Erosion Measures

Erosion measures refer to natural remnants of some individual’s or group’s activity that has selectively worn down certain objects. For example, if you are working in a nursing home, you might determine what the most popular activity in that home is by observing where the rugs are most worn. It might be in front of the television set or in front of the windows where people spend time looking out at the street. This could give you a possible measure for evaluating changes in the group’s activities.

 Other erosion measures might include decay and breakage. Active or aggressive physical activity can be inferred from the number of broken items (for example, windows) in a school or ward. The frequency of repair, replacement, or cleaning of certain objects in a setting may be used as an indicator of frequency of usage.

 When using erosion measures be sure that unrelated factors are not the reasons for observed changes. For example, a new junior’s zeal in cleaning may be responsible for changes in the patterns of use as detected by wear and tear on the floor. Similarly, it would help to know the amount of ordinary wear and tear on objects so that any excessive erosion or wear and tear can be related to target behaviors with more assurance.

 The second category of physical traces is accretion measures. These are objects deposited by clients in a given setting or the ordinary debris left by client interaction with or consumption of material. Thus, many of the behavior produces described earlier could be considered as accretion measures. Accretion measures also often focus on analysis of remains or even rubbish.

 Reliability and validity concerns are as important when using physical traces as they are with other measures, and these concerns are especially important when physical traces are being used to make inferences about behaviors.

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