30 October 2007

Seeking One More Organization

The response to my first call for participants has been great. I have one organization officially signed up with interviews to begin this week, and one other that (according to little whispers) has the organization approval form winging its way to me via post as we, err..., blog. And two others are in the final stages of organizational approval. Among these four, I have a government organization, a large multinational corporation, a web-based start-up company, and a medium-size enterprise that is in the process of transitioning from having been a truly BAH organization to a more valence-y, collaborative organization.

I'm looking for one more organization, and the type is pretty specific. I am seeking an organization that is in the realm of primarily volunteer, not-for-profit, or charitable, and arts-, religious-, or spiritual-based. Something that doesn't obviously look or feel like a corporation, noting that many not-for-profit, charitable organizations look very much like corporations. I would want it to have a sufficient number of involved people so that it's large enough to experience some semblance of what might be called organizational dynamics. Of course, some of these involved people (three or four) would have to be willing to participate in interviews, although strict anonymity will be maintained, unless both the organization and the participants agree to have their identities revealed.

Do you belong to such an organization? Do you know someone who does that might be interested in participating in my exploration of the future of organization? If so, please contact me and I'll be happy to provide more information, with no obligation.

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25 October 2007

Getting Juiced this Weekend

As many of you know, much of what I do involves making what is invisible - unnoticed, and generally unperceived - visible. "Creating environments and experiences that enable awareness" is how I'm characterizing it lately. This weekend, I've been invited to participate in an event that has that particular idea - making the invisible visible - as its theme. The Ontario College of Art and Design is hosting Juice 2: A forum for ideas this Thursday and Friday evening, and all day Saturday. I'm speaking on Saturday morning, just before noon, and I plan to talk about my Valence Theory of Organization. I expect that I'll also be facilitating at least one of the dialogues through the day as well. So, if you're in town and want some smörgåsbord for thought, drop by OCAD and say hello.

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23 October 2007

Mayor Miller: "Le Cité, C'est Moi!"

David Miller's controversial tax proposal passed Toronto City Council yesterday by a wide margin. Yes, the city needs more revenue, and yes, Toronto is, unavoidably, an expensive place to live and do business. But perhaps more important, Toronto needs some transparency and accountability for its spending and contracting. Miller's so-called strong mayoralty is changing him from the new-broom man of the people to an image more congruent with an arrogant monarch. Sort of a Mel Lastman with better hair. And taller. Royson James of The Star observes:
Citizens have said repeatedly over the past three months that they want city councillors to cut perks and office budgets and impose some in-house belt-tightening before imposing new and higher taxes.

But yesterday, all motions recommending this were consistently ruled out of order, preventing them from getting to a vote. Stunningly, the mayor's most passionate moment came in defending the perks, calling attempts to cut them "offensive. To call the things like their office budget, which allows them to communicate with people, (a perk) is really unworthy of any member of council," he said.
Attempts to cut perks are offensive, Mr. Mayor? What is offensive is the lack of independent accountability.

What we need is an arm's-length officer to serve the role of an Auditor General, much like Sylvia Fraser in Ottawa. At the federal level, the Auditor General is an officer of Parliament. That model doesn't quite work at the municipal level, I think. The strong mayor model means that, effectively, having an officer reporting to council means having said officer report to the Mayor and his cabinet. Amending the City of Toronto Act, an act of the provincial legislature, to appoint an Auditor General as a provincial officer might attract cries of partisan politics. It is, I think, the only way to ensure sufficient transparency on Le Roi de Balai (King Broom) and his reign.

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10 October 2007

This is Fucking Brilliant

Notably, it is not brilliant fucking:
The first is the bone of contention in the Bono brouhaha: the syntactic classification of curse words. Ose's grammatically illiterate bill not only misspelled cocksucker, motherfucker, and asshole, and misidentified them as "phrases," it didn't even close the loophole that it had targeted. The Clean Airwaves Act assumed that fucking is a participial adjective. But this is not correct. With a true adjective like lazy, you can alternate between Drown the lazy cat and Drown the cat which is lazy. But Drown the fucking cat is certainly not interchangeable with Drown the cat which is fucking.

If the fucking in fucking brilliant is to be assigned a traditional part of speech, it would be adverb, because it modifies an adjective and only adverbs can do that, as in truly bad, very nice, and really big. Yet "adverb" is the one grammatical category that Ose forgot to include in his list! As it happens, most expletives aren't genuine adverbs, either. One study notes that, while you can say That's too fucking bad, you can't say That's too very bad. Also, as linguist Geoffrey Nunberg pointed out, while you can imagine the dialogue How brilliant was it? Very, you would never hear the dialogue How brilliant was it? Fucking.
Here is the generative... no. Fornicating... not quite. Making love... nope. Frakking! link. (And the use of "frak" in Battlestar Galactica is a fascinating example of that unique brand of puritanism that is the Excited States of America.

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The Tao of Thesis

I am giving a graduate seminar today at noon, on behalf of the Graduate Students Association here at OISE. The topic is nominally on graduate supervision - the whys and wherefores of being a thesis student and working with a supervisor. As I contemplated the topic, I quickly realized that being a so-called supervisee is entirely about how one locates oneself in the thesis process in its entirety. Considered as a state of being, rather than an instrumental relationship, casts the supervisor-supervisee interaction in a new, and I think somewhat more holistic light. This led me to conceive the theme for the lunchtime seminar, and to create a short piece entitled "The Tao of Thesis" that reflects on Knowing Yourself, Knowing Your Mentor, and Knowing Your Committee.

If you find it useful, either as a thesis candidate or a supervising professor, please help yourself.

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06 October 2007

Investigative Journalism Retrieved

Sidney Blumenthal has an article in openDemocracy concerning the wrongful dismissal lawsuit that Dan Rather has just launched against CBS. As Blumenthal astutely points out, the message of this lawsuit is less about Rather's personal vindication (and any monetary vengeance he might ultimately exact from his former employer), and more about discovering the truth of historical details that are at the centre of Rather's firing. Moreover, the facts of the case reveal the unhealthily close ties between the Bush White House and the major mass media outlets. Indeed, even a search of Google News for "rather wrongful dismissal cbs" returns only 6 hits - most of the major outlets are notably ignoring this story (but the bloggers are not). It must be big! As Blumenthal points out,
If the court accepts his suit, however, launching the adjudication of legal issues such as breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference with contract, it will set in motion an inexorable mechanism that will grind out answers to other questions as well. Then Rather's suit will become an extraordinary commission of inquiry into a major news organisation's intimidation, complicity and corruption under the Bush administration. No congressional committee would be able to penetrate into the sanctum of any news organisation to divulge its inner workings. But intent on vindicating his reputation, capable of financing an expensive legal challenge, and armed with the power of subpoena, Rather will charge his attorneys to interrogate news executives and perhaps administration officials under oath on a secret and sordid chapter of the Bush presidency.
After relating the history of the case, including the allegations that Dan Rather broadcast about Bush's military record, his behaviour in the Texas Air National Guard, and the extreme lengths that CBS executives went to in order to kill the story, Blumenthal observes how the newsmedia - that putative fourth estate of government that is supposed to watch the other three - has instead become the handmaiden of the Administration - not quite a Ministry of Propaganda, but most certainly a Ministry of Propagating the Government's Agenda.
Rather stood for the remnants of CBS's tradition of speaking truth to power, as Edward R Murrow did finally about Senator Joseph McCarthy and Walter Cronkite did finally about the Vietnam war and Watergate. The corporate unease with Murrow's outspokenness, leading to the cancellation of his weekly programme, See It Now (depicted in the recent film Good Night, and Good Luck), was little different from the unease with Rather a half-century later. At last, the corporation's necessity for demonising Rather coincided with the long-standing conservative demonising.

When CBS replaced the edgy Rather with the sugary Katie Couric as anchor of the Evening News, it imagined it had solved its problem, its "errors". The news would get softer, the Republicans in control of the White House and Congress would be nicer, Viacom would grab more media, and ratings would climb. Thus, dismissing Rather would yield untold dividends. Unfortunately for CBS's visionaries, none of that has worked out as planned. Couric simply lacks basic journalistic instincts and skills, and the CBS Evening News is at rock-bottom in ratings and sinking farther.
In launching the lawsuit, Dan Rather returns to his roots as an investigative journalist, in the proud tradition of his forebears, Murrow and Cronkite. For Rather, the challenge that lies ahead is itself a reversal of what has been the news tradition: instead of shedding light on important issues, contemporary mass newsmedia often promote ignorance - literally ignore-ance, hoping that the easily distracted public will look away and ignore what actually affects their way of life.

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05 October 2007

CAAPN, and How Do We Know?

Yesterday I had the privilege of opening the 2007 conference of the Canadian Association of Advanced Practice Nurses. I offered my talk, How Do We Know: The changing culture of knowledge, as the keynote, which met with a wonderful reception among the attendees. I also enjoyed a number of interesting conversations with many of the participants, so if you were one of the people who took the time to share your experiences with me, many thanks!

The references in which people were most interested are contained in the paper version of my talk, which is, of course, downloadable. (A somewhat longer, slightly more in-depth history of knowledge and its implications for contemporary education is Why Johnny and Janey Can't Read, and Why Mr. and Ms. Smith Can't Teach.) For those who do want a quick reference to the references, here they are:
  • Charmaz, K. (2000). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 509-35). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Charmaz, K. (2004). Premises, principles, and practices in qualitative research: Revisiting the foundations. Qualitative Health Research, 14(7), 976-993.
  • Crum, A., & Langer, E. (2007). Mindset matters: Exercise and the placebo effect. Psychological Science, 18(2), 165-171.
  • Foster, A. (2004). A non-linear model of information-seeking behavior. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 55(3), 228-237.
  • Ioannidis, J. P. A. (2005). Why most published research findings are false. Public Library of Science - Medicine, 2(8).
  • Ioannidis, J. P. A. (2005). Contradicted and initially stronger effects in highly cited clinical research. Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(2), 218-228.
And, of course, Kathy Charmaz has an extensive bibliography covering both her primary subject matter, those with chronic pain and disability, as well as qualitative ethnographic inquiry. Many thanks to the organizers of CAAPN 2007 for the invitation.

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