducting social research enquiry he illustrates how vision can in fact distort and produce problematic observations. As he observes:
“If you immerse a flat straight stick into water, you will see what appears to be the stick bending. What you are actually observing is the diffraction of light through water, not a piece of wood changing shape”.
Dr. Wheeler’s work, through a series of similar observations, has been informed through his own research practice. He asks researchers to be more critically aware when using observations based on sight, because ‘to see’ does not necessarily mean ‘to observe’.
Wheeler, P., 2012. Sightless vision: Reflections on a paradox. Culture and Organization 18, 285–304.