Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-10-26 - 6:37 a.m.

We had a meeting on the big european project on tuesday – a review of where we had got to since we started . We decided we definitely needed two streams, one for the uk where we know the landscape pretty well and can identify points of intervention and then a european one where its much more complex and we have more to find out. The key step is to narrow down the range of countries from 24. As we started on this task – a selection matrix began to take shape. We began to think about partners for the better european options – a good way of thinking.

Thinking about BS and the ANTs , I imagine the french are well aware that post-structuralism took a wrong turning and this reinforces their general pessimism . They may be vaguely aware of Adorno’s difficult point. I would say that their wrong turning was to concentrate too much on the text - easy to do because texts are ready to hand. But can you find the texts in the non-human world?

Maybe technology, as an overall phenomenon, as a set of systems, potentially has both textual and non-textual characteristics. We might event segment the world into three – the physical non-textual ie the pataphysical is the first world, the textual and human is the second – and between the two the technological sits as the third with some textual attributes and some of its own. On this grand scheme, the technological fills a very large space starting with stone age tool-makers, including the emergence of metallurgy and agriculture and extending up to you tube and beyond.

When I was at Edinburgh I was introduced to a writer called Zilsel. This man now only exists as a wiki stub. He was a jewish marxist member of the Vienna Circle, forced to flee to the USA in 1938 where he committed suicide in 1944 at the age of 53. Wikipedia has a few paras on his thesis.

Capitalism created the conditions whereby previously separate groups could mix and cross-fertilise – techies and the scholars had previously been segmented. Painters were really techies but they became so good that they became almost scholars – they were a pioneer group in important historical process whereby the techies with the scholars began to interract seriously.

Science emerged this way, a bit after painting had really hit its peak in the early 16th century. The point – in terms of the new french segmentation – is that Zilsel sees the techies as independent social group , separate from the specialists in text, who somehow, in unique conditions, managed to break out of their ghetto and start to interact with the writers.

I drove to Cardiff through the rain – it took about three hours. I went across country to Worcester, down the M5 a little and then across the river servern, down the river wye valley and then the usk valley to the M4. Around Symonds Yat the clouds were coming off the tree covered slopes in whisps and I was reminded of how the Smokey Mts got their name. Indeed the Smokies look a bit like Wales to me. (I have an odd link with nearby Knoxville Tennessee.)

The conference was good and I met quite a few new people, technologists, academics and a guy from bbc wales. I came away with an armful of documentation. There was a particularly good speaker from Imperial who cited some research at Sussex in the 70s which cheered me up. I asked him about the french – he said the swiss were good too.

There was a fiery speaker from a local public sector organisation charged with improving public sector management. He had some astonishing statistics about workforce engagement and disengagement – apparently at most 20% of employees are fully engaged and at least 20% are completely disengaged with the majority floating somewhere between the two states. The cost of the disengagement and semi-disengagement is vast. I asked him a a question about appraisal – which is one of his proposed levers for sorting things out. I have seen so much effort go into appraisal systems in the public sector and I am not sure what any of it achieved.

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