We're reading the Scottish play.
We have to. For school
And Mr. Ledingham said, "do research."
And Lenea said, "he means, like, England."
And I said, "that's not Scotland."
She said, "same difference."
We googled "Macbeth" and "ghosts," because you know, [shiver], right? And this came up.
F. W. Moorman
The Modern Language Review
Vol. 1, No. 3 (Apr., 1906), pp. 192-201
But we could only read the first page because of something called Jstor.
Then we found:
On Elizabethan "Credulity": With Some Questions Concerning the Use of the Marvelous in Literature
Journal of the History of Ideas
Vol. 1, No. 2 (Apr., 1940), pp. 151-176
But we got another Jstor.
That's how it went most of the day and now it's a joke.
When Mr. Ledingham confiscates something, someone says "Jstor!"
Someone shuts you down in the cafeteria? Jstor!
Our Ti-cats shut down the most potent running game in the south, the crowd roars "Jstor!"
Just at the moment when we should celebrate the technology that makes knowledge freely available to curious 15 year olds in Mobile, Alabama, we are asked instead to endure the unjust and unreasonable tax on knowledge called Jstor.
Here's a piece I posted on this blog in 2008.
Has this ever happened to you? You are hot on the trail of exactly the article you need to complete a thought, a post, perhaps a book, and, oh no!, you hit the red light from JSTOR.
Chances are you have. As of June 2007, the JSTORE database contained 729 journal titlesand over 165,000 individual journal issues, totaling over 23 million pages of text
JSTOR (short for Journal Storage) is a United States-based online system for archiving academic journals, founded in 1995. It provides full-text searches of digitized back issues of several hundred well-known journals, dating back to 1665 in the case of the Philosophical Transactions.
JSTOR was originally funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, but is now an independent, self-sustaining, not-for-profit organization with offices in New York City and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
But I say, this stuff is bought and paid for. It is time to release it into the public domain. Surely, there is a university server somewhere that would assume the costs. Google, I am quite sure, would be willing to shoulder the burden.
The fact of the matter is JSTOR is holding precious resources captive to sustain itself…and its ability to hold precious resources captive. This content was created by academics funded by not-for-profit institutions. JSTOR is not reinvesting revenue in academic production. It is, as I say, now self sustaining in the worst sense of the term.
JSTOR is taxing public knowledge in order to sustain its ability to block access to public knowledge.
Time to let go.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Aaron Swartz.
We should do something to keep Aaron's fight going. Please drop me a line, if you know of anything.
Please come have a look at my post at Wired. Click here.
Wired did a great job editing as they always do. But some small differences emerge in the process. I append my original wording below. As you will see, the Wired version is better, much better. (Still learning after all this blogging.)
Why ritual rehabilitation will not work for Lance Armstrong
Celebrities serve at our pleasure. We make them. We break them. We lift them up again.
We are prepared to endow the celebrity with riches, fame and glory beyond the hope of any ordinary mortal. But the moment we are done with them, we are done with them. (If it pleases the court: Andrew Shue, Peter Fonda, Josh Harnett, Loretta Swit, Judd Nelson, Karyn Parsons, Lea Thompson.)
Some celebrities remove themselves from grace by their own hand: shop lifting, drug abuse, domestic violence, endless court appearances, bad behavior of one kind or another.
But, noblesse oblige, we are prepared to be generous. Under the correct ritual circumstances, we will restore the celebrity to glory.
First, the celebrity must flame out and fall low.
Second, we insist on self abasement. The celebrity can’t just look humiliated. They have to say they are humiliated. In the ritual of rehabilitation, there can be no doubt that the celebrity understands 1. how far they have fallen and 2. how much they need us.
We won’t return the celebrity to favor unless our status as favor-maker is itself renewed. In a vulgar turn of phrase, before we return these people to the status of a God, we like to make it absolutely clear that we are in fact the boss. These gods, they depend on us.
In the case of Lance Armstrong, the ritual of rehabilitation is tested to its limit. He misbehaved so profoundly. He lied so often. He corrupted team mates and a sport. He fell so swiftly and so far that his might be the limiting case, proof that there are some falls from which people just don’t come back.
He performed credibly last night on Oprah. He rolled out the sincerity. He looked Oprah and the nation in the eye. He abased himself with something like artistry. No special pleading. No presumption that we would forgive him. The important thing: he made it perfectly clear that he serves at our pleasure, that he is nothing without us.
Every talk show can serve as a theater for ritual rehabilitation. Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, Anderson Cooper, Ellen, Wendy Williams, Kathy Griffin. But there is no ritual officer quite as powerful as Oprah. No ritual platform quite as potent as her show. If anyone can raise Lance Armstrong from ignominy, it is she. Indeed without this interview, Armstrong could have spend years in the wilderness, unable to state the case, to perform the ritual.
And last night Oprah worked her magic. She listened with her special brand of intelligence and feeling. She gave him a hearing. She gave him a chance to confess and repent. She created an opportunity for contrition. My wife was unpersuaded, but I for one believed that he fully understood his predicament. Not so much the fall from fame and glory, but the terrifying movement from a world where he had absolutely control to one in which he doesn’t have very much at all. What can that be like? I think he gave us a glimpse of the terror. Just a flicker. But yikes!
For all this, there is no real hope of rehabilitation. It showed most clearly on an ESPN show called Mike and Mike In the Morning. Without making a big deal of it, Mike Greenberg recited the instances of deceit, bullying, and villainy. He played the Nike ad in which Armstrong asks, “What am I on? I’m on my bike.” He told the story of people driven from the sport and the country by this man’s power and arrogance.
I think this is a little like lying to Federal prosecutors. You don’t want to do it. Ever. Because they are professionally, and perhaps personally, obliged to make you pay. Armstrong used journalist for his own aggrandizement. In the process, he stripped them of their professionalism. He turned them into shills. And they will make him pay. They will do this as Greenberg did it, by quietly insisting that we not forget how corrupt and corrupting this guy was.
But there is a second injured party. The rest of us. Anyone who has suffered at the hands of a bully had to look at Armstrong on Oprah last night and see, if only for a moment, the face of their tormentor. All of us can remember being made the victim of arbitrary power.
The ritual of rehabilitation depends on a collective amnesia. We all agree to forget and forgive. But it won’t happen in this case. There will be no rehabilitation. Journalist will not forgive the man who diminished them. We will not forgive the man who stands for the people who diminished us. Done and done. You had your moment on Oprah, and if she can’t repair you, no one can.
Grant McCracken is an anthropologist. He has appeared on the Oprah show. He was not there for ritual rehabilitation.
This came in yesterday and took me by surprise. Though I have to say I always suspected that I might have some connection to the Uncertain people. Then again, I thought, maybe not. But here's the proof. Is it certain proof? Well, that depends...
See the green hand? It’s there in the foreground of the photo, in the middle of an intersection in my little town.
It stopped me in my tracks this morning. It reminded me of discussions I had this summer with Peter Spear and Rainer Judd.
We were working on a project designed to stage dramatic and the counter-expectational outbreaks in a couple of towns on the eastern seaboard. (It does sound a little pretentious phrased this way, I know. Believe me when I say we were serious, sincere and not in any way carrying on or showing off.)
Our working idea: that all the creativity nurtured by and staged in the digital world in the last couple of decades is now prepared to bust out into the world. This meant specifically, that outbreaks of reckless creativity should now be able to happen anywhere, even in a small town on the eastern seaboard.
We had a measure of success. If we succeeded, we would have increased the possibility that any time a town member subsequently encountered something lingering at the edge of consciousness, something “odd, accidental, and ‘nothing, probably,’” they would be more inclined to treat it as “something, possibly,” and to attend to it.
If our project succeeded, we would have expanded the realm of the possible in this little town. This is in and off itself a good thing but we also believed that making the odd and accidental more interesting, we would also have struck a blow for what Max Weber called the "reenchantment of the world."
It is our belief that a lot of creativity starts as a stray signal on the edge of work-a-day reality and ordinary thought. It is when we credit these stray signals and declare them worthy objects of our curiosity, that good things happen. Creativity becomes more possible. Innovation easier.
Indeed, that “box” everyone is always talking about gets easier “to get out of.” This might indeed be the very thing a small town on the eastern seaboard, especially if it finds itself captive of the rust belt and in need of recuperation.
Anyhow, you can’t work on a project like this and not remark upon a green hand when it appears in the middle of an intersection in your home town. If it was a green hand.
- a term for an inexperienced crew member of a 19th-century whaler on his first voyage, and who would typically have the smallest "lay", or share, in the profits.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth books, a family of hobbits.
- a first-year Future Farmers of America (FFA) member.
All of these are appealing, but being an anthropologist I am obliged to put my money on the middle one, the family of hobbits. And this would tell us, I guess, that the hand in the intersection marks the spot where, were one to dig, there would be revealed a place containing hobbits. And that would be great. Because our town doesn't have enough hobbits. Actually, I don't believe we have any hobbits.
I will close with another stray signal that appeared some months ago in Rowayton. It appears to be a panda. It is tiny, obscurely located, and repeated no where else in town. I puzzle over it every time I pass it on Sammis Street. Now of course I know there's a pretty good chance it's the work of hobbits. But if anyone else has another explanation, please sing out. It's a very fine piece of work, not just a panda, but a panda descending as if from on high, luminous, with a choir singing richly. (You know, one of those revelation chords!)
I live in Rowayton, Connecticut. It’s a tiny town, around 4,500 people, that sits on Long Island Sound roughly 50 miles up from New York City. Rowayton is famous for… well, it’s not famous really. It’s a sleepy little place that has managed, by applying itself as little as possible, to remain almost entirely obscure.
Under the circumstances, this took some doing. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Connecticut was a veritable Silicon Valley, filled with hard-charging inventors throwing off a profusion of new ideas and practices. Just up the coast, for instance, in a town called New Haven, Eli Whitney created the cotton gin and gun works. Connecticut inventors were learning how to make machine tools. All those things once painstakingly assembled by hand (guns, watches, bicycles, and, yes, even machines) could now be mass manufactured. The earth trembled with industrial activity.
How Rowayton managed to sleep through this fury of invention … well, we can’t be sure. Certainly, there were local sources of income. Rowayton was briefly called the oyster capital of the world. Every day, its oysters went down to New York City where they were sold to factory and office workers as the fast food of their day. The other source of income, latterly, was a fairground that featured a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, concession stands, beauty contents, and big bands. This made us vulgar and noisy, and the object of much sniffing from Darien across the way. We didn’t care. We might be vulgar, but we had oysters and, um, a roller coaster!
And then one day, something happened. The Remington Rand Corporation came to town. It installed itself in an old estate in the middle of town. Remington Rand was active in the machine tool tradition: sewing machines, firearms and typewriters. But by the middle of the 20th century, it was trying to figure out how to make something called the “business computer.” (A machine that could do for information what the machine tool did for manufacture, that was worth trying for.)
The computer work was so top-secret they put it in a building called “the barn,” a sweet little building, all stone and faux Tudor timbers (pictured). Actually, the barn looks like a preindustrial cottage, and the last place you’d expect to help produce the business computer. So much for appearances. The Barn created the Remington Rand 409. After hundreds of years of well-deserved obscurity, Rowayton had a claim to fame.
Photos from the Barn tell the story. Engineers, dressed in white shirts, wearing sensible glasses. One is wearing that early badge of geek chic, the pocket protector. And there is more than one short-sleeved shirt, that miracle of "Drip-dry" and "Wash and wear!" No one actually has tape on his glasses, but one feels that’s only a matter of time.
This is what innovation looked like after World War II, deeply practical, happily inelegant. Guys in sensible shirts. People trying stuff until they got it right. The invention process was a deeply engaging, sometimes vexing thing. The beams of the second floor proved insufficient for the weight of the new computer, so they shored them up. Vacuum tubes ran hot and had to be replaced every three hours. There were problems large and small, and the guys at Remington Rand kept at it. By mid century they were done. Lo and behold, the father of the UNIVAC line of computers and great, great, great, great grandfather of the laptop on which I write.
This is innovation as we used to do it. The recipe was simple: put inventive souls in an isolated place, give them resources, and leave them alone. We called it “R&D,” Research and Development. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fashionable. It wasn’t sensible in certain ways. (Why was everyone white, male and middle aged?) But it was relentlessly curious. And practical. When ‘A’ didn’t work, someone said, “what about ‘B’?” And if that didn’t work, people were happy to run down the alphabet until they found something that did. “What if” was the order of the day.
There is something about this R&D tradition that feels at risk. That combination of hard thinking and brute pragmatism is now in peril. But this is just for starters. For ingenuity and reckless experiment funded a larger spirit of innovation. This was the “can do” world. A place of relentless ingenuity. And now it fails cowed, diminished, uncertain, less and less prepared to “try stuff and see what happens.” Westerners in general and Americans in particulars have retreated into pessimism. They have taken to their ideological corners. They have withdrawn from their furious engagement with the world. But of course we have grounds for discouragement. But I would have thought that the baby we do not wish to put out with the bathwater is our ability to solve problems. If we lose that once reckless, generous, exuberant spirit of invention that we truly are done for. It's time for ingenuity to stage a comeback.
Click on this image for an excerpt of remarks by Grant McCracken in a session called "Listening and Empathy: Making Companies More Human" at Futures of Entertainment 2012, MIT, Cambridge, November 9, 2012.
Thanks to Sam Ford for organizing and moderating this event and to fellow participants who are, cruelly and unreasonably, excluded from this edit: Lara Lee, Carol Sanford, and Emily Yellin. For the full video, please go to http://bit.ly/WTy3dE.
In any square mile of ocean, there are some 46,000 pieces of plastic, a great and growing testament to people on ship and shore so spectacularly stupid or irresponsible that they would rather just chuck something into the ocean than make the small effort the recycling now takes. Every year, this "ocean plastic" kills one million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins, and whales. Every year, ocean plastic rises a little higher in the food chain. It's destination: our dinner plates.
Finally, the planet decided to do something about it, patiently sweeping garbage together into the creation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), an accumulation of crap rotating endlessly out there in the North Pacific.
And there it sits, a floating garbage dump visible even from outer space. Maybe this is an ocean's idea of accusation. One piece of litter on the high seas doesn't amount to much, but put it all together and you've got one really big ecological "j'accuse."
For the rest of this post, please visit the Harvard Business Review Blog by clicking here.
I am planning ethnographic interviews for the new year and I'm putting together an equipment list.
An ethnographic interview is a delicate thing. You are trying to build trust with a perfect stranger, sometimes in their own home or workplace.
The trick is to keep distractions to a minimum. (Because from distractions, suspicions, detachment and alienation often come.)
Two principles follow from this.
1. If you can help it, you don't want an extra person in the room, fiddling with equipment, gazing around, and otherwise distracting your respondent. In a perfect world, you would operate everything yourself, setting it up and letting in run. (There is lots to be said for having someone worry about the tech while you worry about the interview, so the jury is for me still out on this question.)
2. You want as much video/audio fire power as possible in the smallest form factor possible. You don't want the camera, mics or lights to get in the way.
This camera pictured here is the JVC GY HM 150U. It has good picture and good sound. It has time code that consumer cameras doesn't. It records in .mov so which means files can be sent directly to Final Cut Pro. It has the capacity to record great chunks of testimony. It is reasonably inexpensive (~$2100.00) and it is surprisingly small. (This picture makes it look larger than it is.)
We are an image-crazy culture so some people think their work is done when they buy a good(ish) camera. But sound is absolutely key.
And that means buying a good microphone. The Sennheiser EW ENG G2 gets good reviews on Amazon. It's around $700.00.
Good lighting is also important and I am just not sure what the best/smallest kit is here. Dec. 18 addition: just came across the Westcott Icelight and while not cheap, this looks little and light. Here it is on Amazon.
Your comments please!
I asked Rob Kozinets for his advice on this matter a couple of years ago, and I believe the Sennheiser microphone system was his suggestion. So thanks to Rob for his advice. All other suggestions are my own and I wouldn't act on any of them without a "second opinion."
Here's a post I published on the Harvard Business Review Blog recently.
I argue that Millennials are now forced to live secret lives in the corporation.
Thanks for Karlo Cordova for the excellent (and illustrative!) photo.
Here's a post I recently published on Wired.
I argue that Reality TV might not be as bad as we think. Notice how ferociously the comments resist this idea. Talk about provoking the orthodox(y)!
Here's a post I recently published on PSFK.
I argue Mr. Williams' recent public service message suggests a failure to grasp the significance of new media.
We have a crisis on our hands. There is so much culture, and so much new culture, that navigating culture is extremely difficult.
Some months ago, Entertainment Weekly came up with a great idea. They created a kind of equivalency table that says, if you like X, you may well like Y.
Here's an example.
We could go further. How about maps of culture that lead us from the center we like to the many peripheries we might like?
Here's a visual generated by a Mac app called Daisy Disk designed to read your hard drive. I use it here to map not a drive but a culture.
Imagine this as a map of cultural possibilities. The center that nows reads 220.3 GB would be Lady Gaga. And the extenuating circles and colors could take us away from Lady Gaga to music that has LGish properties. Each color would take you in a different musical direction. Here periphery would take you further from the Lady Gaga original. And each discrete space would represent a distinct act, band, album, artist by relative popularity.
Culture becomes navigable! Now we can use what we know to know more.