Friday, May 15, 2009

Gladwell an unwitting proponent of actor-network theory?

Outliers: The Story of Success by Gladwell could have been the story of actor network theory.
Rather than attributing individual accomplishment to accomplishing individuals, the network is identified as important (a not new phenomenon, but new in what seems to be a self help book).
He argues people with social advantages do better than people without social advantages, and so a wise thing for society to do would be to arrange for more advantages for more people. Focus on the network, again, seems to me an obvious solution given that's where the resources lie, however this has not been obvious to many.
Its the network and the interactions therein that creates the conditions for success, or its absence.

In a story where he does not, but could have looked at an actor network effect, he talks of the "Matthew Effect"(from a passage in the Gospel of Matthew: "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."
Gladwell reports the findings of Roger Barnsley, a Canadian psychologist, who noticed the birthdays of Canadian hockey players. Whether he looked at professional players or elite junior-leaguers: 40 percent were born in the first trimester of the year, and 30 percent were born between April and June.
An amazing coincidence or an underacknowledged actor in the form of policy and protocols?
The admission date for Canada's youth hockey league is January 1.
Pre-teen hockey players born January/February play hockey with kids as much as eleven months their juniors. The older players, generally more physically developed and skilled, get selected for all-star teams. "And what happens when a player gets chosen [for all-star teams]?" Gladwell asks. "He gets better coaching, and his teammates are better, and he plays fifty or seventy-five games a season instead of twenty games a season like those left behind."
Local context and networks matter.
Gladwell is pointing to the web of elements outside of people's individual control.
What Latour would have called the actor net work.

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