Friday, July 20, 2018

The Context of Creativity

The Question was asked " Considering the importance of creativity and avoiding repetition in science researches for the fundamental advancement of science, How do you provide a context for creativity"

I am not certain what one means here about by creating a context for “creativity.

The goal of science and scientific research is to find that which is repeatable, and if not, "Why?'

Creativity can be based on the discovery of an existential reality or an ideational theory constructed to explain some phenomena. Science advances by discovery and replication, they go together. Creating a method to discover an existential reality is one way to advance science. This is the experimental branch. Creating logical/mathematical model is another way when science predicts an existential phenomenon or behavior.

Luck plays a big role in the process. Talent and initiative are important but when forced can actually become a barrier to creativity. Kuhn's "parametric shift" idea points to the role of luck when an investigator or inventor or artist has that "Eureka moment" breaking through the established or orthodox point of view and opens new avenues for study or application.

To become too specialized can be a bad strategy. Invention and creativity comes from many places and specialization tends to hide ideas that have been developed in another disciplines that can be applied to a immediate problem.

TRIZ, , is an example of basic methods and principles that have appeared all patent applications that cross disciplinary boundaries. These principles can provide insight into the creativity process.

Analogy and metaphor are valuable tools for creativity and comes from reading widely and being aware of one's environment. These are tools I have used and applied to consult with a wide range of organizations and businesses.

There is one basic context in all creative events --- a problem that requires a solution.

Based on an answer originally published in response to a question that appeared on the Researchgate in April, 2018.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Applied Anthropology and Standardization

 In the real world, the replication of uniformity (See AFC Wallace or Ward Goodenough) is what distinguishes Order from Chaos. Standardization is a goal that society and culture strive for since it provides the base from which the next step of evolution or progress begins. If you are always looking back because you can't trust the past, then you can never make any real progress to a future.

Standardization provides a reference point. It is not an end all. It is a beginning. Anthropology has benefited by the "standardization" that John Wesley Powell called for in the training of field anthropologist back in the 1870's and which Boas introduced in his training program at Columbia that created the first generation of professional anthropologist.

In recent years, it seem that we have drifted away from a set of professional standards and into the realm of the "eclectic, fashionable, stylish." This is a trend that seems to parallel the over-production of PhD graduates and the shrinking and transformation of the academic market place -- especially for anthropologists which began in the 1980 and continued. It has severed the tentative academic/applied connection where the former generated theory that the latter might test in practice. It also served to drive some of us out of academia into the real world.

Standardization and the process of helping to create (discover) best practices is a rich area for applied anthropology and applied anthropologists. Program evaluation, which is applied research, was, for me, a very profitable career path during the early stage of my own career development as a consultant and coach.

The public wants to know, "What is valid and reliable,?" not novel. "What is predictable," not innovative. 
The majority do not want "new" as much as it wants to know "what works." Standardization makes answering the latter question a lot easier. The "New", and untested, is basic research, while "evaluation" and "standardization" are respectively -- engineering and auditing. The latter are the realm of the applied anthropologist.

In accounting and legal professions -- both applied practices serving a public need -- there are basic internal standards, e.g. "general accounting standards" and "code of professional ethics" It might be suggested that anthropology become more standardized in its methods and terminology when employed by or marketing to a non-anthropologically literate clientele. But this will require major input from the practitioner branch of the discipline and acceptance by the academic branch. 

Such standardization must apply across of the many contexts in which one finds ethnographic work being applied to solve practical problems. There is a similar dimension for the other sub disciplines such as archeology. If you are always looking back because you can't trust what you did in the past, then how can you convince the public that your advice help the client to make any real choices and progress affecting their future?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Applied Anthropology -- The Trump Program

Chapter 2 TRUMP CARDS: The Elements of the Deal

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Professional Ethics -- 2 Inherent Conflicts

Throughout the post WWII period, the U.S. Federal Government established the many programs, domestic and international, to address Cold War concerns and fight the War on Poverty. In the process, the Federal Government became the major source that university researchers looked to for research dollars. By the 1960s, this presented the membership of the American Anthropological Association with a real ethical challenge. "What role should anthropologist play when accepting federal funding for their research projects supporting the Federal Government policies, ?"

One of the many social sciences to benefit from the Federal "largest,"was anthropology. Some of these funded anthropological projects focused on basic research, gathering data about local and foreign institutions. Other research projects, however, were policy oriented. Some of these were designed to establish baselines or subsequent evaluations for specific programs designed by such agencies as HUD, HEW, OEO, USAID, etc. The problem arose when the values of academic researcher conflicted with the funding agency's values to promote a political agenda. These projects were designed to produce information to further government political policies and not specific scientific questions.

During the Depression and WWII era, many anthropologists found employment with the expanding Federal Government.  As pointed out by David H. Price and others, many of these because of their concerns over labor and minority rights came under scrutiny by the FBI, the McCarthy Hearings, and the House Un-American Activities Committee for the real or alleged affiliations or sympathies with the Communist Party.

Price offers a very detailed and insightful discussion of that period and the key personalities affected by it. He points fingers at the failures of the very academic institutions one might expect to stand up for the individuals targeted. The AAA, the AAUP, and the universities that publicly proclaimed their  support for academic freedom, failed to support their "suspected" colleagues on promotion and tenure committees. This failure of institutional anthropology and academia in general set the stage for the ideological changes that emerge in younger generation of anthropology students, the sons and daughters of the generation then in power of the "traditional" institutions of professional anthropology.

Themes such as civil rights, anti-war movements, economic inequalities, colonialism, student rights, gender rights, gay rights and even an attempt to justify pedophilia rights, became acceptable causes for the new generation of anthropology student. Once feared as part of the Communist agenda, the anthropologists trained during the Depression and serving in War effort found that such views could be held against them as they returned to or attempted to reenter the traditional academic career path.

 At the same time, the federal government replaced the private foundations as the principle funding source for social science research dollars. Routine security background checks for researchers, especially those applying for grants to do social science research overseas appear to have been fairly routine, if not totally acknowledged as part of the process. As an aside, the same held for those applying for positions in the newly created Peace Corps as this writer can attest.

Radical anthropologists of the 1960s and 1970s turned on their elders and questioned many of the assumptions that formed the basis of traditional academic anthropology ethics.

The Bannon Blitzkrieg

{Author's Note: This posting is out of line with the general purpose of the Blog, yet it points to a situation that should be of Anthropological Interest -- the role of the Individual as an agent of Cultural Change. The Trump election is a watershed in the evolution of liberal democracy in the United States. It is a case of Nationalism in the extreme against the modern concept of the State, the Individual against the species. I might refer you to Edward Spicer's Posthumous paper "The Nations of the State" to see how these two concepts often conflict. See Kroeber, Karl (ed) American Indian Persistence and Resurgence 1994 Duke University Press. What follows are personal observations and hypothesis}

Last night while watching Rachel Madow she announced the firing of the acting attorney general. it reminded me of Nixon's Saturday Night massacre, an image that didn't escape anyone who lived through it. It seemed like another irrational ego driven reaction from Trump, the spiteful bully.

But stepping back from this and putting it in context -- it was far more sinister and dangerous. What we are seeing, I feel is the undercutting of the load bearing wall of the Constitution with the goal of causing an implosion of America and American values. It is Purposeful, Calculated, and beyond the mind of the President. It is even counter to his own interests. Trump is a Brand and he is destroying his own Brand even as he seek to protect it. But worse, he and his followers are destroying the American brand.

Today, the New York Times carried an OpEd piece:entitled "President Bannon?" in which they question the relationship between Trump, the President, and Bannon, the "adviser", The puppet master is Bannon, whose raise to power has been going on under the radar for some time. Based on the recent events it seems that he is in control of the President and the Administration. Fear and hatred are his weapons. The real question today is what is the weapon or tool, that he has over Trump? Are the Tax returns the weapon?

I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, and maybe it is. But logic leads me to wonder why Trump would go to such lengths to commit financial and reputational suicide? He has four years to bring about the changes he said he wanted. He has a Congress controlled by his party and soon he may have a Supreme Court that shares his "conservative nationalism. What is the hurry?

Things are moving very fast. It is like Hitler's Blitzkrieg on Poland in 1939. The strategy appears to be to hobble the free press out of fear that their plans will fail if the public knew the truth, They may also fear that the Congress might awaken from its partisan nightmare. Or, that true legislators would have time to read Article One of the Constitution and actual do their job. Maybe then they would have time to think and understand how they are being invaded by a hostile and hateful force.

Nuclear weapons can not only destroy an enemy. In a world of MAD they will destroy you as well. But to scare a population into forsaking their basic values and play upon their ethnic fears, prejudices and hatreds you can gain control of the whole system with a minimum of physical damage. It is the strategy of the right wing Israeli government and their right wing Palestinian counterparts. Rule through fear.The recent actions of the Trump Administration appear to be under the guidance of "President Bannon"rather than a President Trump.

Fear mongering is a super-organic tool for social control. As anthropologist, we should consider how individuals and groups use and instill fear of the Other in order to control themselves and the members of their group.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Anthropology as the Study of Mankind

The study of mankind, from an anthropological perspective, must be conducted in the total context in which life on the planet Earth exists and has evolved. The natural sciences focus on this environment and provide us with a context for the biological sciences and in turn, the narrower study of man. The Study of Mankind is one of an infinite number of perspectives or domains that we, humans, can take in trying to understand the universe in which we exist and which impact on our lives. The organizing principle of these domains (perspectives) is what I term “the ecological domain”. The ecological domain is the sum total of knowledge that any individual, a society, or a species holds at any given moment in time about the segment of the environment in which they exist and experience life as an individual, a society, or a species.

Human Ecological Domains

Human ecological domains emerge over time as the human individual, and group grows, develops and reproduces itself. As the individual ages and as the group membership changes through time and expands occupies new geographical territory the domain changes. The domains change as the individual and/or group encounters new challenges to the domain that require new solutions to new problems these challenges present. When the group membership changes, different individual and group perception and experiences also change, influencing the ecological domain. These changes create new Traditions or Traditional histories that, themselves, become incorporated in the ecological domain.
In the intellectual sphere, Anthropology is one of many ecological domains that humans have invented to address a particularly Human question: What does it mean to be “human?’  While Humans are biologically animals, they experience a unique ability to reflect upon themselves as individuals and as a species. The individual is capable of divorce itself from its body and reflect upon himself as an object. And in doing so, they reflect on their origin and purpose, individually and collectively. That is. The human animal has the ability to question his place in the overall reality of the universe and thereby seeks collective meaning for their existence.

Anthropology is a perspective derived from this philosophical speculation about MAN. It arose when Western society began to apply the principles of modern scientific thought to the question: What does it mean to be “human?’ They found that to study Human Nature scientifically, one had to study of the realities and myths of the Human Condition. Anthropology became the tool human science uses to seek understanding of the relationships between these two spheres of existence.

Anthropology is the ecological domain that looks at both the human animal and humanity as a whole. Anthropologist seek universal principles that describe and explain the commonality of the species and the factors that have lead to its success as the dominate species on the planet. At the same time it seeks to understand how the great diversity found in Homo sapiens has evolved over time and space. As an ecological domain, Anthropology constitutes a body of knowledge (experience), theory (beliefs), and priorities (values) accumulated by individuals, institutions and cultures over the past 100,000 to 1,000,000 years that the species has existed on Earth.

Monday, August 24, 2015

SN 1. "Building" memories and "smashing" into realities

Upon graduation from Brown U. with BA in anthropology in the early 1960s, I joined the newly created Peace Corps and served 2 years in Peru. It was a strange time when President Johnson announced the Gulf of Tomkin attack the night before we left for training in Puerto Rico in 1964 and two years later when I return the US to the cannibus high of a love-in in New York City's Washington Sq.

During those two years, I learned a lot, built up many memories, and created many theories of what my impact might be on the future, I wonder sometimes just what was accomplished or whether time and aging have distorted those memories and my hopes unrealistic.

All of this was brought to the forefront of my mind today when I came across this blog entry by Tony Waters. I wonder how many anthropologists and anthropology graduates served in the Peace Corps and have had similar experiences?