Misunderstanding strategy: reductionist determinism

INN331 – Management Issues for Information Professionals

WEEK TWO: Reading notes on strategy, synthesis for reductionist determinism.

reductionist-determinism

Introduction: cognitive dissonance

I expect a level of cognitive dissonance between an academic unit or lecturer’s, objectives, the assigned and suggested readings, and my own professional and personal perspectives.

That dissonance was dialed up pretty high this week when it came to considering the differences between strategic thinking, strategic planning, and the scope to ‘foster’ organisational creativity and innovation. The most jarring mismatches between my perceptions and the readings occurred when evaluating the LIS-focussed articles.

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Techno-narcissism:
delusions about social media

techno-Big-Brother-Google

Looking at media coverage of Edward Snowden’s allegations, what is surprising is not their content, but that we are shocked by the close links between Silicon Valley companies and state intelligence agencies.  Our dismay suggests that we have credulously accepted the fairy-tale reporting of firms like Facebook and Google as ‘tech’ or ‘social media’ outfits rather than seeing them for what they really are: intelligence gathering, manipulation and sales corporations.

Using Google as our example here, let’s have a closer look at why we have deluded ourselves about what to expect from it.

Google is no more a technology company than auto manufacturers, pharmaceutical corporations, or food conglomerates.  The latter all use and develop technology too, but we name them according to their products and services, not the tools they use to develop and sell them.

In a disciplined process of analysis we might question other assumptions too.  The word ‘users’, for example, is far too neutral about the relationship between the corporation and us.  We are actually more akin to patrons who frequent a ‘market’ where we purchase third party goods and services either directly or indirectly through the influence of advertising.  Goodies like email, office software, and online chatting facilities are not really products so much as the enticement to turn up.[1]

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delusions about social media”

TLDR: why things turned out so crappy

Admiral Hyman Rickover.
Admiral Hyman Rickover.

Some recent ‘readings’ raised for me once more the topic of orthodoxy and opposition to it. That is, the idea of questioning ‘mainstream’ ideas about political economy, social norms, the ends of humanity, and the means we use to pursue actual as opposed to propagandised ends.

Not a very sexy topic for many people, because it requires patience and the will to understand that there are many more points of view than the stereotypical binary oppositions offered to us by partisans in those fights. Communism and capitalism. Decency and deviance. Lawful and lawless. Social and antisocial. Even good and evil.

In some tangential way these themes came to me again with force via a reminder of Admiral HG Rickover’s 1982 Henry Morgenthau Lecture, by the first six episodes of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, by Cosma Shalizi’s critique of central planning, and by Evgeny Morozov’s views on the dangers of digital tyranny.

In the mental amalgam of these not too disparate strands of thought, I was drawn again to the idea that we choose to turn our backs on alternatives and seem far too ready to embrace what is as inevitable rather than focusing on what we could create that might be better.

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