Abstract: Ethnography is never mere description, rather it is a theory of describing that has always been controversial as to the what and how thus inspiring a dynamic intellectual process. The process has been methodologically eclectic and innovative, governed by both consensual and outdated rules. Throughout more than hundred years of Anglo-American ethnography, observation has been combined with a wide variety of theoretical outlooks from structured-functionalist to critical writings.

Financial collapses—whether of the junk bond market, the Internet bubble, or the highly leveraged housing market—are often explained as the inevitable result of market cycles: What goes up must come down. In Liquidated, Karen Ho punctures the aura of the abstract, all-powerful market to show how financial markets, and particularly booms and busts, are constructed. Through an in-depth investigation into the everyday experiences and ideologies of Wall Street investment bankers, Ho describes how a financially dominant but highly unstable market system is understood, justified, and produced through the restructuring of corporations and the larger economy.

Ho, who worked at an investment bank herself, argues that bankers’ approaches to financial markets and corporate America are inseparable from the structures and strategies of their workplaces. Her ethnographic analysis of those workplaces is filled with the voices of stressed first-year associates, overworked and alienated analysts, undergraduates eager to be hired, and seasoned managing directors. Recruited from elite universities as “the best and the brightest,” investment bankers are socialized into a world of high risk and high reward. They are paid handsomely, with the understanding that they may be let go at any time. Their workplace culture and networks of privilege create the perception that job insecurity builds character, and employee liquidity results in smart, efficient business. Based on this culture of liquidity and compensation practices tied to profligate deal-making, Wall Street investment bankers reshape corporate America in their own image. Their mission is the creation of shareholder value, but Ho demonstrates that their practices and assumptions often produce crises instead. By connecting the values and actions of investment bankers to the construction of markets and the restructuring of U.S. corporations, Liquidated reveals the particular culture of Wall Street often obscured by triumphalist readings of capitalist globalization.

  • Trading zone: la noción de trading zone (zona o espacio de intercambio) … que miembros de las distintas comunidades colaboren fructíferamente. Y lo hacen en un espacio de intercambio (una trading zone) al interior del cual se transaccionan objetos, estándares y métricas que, conyunturalmente, no ofrecen problemas de consenso. En algunos momentos, respecto de algunas tareas y proyectos, los científicos se ponen manos a la obra sin problematizar en exceso sus conveniencias (vs. sus desavenencias). Ello ocurre en ciertos lugares y medios, muchas veces imprevistos: en la cafetería, en una lista de correo, una wiki, en el ‘lugar común’ que pueda representar la dirección de correo de una persona querida por todos, por ejemplo.
  • Esos objetos, e instrumentalia en un sentido más genérico, que abren puntos de encuentro y avenencia entre personas o culturas dispares, son conocidos también como boundary objects u objetos fronterizos…
  • … Un ensamblaje vendría a ser la configuración puntual, en un momento y un lugar determinados, de una constelación de prácticas-ideas-personas-objetos. El momento y el lugar pueden tener una espacio-temporalidad muy abierta….

Clifford Geertz en su famoso librito “El antropólogo como autor” (1989) busca cuál es la clave del relato etnográfico y nos dice que no es su retórica factual, ni su argumentación teórica, ni su primoroso estilo, si no su capacidad para “convencernos de que lo que dicen es el resultado de haber podido penetrar (o si se prefiere, haber sido penetrados por) otra forma de vida, de haber, de un modo u otro, realmente “estado allí” (pág. 14). Es el diálogo del etnógrafo o de la etnógrafa con sus datos lo que da sentido al texto etnográfico. Lo que da sentido al relato de campo es el propio proceso de aprendizaje del autor.

… In recent years, close attention has been paid to the ways in which mobile phones in particular, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) in general, are redefining and reconstructing experiences and understandings of time and space (Castells 2000, Ling and Pedersen 2005, Maroon 2006). For many, the “perpetual contact” granted by mobile phones has been perceived as intrusive; various studies have reflected on the invasion of the public space with private talk, and argued that growing mobile phone use was leading to a decline of the public sphere and a correlated erosion of privacy (see the edited volume by Katz and Aakhus 2002). However, the “communication revolution” (Osborn 2008:317) currently underway in southern Mozambique appears to be occasioning quite the opposite by providing individuals with a level of privacy that many had never even dreamed of (see also Hahn and Kibora 2008, Ito 2005, and Maroon 2006). Indeed, local discourses are all about evaluating the mobile phone’s effects on intimate relationships. In Inhambane, like in most of sub-Saharan Africa, land-line infrastructure remains weakly developed and most people have passed “from no phone to cell phone” (Orlove 2005:699). As such, a mobile phone is not a better telecommunication tool; it is a tool that makes telecommunication possible often for the very first time, thus opening up entirely new spaces and possibilities.

In Inhambane, normative discourses paint a strict sexual division of courtship in which men are defined as the active players. They are the ones who have to demonstrate their interest and their worthiness to the women they like, while the latter are expected to feign complete disinterest. Before mobile phones, that is, only a few years ago, opportunities for young men and women to meet and flirt were rather limited and courtship was usually a mediated affair. Young men relied on family members or neighbours to make their interests in a woman known. Wedding negotiations were usually the preserve of fathers and uncles, thus excluding, at least to some extent, the couple concerned (Junod 1966). For those who preferred more direct communication, there was the possibility of sending love letters, but, as many recalled, the time delay was often demotivating. Young men would also “hunt” women by hanging out in the alleys leading to the market. Many still do. Being a public space, however, the alley offers serious restrictions as a courtship space. With the entry of mobile phones, courtship has become less mediated, more personal, much easier (in theory, at least) and, ultimately, more private. As Fakira, a young Mozambican man explained: “Before, when I wanted to talk to a girl I liked, I would risk getting beaten by her brothers or her boyfriend. Now, I just phone her!”

In a context where privacy is scarce and where discreetness is highly valued, the invisible realm of mobile telecommunication becomes invaluable to the consolidation and management of intimate relationships away from the gaze of family members, neighbours and other partners. As a result, relationships are consolidated, which might not have been, were it not for mobile phones. What is more, multiple relationships become easier to manage (cf. Horst and Miller 2006). Owing to the creation of this new space, endeavours to transcend the state of surveillance that characterises daily life become more successful, and the power relations reproduced through this control, more easily challenged. Like fences, however, phones often provide only a false sense of privacy. They might help conceal secrets, but they can as easily reveal them by providing proofs of unfaithfulness, through intercepted phone calls or text messages…

In a context where privacy is scarce and where discreetness is highly valued, the invisible realm of mobile telecommunication becomes invaluable to the consolidation and management of intimate relationships away from the gaze of family members, neighbours and other partners. As a result, relationships are consolidated, which might not have been, were it not for mobile phones. What is more, multiple relationships become easier to manage (cf. Horst and Miller 2006). Owing to the creation of this new space, endeavours to transcend the state of surveillance that characterises daily life become more successful, and the power relations reproduced through this control, more easily challenged. Like fences, however, phones often provide only a false sense of privacy. They might help conceal secrets, but they can as easily reveal them by providing proofs of unfaithfulness, through intercepted phone calls or text messages.

Table of Contents and Sample Chapters

Conventional wisdom about young people’s use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today’s teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networks sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youth’s social and recreational use of digital media. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fills this gap, reporting on an ambitious three-year ethnographic investigation into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings—at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces. By focusing on media practices in the everyday contexts of family and peer interaction, the book views the relationship of youth and new media not simply in terms of technology trends but situated within the broader structural conditions of childhood and the negotiations with adults that frame the experience of youth in the United States.

Integrating twenty-three different case studies—which include Harry Potter podcasting, video-game playing, music-sharing, and online romantic breakups—in a unique collaborative authorship style, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Outis distinctive for its combination of in-depth description of specific group dynamics with conceptual analysis.

This book was written as a collaborative effort by members of the Digital Youth Project, a three-year research effort funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.

The bottom line is that no handbook relieves a professional counterinsurgent from the personal obligation to study, internalize and interpret the physical, human, informational and ideological setting in which the conflict takes place. Conflict ethnography is key; to borrow a literary term, there is no substitute for a “close reading” of the environment. But it is a reading that resides in no book, but around you; in the terrain, the people, their social and cultural institutions, the way they act and think. You have to be a participant observer. And the key is to see beyond the surface differences between our societies and these environments (of which religious orientation is one key element) to the deeper social and cultural drivers of conflict, drivers that locals would understand on their own terms.
… the most inspirational statement I have read in questioning my role as an architect, the skills we are trained to enact as professional designers. This inspirational quote came from the least expected place: the first report to the US congress by General Petraeus, the chief US general in charge, in those days, of the war strategy in Irak. In this report Petraeus suggested to congress that after the experience in Irak, the contemporary US soldier should transform. Not anymore a high tech robot like figure armed with the latest gadgets that can dominate the Warfield from a distance. The contemporary soldier should instead engage the critical proximity of neighborhoods, transforming into an anthropologist, a social worker and versed in many languages! Now, even though this can sound scary, I thought, if the contemporary soldier is transforming why can’t we as architects… we need to appropriate the procedures of the other… not becoming necessarily anthropologists or social workers… but borrowing their procedures so as to operate differently in constructing critical observational research and alternative spatial strategies… In my mind, this is the most fundamental meaning of inter-disciplinarity: not only to share our points of view from the sanctity of our specializations, across the round table of discussion, as we usually do, but to actually contaminate each other with the alternative procedures of each other. In my case, at the border, is has been important to re-observe the actual hidden dynamics of socio-economic and political vectors embedded invisibly in the territory, learning from the actual conditions that have shaped the oddity of these sites of conflict. We need to challenge our reductive and limited ways of working, by which we continue seeing the world as a tabula rasa, on which to install the autonomy of architecture… we need to reorient our gaze towards the drama of such reality. This new realities, as Roemer Van Toorn told me, demand a new theory, a new practice.

En The Economist: Jan Chipchase spent a week recording his own nomadic life for us in Tokyo and Seattle, taking pictures and leaving phone messages.

En su blog, Future Perfect, ha recopilado una buena colección de textos e imágenes reflexionando sobre los nuevos espacios en los que trabajan un número creciente de “nómadas”.

El antropólogo e historiador Chris Kelty (Nevada, 1972) anima a sus estudiantes de la Universidad de California en Los Ángeles (UCLA), y a todo aquel que acude a sus conferencias, a desarrollar trabajos relacionados con DIYBio, un proyecto en el que los aficionados a la biotecnología investigan sobre este tema en su propia casa, sin depender de grandes laboratorios. Este profesor especialista en proyectos de código abierto -aquel que puede ser libremente copiado y modificado- ha participado en elCiclo Ecoinnovación que organiza la Escuela de Negocios EOI. En ella explicó cómo el software libre ha evolucionado para aplicarse a varias actividades, desde libros a proyectos de biología. Kelty acaba de publicar el volumenDos bits: el significado cultural del software libre.

«Si las administraciones usan código abierto, contribuyen a crear el conocimiento del futuro»

¿Se planteó en algún momento elegir una licencia para Two bits que no fuese Creative Commons, es decir, abierta a su libre reproducción?

Es un libro convencional que se puede comprar en una tienda. Pero también está disponible gratis en Internet. Desde el principio quise hacerlo así, de las dos formas. Tuve que convencer al editor de que era un buen experimento demarketing, de que la editorial conseguiría vender más libros de esta forma. Hoy puedo decir que es cierto, las expectativas se han cumplido. Cuando tu objetivo es la difusión de conocimiento, la mejor licencia es Creative Commons. No obstante, no funciona igual en todos los mercados, no es lo mismo un libro académico que una novela.

Usted sostiene que el software libre es algo más práctico que ideológico. ¿Qué opinaría de ello Richard Stallman, fundador del movimiento del software libre?

«Hay muchas contradicciones entre la ideología y la realidad del software libre»

Hay un gran conflicto en torno a lo que es el software libre y el código abierto. Hay muchas contradicciones entre la ideología y la realidad del software. Pero lo más interesante es que todo el mundo utiliza las mismas bases, las mismas herramientas y licencias para crear más software libre. En lugar de un movimiento social típico, en el que se tienen diferentes formas de actuación para un mismo objetivo, en el software libre ocurre al contrario: hay diferentes objetivos pero un mismo modo de actuación. Por ello es un movimiento inusual. Es importante que la gente involucrada entienda por qué lo están haciendo, aunque no sigan estrictamente la filosofía. Hay muchas cosas que acaban saliendo del software libre que después no tienen mucho que ver con él, como la mayoría de herramientas de la Web 2.0.

Pero Stallman no quiso apadrinar su libro Two bits

No fue por la idea que se trata en él sino por una serie de términos que yo utilizo y que Stallman no quiere que se usen, como “propiedad intelectual”. Es un término tabú para él pero normal para todo el mundo.

«La ciencia siempre ha avanzado gracias a los proyectos abiertos»

¿La comunidad libre ha superado conceptos que Stallman no?

Sus principios sobre software libre son perfectos para la era del ordenador doméstico y para la primera etapa de Internet. El problema es que hay una nueva generación de software, sobre todo en la Web 2.0, donde esos principios no encajan de la misma manera. Hay muchas personas que creen de forma intuitiva en el software libre pero no ven cómo aplicar estos principios a las nuevas herramientas. No es que la gente que hace cosas con software libre quiera estar por encima de Stallman, es que el mundo ha cambiado, y realmente es difícil actualizar los principios del software libre a esta nueva era. Estoy convencido, aún así, de que mucha gente quiere hacerlo. Será el paso a una nueva generación.

¿Qué le falta al software libre para convertirse en un estándar?

Ya es algo normal en la industria. Siempre que ahora desarrollas una aplicación, decides si es abierta o propietaria. No se puede ignorar. El futuro del software libre tendrá mucho que ver con lo que suceda con servicios como Google o Facebook. Google, de puertas para adentro, usa código abierto, y de ahí nacen sus servicios. Pero no ponen a disposición de la gente todo lo que realizan. En el futuro va a existir nuevamente un conflicto de monopolio. Google será el próximo monopolio, y nadie se preocupará de Microsoft.

¿Le parecen necesarias las patentes?

Sí. El problema está centrado en que antes se daba por hecho que una nueva patente era buena para la innovación, nadie se lo cuestionaba. No ha sido hasta hace unos años cuando la gente se ha empezado a plantear si registrar una patente estimula la innovación o supone un freno. Va a ser un punto esencial de la próxima década. Ya no es sólo un tema de registro y licencia sino de construir la innovación.

¿La utilización de software libre debería ser una obligación para las administraciones públicas?

No creo que sea necesario imponer nada. Sería magnífico que los gobiernos lo vieran como algo necesario para sus intereses. Si las administraciones utilizan software libre están contribuyendo a construir el conocimiento del futuro, dejando abierta la posibilidad de que alguien con nuevas ideas pueda recoger esas infraestructuras y crear algo nuevo. En cambio, si se utiliza software propietario, será el fabricante del mismo el que decida cuándo se dispondrá de nuevo software. No es sólo una cuestión de costes.

¿Cómo convence a sus alumnos de ayudar en proyectos abiertos?

El argumento más fuerte es decirles que es la manera en la que la ciencia siempre ha avanzado. Si el estudiante está interesado en que su investigación se difunda, debe apostar por ese modelo. Lo más difícil es enseñarles que si ponen a disposición de otros su trabajo aún así pueden ganar dinero.

¿Qué tiene más valor para sus estudiantes, la Enciclopedia Británica o Wikipedia?

Mis estudiantes nacieron después de 1989, se han educado con Wikipedia. Uno de los retos más importantes en institutos y universidades es la alfabetización digital, lo que supone enseñar a las personas a valorar la autoría de los textos que encuentran en Internet. Wikipedia es el modelo perfecto para enseñar. Ahora los alumnos tienen acceso inmediato a todas las definiciones. El reto como profesor consiste en ayudarles a discernir qué es correcto y qué no. Es un cambio radical en la pedagogía.