Statistics are often seen as simple, straightforward, and objective descriptions of society. However, what we choose to count, what we choose not to count, who does the counting, and the categories and values we choose to apply when counting, matter. This volume addresses the ways in which statistics and numbers are gathered and applied in social science research. The contributors argue that we must become more aware of the power and the limitations of statistics. Learning statistics needs to be about more than simply mastering the techniques of using the tool; it needs to also be about learning the dangers of that tool and learning to control it within social and ethical bounds. These dangers lie in the routines through which statistics are applied; the discourses from which they emerge and into which they are deployed; the power relations created by those discourses; and the assumptions, meanings, and categories statistics carry with them in those discourses. This volume will be necessary reading for students and scholars using quantitative data within the social sciences.
Introduction: By the Very Act of Counting: The Mutual Construction of Statistics and Society Ann Rudinow Sætnan, Heidi Mork Lomell and Svein Hammer Section 1: Overarching Themes and Approaches 1. Numbers: Their Relation to Power and Organization Jon Hovland 2. Words and Numbers: For a Sociology of the Statistical Argument Alain Desrosières 3. Sociology in the Making: Statistics as a Mediator Between the Social Sciences, Practice, and the State Christopher Kullenberg 4. Governing by Indicators and Outcomes: A Neo-Liberal Governmentality? Svein Hammer Section 2: Visibility, Invisibility and Transparency 5. Ethnicity: Differences and Measurements Ellen Balka and Kjetil Rodje 6. Seeing Like Citizens: Unofficial Understandings of Official Racial Categories in a Brazilian University Luisa Farah Schwartzman 7. Ideas in Action: ‘Human Development’ and ‘Capability’ as Intellectual Boundary Objects Asun Lera St. Clair Section 3: Accountability and Manageability 8. Labelling and Tracking the Criminal in Mid-Nineteenth Century England and Wales: The Relationship Between Governmental Structures and Creating Official Numbers Chris Williams 9. From Categorization to Public Policy: The Multiple Roles of Electronic Triage Ellen Balka 10. Making Sense of Numbers: The Presentation of Crime Statistics in the Oslo Police Annual Reports 1950-2008 Heidi Mork Lomell 11. Statistics on a Website: Governing Schools by Numbers Svein Hammer and Sigrunn Tvedten 12. Locating the Worths of Performance Indicators: Performing Transparencies and Accountabilities in Health Care Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent and Roland Bal Section 4: Reporting and Acts of Resistance 13. Co-Constructing Medical Diagnosis Practice and Hospital Activity Statistics: How Coding Practices Turn Patients into Numbers Gunnhild Tøndel 14. GIS in Practice: Domestication of Statistics in Policing Helene I. Gundhus