Accepted Paper:

Overcoming epistemological fracture in Sodaworld  


Mary Gee

Paper short abstract:

This talk examines the problem of working across disciplinary boundaries, particularly where there are deep rifts between the concepts and theories employed to explain the complex phenomena that arise from ordinary human behaviour.

Paper long abstract:

My research develops a method of cultural analysis, which can be used to explore the relationship between human behaviour and material culture. This relationship results in very complex phenomena that are difficult to address analytically. There is already a wealth of knowledge about this problem domain, contributed not least by archaeologists but by anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists, etc. However, how to conceptualise the problems, operationalise the theory, and work empirically with real data is difficult to determine in an epistemologically fractured field.

To engage this issue, a study of the carbonated soft drink (soda) was developed as an arena for examining the requirements to the tools cultural analysts need to come to grips with cultural phenomena. The purpose of Sodaworld is to understand the behavioural dynamics of the complex interactions that are responsible for producing soda generally and soda brands such as Coca-Cola specifically. Such phenomena, which are common-place in human culture, are composed of many different types of entities and processes, which require a range of specialist insights and knowledge. How to integrate these across disciplinary categories that are narrowly structured by methodology is the key challenge faced by the Sodaworld case study.

This talk uses examples from Sodaworld to discuss the effect of dualities such as social/biological, cultural/natural, theory/practice. An effort is made to consider how the solution(s) might be approached and the steps taken in Sodaworld to overcome the disconnect between different knowledge domains.

Panel S14
Drawing epistemological lines in the sand