Here's a piece I did for the CASRO 2012-13 Journal (based on my keynote at their annual gathering in Scotssdale (page 42ff) based on an idea that the brilliant Grant McCracken gave me when I last had lunch with him:
"TV chat show host David Letterman used to play a game with his audience as he sifted the day’s ephemera, asking this simple question of the things he (and his researchers) found to point and laugh at: is this anything? Or, is it nothing? In other words, is the object, behaviour or utterance significant and suggestive of an important trend? Or, is it merely junk? Should we be paying attention to it or should we smile and nod at contemporary culture’s richness as it sweeps past our noses"
So let's ask ourselves before we start "...what kind of thing is the phenomenon we are studying and seeking to explain [or change]? Is it something shaped by the agency of individuals acting independently of their peers or is it something that’s shaped primarily by social means – by the influence of others other than the individual?"What kind of thing is this?