Focusing Research To Support an “Appropriate Unrigging” Agenda By Getting Beyond Symptoms

If I am right that our change strategy has to be based on understanding how Trump voters and potential Trump voters think about the term “rigging,” then we need to be doing research that shows how and why the system is rigged, and for whom.

My own personal feeling that much of the problem is that research, after currently being mediated through the media, ends up reporting on symptoms, but not on causes and dynamics.  For example, the recent numbers on suicide, health and life expectancy in declining counties did get widely reported, but I bet they made it through as just that, leaving the impacted population to fill in their own “low information” explanations, that probably focused on external threats, (drugs and foreign competition), rather than lack of opportunity caused by American corporate decisions, lack of health care caused by Republican de-funding, etc. (That hypothesis in itself would make a fascinating research project)

While we can not reshape the media, at least in the shot term, I fear, we can start to do research that focuses not so much on the symptoms, but on government and corporate behavior, with symptoms as only the afterthought, and with analysis of the mechanisms of the impact that causes those symptoms.

We should be conducting focus groups and testing messages that are specifically not about getting short term support for specific changes, but getting insight into people’s understanding of underlying dynamics and finding what would disrupt or replace those understandings.

For example, this paper from the FTC on big data raises many questions about the possible discriminatory and exclusionary impacts of big data.  I would suggest that these impacts might include pricing policies that have discriminatory impact on the declining county areas, others that make it harder for people from those areas to apply for jobs, or even get health care assistance online.

So the research needs to be about the direct line from the corporate behavior, in this case the use of big data, to the impacts that the population of those areas feel.

An economist would say these big data techniques help make markets even more perfect.  Others might experience them differently.  The point is for research to provide the information and does not allow victims to be set against each other.