Category Archives: sociology

Ideas for Questions and Themes for Arianna Huffington

Today, as part of the tech/no Forum series at Bucknell, we are hosting Arianna Huffington.  I had imagine I would do some deep research on her background, her role as founder of HuffingtonPost, her role as CEO of the merged AOL-Huffington company  her ideas on the relationship between media, democracy, and profit, the death (?) of the newspaper, and so on.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Instead, I’ll have to generate some from what I have in my head (as opposed to research-based).

If you are coming to the afternoon session, feel free to read these, use these, modify these, and so on.

Business and Technology

* Is the content-for-eyeballs formula of the Internet dying?  Are advertisers not willing to pay?

* Are we at the end of an innovation burst as the Internet and mobile platforms are merging?  Is the heady period of “social media” and its rapid expansion done?

* Who are HP’s or AOL’s competitors?

Media and Profit

* Is it the responsibility of the media company to provide what “customers” want or what they need?  Does a media/news company create its own demand and then project that onto the audience.  “See, they want _____________ (tits, blood, murders, horse-race politics)?” Continue reading

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Filed under Business, economics, Future of Technology, higher education, Information and Communication Technology, innovation, Media, Network Society, Politics, Power, Activism, Social Networks, sociology, technology, Technology history

Rule 34 and a Sociological Variant

A random email string with a colleague/friend brought up rule 34.

I am embarrassed I did not know it.  So true… prompted the following riff…

LOL.  Didn’t know rule 34, but once, in jest, said to [names omitted to protect the innocent] something about Darth Vader fetish.  And one google search later…. oh my….

Definitely true.

 I have a more sociological variation on Rule 34 which is that anywhere in human history or cultures or societies, people screw each other- in other words, if we had full genetic histories of all people and groups, we would see none are as pure as any thinks they are.  African-Americans are a clear example, but it goes the other way too.  I make “white” people annoyed sometimes that pointing out that any non-Jew with tight curly hair probably had an ancestor who “passed.”  This is part of my larger interest in smashing these ideas that social groups are in any existential way, or biological, “real” becauce they actually have more internal variation than they do between groups.  Celebrating custom and all is great.  Just don’t assume anything about purity of the group as the basis for its existence.  
 
In Spain, the jews, moors, celts, Romans were all rolling in the hay.    
 
In Ireland, in the Balkans, in India (castes), whatever.  
There is some theory I heard once that Colulmbus’ sailors were all like a weird Mediterranean mixing bowl of  Moorish, Jewish, and African and that they may have ALREADY known about the Americas.  Ok, can’t find any Internet confirmation of this one… bad memory?
The general point holds: people screw around undermining any claims of pure groups.  if there are different groups of people living in proximity, no matter the  amount of taboo, racism, ethnocentrism, any-other-ism, sex happens (and I am not belittling assault here).  

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Filed under sociology

Getting Ready for “Ten Books that Influenced Me”

I had some money to spend.  A co-author mentioned Neil Fligstein’s new book, A Theory of Fields. So, I decided to get that book.  Then, I started looking at my wishlist and my recommendations.  I a few more items popped up.  Then, I wondered, “Well, what have been some influential books in social science or social theory recently?”

This led a google search, of course.  First stop, the ASA’s theory division.  They have a page of award winners.  Not very impressive.  While many great sociology or org theory blogs are out there, the official organs of professional associations (speaking of my experience with EGOS, AOM, ASA, and INSNA) have lagged, although EGOS and INSNA do better.  The ASA theory division award pages has many holes in it!  For example, it does not  the 2010 best article.  Was one not awarded?  The 2009 winner article is not hyperlinked.

But, there is good news!  Apparently, among blogging social scientists, there is a viral type of post: “My top 10 most influential books…”  I found several examples and I look forward to crafting my own.

Here is my list of others’ posts.

Ten Influential Books
http://asociologist.com/2010/03/21/ten-influential-books/

Ten Influential Books
http://crookedtimber.org/2010/03/20/ten-influential-books/

Books which have influenced me most
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/03/books-which-have-influenced-me-most.html

Ten most influential books
http://jacobtlevy.blogspot.com/2010/03/ten-most-influential-books-see-tyler.html

Influential (Actually Published, Actually Read Cover-to-Cover During College or Graduate School) Books

http://inmedias.blogspot.com/2010/03/influential-actually-published-actually.html

My Top 10 Most Influential Books:

Finally, in assembling this, I found a book I had not heard of, Required Reading: Sociology’s Most Important Books It is from 1998, so it will not have any great books of last ten years.    Still, I am curious to see what it says (and which I have read or not!)

I know my own initial list of books I have read and which  find my mind turning to again and again include:

  • The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism
  • Castells’ The Information Age Triology
  • Berger and Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality
  • Geertz’ Interpretation of Culture
  • Watts’ Six Degrees

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Filed under Books, organization theory, social theory, sociology

Happy Belated Labor Day

x-posted at Biz Gov Soc

I have been meaning to comment on labor day, this past Monday all week. There is some kind of irony in Bucknell’s lack of observance of labor day. Do we not think learning and teaching are “work”? Of course some classes of employees are off, but not students nor faculty. I am not whining about wanting a day off, just wondering what the institution is say9ing, or not, in its scheduling choices. Bucknell aside, what are they key “issues” of the day, as C. Wright Mills would have us describe them? What is the state of working for a living in the ol’ US of A? The NY Times provided two interesting views on labor on the day in question. First, Robert Reich, professor (but Micheal Reagan thinks this is a disqualification to speak on matters of bread and butter), former Labor Secretary under Clinton, author, and very funny short man (one of his book titles was Let Me Be Short) tackles the two big issues of the day: the stagnant economy and rising inequality. Reich provides an interesting set of graphs to accompany his points. (Click to enlarge). First, the evidence: productivity is up, incomes are flt, and the wealthiest are wealthier at a faster rate than everyone else. Whether this is a problem or not can be divided into two pieces. First- are there negative effects to rising inequality? Second- can rising inequality understood not as a problem, but as the outcome of a more virtuous process? In this case, the process would be a well-functioning economy that allows individuals to find their own optimal point of rewards in the labor market relative to what they put into it (effort, capital). In other words, a free market will produce inequality as a result of liberating the engines of wealth-seeking. I’ll leave it to a reader to determine whether or not the inequality is a problem. The data are clear and it should be beyond debate that there is increasing inequality. His chart sums up the explanation of why. Wages stagnated starting around 1980, but the great “middle class” of America kept spending thereby creating enough demand to sustain economic growth for the producers of America (and the world). How did they do it? First,WOMEN. The women moved into the workforce in massive numbers. Whether it was to express their autonomy, enact a feminist vision of gender-equality, or to make the ends meet, the raw fact is they entered the economy. AS historians and sociologists have pointed out, this was really a re-entry into labor as the myth of the domestic, lesiure-oriented housewife was a historical anomaly. From hunter-gatherers to pioneer homesteads to early industrial work in homes, women did much, if not most, work. Second, taking on debt. Lots of it. At some point in the recent past, the average US household savings rate was negative. Negative! I remember when I heard this , it was like a punch to the stomach. You can’t sustain that. Blind faith in rising house prices and the slick sales pitches of elements of the mortgage industry played a big part in the bloating of debt. Anyway, that brings our story quite nicely up to the stories of the housing bubble, the role of Wall street in the bubble, and then AIG and the other Wall Street players at the center of the “great recession.” The other article, by Harvard Business school professors (woo hoo! Go Management Scholar), Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, shifts our focus from the buig picture to the small details of everyday work. At their conclusion, they offer this seemingly unobjectionable thought: “Work should ennoble, not kill, the human spirit.” This reminds me of another irony of labor day- shouldn’t we work on labor day? My grade school had school on MLK day so we could learn about him and the history of civil rights in our country. Anyway, digressions aside, what Amabile and Kramer found is disheartening: most professionals are disengaged, frustrated, and disatsified with work. They are unhappy. Using a HUGE amount of data (12,000 diary entries form 238 “professional” employees), they found that 33% were unhappy. What would make them happier? Is it some sort of Enron-like PRC with huge bonuses attached to the best reviewed? No. Is it little rewards and trophies? No. Is it more pay overall? No. Is it getting to lord over a prized working spot over co-workers? No. What is most motivating is making progress on meaningful work. So, Edward Freeman’s “responsibility hypothesis”– that people innately want to take responsibility for their work, finds some empirical evidence. Meanwhile, I am reminded of a clip from a food documentary I saw at our campus theatre the other day: Fresh. Chicken Farmers talk about how it is so hard to find people to “process” chickens (butcher) that they use work crews form a local prison to do it. Can manual labor be as meaningful as the professionals in Amabile and Krmaer’s study long for? Can butchering chickens be experienced as meaningful work? Or would simply paying more (and thereby reversing a little the flow of wealth Reich talks about) do more good? Do my students feel their academic assignments are meaningful work? Do I, as a professor-manager, provide the tools to enable them to be motivated by progress on meaningful work?

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Filed under economics, Political Economy, sociology

Digindigenous- Neologism for a Wired World

For a paper I am writing about virtual worlds and the way institutional forces are shaping the filed, I needed a word to refer to organizations or other social phenomenon that arose or operate from within digital spaces: virtual worlds, social media, and other mileux of the matrix, the cyberspace, the metaverse.

I was playing with this neologism which I do not see anywhere yet.

Digindigenous: organizations, collectives, or other social phenomenon that emerge from within the socio-economic interactions of various cyberspaces.  Examples: Tringo (a game form within SL), electric sheep company (and other VW designers), the Uru diaspora, any number of virtual objects businesses (such as avatar or fashion companies), and so on.

The word is derived from digital + indigenous.

Is this a keeper?

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Filed under organization theory, Second Life, social theory, sociology, virtual worlds, words

“Oportunistic Ethnography”

Fun new Social Science jargon: “opportunistic ethnography.”  Translation: you never know when you, reader, are going to be my next data point.

 

Hat tip to Tracey, Jarvis and Phillips who mentionted this in “Bridging Institutional Entrepreneurship and the
Creation of New Organizational Forms: A Multilevel Model” in Organization Science Vol. 22, No. 1, January–February 2011, pp. 60–80

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Filed under pithy expressions, sociology, words, writing

Kill this Neologism Now- “Majority-Minority.”

Put this on FB this morning.

Heard news peeps, based on recent census, describing how the US will become a “majority-minority” nation by 2020 or so.  Can we kill that phrase now?  If no single group is more than 50%, it is called pluralism folks.  Or, multiculturalism.  Or anything but majority-minority.

 

Among various problems. it perpetuates some idea that white majority is the natural or desired state of the USA.  Look, when the “white” population falls below 50% it is just not the majority.  OK?  Deal with it.  The term sounds like whities get together at my house on Wednesday while the blacks, browns, yellows, reds, and all other hues get together at Denzel Washington’s.  It is just not that bipolar anymore.  I’m not saying some sort of utopia of “i’d like to sing the world a song” will happen, just that identity, justice, controversy, politics, love and marriage, and schooling will be full of problems and promises in new ways.

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Filed under Politics, Power, Activism, Research, sociology

Libertarian confusion about organizations and non-profits

A post at orgtheory.net took me to this libertarian blog and site.

The author wondered why people would assume non-profits do more for a community than firms.

I forwarded this to some colleagues with similar interests and we may have run aground of some moderating policies as our comments do not seem to have been posted.  Hmmmmm.  I guess even free market of ideas people need some ground rules.

I’ll see if my comments go up later.

Basically, I pointed out that

1) The author seems to work for a non-profit.  So his stance of “who are those people” is ironic.

2) Non-profit versus profit is a meaningless distinction to make when discussin what they do or how they are perceived.

3) NPs that perform vital services are seen as more community-oriented because they ARE.  That does not mean that they are immune from critique.  Likewise, firms that push externalities onto communities or that use their political and economic power to suck up more value are seen as less community-minded because their actions ARE.

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Filed under blogging, economics, sociology, Uncategorized

Social Movement Theory and Terrorism

I have been chipping away at an article for awhile now on terrorism as an organizational activity.  Part of my argument is to understand terrorism as at times a social movement.

Part of the fun of this for me is to learn more about social movements which has always been a topic my interests bump up against, but something I never had time to formally study.

Reading Castells (who channel Alain Tourraine, apparently), Tilly, and Giddens, among others, brought the idea of social movements into my sphere of interest.  Then I started reading and reading about the work done by institutional theorists like Haogreeva Rao and others about thinking about consumers as social movements.  For example, his book, Market Rebels, makes the case that markets are at times created by consumers, not firms.

Today, in a fit of retroactive literature scanning, I decided to check what had been said about terrorism and social movement theory.  Two interesting findings.

First, the wikipedia article cites Tilly and Tarrow (separately) defining social movements as inherently a featrue of pluralist, democratic societies.  Moreover, Tilly’s repretoire does not include any violent acts.  This surprised me.  Terrorist organizations seem to operate in such societies and also, with Al Qaeda, at a global level.  Moreover, they are also embedded in or linked to social movements and sets of social movement organizations.  So, if a social movement is a an observable collective effort to resist or adopt social change, then terrorist organizations can be part of that definition, irrespective of their geographic location.

Second, I hopped over to google scholar to see what had been written about social movement theory and terrorism.  Using those search terms, I found one article in Terrorism and Political Violence.  Who knew there was sucha  specialized journal?  C. Gentry’s article is titled: ” THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY AND TERRORISM STUDIES: THE ROLE OF LEADERSHIP, MEMBERSHIP, IDEOLOGY AND GENDER”.   I am not even sure from the title if it is relevant.  That was the first hit, none of the rest seemed any better. This struck me as very odd and made me wonder if I have stumbled onto a much larger claim than I realized initially:

Terrorist Organizing must be accounted for by social movement theory.

Now, I wonder about how to use my blog.  I have never had anything like an active “readership” as far as i can tell.  I would love to get some answers or responses to what I discuss here.  But how?  Should I email Brayden King or Fabio Rojas at OrgTheory.net and say, “hey, please read this?”

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Filed under activism, organization theory, sociology, Terrorism

Finding Journals

For awhile, I have been trying to assemble a list of journal outlets for myself.

If we think back to what journals we follow, I think many might have a similar story to mine.  I recall as an undergrad and in grad school in sociology and management, I would hold in high esteem what professors gave me.  I quickly learned to “read backwards”: to take a new article and glance at the citations (or to look at the intro and lit review) and start taking mental notes of which articles and authors seemed most central.  From this, I had a preliminary list of journals that seemed important.

And those handful of journals I tended to follow more carefully since I already had a toehold in their conversations and streams of discourse.

Meanwhile, keyword searches in article databases exposed me to reading lots of abstracts.  Quickly, I started making snap decisions about journals worth paying attention to and which not.

Since then (1990s), I have the feeling that the number and volume of published material has increased.  Overwhelmed is an understatement.  This is compounded by my own multi-disciplinary interests in networks, social theory, and organization theory.

Finally, I have realized that some of my own writing, if it is ever to see the light of published day, due to approaches or ideas that are out of the mainstream, will need to find journals that will take risks, are in the interstices of academic fields, that consort with subaltern, or embrace eclecticism.

How does one find new journals?  That is the immediate problem.  This morning I tackled this as I wondered who might look at approaches to innovation that are more unconventional.  This often means abandoning the fool’s errand of a quest for the holy grail of The One True Formula for Success™.  I was kind of hoping that maybe I would find the Amazon equivalent of list mania.  You know, you find some new book and you see that other users have made this lovley lists like “Best mashups of Harry Potter and Literary Theory” or “Teen Vampire Stories that Don’t Suck” or “How to make social media work for you.”  I guess I wanted “Journals that Think You, _____________ (insert name), Are Brillant.”

The good orgheads at orgtheory.net tried to make a crowd source list, but it seems to have run aground.

Loet Leysdorf does lots of work of co-citation data to make centrality measures of journals, like this one.

A colleague once gave me  this list that is pretty comprehensive: the Harzing list. I like it since it includes several different quality metrics.

There are lots of outfits that provide various lists and analyses of journals.

But I am looking for a little more editorial content.  Shorter lists that are more targeted and not hide-bound to overly rigid disciplinary boundaries.  More opinion.  More oomph.

Why don’t they seem to exist?  I say this based on two dangerously self-referential observations. 1) I don’t already know about them. 2) 20 minutes of basic web searching failed to turn anything up.  Sociology of Knowledge by the inmates is probably a bad idea, but I can’t help myself.  Maybe they don’t exist because opinion and oomph are not rational career strategies?

For example:

Where can I submit theory articles?

Where can I submit articles on innovation that are interested in inter-disciplinarity?

Mixed method articles?

I’ll start making my own here.

Meanwhile, feel free to post ideas or suggestions below.  Thanks.

 

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Filed under higher education, Research, social theory, sociology