Friday, December 19, 2008

Moral hazards and what ingenious kiwis do with number 8 wire

Photo attribution to Brewbooks for this photo of a bra on a barbed wire fence in New Zealand. I trust no-one got hurt in the making/taking of the photo.

Moral hazards
are a bit like climbing barbed wire; there's purpose and there's risk and some of the risks are anticipated (can see the barbs) and some are not; there's a tension in the wire as it's pulled down to climb over. This (almost) without fail comes back and bites you as you let go... and then there's what's in the paddock once you get there...but also what's in the paddock you were leaving...
And even further effects coz here I'm writing as a New Zealander and its amazing what we can do with number 8 fencing wire... even philosophize!

Thanks for the prompt form Keith Lyons on moral hazards, I found myself exploring wikipedia and then trying to edit wikipedia and then discovered further hazards... the process is so convoluted that wikipedias story of unintended consequence was unable to be changed by me.
I wanted to enter into the discussion. To me the defined concept of moral hazard was a bit one sided. A top down bias where underlings did not fully disclose to the upperlings. And where there seemed to be a deliberate intent to deceive. And i just wanted to add a prompt to the discussion on the page regarding unintended consequences for the page editors to consider a link to
Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections. New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge: MIT Press.
But there were no links on wiki to second level effects or to these authors, and by the time i wrote in my bit on a wiki discussion page and checked i'd done the right thing twice over, my scribblings got scrambled. So I'm blogging instead. Such are moral hazards also. Unintended sequalae when the process gets too hard.

Sproull and Kiesler make 4 points:
1. the full possibilities of a new technology are hard to see, likely to emphasize planned uses and underestimate the 2nd level effects.
2. unanticipated consequences usually have less to do with efficiency effects and more to do with changing interpersonal interactions, ideas about what is organization. This may change how each of us works and even the work we do.
3. these 2nd level effects emerge somewhat more slowly as people renegotiate changed patterns of behaviour and thinking.
4. 2nd level effects are not caused by technology operating autonomously on passive organisation or a society. Instead they are constructed as technology interacts with, shapes, and is shaped by the social and policy environment.

In looking at the moral hazard of using technologies for learning or for counselling that do or dont add substance, its worth considering what technologies are. Here I take a broad understanding on technology as defined by Ursula Franklin as 'the way we do things round here' (Ursula Franklin).
I then take a comment made by Jenny Mackness post on social networking and how come some people are getting something out of facebook or twitter when in her argument these are not communities of practice.
"Etienne Wenger has explained all this for us in his work on communities of practice. A community of practice needs the type of commitment that Facebook and other social networks of this type cannot give us. In addition social networks of the Facebook type don’t gather round a clearly identified domain and there is no requirement to share practice."

And I disagree, levels of committment are in the eye of the beholder.
Its working for some, to the level some want, and sometimes there might be a lot of highly visible to'ing and thro'ing and sometimes not. And sometimes the point is the connection, whats felt maybe, rather than whats visible. And this fits with a definition of community where community is based on value rather than on materially defined factors and for which further argument can be found in reading Raymond Williams. (Or in my own masters thesis, a philosophical analysis of community care, Auckland University)

Committment is never a stable entity, it fluctuates, and therefore so do communities of practice. Sometimes they work as communities of practice, and sometimes they dont. Sometimes they do for some of the people involved and not for others. The stability issue suggests there is value in a network way of looking, as afforded by actor-network theory. This encourages the discussion to broaden into what holds this thing called a community of prectice in place and whats pulling it apart. The tensions. And in using ANT there's also the added bonus in that the things to be looked at, the actors to investigate, can be human and otherwise.

This is part of the political environment. Whats in/out, whats considered and whats not, and even that some subjects are considered at all.
And the morality of this, and the hazards of this, are integral.

And so to in the research of such things there are further hazards. Moral hazards of invisibility like barbed wire in sand or in surf. Whats foreseen and whats not. Multilayered performances.
And in my own small way, I attempt to do more good than harm.

1 comment:

  1. I found this ref to Clive Thompson (2007) who names a phenomenon social proprioception, named after the physical quality of
    proprioception that tells a creature where its extremities are by the reception of stimuli
    produced within the organism. Social proprioception tells us where the nodes of our community are and provides a sense of connectedness to and awareness of others enable us to have this sense even when the
    members of our community are not within sight.