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Por nettizen - 20 de Diciembre, 2005, 1:04, Categoría: para leer

"Take a look at your bookshelf. What do you see? Bindings, titles, paperbacks ...? No, I said take a look at the shelf. The furniture not the contents. It is not something I'd paid much attention to, but after reading The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski, I'm looking at the lines of steel and wood with new eyes. [...]

[...] So finally, in the 17th century, we've arrived at the bookshelf as we recognise it. But it isn't, Petroski makes clear, in any way inevitable. It is a wonderful lesson in the ways in which we think practices that are "natural", "obvious" and "the only way to do things" often aren't.

You sometimes feel that Petroski is living in another world - "modern" and "hat box" is not a phrase I'd be likely to form (don't think I've ever seen a hat box), and sometimes he gets bogged down in rambling philosophical debates, such as that about "which came first" of the standing or the sitting lectern. But this is a fascinating book, the product of a truly original mind. If you consider yourself a bibliophile, you should have it on your shelves."

de la reseña de Natalie Bennett al libro de Henry Petroski: The Book on the Bookshelf.


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Por nettizen - 10 de Diciembre, 2005, 23:26, Categoría: para leer

Reseña del libro What has Government done to our Money? Murray N. Rothbard (obviamente también sería recomendable su lectura :) Sore Spots to Watch Abound in the US Economy: J.C. Ernharth. ¿Preocupaciones "económicas" para los próximos años en los EE.UU.? O ¿Quién dijo miedo? Según Ernharth el listado actual sería...

1. Massive National Debt ($8 Trillion equals $25,000 per citizen, old and young)
2. Off balance-sheet unfunded Federal obligations (Takes the obligation figure above to $100,000 per citizen, according to the Comptroller General of the United States)
3. Politicians that can't say "no" or "budget cut" = massive ongoing budget deficits.
4. Energy Inflation ($60 oil from $13 in 1998-9) will cut disposable income.
5. Real Estate post bubble uncertainty re price valuations (will slow home equity extraction and subsequent spending, and squeeze speculative home investors)
6. Interest-rate-dependent economic expansion: What happens when rates rise above these historic below average lows? (Low rates encourage expansion, tightening rates encourage recessions.)
7. Adjustable and interest only mortgages: what will rising rates do to hit disposable income when the teaser rates end?
8. Global trade imbalance: US accounts for 70% of world's external deficits, requiring massive lending from foreigners - overly dependent on the U.S. consumption miracle.
9. China Boom vs. Slowdown - excess capacity could lead to even more deflationary pressure for U.S. business.
10. American Consumer in a weak state, and likely to back off discretionary spending:
* Lacking income growth support (Stagnant wages -- -wages increasing slower than inflation over past few years).
* Savings short
* Overly-indebted (consumer debt to GDP at record levels)
* Asset growth dependent (the $600 billion "home equity ATM")
11. Rule 101 for wealth: Don't spend more than you earn indefinitely. We've seem to think that no longer applies.
12. Rule 102 for wealth: With debt you have three choices:
* Pay it down (at the expense of consumption/ economic growth);
* Default on it;
* Pay it off with cheaper dollars by printing money / inflation.
13. Money Supply Expansion - While talking tough on inflation via rates, the Fed continues to bloat money supply (13% alone in the three months ending October 2005). Why else are energy, commodity and asset prices rising so much?
14. Major U.S. industries have pre-sold their future, ala automotive industry special discounts and financing...
15. The looming pension default crisis: Many large pensions are underfunded by well over $450 billion dollars. Pensions are insured by the PBGC - already $23 billion in the red, and facing potential defaults from giants like Delphi and GM.
16. The Petro-Dollar Recycling paradigm started in the 1970s could be sharply reduced, causing a decline in the dollar's parity.
17. P/E ratios in the equity markets richly valued on 2004 earnings that may not be sustainable because of an economy heavily dependent on asset inflation and debt.
18. Consumer spending contraction: recessions reverberate more dramatically the worse the consumer's balance sheet is as consumers restore themselves to fiscal health.
19. Dependence on the kindness of strangers: Foreigners finance massive amounts of our debt, and by inference, hold our bond markets in their hands. What happens if they diversify? (Central Bank diversification away from the dollar may explain the most recent run-up in gold!)
20. The Derivatives Market: Warren Buffet refers to derivatives as "Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction" due to their complexity and capacity to shake the foundations of the system in domino fashion, ala Long Term Capital Management in 1999.
21. Global Labor Arbitrage (to quote Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley), where U.S. labor cannot compete with the ultra-cheap infrastructure-enabled emerging markets. This pressure is moving from manufacturing jobs into the once thought impervious service sector jobs.
22. Global Efficiency Arbitrage: Adding to Roaches premise above, the complexity of doing business in the U.S., with our hyper-overregulated environment, gives many steps up to foreign competition at the expense of U.S. business and workers.
23. Gravitation towards trade barriers: Many issues noted above could involve politician-pimped populist quick-fixes that protect a few people's jobs by blaming external factors vs. addressing needed internal reform. This places extra pressures this places on cash-strapped consumers and their ability to sustain our consumption driven economy.

No se pierdan los comentarios!

[actualizo: 15-12-2005]

What Lies Ahead for the U.S. Economy in 2006 en Knowledge@Wharton

"The economic growth that the United States enjoyed in 2005 will continue in 2006, as stronger business investment begins to pick up the slack on the part of consumers who will curtail the white-hot spending that has been a key factor in propelling the economy, according to Wharton faculty members and private-sector economists.
In addition, oil prices will remain high in 2006, but not much higher than they are now, the residential real estate boom will cool and American workers will be forced to deal with a volatile employment market, these experts say.
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Por nettizen - 20 de Noviembre, 2005, 23:47, Categoría: para leer

Estoy a punto de terminar la lectura del libro Qué es la antropología de Marc Augé y Jean Paul Colleyn (Paidós, 2005) y no puedo esperar más para recomendar arduamente su lectura porque además de su brevedad, su claridad expositiva es impresionante, posiblemente sea uno de los mejores libro introductorios a la antropología que he leído :)

Dicho esto, también me gustaría apuntar una interesante reseña (Ethnography for all? Book Review) sobre el libro Ethnography for Marketers  de Hy Mariampolski (SAGE, 2005) que he leído en Ideas Bazaar en la que se aborda el papel de los antropólogos y etnógrafos en las empresas y parece que el balance no es muy halagüeño. Para Simon Roberts (autor de la susodicha reseña) se podría plantear que desde una perspectiva académica, en la actividad empresarial se pierden demasiados matices del trabajo de la antropología/etnografía, o dicho de otra manera, sólo el trabajo de campo y su praxis y gestión es lo que importa -esto es, la investigación etnográfica en detrimento de la reflexión antropológica,

"The bulk of the book is a "How to", which outlines, often in relentless detail, how an ethnography project is set up, managed and conducted. For seasoned researchers who want to include ethnographic research within their portfolio, a significant proportion of the central sections of the book will be very useful (e.g. the observation guides and respondent orientation) and others fairly self-evident (e.g. recruitment)."

más claro en estos pasajes,

"This focus on the practical and logistical is understandable but it betrays a common confusion as to what ethnography is, its roots and how this informs what we do as researchers and what we give our clients. Mariampolski seems to be writing about one aspect of ethnography, the act of doing fieldwork, focusing almost exclusively on being in the field.

Ethnography, however, is as much about interpretation, the post-fieldwork-fieldwork, as it is conducting participant observation. Ethnographers can draw on a wide body of literature, concepts and intellectual tools that allow them to make sense of their experiences. It is the "making sense" that is the productive, valuable activity and what clients pay researchers to do.

To focus so strongly on the fieldwork seems to me to reveal the dynamics of the market research industry itself: namely "fetishise" the method, commodify it and then sell it by the unit. Ethnography offers the opportunity to sell thinking not research, but this book offers little in the way of insight into how to think ethnographically. Indeed, the "Observation/ Debriefing notes" (p.233-4) reveal little that I wouldn"t expect to glean from doing groups, underlining the fact that there is a critical difference between doing ethnographic research and writing or thinking ethnographically."

Y finalmente Simon remata la faena en los siguientes párrafos,

"The emergence of disagreements about what ethnography is and who can do it is a sure sign that it has reached the status of orthodoxy within market research. My own reading of this book is, itself, a reflection of my own academic and professional biases and presuppositions (I"m an anthropologist).

This book will undoubtedly find a niche, appealing to those wanting to know more about ethnography and how to do it (the fieldwork, that is). I would, however, end by making one polemical point. Mariampolski refers throughout to "consumers": that breed of people who seemingly do nothing but clean their stoves, prepare meals and make brand-driven decisions.

One promise of ethnography is that it can restore some of the intricacies, contradictions and subjectivity that most market research narratives seem intent on obscuring. If ethnography is about one thing it"s about recognising that people are more than just consumers; their lives are more multi-faceted. If we"re going to understand people on their terms then let"s ditch our language and start adopting theirs."

En suma, la tensión entre "mundos sociales" configuradores de realidad y los métodos para aproximarnos a ellos y los resultados de los mismos.

Y por último y para terminar esta entrada qué mejor que unas gotas de "realidad". Primera celebración de la Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (organizada por etnógrafos de Intel y Microsoft). Noticia del acontecimiento en Technology Review, Corporate Ethnography y seguimiento de la misma en el blog de Dina Mehta (aquí (16/11), aquí (15/11) y aquí (14/11)).


ps.- no perderse esta curiosa pero interesantísima entrada Anthropology of trash: An anthropologist as garbge collector.

[actualizo -22-11-06-] Acabo de encontrar esta referencia ( A brief hiatus from my hiatus to try to make sense of things) en el que se se siguen dando vueltas al asunto de la antropología/etnografía corporativa. A reseñar, la referencia a Lucy Suchman con esta/su cita:

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Por nettizen - 20 de Noviembre, 2005, 9:12, Categoría: para leer

Qué se puede esperar de un artículo que comienza con este párrafo,

"The difference between ideas and things is obvious as soon as
someone hits you over the head with an idea - so obvious that
until recently it was entirely clear to the law. Things could
have owners and ideas could not. Yet this simple distinction is
being changed all around us. Ideas are increasingly treated as
property - as things that have owners who may decide who gets to
use them and on what terms."

Y finaliza con este otro,

"This is madness. Ideas aren't things. They're much more valuable
than that. Intellectual property - treating some ideas as if they
were in some circumstances things that can be owned and traded -
is itself no more than an idea that can be copied, modified and
improved. It is this process of freely copying them and changing
them that has given us the world of material abundance in which
we live. If our ideas of intellectual property are wrong, we must
change them, improve them and return them to their original
purpose. When intellectual property rules diminish the supply of
new ideas, they steal from all of us."


Owning ideas. The boom in the intellectual property market will not reap rewards for us all (Andrew Brown) [The Guardian]


ps.- posiblemente todo esto de la "propiedad intelectual" en los tiempos presentes pueda resumirse en estos comentarios de David Bollier (Property Rights in the Networked Environment: Something's Gotta Give):

"For me, the Sony BMG debacle and the founding of the Open Invention Network suggest that conventional notions of property are highly problematic in the networked environment. But it"s hard to let go of established prejudices, especially when they have the weight of habit and marketplace advantage. Still, it"s time to face up to the truth that "intellectual property" law is a philosophically incoherent and politically rigged mess. For those who are grownup enough to recognize the on-the-ground realities, the commons is a more apt and even compelling paradigm. It"s time to upgrade our mental and cultural software."

  1. Para el asunto Sony BMG léase El rootkit del DRM de Sony: la verdadera historia
  2. Para la iniciativa Open Invention Network léase Cinco grandes compran patentes para el software libre

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Por nettizen - 18 de Noviembre, 2005, 19:52, Categoría: para leer

Breve pero interesante e intensa lectura, What's Hurting the Middle Class: The myth of overspending obscures the real problem de Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, sobre el mito del excesivo consumo, las bancarrotas familiares y la situación de la clase media norteamericana. Fascinante la correlación entre el precio de la vivienda, la calidad de la escuela pública a la que enviar a los hijos y el futuro y educación de estos (terrible el asunto de los seguros de salud, mejor dicho, el cada vez mayor número de familias que no disponen de tal seguro o la reducción drástica del dinero dedicado a los seguros de jubilación). Asimismo, resultan muy inquietantes las maniobras políticas e ideológicas de determinados lobbys (entidades de crédito y emisores de formas de pago crediticias) y políticos para "responsabilizar" a individuos particulares de un asunto "societal".

Un par de citas,

"The over-consumption myth may be little more than a fairy tale, but it has the power to maroon families—both emotionally and financially—just when they most need support. And it has the power to distract attention from people"s real vulnerabilities. Changes are needed to increase the safety of the middle class; even modest ones could make a big difference. But change requires a consensus that something is wrong. So long as Americans can be persuaded that families in financial trouble have only themselves to blame, there will be no demand to change anything. If we are to get on with the difficult business of protecting middle-class families, the over-consumption myth must be laid to rest for good."

Y el párrafo -demoledor- con el concluye el artículo,

"This year another million and a half families will file for bankruptcy, and mortgage foreclosures are already hitting record numbers across the country. When George W. Bush signed the bankruptcy bill into law earlier this year, he made clear his vision that whatever troubles face American families, it is their own fault, and his plan is to punish them. America"s middle class deserves better."


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Por nettizen - 13 de Noviembre, 2005, 21:58, Categoría: para leer
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