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Reverse engineering and emotional attachments as mechanisms mediating the effects of quantification

Reverse Engineering und emotionale Bindungen als Mechanismen, die die Effekte der Quantifizierung vermitteln
[journal article]

Espeland, Wendy


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Abstract Alain Desrosières understood statistics as simultaneous representations of the world and interventions in it. This article examines two mechanisms that mediate how numbers do both. The first, reverse engineering, describes how working backwards from a desired number shapes organizational routines. The second, emotional attachment, describes the processes by which numbers generate a variety of emotions that sometimes stimulate collective identities. Focusing on educational rankings but including examples of other types of numbers, it argues for the importance of disclosing the effects of specific causal mechanisms in the analysis of particular performance measures.
Keywords quantification; ranking; social environment; statistical analysis; knowledge transfer; emotion; emotionality; causality; statistical method
Classification General Sociology, Basic Research, General Concepts and History of Sociology, Sociological Theories
Free Keywords Desrosières, Alain; reverse engineering
Document language English
Publication Year 2016
Page/Pages p. 280-304
Journal Historical Social Research, 41 (2016) 2
Issue topic Conventions and quantification - transdisciplinary perspectives on statistics and classifications
ISSN 0172-6404
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works