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Kvantitativa frågeundersökningar: produktionsvillkor, vetenskaplighet, spridning i medierna
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2009 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The primary objective of this thesis is to study the role of surveys as power factor with a particular focus on studies of Internet users. The conditions and practices of the private research field are related to the academic discourse on the essence of science as well as to media's role in society.

The methodological basis of the quantitative studies and their practices are examined in relation to a range of competing theories on the nature of science and its role in society. Earlier contributions to the criticism of quantitative surveys are also discussed. The methodological problems are further highlighted by concrete examples based on own analyses of various data collections.

One empirical part of the thesis consists of analyses of survey studies as reported in the press coverage of the Internet in 1997, 1999 and 2000. The goal of the analyses is to show that surveys are an important mechanism for creating truth effects. The methodological tools are part of the struggle for mastery of the discourse –thereby confirming or changing existing power relations – in part through the dissemination of selected results in the media.

Through a perusal of the newspaper articles with regard to the context in which the keywords "Internet" and "survey" appear and what the specific actor says, to whom, with which intention, an overall discourse appears, which reveals that the leading commercial actors endeavour to promote the development of the Internet in accordance with their aspirations. The published results are also related to other, more complex analyses of data collections from the same period.

In another empirical part of the thesis findings from some fifty interviews with various experts are presented. The aim is to evaluate the methodological sources of error associated with sampling, the carrying out of studies, the analysis of results and other factors that have to do with the value of the surveys as basic facts, as well as the survey buyers’ awareness of the nature of the errors and their relevance for the results. The quantitative surveys appear as an uncontrolled and uncertain source of knowledge. The survey industry is profit-oriented and characterised by competition whereby methodological issues often land up in the background.

The final discussion addresses a set of mechanisms by which the interested parties from the media industry use the ratings in the internal competition or in various administrative documents. They achieve this by establishing a "common currency" on the basis of such studies, which is valid in relation to other interested parties, such as media owners and advertisers. Different strategies developed by the survey industry in order to lend more market value to their products are also discussed. The methodological problems, the lack of openness to external scrutiny and the dependence on the economic field signify that the praxis of the survey field essentially deviates from the basic concepts of science. Surveys take therefore undue  advantage of scientific legitimacy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, Institutionen för kultur- och medievetenskaper , 2009. , 240 p.
Medier & kommunikation, ISSN 1104-067X ; 15
Keyword [en]
quantitative surveys, methodology, market research, opinion research, theory of science, massmedia, sociology of science, Internet
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-30070ISBN: ISBN 978-91-7264-892-0OAI: diva2:279289
Public defence
2010-02-15, Hörsal F, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2010-01-25 Created: 2009-12-02 Last updated: 2010-01-25Bibliographically approved

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