Learning Change

Learning Change Project: 8 Blogs, +7000 Readings

After Method – Mess in Social Science Research

Research Methods’: a compulsory course, which is loved by some but hated by many! This stimulating book is about what went wrong with ‘research methods’. Its controversial argument is radical, even revolutionary. John Law argues that methods don’t just describe social realities but also help to create them. The implications of this argument are highly significant. If this is the case, methods are always political, and this raises the question of what kinds of social realities we want to create. Most current methods look for clarity and precision. It is usually said that messy findings are a product of poor research. The idea that things in the world might be fluid, elusive, or multiple is unthinkable. Law’s startling argument is that this is wrong and it is time for a new approach. Many realities, he says, are vague and ephemeral. If methods want to know and to help shape the world, then they need to reinvent their practice and their politics in order to deal with mess. That is the challenge. Nothing else will do. This book is essential reading for students, postgraduates and researchers with an interest in methodology. John Law is Professor of Sociology and Technology Studies at Lancaster University. He has written  widely on social theory, methodology, technologies, and health care.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 22, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Inequality in Access to Social Capital

Whereas much research has been done on the benefits of social capital, less is known about the causes of the unequal distribution of social capital in people’s networks. This study examines inequalities in access to social capital in terms of the socio-economic resources that are embedded in personal networks. Using data from NELLS, a nationally representative survey of the Dutch population aged 15–45 years, results show that within this age group access to social capital increases with age and educational qualifications, and is lower among women. Residing in a less affluent neighbourhood and scoring lower on a measurement for cognitive abilities are associated with less social capital. Participation in voluntary associations and having an ethnically diverse network are associated with more access to social capital. Surprisingly, when studying differences across national origin groups, we do not find that Turkish immigrants are disadvantaged in access to social capital.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 21, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Complexity, Learning and Organizations

Complexity, Learning and Organizations takes an original and innovative look at some of the ways of understanding how organizations work, including complexity, chaos theory and quantum structures. In an accessible style, Walter Baets argues that we need a new way of looking at the world and at human systems, in organizations and in society as a whole. He proposes a holistic management approach which is in direct opposition to the short-term shareholder value-driven approach which dominates much management practice. The aim is to encourage the emergence of a new type of learning within organizations. To illustrate this, he discusses self-organizing systems; the complexity paradigm; the nature and use of knowledge; management learning at both the organizational and the individual level; and personal development. Finally, he argues in favour of considering business and economics as a network of agents that operate on the basis of synchronicity – the quantum structure of business. Encouraging readers to reflect on their own experiences, and drawing on examples from a number of real-life company cases, Walter Baets delivers a readable and thought-provoking book. For students and managers interested in complexity, knowledge management, innovation and organizational learning, this book is an invaluable guide.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 21, 2015 at 12:36 pm

How Culture makes Us Human: on the Formation of Human Societes

What separates modern humans from our primate cousins—are we a mere blink in the march of evolution, or does human culture represent the definitive evolutionary turn? Dwight Read explores the dilemma in this engaging, thought-provoking book, taking readers through an evolutionary odyssey from our primate beginnings through the development of culture and social organization. He assesses the two major trends in this field: one that sees us as a logical culmination of primate evolution, arguing that the rudiments of culture exist in primates and even magpies, and another that views the human transition as so radical that the primate model provides no foundation for understanding human dynamics. Expertly synthesizing a wide body of evidence from the anthropological and life sciences in accessible prose, Read’s book will interest a broad readership from experts to undergraduate students and the general public.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 21, 2015 at 11:59 am

Sociology of Trust

Trust is at issue when someone makes oneself vulnerable to another who can harm if the trust is misplaced. The recipient of trust is either trustworthy or not, and much of the literature revolves around the evaluation of the trustworthiness of the trusted by the trustor. Trust can exist among those who know each other intimately (personal trust) and among strangers (interpersonal, social, or generalized trust). Trust can have as its object other people or institutions and organizations. In conceptualizing trust to undertake empirical research, two crucial distinctions exist: cognitive vs non-cognitive trust and personalized vs generalized trust. The more instrumental and cognitive theorists tend to treat trust as an  estimate of the trustworthiness of those with whom one has relationships as individuals or within social networks. In contrast are those who claim trust is dispositional or moralistic. While each tradition treats the work trust does as an empirical question, their conceptualizations are sufficiently distinct so that both their presumptions of the role that trust plays in society and their findings are often incompatible. This leads to debate about the sources of trust and whether trust is essential for good government, economic growth, and harmony. Trust and trustworthiness are distinct but so implicated with each other that it is generally necessary to consider the second in contemplating the first. Indeed, much of the literature revolves around how to establish and assess the trustworthiness of persons, organizations, and institutions.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 20, 2015 at 11:15 pm

Posted in Sociology, Trust

Tagged with ,

The Space for Culture and Cognition

While neuroscientists, cognitive anthropologists, and behavioral psychologists have begun to examine the dialectical relationship between space and cognition, sociologists have remained curiously silent. Sociologists concede that cognition affects our relationship to space, but seem less willing to explore how space might affect us cognitively. In this paper I argue that the spatial configuration of our environment facilitates particular cognitive modes. I examine what I call structured versus unstructured spaces. I also focus on the structuring of space and whether that structuring is imposed or implied. The structure of the space and the articulation of that structure interact to produce different modes of thought. This  relationship between space and cognition has important implications for how and, perhaps, why we use culture.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 20, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Posted in Cognition, Culture, Spaces

Tagged with , ,

Relationship between approaches to Cognition in Cultural Sociology

In this paper we attempt to characterize the key differences and points of convergence between two contemporary approaches to the relationship between culture and cognition in sociology which we label the toolkit and strong practice theory perspectives. We follow recent work at the intersection of culture and cognition in attempting to explicitly formulate the cognitive underpinnings of these two approaches in terms of the assumptions that they make about cultural acquisition, transmission and externalization. Our analysis suggests that in spite of very important differences in emphasis and explanatory range, toolkit and strong practice-theoretical approaches are complementary, although the specific types of modal situation for which each of them is best suited need to be more clearly specified. We develop a framework that shows how the two approaches can be deployed in conjunction as well as specifying the modal settings and situations that each will be more likely to handle best as well as those in which they will run into trouble.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 20, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Cultural Sociology: a new approach to the study of the History of Education

This paper examines the possibility of applying the principles of cultural sociology to the study of the history of education and training. Although research into the development of education and training in the recent decades has been quite sociological in character, most sociological concepts used in such studies do not adequately addresses the issue of culture. Existing studies are mostly based on utilitarian and materialistically oriented approaches. This is why we believe it is necessary to develop more culturally-oriented perspective that would offer appropriate analytical tools to study the cultural dimension of the development of education and training. In our opinion, the cultural sociology of J. C. Alexander with its concepts of cultural codes, narratives and metanarratives offers precisely this perspective. It is precisely these tools that we apply to four problems in the historical study of education and training.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 20, 2015 at 10:02 pm

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