Breaking Boundaries: Can We Bridge the Quantitative Versus Qualitative Divide Through the Study of Entertainment and Politics?

Michael X. Delli Carpini


The breaking of boundaries extends to those among different theoretical and methodological traditions. In this essay, I attempt to clarify and critically assess two such divides: those between “positivism,” “critical studies,” and “cultural studies”; and the related but distinct divide between quantitative and qualitative research. Drawing on and critiquing Anderson and Baym, I make the case that (a) positivism has potential as a complement and supplement to, and perhaps even a collaborator with, critical and cultural studies; (b) quantitative methods, once untangled from some of positivism’s more restrictive tenets, can be a useful tool for critical and cultural studies scholarship; and (c) the study of entertainment and politics may provide a unique opportunity for rethinking some of our field’s reified boundaries in ways that could produce a more integrated approach to the study of media and politics.

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