Analyzing the Intersection of Genetics and Crime with ATLAS.ti: The Case of Argentina

February 14, 2018

This time we interview Florencia Rodriguez, from the Youth Observatory of Buenos Aires, a program belonging to FLACSO – Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences. Florencia tells us about her work on using ATLAS.ti to analyze data on the use of DNA databases for the crime research.

Hi Florencia.  Thank you for talking with us.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a sociologist graduated from Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina. I hold a postgraduate diploma in Gender, Society and Policy and I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Sociology of Culture at Universidad Nacional de San Martín. My main research interests are gender studies, youth, and public policies. I am also interested in using different computational tools used for data gathering, processing, analysis and visualization. I have worked in the public sector for more than five years in research areas and also as a consultant for policy evaluation projects. I am also a teaching assistant for a master´s degree at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales.

What does the Youth Observatory do?

The goal of the Observatory is to provide a global and permanent perspective on the situation of young people in the city. Based on scientific knowledge, it makes recommendations on public policies for young people. It develops quantitative and qualitative research and uses methodological tools to monitor and evaluate public policies. We have carried out studies on the representations that young people have of relationships and gender violence, the incidence of unintended pregnancy among young women, the educational and employment situation of young people, and their consumption habits and cultural production. For more information, visit: http://www.buenosaires.gob.ar/bajoven/cultura/investigacion-y-documentacion.

The Master’s Degree in Gender, Society and Policy at FLACSO, where I teach, focuses on gender equality policies in South America and the Caribbean. We teach about models of democracy and citizenship, legislation, public policies and institutions oriented towards the achievement of gender equity and strategic planning in public policies. For more information, visit: http://www.prigepp.org.

How are you using ATLAS.ti?

I used ATLAS.ti for the first time while studying a public policy recently promoted in different states of the country (Argentina) and at a national level. My goal was to analyze the creation of genetic data banks for criminal identification purposes, a type of initiative inspired by the policies of other countries, especially the United States and Europe. I wanted to explore how genetics came into contact with criminal policy and justice and what were the arguments that justified the creation of these genetic data banks. I used the software to analyze the bills presented to congress, the congressional speeches of the legislators during the debates as well as the sanctioned laws.

I first free coded the data (speeches, bills, laws) looking for recurrences and then started to create families of codes that represented argumentative dimensions. With this first experience I understood that Atlas.ti does not replace (nor should) the researcher work, but it can ensure greater control over the process. Memos played an important role in the writing process, keeping all tasks (coding, analyzing, and writing) in one place (ATLAS.ti project).

The main findings of the analysis were that: 1) legislators’ speeches focused on a specific type of crime – sexual crimes- to justify this kind of policy, while others were not present in the debates, 2) sexual crimes were constructed as an exceptional type that requires equally exceptional criminal policies, 3) rape was defined, through psychology and psychiatry discourses, as a problem of pathological behavior, 4) genetics was constructed as a technical and scientific solution to that problem (because genetic data banks were believed to be deterrent and because they would bring more justice to the victims by achieving more identifications).

As a result, a complex social problem – sexual violence – becomes a problem of sick or deviant individuals, a problem that could be solved through genetics presented almost as a magic solution. Thus, power relations and gender asymmetries disappear from the debate as explanatory concepts of the problem addressed and technology is reified as a solution uncontaminated from “human” intervention.

Would you like to add a few final words?

ATLAS.ti is a very intuitive software that allows an orderly, self-reflective and productive research process. I want to emphasize the ease of use from the first moment. In addition to being a strong support tool for the researcher’s task, I believe that ATLAS.ti encourages creative thinking and offers new perspectives on the data being analyzed, for example, through data visualization. I recently attended a presentation of version 8 in Spanish where new features were presented in terms of functionality and interface. I am very interested in the possibility of importing data from Twitter and Evernote and hope there will be more news about the incorporation of geographic data in the near future.

Thank you, gracias, Florencia!

Florencia Rodriguez can be contact via email at florenciarodriguez00@yahoo.com.ar.