Anthropologists and others

Anthropologists_and_others_wordle This essay will be part of the blog compendium called How To Be An Anthropologist (for hire), coming to this blog soon.

Anthropologists are not the only ones trying to make sense of markets and meanings.  There are several parties with which it competes and collaborates.  In this section, I am in a competitive frame of mind.  I look at how engineers, economists, managers, CEOs and university presidents ignore the cultural part of the equation.   

1. Culture and engineers I

In this essay, I talk about one way to present culture to engineers.  (See the post here.) 

2. Culture and engineers II

When people started using social technologies like Twitter and Facebook to tell their friends things like "I just fed the cat," engineers threw up their hands.  We give the world this new way of communicating and what do they do with it?  Engineers went so far as to call these messages "exhaust data."  This was another way of saying it was message without content, data without significance. 

But there’s a better, anthropological way to look at these data, I think.  It is to see it as "phatic communication."  (See the post here.)

3. Culture and economists I

This post is my reply to Steven Levitt.  I think there is a better, more cultural explanation for the urban issues he has been examining.  I think we are called upon to look at the social context, the rise of hip hop and the transformation of popular culture.  These are almost always the things excluded from consideration by the economist.  So of course I was going to reply.  (See the post here.) 

4. Culture and economists II

This is my reply to behavioral economists.  I argue that the notion of rationality must be defined broadly enough to capture cultural knowledge and not just the calculation of benefit.  (See the post here.)

5. Culture and managers

Scott Berkun was kind enough to interview me for his blog at Harvard Publishing.  I found myself attempting to define the value of culture for managers.  See what you think.  (See the post here.)

6. Culture and CEOs

It’s my conviction that virtually every CEO has a great big hole in his or her knowledge.  What they are missing in an understanding of what culture is and how culture works.  More to the point for some, what is missing is a nuanced and thorough knowledge of what is happening in culture now.  Here is a post on Michael Eisner, a guy who apparently believes that just living in our culture gives us a sufficient knowledge of our culture.  (See the post here.)

7. Culture and university presidents

I believe that the man who was the President of Harvard might have survived controversy and remained in office had he had a deeper understanding of the culture (and cultures) that flourish at his university.  This post was my advice to him, a kind of open letter.  (See the post here.) 

1 thought on “Anthropologists and others

  1. peter

    One interesting aspect about explaining culture to engineers is that Engineers have their own culture, which differs in many respects from the world we (and they) live in. For example, engineering is a business arena where expertise and knowledge typically increase with age: generally, the older an engineer, the more he or she knows about engineering.

    This particular aspect of engineering culture is not true of the culture of marketing or advertising departments, and especially not true of those departments targeting younger people. With the exception of Florence Skelly, the people who have best known teenage culture, for instance, have mostly been current or recent teenagers. Likewise in Finance, knowledge of sophisticated financial instruments was something which did not necessarily increase with age — at least, not until recent events.

    As you will know, Grant, a culture in which knowledge increases with age will generally find itself in conflict with a culture in which youth knows all worth knowing.

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