Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-10-05 - 3:54 a.m.
A project I have been supporting has just suffered a major stetback with the owners of the key asset deciding that they won’t make it available to public authorities. Meanwhile a letter has arrived from the European Commission asking me to join a large scale project on innovation trends which is something by way of compensation. The first meeting clashes with the industry’s annual dinner where Boris Johnson is one of the star speakers.A colleague is assembling our guest list and I have written to one of our contacts at Oxford suggesting that this might make a tolerable evening out. Whenever we go to a seminar at one of the colleges the food is absolutely first rate and so it is only polite to reiprocate.
Yesterday we had meeting with someone from the NHS to explore the extent to which our special approach might be usable in that sector. We have worked in a number of arenas besides automotive including red meat, cereals and ceramics. The NHS unit which has the ‘improvement’ mission is based at Warwick University.
Another colleague went to a meeting with one of the education ministers in London on national skills policy. Today, yet another colleague is going to a meeting on 14-19 year old exam reform and I have been looking at the papers for this. There seem to be a number of big initiatives tied up with this programme and I have written to the team working on the promotion of motorsport derived projects in schools about some of these. This motorsport thing is one of my few current income streams.
I discovered that soneone I knew in Edinburgh has been awarded a new professorship at Havard in a science policy related area and I can’t help but be impressed. This discovery started when I was fishing around the ESRC site. The ESRC fund the Oxford programme which gets us the decent dinners there every so often and another slug of the same funding approach is paying for James to study modern russia in Oxford. On the ESRC site, I tumbled into a page on a completed study on core or key skills – an issue which crops up in the 14-19 reforms and indeed in our motorsport programme - and so I read on.
This particular bit of research was very ambitious and was trying to bridge the gap between psychological theories and cognitive/logical theories of skills like ‘communication’. To achieve this the researcher, who is based in Edinburgh made the ambitious leap of sourcing some research in the same university on the history of maths in the 19th century and the way that competing schools vied for dominance. Some 30 years ago I knew the person who had done this latter research and indeed a year or so ago I bought his latest book on Wittgenstein. The new Havard professor was a close associate of the Wittegenstein author – and after 18 years in Edinburgh he moved to San Diego and then to Havard.
The Havard guy has written about Boyle as in Boyle’s Law which we all learned in school and this work hit the bigtime when it was picked up by Bruno Latour in his celebrated book on ANT theory. In fact BLT goes as far lumping these historians together as the Edinburgh School and setting his theory up as the next logical step in the evolution of 20th century thought. BLT is very ambitious and I have to say I admire him for it. Anyway when I read his book last year I was rather impressed that I had briefly dallied with the Edinburg School – before sentencing myself to 25 years in the service of the queen. I think I will work this into my CV as a european expert.
The ESRC Oxford thing we tag along with has moved its other base from Warwick to Cardiff and I know both the Warwick researchers who have made this transition – they regard me as a bit of an oddity as an ‘industrialist’ who has got a half decent grasp of sociological theory. Steve is doing his PhD at Cardiff and when we were engineering this we had a lunch a couple of times with the sociology professor there who is pretty good fun. At one point I let slip that I had been influenced at an impressionable age by the Edinburgh School and he let slip that one of the ES had been in the field for his job.
Mrs C has picked up her new car. Alan Moore’s book on Sergeant Pepper has arrived and also an e-m from James in Manchester with some ideas about this book and also Adorno. I dipped into the book last night in the Tipperary and when I came out of the pub the sun had almost completely set in a clear sky. I drove along the road on the watershed between the Avon and Trent river systems and to the south an almost full moon was climbing into the sky. ETBG Amplified Heart was playing and it sounded absolutely perfect and so I drove the long way home along the motorway just to prolong the moment and stopped at the big Sainsbuy’s to the south of Leamington to get an evening meal. When I got in I went to ETBG site where a whole series of remixes are streaming – very much to be recommended.
I found Moore’s final chapter the most engaging where he talks of Sergeant Pepper being a failed bid for legitimacy. The argument is quite compressed at this point but one can sense what he is getting at. The Beatles seemed at one stage to be heading in the direction of legitimate cultural status – I suppose one has to say as ‘artists’ – and in this movement SP was a major stepping stone. You could write a whole book about whether the legitimacy was achieved or not. James commented on giving a seminar recently at Cambridge on his Lennon/Macca research that the participants were sorry that no one at that university felt competent to teach on this kind of issue. I couldn’t help thinking of the way that Imac had pissed off from Kings after a year heading in the direction of the NME. You can’t help thinking that someone missed a trick somewhere and maybe this is what Moore is getting at.