New Mexico Mercury article about lack of empathy and grounded understanding of human social issues in NM proposed legislation
Water Is For Talkin' Over
In the New Mexico Mercury: A report back from the 21st annual statewide New Mexico Water Dialogue meeting and thoughts on an inclusive governance strategy for our water's future.
Turbulence Real and Imagined: Water Governance in New Mexico
Abstract for a talk given at the Santa Fe Institute in January
Looking For Culture In All The Right Places (59.8KB)
Article on culture training through language for the journal Cultus, forthcoming
Why Human Social Science Needs to Be Used to Get "Stakeholders" and "Community" into Water Policy
NM Mercury article about a public meeting on changes in the use of the Gila River Basin
Forward to Torres book, a collection of his Growing Up Spanglish newspaper columns (102.9KB)
Introductory comments based in linguistic anthro to a collection of stories written in Northern New Mexican "Spanglish"
Lecture at School for American Research in Santa Fe 8/17
"A Game of Scientific Clue: It was the Human in the Anthropocene with Water." Talk on role of anthropology in water governance reform.
The Lively Science sample chapter (185.4KB)
A readable book about how an alternative social science that doesn't try to pretend it's a chemistry lab can do a better job. Available in print and e-versions on most internet bookstores
Review of The Lively Science (177.4KB)
Another Review of The Lively Science (129.4KB)
Putting water into aquifers instead of sucking it out
NM Mercury article story of a meeting where I live about water shortage and climate change and what to do about them.
Traditional irrigation in New Mexico
NM Mercury article on museum exhibit about traditional acequia irrigation in Nuevomexicano communities
Article on how the war on drugs corrupted public health epidemiology
Blog invited by Rachelle Annechino for the Ethnography Matters group
A version of translation as basis for ethnography with an AI influence (259.4KB)
Academic article, "Making sense of one for another: Ethnography as translation," for Language and Communication
Human Eddies and Flows, an article in Journal of Water History (1.3MB)
Academic article about a dynamic model that explains a case of water conflict in Albuquerque in the 1950s/60s
How water governance needs some "creative destruction."
NM Mercury article about a panel of experts talked about the need for water policy reform in the state.
Ethnography as essential part of the organizational development mix (180.8KB)
Academic article in Organizational Research Methods
An Outsider's Ethnographic Thoughts About Design (112.7KB)
Academic article in Arts and Humanities based on an interview about ethnography and design
Models for sharing water instead of going to court in times of drought
NM Mercury article about the "Water Dialogue" meeting, many different kinds of water users talking about how to get together and adapt to drought.
The state plans for a new water policy that looks like the one they planned for and never implemented
NM Mercury article about the kickoff meeting for a new water plan to base policy on.
Academic article on early days of ethnography in the drug field (97.0KB)
In press in a special issue of Advances in Criminological Theory on qualitative research in criminology.
The dream of drinking all that deep brackish water under the desert
NM Mercury article about a visit to the national research center on desalination in Alamogordo
Ethnography as a nonlinear dynamic system in process and outcome (104.5KB)
Academic article in Complexity
"Knowledge transfer" has to move in several directions in an organization, not just top down (175.7KB)
Article in Practicing Anthropology with several examples of how power squelches innovation
Chapter 1 of Culture: An Upgrade (575.2KB)
Preprint of article on Ethnographic/organizational research for Org Research Methods 13(2) 2010 (113.0KB)
E:CO article on complexity, narrative and the organization, wonders what ordinary language in a complex organization would look like from the perspective of linguistics (475.2KB)
Agents in Living Color article in JASSS, describes going from ethnography to an agent-based model that describes how narrative drives or brakes an illegal drug epidemic
My Kingdom for a Function article in JASSS, describes ways to convert ethnographic complexity to language a computer can understand
Tuneup for March
April 9th at 1 pm mountain time I'm doing a webinar for the International Institute on Qualitative Methodology. As far as I know it's free though you have to register. Information at: http://www.iiqm.ualberta.ca/ResearchTraining/WebinarSeries/WebinarSchedule2015.aspx
The IIQM asked me to write an entry for their blog, something more descriptive than an abstract. Here's what I sent them.
Universals, Particulars, and the Heartbreak of the Excluded Middle
I’m assuming that “we”—those who do or those who are interested in a particular kind of human social research--are the audience of this IIQM seminar. That kind of research requires an understanding of meaning and context among those whom the project deems “subjects.” Between the lines of this job description lurks a complication, one long ago recognized in anthropology with its two definitions of “culture." On the one hand, culture is what we Homo sapiens share that makes us all human. On the other hand, culture is a specific historical situation of some group of those humans that differ in massively important ways from other groups. Clearly both versions of culture are relevant to a research project of any type. Any group will be both familiar and strange to a person not a member. How is it that we—any two “we’s”—are both the same and different?
The wrong way to look at this complication is to try and figure out how to sort the all-human part from the unique local part. It’s the wrong way because it means you slice the social world into two pieces before you try to understand it, the universal piece and the locally different piece. In other words, you destroy the coherence of the data before you analyze it. That’s the heartbreak of the Law of the Excluded Middle in logic, either it’s this or it’s not this. What I want to argue in the IIQM seminar is that it’s not “either/or,” the so-called “exclusive or.” It’s “both/and” instead. Both/and, as it turns out, leads into controversies over Eastern or Buddhist logic. And since Lofte Zadeh introduced “fuzzy logic” in the 1960s in a “Western” format, the exclusive “Eastern” claim doesn’t work anymore anyway. I won’t try to deal with all that now.
In the IIQM seminar I will give in April, I’ll start with a story from the history of ethnographic research. It is a story about the terms “etic” and “emic.” The terms come from phonology in linguistics, “phonetic” and “phonemic.” In the old days, phonetic meant a system of notation that captured many distinct sounds that humans could make given the configuration of their articulatory biology. Phonemic meant the subset of those possible sounds that mattered in a particular language. I’ll give a few examples in the lecture to show how this works. Phonetic, the universal human part, was used to figure out the phonemic, the locally important part. But then when mainstream anthropology took the emic/etic distinction over, they lost the relationship between the two. Either you did etic ethnography or emic ethnography, never both. The heartbreak of the law of the excluded middle, a blow against clarity, and the creation of a lot of academic arguments that didn’t make any sense.
Next we’ll fast forward to the late 90s, when Donald Brown published his book on cultural universals. There is a brief YouTube of a public presentation he gave that we’ll look at to get the general message. Anthropologists have always been biased towards the discovery of human social differences. They ignored the fact that differences could only be made sense of if there is some kind of connective tissue to make a translation across those differences possible. In 2013 I wrote a book, The Lively Science: Reconstructing Human Social Research, where I made that argument. (The book is written for a general audience and suitable for birthdays and bar mitzvahs.) In the last few years I’ve given several talks, based on the book, that feature the emic/etic issue. Interesting to me is that the topic of universals makes most audiences nervous. It seems to me that the norm remains, that differences are the right focus and that universals run from problematic to threatening. The heartbreak of the excluded middle again, not both/and, but rather either/or.
Finally, though I’m no expert in the area, we’ll sample a few themes from the many fields that now blur the differences between cultural variability and universals with issues like the nature of cooperation, the ubiquity of social network power laws, the universality of fairness, and theory of mind. This sample won’t be a conclusion, but rather what I think of as a promising and comparatively recent direction that looks like a road to the both/and logic that will move us towards a single theory of what it is to be human and how it is that that humanity takes different forms. One theory, minus the excluded middle.
Where do we end? Most important is a mindset that rejects the law of the excluded middle. True, we need to guard against using the call to universals to justify naive realism. But we also need to hold off conclusions that differences are all that matter. We need to think of universals as the figure against which the ground of differences can be understood. Most importantly, we need a coherent theory that includes them both and considers how to mix evolutionary and historical explanation with contemporary ethnography. Time permitting, a final focused example from a serious game language/culture training project that I recently participated in will conclude the seminar and open up the digital gathering for discussion.
That's the abstract. Now back to the usual news. An article I've been trying to publish for years will finally appear in a journal called Cultus, an Italian based journal for translator/interpreter/intercultural types. A prepublication version is in the column to your left, "Looking for culture in all the right places." The article grew out of work with computational and anthropological linguistic colleagues around efforts to figure out how to train civilian and military heading for faraway places. I miss my language and culture work. That project, in turn, came out of that magical long ago moment when Obama and Petraeus intersected on the theme of, the U.S. really has to stop being so naive about countries it deals with, echoes of Vietnam and the Iraqi follies of Bush the younger echoing strongly in the background.
I've started a book called "Backwater," about New Mexico (and the world's) issues with water governance. Me and about a thousand other people are writing them. Amazing to have seen the topic diffuse so rapidly even in the few years I've been working on it. No end in sight. No matter, I'm enjoying the brain food, and the spread of water--and environmental in general--consciousness is a good thing.
In September I gave a talk at the School for Advanced Research, http://sarweb.org/index.php, a long-standing center for anthropology and indigenous arts in Santa Fe. (The abstract is in the left-hand column). It was similar to the talk I gave in Ensenada, only with New Mexican instead of U.S./Mexico frontier examples. Then in January I gave a similar talk at the Santa Fe Institute, only with more complexity in it http://www.santafe.edu/gevent/detail/science/1930/.
An article in The New Mexico Mercury recently came out, a description of a public water policy meeting in Albuquerque to inform decisions about how to use new money and water rights in the Gila River Basin. It highlights the lack of human social science research in the process and the limited view of "stakeholders" and "community" that result. The URL is at the top of the column to the left. Then just before I wrote this blog, another article in the Mercury lays out an idea for a more inclusive water policy process in the state based on the annual Water Dialogue conference. Its URL is on the left as well. Finally, the most recent article rants about the lack of empathy in proposed legislation in New Mexico.
Another new bit of writing is a forward for a book in preparation, by Larry Torres, a collection of his popular newspaper columns called "Growing Up Spanglish." Each column tells a story from the perspective of Canutito, a young boy growing up with his grandparents in Northern New Mexico. I've been a fan since the column first appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper and was honored to be asked to add a touch of linguistic anthropology at the beginning. It is downloadable from the column to the left.
Coming up in March will be a couple of weeks again in Puebla in Mexico working with colleagues there, then the webinar with the International Institute for Qualitative Methods, URL with which the blog started.
Life continues to be interesting.