Saturday, September 25, 2004

bell questions

1. How can a post-industrial society exist as a seperate entity at the national/state scale, when it uses resources from other pre-industrial and labor from other pre-industrial and industrial societies? Is our national economy still distinct or is it dependent on other national economies? How can post-industrial society be defined at national/state scale when the economy apparently transcend these very boundaries (by being dependent on the resources of other societies)?

2. Why has Bell's terminology of the "post-industrial society" become so well known when the point of his book, the growing sector of technology labor and its forcasted implications, has remained largely ignored/invisible by other social sceintists?

3. On page 75 Bell states that in a industrial society, "there is a separation of the economic system from the family system. Is there a seperation between work and home in a post-industrial society, as our homes and persons become increasingly wired?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Post 2, second try

Notes on Daniels:

p. 117: for our benefit, we need a "classic" definition of productivity, since the reality of the concept is one of the contested areas in labor relations.

118: ICT makes the work place, especially for proletarianized workers, more like a play place; yes, I and my faculty colleagues tended to relieve stress by shopping online, especially late in the afternoon.

Is there a causal link between new information technology and labor market deregulation, or is the new technology just an excuse for deregulation that is motivated by political goals?

Table 3, p. 124: 5.37% of US population being enrolled in tertiary education is still not much, but for some reason we don't regard this as an industry that should be allowed to grow. This connects to the table of shifting jargon below: right-sizing is not a joke, the term has a political history in academia.

p. 126, figure 6: why so many job cuts in Telecommunications in UK in 2001--increased automation?

Concept of foreign direct investment (FDI) needs to be fleshed out.

p. 128: what is "prudential supervision"?

p. 129: "just-in-time" systems are what?

p. 130: following on the question of whether or not there is equilibrium between economic activity and employment in developed economies, can we identify a date when equilibrium of this kind existed in the US economy? (I would propose ca. 1958.)

p. 133: "A select subset of very high order service functions may still hanker after the accessibility or face-to-face contact opportunities of a downtown location; for everybody else telephone and video-conferencing for example, will be more than adequate substitutes."--in other words, elite business will still be done in the old-fashioned way, through quasi-informal contacts, while the bulk of functions will be routinized and pushed offstage. In Zweizig's Management class (654) in 1999, we learned that high-level decisions, i.e., at the CEO or presidential level, are still made based on verbally-conveyed information from a handful of close advisors or confidants, thus defeating the purpose of ICT--instantaneous delivery of accurate information to decision-takers. Ultimate leaders only act supported by trusted intimates who can filter raw information and validate decisions.

About "Robots": I have an anecdote about robots in the Silicon valley ca. 1977 to share in class.

"American Prosperity Myth":Article seems to avoid pointing out that the current economy is paid for by excessive consumption combined with low rates of personal saving.

Bush/Cheney and their core supporters are more mercantilist than capitalist--take example of Wal-Mart profits, based more on control over underserved workers and a vacuum in the marketplace than productivity--similarly, the administration plan for the economy is to secure control over resources, not to produce more with what's available--production being too costly and tending to lead to demand for workers at higher wages. Note end of article: "the injunction is to sweat assets rather than be creative."

jjg 27 September questions

1. Three related questions:

a. What can we infer from "Coming of post-industrial society" about Bell's political leanings, educational background, and career path, and how does this personal context shape his conclusions?

b. Are Bell's forecasts convincing based on the evidence he presents, or is he presenting a personal utopia?

c. Who (as a political grouping) is Bell anxious to refute in the process of forecasting?

2. Who are the winners and who are the losers in Bell's projection of the post-industrial society?

3. How does the self-styled Conservative movement of the last twenty-five years fit into Bell's agenda? Why isn't the corporation "subordinate" in 2004?

Questions, Daniel Bell

  1. How does the notion of "intellectual property" affect Bell's Chapter 6 claim that we are moving away from a system based on private control of property? Is it really who's holding onto the property that's changing (as Bell asserts), or is it what "property" is being held? Or both?

  2. "Clearly, when there is a change in the nature of the system, new groups come to power." This strikes me as a fundamental claim in the book, and frankly, I don't believe it; the New Overlords look an awful lot like the Old Overlords if you're female, non-white, or poor. What is there about the reproduction of social class through generations that Bell doesn't account for?

  3. There have been significant attacks on the notion of "rationality" in human psychology and sociology in the past five to ten years or so, from Tversky and Kahneman's Nobel-prize-winning lambasting of homo economicus (short summary: we don't always make the objectively "rational" economic choice for a variety of reasons), to the emergent-behavior and tipping-point models of idea diffusion, to the notion of quick-and-dirty "heuristics" rather than ponderously meticulous examination of options as a basis for decision-making. What do these challenges mean for Bell's assertions about the destiny of the rational technocrat?

"Committee blocks minimum wage increase" (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Saying an increase in the minimum wage would threaten small businesses and Wisconsin's fragile economic recovery, Republican legislators Thursday blocked Gov. Jim Doyle's plan to raise the $5.15-per-hour minimum wage to $6.50 over the next year.

Ideas on how this relates to "information labor"?

JS Online: Committee blocks minimum wage increase

Thursday, September 23, 2004

bell questions

1. When Bell talks about the diffusion of technology, the job seems to be in the hands of the bureaucracy, both corporate and political. Where's the little guy in all of this, the invisible labor? Is there room for individual agency in the process of diffusion?

2. Bell hints at a changing class structure as a result of the shifting social structure, positing scientists and professional technical workers as a potential new ruling class and education as the basis of social mobility. At the same time, Bell undervalues the power, prestige, and status that come with wealth, providing the examples that wealth doesn't lead to prestige and political power doesn't guarantee wealth. However, it seems that we're no closer to post-capitalism than we were when the book was published and the class system seems as inflexible and influential as ever. Much of Bell's forecasting has proven shockingly accurate. However, I would suggest that when Bell's forecasts were off base, they were off base because he neglected to acknowledge the strength and resilience of class structure in America.

I'm boiling any weaknesses in his forecasting primarily down to this one thing and wondering whether this is simplistic, controversial, or just a big old 'duh.' Whaddya think?

3. In Bell's post-industrial society, scientists outweigh even the other professional/technical elites in terms of importance, and even in status. In the conclusion, however, he admits that it is "not the power to say 'yes' or 'no' which is where real power lies." What are some ways this group (I hesitate to call them a class) might infiltrate the bureacracy to get that power? Is that a desired part of their group's role? Would science and technology benefit or suffer from such a shift of power?

Monday, September 20, 2004

questions for 9.20

There are already so many questions posted that interest me, but will go ahead with mine, just for the record.

Definitional: What are ‘symbolic analysts?’ (226)

Is increasinging individualization of labor necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t there connotations of autonomy and self-expression here? No longer a cog in the machine?

What happens without labor movements? Are they an absolute and necessary good?

Why does the innovation get all the attention? In the words of my friend John, is it a ‘gadgety guy-thing’?

pat's intro

Hello all,

Since I will be joining you tonight for class, I think it's time to introduce myself.

I am itinerant doctoral student, yes, I have been at this for quite some time, embarrassingly so. I'll spare you the details of my student career, but will say that if I had scurried rather than strolled through this program, I would now be on sabbatical. Instead, I am scurrying to write my dissertation. Which takes me to the reason for being in this class.

I have been teaching Info Org courses at the University of Illinois since Fall 2000, and have enjoyed every minute of it. But one can only be 'Visiting' for so long. Since being at Illinois, I have heard countless conversations about designing progams centered on "Digital Libraries" and have more often than not been stunned by the proposed courses. Mathematics, algorithms, in short, what looks much more like a CS than an LIS degree.

For the last ten years, there has been a tremendous amount of money and energy invested in creating digital libraries. Infrastructure and getting things to work and developing new tools have, rightly so (arguably) been the main object of grant monies. Now, the funding pendulum is swinging towards preservation and use. What I have yet to see much of, though, is discussion of the nature of the work for digital librarians, or, 'digital era librarians.' Indiana just received an IMLS grant that includes a needs assessment for digital librarianship, this is encouraging.

My research will examine the nature of the work, the context, the values, and perspectives of the LIS digital librarian. Via case studies, I hope to discover these aspects of digital librarianship, and with this, contribute to the design of relevant LIS programs.

Thank you all in advance for letting me join in your conversations.

See you tonight.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

More Questions...

Greetings fellow 810 laborers!

Or are we? This is my first question, one that applies not only to this text but to the course as a whole. How do we define labor and who do we name laborers? What is explicit and implicit in the use of these terms? How do those who call themselves laborers or see themselves part of a 'labor group' claim ownership of these terms and use them to exert agency?

ok, second question. pp. 243-244 and the gendered labor forces, education, etc. Historically, my area within English departments, that of composition studies, is seen as the feminized field. Teaching composition is more labor intensive than teaching literature and, earlier in the last century, these labor-intensive (and thus undesirable) jobs went to women and part time faculty(who were often women). I'm not sure where my little questionless ramble is going - perhaps that is because I wanted to read more about this point in the essay. Perhaps because of the essay's function as an end-of-the-book commentary it must be a briefly made point. I guess my question, if it is one, is that aside from instinctual knowledge and bits of knowledge about this topic accumulated from other areas, I am not entirely clear how it is functioning within info tech labor. Anyone care to clarify this for me?

And now I need a third question - Whatever shall it be....

Just what information technology labor 'is' appears to be somewhat nebulous (see pages 240-242). At what point does information technology labor merge with other forms of labor? and why or why doesn't this matter? Are we all laborers in an information economy?

ok, a fourth question - how are we defining revolution? What constitutes a revolution? And why does it matter if it is a 'revolution' or not?

I seem to be leaning towards the semantics of all of this tonight. Fear not, it won't always be this way.

Sorry this came out so late in the evening - I really would keep vampire hours if I thought I could get away with it.


Post three: questions for discussion, 20 September

1. What is a "unit of analysis"? How is this concept relevant to terms as broad as "technology" or "information"? Is the notion of objective analysis useful for subjective, ideologically-driven, non-quantitative studies, or is this just a metaphor?

2. What are CERN and NCSA?

3. From Downey p. 235: Shoshana Zuboff says that IT produces a "voice" which changes the language of the workplace so that workers think and feel differently. Whose voice is it? Is it new information, or does it drown out the possibility of creating new information? And what about the workers' voice?

4. Since 2. is not really a discussion question: Downey p. 246: how might the corporate history of McDonald's help to predict the future of Wal-Mart?