Monday, July 09, 2007

Planet Management - next book!

I read Planet Management a little early and wanted to let everyone know how much I enjoyed it. While the book was chosen as an "environmental" selection, I would argue it that the book is more about:

(1) rhetorical benefits of different information forms (will Natezilla and K8 agree?)

(2) how different mental models of x lead to needs for and creation of different information practices related to x (with x in this case being the global environment)

Despite the palm tree on the cover, there is no beach scene.

Computer modeling/simulation, as a epistemological endevour and as an end for data management, has become a hot topic in both information studies and science and technology studies in the recent past as issues of what counts as knowledge and who gets to make knowledge have heated up. Elichirigoity's book does a great job providing an intellectual and social history of where computer modeling sprang from. He also does a great job explaining how Club of Rome needed the particular information forms provided by modeling for rhetorical reasons and for political purposes.

Having come from a PhD program with scientific management undercurrent, I also enjoyed reading the Forrester history section to get a better understanding of where systems theory came from. My area, social informatics, was created in part as a response to the strong success of scientific management/systems thinking assumptions and methodologies described in the book and still popular today. Social informatics research tries in part to explain the failures of the scientific management approaches - why doesn't the system act as our model suggests it should? What assumptions about human behavior underlie scientific management analysis of organizations or information flows?

Those veterans from last year's group should note the link between the model's dependence on comprehensive cross national time series data on environmental trends in Planet Management (pg. 89) and Bowker's lamentations about the difficulty of producing such data in Memory Practices in the Sciences.


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