The Bones of a Concourse
Operant Subjectivity , Volume 27 - Issue 3 p. 145- 165
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously claimed that the "life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience (1881). Without experience, the law has no bones (Menand, 2001, p. 341). William Stephenson claimed, in essence, that understandings grasped through interpretations of factors are the "life" of the concourse. It follows that Q methodology puts the bones in a concourse as "conversational possibilities." New conversational possibilities flow from Q sorting, post-sort interviews, and factor interpretations. They may be distinguished from the "distinct feelings" (Stephenson 1983, p 81), or factor interpretations, construed as the bones of a concourse, which are examined at a remove from the concourse. To provide an example of the "life" of a concourse, a Q methodology study of the views of senior public policy officials and academics in New Zealand on the implications of diversity for policy is reported. The bones of the concourse are interpreted through three factors. One factor represents a view that adopts a "practical" orientation, in which government is interventionist. A second factor considers diversity as a fact to be accommodated through good policy analysis, not as a value to be actively managed. The third factor is distinctive in conveying a "passion" for diversity. Looked at differently, as if from within the concourse, these three factors are subtle variations on a theme, one emphasising process, once concept, and the third colour or feeling. This suggests that Q methodology serves to evoke study participants' responses as from a viewpoint, or perspective, in a flow of communicability on diversity and policy of which all have a part. This understanding, complementing that gained through factor interpretations, draws on the similarities as well as the differences among views. In the illustrative case, the understanding potentially may assist the concourse "owners" (strategic policy thinkers) to beeter address the challenges in New Zealand policy making.