Archive for the ‘political science’ tag

Current disciplinary debates in Political Science   no comments

Posted at 12:11 am in Uncategorized

Political Science

The book I have been reading this week contains an overview of how political science has evolved in the last decades as a discipline. Entitled Making Political Science Matter (Schram & Caterino, 2006), this edited book builds up on a debate sparked by Flyvbjerg (2001) focused on the limitations of current methodologies –current at that time- in social inquiry. One of the book’s claims is that methodological diversity in this field is somewhat constrained by the pluralism of post-positivism. In other words, positivism in political sciences emulates natural sciences in dividing the discipline in subfields that become isolated one another, each one with their own methodologies. Owing to this division or constrained pluralism, a need of ‘trading zones’ or common understanding between disciplines has been identified.
Also, all essays in the book are highly critical to the application of ‘hard science’ -in which quantitative methods are included-, in political analysis, as this approach seems to be too distant to the object of study, which in this case is the society, composed in turn by people, not objects. This is why hard science cannot fully explain or provide a complete understanding of social phenomena. This limitation is leading to a revolutionary period in which a movement called Perestroika is challenging the current paradigm in social science. Together with Flyvbjerg, Perestroika aims to include –not to switch to- phronesis in the study of politics. Phronesis is a key term in the flyvbjerian debate, meaning that intuition and practical wisdom are critical to the study of social phenomena.
In short, from this book, it seems like political science is distancing from the paradigms of natural sciences, moving towards an approach in which social and political phenomena are approached from a more humanist perspective, in which personal experience gains significance. This shift might be necessary to be considered by other disciplines such as computer science when looking for a common ground , a ‘trade zone’ in which to have a fluid communication.

Written by Manuel Leon Urrutia on November 5th, 2012

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Computer science and e-democracy   no comments

Posted at 10:11 pm in Uncategorized

Unlike the previous post, which briefly showed a couple of works on e-democracy from the perspective a political science specialty, this post is going to explore an overview of the entire discipline of computer science, contained in Brookshear’s Computer Science. An Overview (2009). The aim will be to start establishing initial connections to the topic and problems stated in the first post regarding technical issues in direct democracy.
In his overview, Brookshear claims that computer science has algorithms as their main object of study. More precisely, it is focused on the limits of what algorithms can do and what they cannot. Algorithms can perform a wide range of tasks and solve a wide range of problems, but there are other tasks and problems beyond the scope of algorithms. These boundaries are the area within which theoretical computer science operates. Theory of computation can therefore determine what can and what cannot be achieved by computers.
Among other issues, these theoretical considerations may apply directly to the potential problem of electoral fraud: computer science can seek for answers of whether or not algorithms can be created to alter or manipulate electoral results in a given electoral system. By establishing the limits of algorithms, an electoral system that falls beyond algorithmic capabilities can be devised in collaboration with other fields such as political science.
From the structure of the book, it can be implied that computer science also considers social repercussions in every aspect of the study of computers, as every chapter in the book contains a section of social issues that the use and development of computer technologies entails. Ethical implications are present in every step these technologies make, and computer scientists seem to be sensitive to them. Legal and political considerations are not alien to the scope of computer science. Therefore, finding a common ground with other fields such as political science for addressing certain issues in the use of information and communication technologies for a more direct democracy becomes quite achievable aim, as long as there exist a mutual effort to understand the ways in which these two disciplines deal with the problems they encounter, and the methods they use to try to solve them.
The next post will consist of a brief overview of political science, as it is the discipline that will be finally chosen –sociology will be ruled out– for this interdisciplinary essay.
Brookshear, J.G. (2009) Computer Science. An Overview. (10th ed.) Boston: Pearson.

Written by Manuel Leon Urrutia on October 29th, 2012

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