I will freely admit, I’m not a numbers guy. This is not a source of pride by any stretch of the imagination – as a researcher, I am often limited to the questions I can ask (and, frankly, by the types of grants I might procure) because I’m not proficient in quantitative research. I’m a qualitative guy; questions in the meaning or “why” category are more in my wheelhouse.
Not to get into a well-worn discussion about the relative value of quantitative vs. qualitative research, but there are some questions and topics that each seem more adept to one kind of methodology. For example, a slippery concept like nostalgia seems to be more one for we qualitative guys. After all, nostalgia is contextual, fleeting, and is often more a state of mind (although, I believe there can be a “collective nostalgia,” but I digress). In other words, it is tough to segment, identify, and measure (degrees of nostalgia?) In any event, I would suggest that nostalgia is something one would uncover as part of a research project about memories – as, I see nostalgia is a very particular way of remembering that is very strongly tied to a dissatisfaction with the present (thus, the link to homesickness, or a “sweet sadness” as it were – the nostalgic memory is wonderful but forever gone).
I have a student who has a research project dedicated to measuring nostalgia by attendees at a sporting event. The thesis, in part, is that nostalgia drives fans to re-visit the event. While we might contest this (though, I think nostalgia can be a strong motivator for travel, in particular), I’m just not certain he will be able to measure nostalgia as, in some ways, he may be presupposing that attendees of this event are or will be nostalgic. Perhaps he might be able to identify what triggers nostalgia at sporting events (players, traditions, friends and family, etc.), but I’m not certain it is possible to necessarily measure nostalgia without misrepresenting nostalgia, if that makes sense (i.e.: not all memories about the past are nostalgic, for example, nor would I say that nostalgia is a positive emotion). In any event, what say you – can nostalgia, particularly in a sporting context, be measured?