Surveys as a social process: A workshop dedicated to the roots of the Economics of conventions

Caroline Näther & Raphael Vogel (University of Lucerne, Switzerland)

From 1st to 2nd of June 2017 we co-organized a Workshop about surveys as a social process hosted by the Technical University of Berlin. The fundamental idea of this workshop was to refine the understanding of surveys first, as a product of a wide distributed process and second, as an entity that enacts itself social processes. It is a continuation of a discussion group organized by us at the Congress of sociology held in Bamberg in September 2016. The workshop was organized by the two initiates as well as Prof. Nina Baur (Technische Universität Berlin), Dr. Andreas Schmitz and Alice Barth (both University of Bonn). The workshop was addressed to three different group of survey-interested, such as survey-methodologists, survey-users, but also researchers that examines the survey-process itself. The goal was to critically analyze surveys as a social process from different angles. Therefore it was a well ambitioned project, whose success was ambivalent. On the one hand, the workshop enabled different researchers affiliated to survey-research to come together and share their perspectives. In times of more and more specialized sciences, this alone is a noteworthy accomplishment. Additionally, it was an ideal opportunity for us two doctoral students to present our research to a public outside the well-established network of researchers in the field of economics of convention (EC) in the German speaking countries. It was therefore a test to check if our EC-informed perspectives on surveys make sense to a broader, survey-interested public. All in all, different participants of the workshop mentioned the friendly and constructive atmosphere. This was enhanced by the different workshop lunches and dinners. On the other hand it was maybe exactly this atmosphere, which didn’t lead to intensive discussions about the difference and conflicts of the different perspectives on the survey-process. In the aftermath of the workshop, it would have been a good idea to focus on several stations of the survey-process and then determine and discuss the different perspectives on it. But probably this is a task for a following workshop, as it is clear that the different participants of the workshop needed first to have an insight into the perspectives of the other participants. A well-defined agenda setting for the workshop without this prerequisite is probably difficult.

All in all, the workshop was a nice opportunity for us to have a broad insight into different perspectives and disciplines in survey-methodology and to get comments and feedback to our own work about coordination in survey-projects. Additionally, the workshop showed that the perspective of EC is more and more outgrowing in the German speaking countries from a sole perspective in the economic-sociology to a broad paradigm in sociological research.

In this place, a big thank you to the other organizers, especially Nina Baur, who organized the place for this workshop. It would not have been possible, to connect a broad mix of survey-researchers without her. Last but not least, a big thank you also to the staff of Nina Baur, who looked for the well-being of the survey-participants.

Some of the participants of the workshop enjoying discussions and superb Spanish Tapas at the Restaurant Mar y Sol in Berlin.