In a world full of disorder, we try to order them. And to really get a better sense of the reality, we gather data. While the notion of data in the modern world seem to be about bits and bytes, 0s and 1s; data collection dates far further in history. And it is important how our observations and the rich data that we actually collect with our senses matter. Before bits and bytes, there was no easy way to store data in a common denominator; we relied on different mediums including rocks, cloth, paper, film, codification (eg. music notations).
And research or learning in the past proceeded that way. It works, even if the knowledge accumulation is not as fast. Curation and developing good quality data hence matters more than gathering these things at high frequency. Things don’t change that much. Which is why I always think Charles Booth’s survey of the poverty situation in London is such an amazing endeavour with brilliant insights. It reminded me that I don’t need thousands or millions to go out there and perform social research about the society, economy or culture. I could just do things on the field with friends, with people who cared. And to simply describe observations to be gathered together.
Such rich, and more ethnographic research can prove to be more valuable, perceptive, and lasting. Ultimately, data points we gather from this world does not give us any sort of order. We are the ones who order the data points and try to make sense of it. Through a story, with a theory. The data points themselves cannot tell us much even when put together unless we have the mind to be able to see patterns, and tell the story.