I’m going to take the freedom Prof. Galey has kindly permitted this week as an opportunity to roll the dice on a random (yet relevant) topic pertaining to the realm of research. Back in 2011, reports on a rather ‘dirty’ research study were published extensively in Canadian and American news mediums. As some or all of you may recall, the study involved Josh Le, a 20-year-old University of Alberta student and raw-denim enthusiast. He shocked (and possibly – no, definitely – offended) pretty much everyone he came into contact with by wearing the same pair of jeans 330 times without a single wash in a 15-month time-frame. Yeah, that guy. Basically, raw-denim requires a process of ‘wearing-into’ the textile and Le wanted to see whether it was terribly unhealthy to wear these jeans without washing them for an extensive period of time. With the supervision of a faculty member from the Department of Human Ecology, Le was able to successfully prove that little change occurs in the bacteria levels of the denim from slight wear up to beyond excessive wear.
In last week’s readings, Neuman and Robson argue that experimentation (in quantitative research) is better suited amongst individuals or smaller groups and, as a result, the experiment can rarely generalize or answer to questions on a larger societal scale (p. 185). While I cannot argue against this, it still doesn’t eliminate the fact that this is a point of contention for me. Le’s experiment was small scale since he was the lone participant, the relationship between his body and jeans being the subject of study. Yet, the results proved to be generalizable. The findings produced through this study are useful for health information awareness, addressing concerns pertaining to hygienic clothing wear. Stemming from this awareness are environmental benefits, since wearing clothing longer between washings reduces water usage. Both health and the environment are applicable to the larger concerns of the human population.
Therefore, is it really all that rare for small-scale experiments to bear valid application on the level of generalizability? Can you think of any other small-scale experimental findings you’ve encountered which could be applied for the benefit of a larger populace?
(Side note: Yes, the blog title is the title of a song. Clearly Neil Diamond was onto something long before Josh Le).
Betkowski, B. (2011, January 1). Jeans remain surprisingly clean after a year of wear. University of Alberta [online news article]. Retrieved from http://www.news.ualberta.ca/newsarticles/2011/01/jeansremainsurprisinglycleanafterayearofwear
Neuman, W.L., Robson, K. (2012). Experimental Research. In Basics of Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 3rd ed. (pp. 184-204). Toronto, ON: Pearson Canada, Inc.