Heterogeneity and Data Analysis: Taxonomy of heterogeneities

Table 1. A taxonomy of heterogeneities

Static 1. There is an assortment, each a separate type (“cabinet of curiosities”)
2. Mixture of types (e.g., allelic heterogeneity & locus heterogeneity in genetics)
3. Trait = composite of types (analogy: the 3 components of a triathalon)
Variational 4. There is noise or error, but that is deviation from the type or essential trajectory
5. Variation in a set of traits involves a composite of variance/covariance structures (statistical heterogeneity)
6. There is variation, not types
7. When similar responses of different individual (e.g., genetic) types are observed, it is not necessarily the case that similar conjunctions of risk or protective factors have been involved in producing those responses (=possibility of “underlying heterogeneity”)
Dynamic 8. Variation produces qualitative changes in results from standard theory based on uniform units (e.g., theory about Malthusian population growth, tragedy of the commons, prisoner’s dilemma)
9. Heterogeneity in pathways of development—Variants from Taylor (2005):9a. “Intersecting processes” Processes operating at different spatial and temporal scales that cut across the boundaries of the situation under consideration and restructure its “internal” dynamics.

9b. “Unruly complexity,” which arises whenever there is ongoing change in the structure of situations that have built up over time from heterogeneous components and are embedded or situated within wider dynamics.

9c.  “Heterogeneous construction,” in which, researchers establish knowledge and technological reliability through practices that are developed through diverse and often modest practical choices. This is the same as saying the researchers are involved in contingent and on-going mobilizing of diverse materials, tools, people, and other resources into webs of interconnected resources.

Dynamic-participatory 10. Participatory restructuring of the dynamics (intersecting processes, unruly complexity, or heterogeneous construction) that generated the data.
11. Participatory restructuring through multiple points of engagement, which occurs in tension with deployment or withholding of trans-local knowledge and resources.

(continuing a series of posts—see first post; see next post)


Taylor, P. J. (2005). Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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