Historical Social Research

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Tina Bering Keiding, Observing Participating Observation – A Re-description Based on Systems Theory [Abstract]

Current methodology concerning participating observation in general leaves the act of observation unobserved. Approaching participating observation from systems theory offers fundamental new insights into the topic. Observation is always participation. There is no way to escape becoming a participant and, as such, co-producer of the observed phenomenon. There is no such thing as a neutral or objective description. As observation deals with differences and process meaning, all descriptions are re-constructions and interpretations of the observed. Hence, the idea of neutral descriptions as well as the idea of the naïve observer becomes a void. Not recognizing and observing oneself as observer and co-producer of empirical data simply leaves the process of observation as the major unobserved absorber of contingency in data production based on participating observation.