personal experience on Mars

Okay, I need to get down to writing my literature review, but first I want to get down some thoughts.

The “personal” in academic writing… Assuming “personal” more or less equates to “personal experience,” then the main reason it has a difficult time being accepted in academic circles is because it gets equated with anecdotal evidence. And anecdotal evidence doesn’t carry much weight in any field. But, still, there are some times when personal experience (or the individual experience of another person) is welcomed into academic inquiry: psychology (case studies), ethnography (because one person can be representative of a larger group), what else? I know there are others.

But, okay, aren’t there also times when personal or individual experience ought to be welcomed but often is not? I’m thinking of

1) when that person’s experience comes from a non-represented or severely-under-represented group. In other words, when we have less information about a certain group, the little data we have — even if anecdotal — becomes more valuable. Heheh, for example: If we discovered that there is sapient life on Mars, but had contact with only one Martian, we would be very interested in the experiences and knowledge of that one particular Martian. We wouldn’t say, “We’re sorry, Ms Martian. But that’s just your personal experience, and so is not valid.”

2) when that person’s experience simply helps us understand something we’d only abstractly understood before. Right now I’m thinking of Nancy Sommer’s “Between the Drafts,” but there are trillions other examples.  Okay, maybe not trillions, but…

3) when that person’s experience is representative of a group.

Got more to say, but I gotta focus on my literature review.  Time’s a-wastin’!!!!! ahhhhhh

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