What is subjectivity? Scholarly perspectives on the elephant in the room

Adrian Lundberg, Nicola Fraschini, Renata Aliani

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The concept of subjectivity has long been controversially discussed in academic contexts without ever reaching consensus. As the main approach for a science of subjectivity, we applied Q methodology to investigate subjective perspectives about ‘subjectivity’. The purpose of this work was therefore to contribute with clarity about what is meant with this central concept and in what way the understanding might differ among Q researchers and beyond. Forty-six participants from different disciplinary backgrounds and geographical locations sorted 39 statements related to subjectivity. Factor analysis yielded five different perspectives. Employing a team approach, the factors were carefully and holistically interpreted in an iterative manner. Preliminary factor interpretations were then discussed with prominent experts in the field of Q methodology. These interviewees were selected due to their clear representation by a specific factor and led to a further enrichment of the narratives presented. Despite some underlying consensus concerning subjectivity’s dynamic and complex structure and being used as individuals’ internal point of view, perspectives differ with regard to the measurability of subjectivity and the role context plays for their construction. In light of the wide range of characterisations, we suggest the presented perspectives to be used as a springboard for future Q studies and urge researchers, within and beyond the Q community, to be more specific regarding their application of the concept. Furthermore, we discuss the importance of attempting to deeply understand research participants in order to truly contribute to a science of subjectivity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-21
    JournalQuality and Quantity: international journal of methodology
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Nov 2022


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