Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Harvard Business Review: The Next Big Thing

Some reading from the Harvard Business Review about "The Rise of Corporate Anthropology," by Tom Davenport.

Davenport holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College, where he also leads the Process Management and Working Knowledge Research Centers. His books and articles on business process reengineering, knowledge management, attention management, knowledge worker productivity, and analytical competition helped to establish each of those business ideas. Having him tout this type of socio-cultural anthropology and highlight observation as the "Next Big Thing" in business, to me, reaches out to an audience that is just beginning to recognize (again) that ethnographers have much to offer design and technology because artefacts are products of culture. Culture, being the key word here.

"I have been predicting for years that anthropologists would soon be in demand in the workplace, and now this is finally coming to pass. Anthropologists are social scientists who study human behavior through systematic observation. There are a variety of types of anthropologists --physical, archeological, and medical. I am primarily focused here on social and cultural anthropologists, some fraction of which are interested in social relationships in the contemporary workplace. I also believe that sociologists (my own background), social psychologists, and even some behaviorally-oriented economists will be of increasing use in corporate life, but I am particularly bullish on anthropology because of its emphasis on observation.

What’s so good about systematic observation? It’s the key to knowing what’s working and what isn’t, how people are using technology and other tools in the course of the workday, how workers extract meaning (or don’t) from their work, and so forth. We all make sweeping generalizations about these and many other topics, but we don’t really know. Corporate anthropology provides the possibility of actually knowing what’s happening and why in organizations."

more in the article>>

Shout outs to Martin B. for the heads up on this article!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An even-handed look at gaming addiction

From Rock, Paper, Shotgun--an interesting article that presents a refreshingly multi-faceted look at gaming addiction. The article features the varied perspectives and sometimes contentious points of the authors.

Example: “There is no such clinical criteria as ‘video game addiction’,” states Dr Richard Wood. His forthcoming paper, The Myth of Video Game “Addiction” argues, “It has not been acknowledged by any reputable organisation responsible for defining disorders of the mind or body (e.g., The American Psychiatric Association, The World Health Organisation etc.).” (It should be noted that the APA are currently investigating the topic to consider whether they will recognise it).

Example: In his essay, Are Games Addictive: The State of Science, [Neils]Clark explains, “A normal personality usually has a number of activities that they regularly use to feel excited, relaxed, or what have you. Yet people are drawn to some things over others. A huge gambling win is more attractive than cleaning a toilet. For most people. When the soon-to-be addict finds that special activity, they can have [an] ‘aha’ moment… At its most extreme, such a behavioural addiction dominates a person’s life. They need the activity, and they’ll sacrifice nearly anything – long term plans, the company of people, even work in order to have it.”

Definitely worth a read! See the whole thing>>

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

One month to go

At the end of all this, I will be a beautiful butterfly.

With October came an inordinate amount of stimulation/work/distraction - The AoIR conference, the UDC conference, and the InnoCom conference. In the last three weeks, hosting all three here at SFU Vancouver has been great in some ways (I don't have to schlepp myself to an airport and the difficulties therein) but draining in others (Organizing, Volunteering, Presenting, one may do in one's hometown while living an hour away from the conference site).

My smalltalk during those conferences inevitably included talking about this process of cocooning a PhD must do--comprehensive exams. Every department's procedure for this lovely hazing ritual (as some near and dear colleagues have called it) differs, and many PhD programs around the world do not have such exams (i.e., the process from the get-go is... the dissertation).

When I describe the process, those who have gone through it give me that 'knowing look' like the "ohhh... comps," and offer sympathetic nods and advice for getting through it. Others who have not gone through it (yet) tend to react with awe and say things like, "That's a major thing that kept me from doing a doctorate" or "Wow... it sounds so involved...". Others who do not have to go through it altogether (like my Aussie or European or Asian PhD friends).... just tend to point and laugh.

My process: in a uber simplified nutshell, I derive from coursework, past reads, and advisors a list of 30-40 sources in two areas (total: 60-80 sources). During a semester... or two... I master the readings on this list and then I get 'examined.' This entails my committee sending me a list of questions from which I must choose four to answer (each, an approximately 3000 word essay). I will have a week to write these answers. Then, the committee holds a defense where I give a talk on my answers and do a question/answer round akin to a thesis defense.
The process is pass/fail, and upon achieving a pass on the comprehensive exams, the candidate is formally 'raised' to full candidacy. After this 2/3 completion mark in the program, one can 'start' working on their prospectus (a 20-25 page thesis proposal) for their dissertation, get that approved, and finally 'start' working on the dissertation.

So, this is my final month in this process before I do my week of hell--I mean, writing. I'm missing November conferences I'd really like to go to like the American Anthropological Association's meeting in DC, the National Communication Association annual and the Media Culture and Industry in Asia conference in Korea. Shout outs to colleagues going to those... I wistfully send regrets. It's never a 'good' time for comps, I suppose...:)

In the meantime, I'm not sure how much of my half-baked syntheses I can blog about during this month, so things might look a bit sparse (as if they haven't already. ha...) or things might look mundane because I decided to blog about a really good procrastination activity... get the picture. These meta-ideas I'm playing with will coalesce through adversity as they always seem to. Things will look better in mid-December. I'll come up for air... talk to more friends again... etc. Honest.

It will be a Happy Holiday indeed in December once the comps are done. I'll probably get a vestigial wisdom tooth out during that time too (because that's as good a time as any).

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