I am fascinated by oscillations. Wherever they can be observed, they hint at a system that is not at rest, but that is in a state of processing activity. Science has studied oscillations in almost all fields, from the high notes of a bird’s song to the tides inside spiral galaxies, but also in power struggles of dynasties as well as global business cycles. But how do the descriptions of oscillations in all those fields relate? Is the notion of oscillation the same across natural and social sciences? Why are researchers so hesitant to explicitly include themselves in the oscillations they observe? Guided by these questions, the paper explores how descriptions of oscillations are constructed, followed by an approach to make system states including the observers explicit in empirical research.

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