Monday, October 09, 2006

Group 3's Response

Here is a summary of the numerous unique findings from Part Four: "Transformations," along with some questions for further discussion:

Urry, "Mobile Sociology"
Urry discusses the idea of sociology and how it is developing and changing with our changing technology and something he terms "mobilities." First, he makes a good point by saying that "sociology" is a very roughly defined term to begin with. He says that "there is something 'more' in social life than 'individual men and women and their families', exactly what that surplus amounts to is not so obvious." (192) In the past, societies were usually defined by nationality, language, customs etc..., but with today's globalization, the entire idea of society is changing. Therefore, it's study must also change. Huge multi-national corporations can communicate and mutually benefit through language, religious, and cultural boundaries. Some of his cool terms:-Complex mobilities are physical and social systems that have a very large number of interacting elements-scapes: network of machines, technologies, organizations, texts, and actors that constituted nodes of communication.-Flows: the information that flows through these entities.

Urry uses the metaphor of "mobility" to describe the current society, and argues that sociology should be concerned with this mobility. He claims that our concept of society is based on nation-states, thus is no longer suitable for analyzing the current globalizing world. To Urry, the contemporary world and globalization is not based upon the metaphor of region, but upon the metaphors of "network" and "fluid" which cross the regional boundaries of societies and "produce complex and enduring connections across space and through time between peoples and things" (p. 195). Urry emphasizes the complexity of the global mobilities and the resulting dynamic relationships between global and local, and concludes that a "sociology of mobility" should deal with the complexity and uncertainty of the "global civil society".

Discussion questions: What ideas in Urry's article are new and beyond Castell's analysis of the "network society"? Do you agree that the transformation of the society is so dramatic that the classic sociological debates (such as structure vs. agency) are useless for analyzing contemporary world?

Discussion Questions:
-It seems like he is describing a world of business, not sociology. What is the effect on the study of arts, religion, and relationships that really define societies and communities?-If inovation is the mixing of academic fields (201), isn't this a new line of study? Why say that sociology needs to intrinsically change for this technological revolution?

Richard Reich, “The Three Jobs of the Future”
Reich discusses the role of the global web in creating an international economy that changes American competitiveness in the global market from a monetary standpoint to a value standpoint. He identifies 3 categories of work, which he claims most Americans fall under: routine production services, in-person services, and symbolic-analytic services.
“Routine production services” encompasses jobs that require repetitive tasks preformed by reliable, loyal employees with minimal education, who are closely supervised and paid based on the amount of time put in and the amount of work completed; there services can be traded worldwide (i.e. data processors).

“In-person services” are similar to routine production; however, are provided person-to-person, thus require pleasant demeanors as workers are in direct contact with those who benefit from their work (i.e. flight attendants).
“Symbolic-analytic services” represents jobs that require the so-called “manipulations of symbols and data”, like problem-solving and devising of strategies. They require higher levels of education, are not paid in the same scale as the other categories, and are not supervised, instead working with associates and partners (i.e. lawyers, professors). Reich notes that not all professors, for example, can fall under this category if they continually repeat the same lecture, as the task is more akin to a routine production.
Reich highlights that the “new economy” has brought about changes, such as the presence of unidentified problems and unknown solutions-no longer will the mastery of previously existing knowledge result in a good income. He notes on pg. 211 “The only true competitive advantage lies in skill in solving, identifying, and brokering new problems.”

Discussion Questions
Reich suggests that professions categorized as “symbolic-analytic services” formerly required mere memorization of previously existing knowledge. Hasn’t innovation always been present throughout history and required the skills he claims are only necessary now in order to generate a “true competitive advantage”?
Based on Reich’s description, is there any way to gauge which nations have the most potential to thrive in this emerging international economy?
Do the 3 categories Reich identifies aptly cover and describe the variety of professions that exist in America?

Nico Stehr

Stehr addresses the nature of the changing economic structure in modern society. He claims that this is important for many reasons. First of all, the development of this new knowledge society is connected to the change in economic activity. Secondly, the new knowledge-based labor, public debate, political discourse and other societal sectors cannot be understood without connecting it to and understanding the transformation in the economic system. Stehr sees the biggest change in the economy to be a shift from an economy driven by material to an economy that is driven by ‘symbolic’ or knowledge-based inputs and outputs. Stehr claims that this new economy, driven by knowledge, is ignored by economists.More specifically, Stehr claims that people like Bell, and others who believe that this shift in economy has diminished the importance of the manufacturing sector and industrial production, are wrong. He believes that there has not been a big shift in the relative contribution of different sectors of the economy to the total output. He believes that big shifts are however, taking place within the manufacturing sectors. In regards to employment, Stehr believes that output in advanced societies has increased, while contribution to employment has declined. He argues that the rise and persistent unemployment is due to an increase in non-standard work. In the long run he believes that unemployment maybe as a result of the transformation in the economy, and will require a different set of skills.

Anne Balsamo, "Forms of Technological Embodiment"
In her article "Forms of Technological Embodiment," Anne Balsamo arguesthat one cannot disregard the material body when speaking of technology,for the gendered and racial identity of that body informs itstechnological development and cultural reproduction.

She describes fournew bio-technological forms of embodiment:
1) The Marked body, as seen in multi-cultural mannequins and cosmeticsurgery,
2) The Laboring body, as seen in mothers and microelectronics industry,
3) The Repressed body, as seen in virtual reality and computer-mediatedcommunication, and
4) The Disappearing body, as seen in bio-engineering and databasesinvolving bodies.

Balsamo especially explores these ideas as they appear in Pat Cadigan'scyberpunk novel, _Synners_. This book illuminated gendered differencesin the ways the characters related to technology - the women usedcyberspace to communicate with other people, while the men used it toescape the limitations of their material bodies.Overall, Balsamo encourages those involved in technology discourse toconsider the ways that assumptions of binary gender identity affect theanalysis of and predictions for technology in our society.

This chapter differs with others in this book radically: it is not a society-level analysis, but a feministic "body theory" study. It focuses on the transformation of the conception of the human body, rather than the significant macro issues in the "globalizing", "informational" or "network" society.Although many pieces that we've read touched on the transformations of human lives, this is the first time in this semester that we read about things so micro and so close to our everyday lives: fashion magazines, cosmetic surgeries, online communication, virtual reality technology, electronic database, etc. By recounting a science fiction, the author introduces her body theory � the postmodern forms of technological embodiment: (1) the marked body which bears the cultural identities, (2) the laboring body which reproduces materials and culture, (3) the repressed body which means the repression of the material body, and (4) the disappearing body which signals the increasing replaceability of body components. Focusing on gender and racial analysis of hi tech, the author provided a new perspective for us to understand the transformation in the information society. Questions: 1.How this feministic account of body theory fits into the information society theories that we've been talking about so far?2.Think about your own online communication experience and the role of gender identities. Do you agree on the author�s stand on this issue?


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