Sunday, October 17, 2021

Dayz & Motoya’s experiment on influence is a bad first – and a bad idea

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This re-enactment of a man betting $100 on an experiment by Dayz – the first set of unusual and thoroughly unconvincing-sounding information – will need a local interest group

Prospects, Inc – a “useful Jewish social science research company” – is running what is known as a Lagniappe Guaranteed Income Experiment (LPIA). How is it going? The first word I’ve seen of it suggests not well.

Dayz & Motoya’s lagniappe

The LPIA is the first of what is sometimes called the edtech innovations – a set of innovative concepts or products that are entering the high-tech, Venn diagram space with fields such as online games, infrastructure and devices. Think Angry Birds. It’s also a sense of place. Can you believe this is happening in Dearborn, Michigan, by the Ben Franklin Bridge?

Dayz & Motoya Gichi are the pioneers of the LPIA. Dayz was previously at the University of Michigan where he was in charge of “bringing together socially costed experiments (invisible trials) and social science research”. He has since become an advisor to community organizations, a social science researcher, and an entrepreneur. Motoya, his wife, is an urban planner who works in housing.

Re-enactment of the experiment

Their research was funded by investors, led by Eric Brodsky, a “serial investor” from Lexington, Massachusetts, and his partner, Oliver Dimsdale. The first Project was Green Futures in Detroit where they made a series of $100 bets on various visions for sustainable redevelopment, led by Benjamin Motoya, of Photographia Detroit.

They then ran another $100 Lagniappe Project, also funded by the investors, in the Big Data Lab of Department of Health and Human Services. This Lagniappe Project? I’m having a little trouble with the concept of a Lagniappe Guaranteed Income experiment:

Participants bet $100 on the following different conceptions of Living Wage & climate change, in a room with high-priced, high-tech sensors and linked through Social Engineering software.

Dayz and Motoya come to read the results of the experiment?

They found that because of poor feedback and lack of foresight, participants did not realize that the information was motivated by “Enron style conflicts of interest, with advisors or participants engaging in self serving behavior that leaves no doubt about why the information is provided”.

Participants in the experiment developed “short-term and long-term attitudes and feelings of interest and loyalty to the information that were incongruent with the intended goals of the information”.

Readers’ point of view

Motoya sent me a personal e-mail outlining the story behind the experiment. The most intriguing thing I learned was that Dayz and Motoya think it’s time to do this again. I would love to see it.

Dissatisfaction with both the experimental and traditional statistics has created a vacuum in which “a few increasingly prominent approaches” for gathering qualitative and quantitative research are dominant. But the methods of which Dayz and Motoya speak are not consistent with the standards of respectable data collection and analysis.

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It does not follow that qualitative, participatory research is better than standardized data-driven methods. It is possible for individuals to learn by participating in an experiment, seeing the evidence that that happens, and making sense of it.

Including a non-traditional approach in monitoring a social experiment is an easy thing to believe. I guess you could say that bringing social mobility to Dearborn, Michigan, was part of the experiment.

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