The first study presented in the article titled ‘Spies like Us’ was done by Ellis. This was an ethnographic study on Guinea Watermen. The guinea was engaged largely in fishing activities leading to Ellis giving them the nickname ‘Fishnecks’ to conceal their identity in her study report. Ellis did not conceal her identity to the guinea watermen but passed off as a college student researching fishing. She argues that she had to conceal her identity and exercise deceit to win the trust of the people.
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The study helped to show the poor living conditions and quality of life of the guinea. It was a good study that could have benefited the guinea. If her theory of why the Guineamen are backward were to be proved, it would have provided direction in terms of how social workers and government could come in and help the community towards prospering like other communities. However, rather than benefit them, the study only brought them ridicule.
The research report portrayed them as backward, obese, foul-smelling, and half-witted. It is my opinion that all these issues may have been true about the guinea, but if they had been disclosed by someone who had a dialogue with them, they would have learned from the process. If the researcher had exercised full disclosure, she would still have earned people’s trust. Such an open interaction would have helped Ellis to ask questions directly, receive feedback, and cross-check what the people say and the actual conditions in the society.
The second study presented in the article was done by Richard Leo. He researched police interrogation of suspects. To become acceptable, Richard assumed a persona that he thought was agreeable to the police officers. In his research report, he depicted police officers as conservatives who enjoyed talking about relationships with women and used crude language. He argued that he had to use deceptive techniques and feign an ideological stance that would enable him to become agreeable to the police officer.
My opinion is that Richard did not have to be deceptive to investigate the issue at hand. His study most likely did not help the police officers because of the bad light in which he depicts them and the resentment towards his deceptive techniques. I think that Richard just needed to be true to themself, disclose his identity without having to go into ideological issues. As a researcher, all he had to do was focus on his research without necessarily having to act like a clown while engaging the police officers.
Another research presented in the article is that of Humphrey who was a sociologist at Washington University. He disguised himself as a gay man to collect data on gay activities at men’s rooms at public parks. Later, he visited the men and interviewed them in their homes under disguise. Homosexuality must have been more stigmatized then than it is now. Was the research going to benefit the respondents in any way? Not in any conceivable way.
Disguising as gay and later visiting the people in their homes so that they could identify themselves when the results came out was not a very good thing. The study smacks of malice and would have been more informed had the researcher introduced himself and engaged the subjects directly.