Monthly Archives: November 2010

What Is “Interesting”? What is the Half-Life of New Ideas?

I have been recently revising for submission an article about the filed of virtual worlds and why is was very turbulent from 2007-2009, (working title is “Code Rules” and this is a paper I presented at EGOS 2010 with my collaborator, F. Ted Tschang from Singapore Management University).

We have realized that the “interesting” contribution we can make is to discuss the emergence and change in the field.  Now, honestly, this insight came from looking at the data and the influence of the classic 1991 New Institutionalism book edited by DiMaggio and Powell, a chapter by Thornton and Ocasio from the Sage 2008 Handbook on Institutionalism, and the 2005 special forum in Organization Science on the future of Organization Science, especially Davis and Marquis article calling for a turn to studying fields and mechanisms as especially apt for reinvigorating a study of contemporary capitalism.    I am not doing full citations since this is really the level of familiarity for me of these pieces.  These are pieces of scholarship that I know backwards and forwards, have annotated, have re-read, and have grasped lovingly as I stoop over a desk peering deeply for the meaning behind meaning of words.  Old school scholarship.

I suspect, without having ever discussed it much with other scholars, that we have similar habits.

In fact, I feel a little confessional about this whole post.  Am I pulling back the curtain?  Am I exposing my inner workings too much?

Setting aside my trepidation, the story continues…

I know that these pieces of scholarship are not self contained and are like crests on waves or currents of thought, discourse, and scholarship.

And in the process of drafting our ideas, I stopped looking for scholarship.  I had found in the past that trying to read everything on a topic was a crutch.  Hence, I had stopped.

So, as I started to revise and look for more citations to improve the framing, it was with a mix of surprise and annoyance I found a whole special issue from 2002 in Academy of Management Journal on this very topic.

So, now I wonder if our argument is not nearly as “interesting” as I thought it was.  What is the half-life of an academic trend?  How long can institutional theorists say “up to now we have looked at stable fields but now we need to look at field dynamics and emergence” as if this is a new idea?

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Filed under higher education, organization studies, organization theory, social theory, sociology

The False Ideology of a Neutral Center

I took the plunge and posted this on facebook:

I am irked by “centrists” like Matt miller on KCRW’s Left Right and Center who think center ALWAYS means that left and right are equivalent in their commitment to ideology over good ideas and therefore the only possible solutions to economy, politics, and government is some sort of “third way.” And they think non-choice is non-ideological.

On a side note, I never know how much politics or “political economy” (the broader interrelated questions of fairness, governance, philosophy, and values) to put on FB. I have often said, and should write more about the double-edged sword of FB- it is based on network growth and inter-connectivity, but the broader a network becomes, the more limited it’s uses. At the extreme, FB will become an on-line version of Lake Wobegone nomrs: to avoid unsettling anyone, only discuss the weather in polite company.

Anyway, Matt Miller, the host and apparent “arbiter” on Left, Right and Center (a great show even if it is made by the communists socialists Nazis at NPR,was on a tear about the need for a new label for “radical centrists.” He made his version of a passionate plea for now being the time for a brave new “third way” politics (was he around during the 1990s when Blair and Giddens did this? and, um, that US president, named, um, Clinton?)

Matt Miller makes some good points, sometimes. But I find he often starts where much of the “mainstream”media seem to: that the excesses of left and right are always there, always misguided, always driven by ideology over facts and therefore the only hope for progress comes in some third way. Even as his OWN SHOW has left and right weaving in and out of agreement on issues like the Fed, China, and Afghanistan, he cannot let go of the animating narrative of his life.

Sometimes the “very” left is simply correct. For example, there is growing wealth and wage inequality in the US, and tax policies have much to do with it. Or, the distortions in health care of the US compared to other comparable societies is due to all the money that flows to the various sectors of the Health-industrial complex. No amount of compromise with the right can make those critiques go away.

Rarely, the “right” is correct. Ron Paul wants to audit the Fed. I am with Bob Scheer on this one. The Fed as it has become run is a distortion of democracy in our economy. I can agree with some critiques of changing or weakening values in US society, although I won’t agree with solutions or causes, probably.

So, I would rather Miller’s idea of a radical center be more of arbiter between right and left than always elevate its (false) sense of being above the messy fray by being aghast at the ideology around it. There is no non-ideological center…

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Filed under activism, Media, Political theory, Politics, Power, Activism

Solution to QDA Needs, Alpha

As I posted here, I was looking for a way to do some basic Qualitative Data Analysis with a colleague who is not co-located (very not!  Ted is in Singapore.)

Thanks to Debra Sarlin, of Bucknell, and this ethnographer’s blog, I isolated some possibilities.

Part of my search led me to Nvivo, an off the shelf product that looks like it has some great properties.  Bucknell has a license, but not the server version.  Without the server version, I am back in square one of needing a way to share data, protect data, and dynamically code data.  Hence, for now, I am proceeding with my Alpha solution.  In a nutshell, this has two parts.

  1. Use Google sites as a private site to create files of our own data like transcripts, chat logs, field notes.
  2. Use Zotero to cite and share third party data like blogs, news articles and so on.

The key to this is that Ted and I develop our  list of tags to identify relevant themes and then find those data points later.  Standard QDA methodology and our own experience tells us that this is an iterative, dynamic process.  There is no one best solution for the tagging piece.  I think our best bet is to keep a “master file” of tags in google sites.  We can each print it up and also access anytime we are on line to jar our memory and cue ourselves as to what is significant or salient in raw data.

Ted and I had a trial run last week and I think we both realized quickly that ideally we could have some sort of a floating box on top of all applications that would allow us to tag almost anything, and tag within documents or files.  This would be linked to the more powerful kinds of QDA tools.  Well, like a platonic ideal, that floats out there as something we are aiming towards in our little jerry-rigged solution.

Our solution has some side benefits

  • Google sites can also be used as a wiki-like creation to share our concepts or coordinate other research.
  • I _think_ if we ever want to turn on part of google sites as a public portal/URL we can.
  • We can use Zotero to share scholarly citations also.

I made the following graphic as a flow chart for this alpha solution.

Comments welcome, of course…

How to use a hybrid of google sites and Zotero to do collabroative QDA

I am not sure if this is legible…

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