Another pet theory: Looking at ‘evidence’ in the Victorian election and my project

People are not stupid and will understand rather complicated concepts if they have reason to. This has been demonstrated in my adult life time by shifts in conversations around interest rates and stock markets, and then more recently by an increased understanding of the Australian electoral system after the hung parliament.

Now, based on pretty much no reading and just a few meetings I have seen and conversations I have been a part of, I would like to extend this claim that ‘people are not stupid’ to the issue of what counts as [good/ a good use of] evidence.

Unleashed has this article paying out The Australian’s use of the RBA minutes http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/41304.html. I’ve posted links previously about varying interpretations of the data used in The Spirit Level. We could find many examples in public discourse, but while sometimes there is simply misuse of evidence, there are other times that simply measuring things in different ways gives you a very different part of the picture. I think that making these points about evidence is something quite different to making a constructionist argument.

I saw the front page of either yesterday or today’s Age and it had a big headline about crime, with a story about how rates have actually gone down. (I tried to find the article online to post a link, but no luck. I should have taken a photo.)

I do wonder why the Victorian Liberal party thought that Lauren Order would be able to help. The Liberals has made claims about crime and that ‘people have the right to come home safely’, but Labor (or the media) can make counter claims using ‘expert’ evidence suggesting things are getting safer, and then [WHAM] Labor can make claims about ‘best practice’ because ‘prevention’ etc rather than hard policing has been part of these best practice models AND they are the people who have been in charge of which departments exist in Victoria. Anyway, I know nothing about voting patterns so I cannot say this will have anything to do with the outcome.

Perhaps I should search to see if anybody is crying ‘media left wing bias’? The hard thing is that while evidence is often contestable, I cannot imagine the Liberals going so far as to make a constructionist argument. Should media have to say nice things about a party that is wrong? Well, there are plenty of bad things to be said about the Victorian Labor government, so perhaps the media is avoiding the issue of bias that way?

So I think the issue of evidence is present in the Victorian election campaign. It is also something I am finding a lot of discussion about ‘on the ground’ in my project. This is the case in discussions about planning permits (i.e. how many cars actually go down a certain road) and land use (i.e. is there enough public, open space), however it is also hinted at when people ask me about my project. After all, what am I trying to find out, how am I going to find that information and what explanations will the information be turned into? Lucky for me, I am interested in the ‘finding out’ part and getting it right. I have time to negotiate and learn, and hopefully any written work I do will have space for other accounts that contradict my own. The Liberal party, with their cries of crime, are making assertions in an attempt to win votes. Dissenting views on their use of evidence are probably not seen as an opportunity to learn, but rather as an issue to be managed.

Housekeeping

So this is a messy post. Rest assured that I do notice my sloppy use of English, and do feel quite a lot of guilt. I have spent the past few days telling myself off for saying ‘self flagellant’ because I am rather sure that ‘self’ is rather redundant. It is times like this that I wish I was a science student so I could look forward to a future of co-authored work. I would happily spend an extra 6 hours reviewing literature and an hour of formatting references to get out of 2 hours of editing and not have to come up with titles.

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