Socially Embedding the Market and the Role of Law

Professor Margaret Somers is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan and a renowned expert on the work of Karl Polanyi. She is highly regarded for her writing on a nascent sociology of human rights and its links to theories of citizenship – Genealogies of Citizenship: Markets, Statelessness, and the Right to have Rights, and, with Fred Block, on the importance of Karl Polanyi to current debates in economics – The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique. Currently she is focusing on ‘The Making of Citizenship Rights’, a work of comparative historical sociology with a focus on English legal history.

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Learning to Learn: towards a Relational and Transformational Model of Learning

Health and social care systems are implementing fundamental changes to organizational structures and work practices in an effort to achieve integrated care. While some integration initiatives have produced positive outcomes, many have not. We reframe the concept of integration as a learning process fueled by knowledge exchange across diverse professional and organizational communities. We thus focus on the cognitive and social dynamics of learning in complex adaptive systems, and on learning behaviours and conditions that foster collective learning and improved collaboration. We suggest that the capacity to learn how to learn shapes the extent to which diverse professional groups effectively exchange knowledge and self-organize for integrated care delivery.

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Posted in Complex adaptive system, Learning, Learning communities, Learning to learn, Self-organized learning | Tagged , , , ,

Will Collective Intelligence Change the way we Work?

We’re in the midst of a transformation in how businesses are organized. Typical corporate hierarchies are starting to look overrated, and changes in coordination technology have the power to make work and innovation even more democratic. However, according to MIT organizational theorist Thomas Malone, most of us are still victims of a centralized mindset, the idea that in order to manage things it’s best to put somebody in charge who gives orders to other people. He urges us to look at the many new ways of organizing that allow more people to have more involvement in decisions–and for better results.

“Most people don’t begin to realize how important and how pervasive and, in many cases, how desirable those new ways of organizing are going to be,” said Malone, “At the Center, we are looking at how people and computers can be connected so that collectively they act more intelligently than any one person, group, or computer has acted before.” When taken seriously, this question leads to a view of organizational effectiveness that is very different from the prevailing wisdom of the past.

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Posted in Collective intelligence, Coordination, Organizations, Work | Tagged , , ,

The Essential Humanity of Cognitive Dissonance

When confronted with a contrary piece of experience, the process that occurs is referred to as ‘cognitive dissonance’. “Cognitive dissonance, a term coined by Leon Festinger, is the process of self-justification whereby we defend our actions and thoughts when they turn out to be wrong or, as in the case of sour grapes, ineffectual. We interpret our failure to attain a goal as actually turning out to be a good thing because, with hindsight, we reinterpret the goal as not really desirable”. Confronted with contrary information, whether by personal experience that doesn’t quite match our view of the world or by being presented with a different opinion, we will invariably seek to defend our mental space. This is not an inherently negative behavior to engage in. Were we to passively change our beliefs every time a contrary piece of information is presented, we’d never get anything done, being as we would be at the mercy of every wind of chance in our lives. It behooves us to live our lives essentially being ok with making what is referred to as Type 2 errors, i.e. believing something is true regardless of evidence to the contrary.

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On Loneliness and Companionship

A specific set of neurons deep in the brain may motivate us to seek company, holding social species together. As social animals, we depend on others for survival. Our communities provide mutual aid and protection, helping humanity to endure and thrive. “We have survived as a species not because we’re fast or strong or have natural weapons in our fingertips, but because of social protection,” said John Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Early humans, for example, could take down large mammals only by hunting in groups. “Our strength is our ability to communicate and work together,” he said.

But how did these powerful communities come to exist in the first place? Cacioppo proposes that the root of social ties lies in their opposite — loneliness. According to his theory, the pain of being alone motivates us to seek the safety of companionship, which in turn benefits the species by encouraging group cooperation and protection. Loneliness persists because it provides an essential evolutionary benefit for social animals. Like thirst, hunger or pain, loneliness is an aversive state that animals seek to resolve, improving their long-term survival.

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Posted in Community, Companionship, Loneliness | Tagged , ,

To become a Learning Machine

I smile whenever I look at my university diploma hanging on the wall, because everything I learned then is no longer relevant now. Does it means that we should stop wasting all this energy, time and money on university? Not really: rather, as soon as we complete our “formal studies”, we need to become learning machines. I’ll rephrase it: we must become machines of continuous learning. We have no choice or we will be out of the game, left behind like cavemen after the Stone Age. If you have a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s, do you consider it as the point of arrival, or the beginning of your journey? If you consider it the point of arrival, you’re deceiving yourself. Our long-term success and fulfillment relies on us constantly cultivating our minds. Do not think of your abilities as something immutable, but as something that you can develop over time.

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Posted in Informal learning, Learning, Learning to learn, Lifelong learning | Tagged , , ,

Public Sociology in the Age of Social Media

I informally examine how the idea of public sociology has been affected by the rise of social media. New social media platforms disintermediate communication, make people more visible, and encourage public life to be measured. They tend to move the discipline from a situation where some people self-consciously do “public sociology” to one where most sociologists unselfconsciously do sociology in public. I discuss the character of such “latently public” work, the opportunities and di›fficulties it creates for individuals, and its tendency to be associated with academic elds that believe in what they are doing.

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Posted in Public sociology, Social media, Sociology | Tagged , ,

The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing

The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing is a groundbreaking resource that offers emerging and experienced scholars from all disciplines a comprehensive review of the essential elements needed to craft scholarly papers and other writing suitable for submission to academic journals. The authors discuss the components of different types of manuscripts, explain the submission process, and offer readers suggestions for working with editors and coauthors, dealing with rejection, and rewriting and resubmitting their work. They include advice for developing quality writing skills, outline the fundamentals of a good review, and offer guidance for becoming an excellent manuscript reviewer.

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Posted in Academic, Publishing, Research, Writing | Tagged , , ,

The Psychology of Creative Writing

The Psychology of Creative Writing takes a scholarly, psychological look at multiple aspects of creative writing, including the creative writer as a person, the text itself, the creative process, the writer’s development, the link between creative writing and mental illness, the personality traits of comedy and screen writers, and how to teach creative writing. This book will appeal to psychologists interested in creativity, writers who want to understand more about the magic behind their talents, and educated laypeople who enjoy reading, writing, or both. From scholars to bloggers to artists, The Psychology of Creative Writing has something for everyone.

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Posted in Creative process, Creative writing, Creativity, Writing | Tagged , , ,

The Psychology of Writing and the Perfect Daily Routine

How to sculpt an environment that optimizes creative flow and summons relevant knowledge from your long-term memory through the right retrieval cues.

Reflecting on the ritualization of creativity, Bukowski famously scoffed that “air and light and time and space have nothing to do with.” Samuel Johnson similarly contended that “a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.” And yet some of history’s most successful and prolific writers were women and men of religious daily routines and odd creative rituals. Such strategies, it turns out, may be psychologically sound and cognitively fruitful. In the altogether illuminating 1994 volume The Psychology of Writing, cognitive psychologist Ronald T. Kellogg explores how work schedules, behavioral rituals, and writing environments affect the amount of time invested in trying to write and the degree to which that time is spent in a state of boredom, anxiety, or creative flow.

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Read also: The Psychology of Writing

Posted in Psychology, Writing | Tagged ,