Archive for November 20th, 2011

Becoming a predictioneer   no comments

Posted at 6:57 pm in Uncategorized

In my continuing pursuit (albeit with a slow down of blog posts) I have settled on a book that has me enthralled. It is The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Featured in an article I read some time in the summer he has been using Game Theory to predict political changes for twenty five years. Most of us have heard to typical GT example of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, but Mesquita goes much further and opens the concept of Game Theory wide open way before He delves into the maths.

His opening example is on reversing the ‘game’ we play when we go to buy a car. When you sit in front of a salesperson in a car showroom they are holding all the cars, at the end of the deal they ask you how much you want to pay – which might require the salesperson to ‘go and check with the manager’ and you might think you are getting a good deal. Mesquita’s plan is about reversing the power in the game, which he, his family and his students use when buying a (new) car. First you research the car, its average value and be very specific about which model you want and what extras you want with it. Then the fun begins; call up every dealer with that car and starting with the first one you say… ‘At 5pm today i will be buying [the car], I am calling every dealer in the area and whoever gives me the cheapest price will get the check.’ Some dealers refuse to ‘play’ but most go with it, it changes the situation and requires the dealers to do what is in their own interest – offer the cheapest price without knowing what they are offering it against. A blind auction if you will, but with the essential ingredient of game theory at the centre; everyone acts in their own best interest.

Swirling around in my mind with all this my recently gained knowledge and some understanding of Actor Network Theory, also (of course) are the constant swirling thoughts of data visualisation. I am off to play with Processing and some XML stuff, having decided that Logic will be the subject of my next, imminent post.

Written by pmb1g11 on November 20th, 2011

Basic concepts: Sociology   no comments

Posted at 4:18 pm in Sociology

Sociology is ‘the systematic, sceptical and critical study of the social. It studies the way people do things together.’ There are many different perspectives and it encompasses the widest global issues right down to the individual and their inner world.


Although sociology is also a social science similar to my other subject choice of economics they work in different ways. Economics uses data to predict future spending etc, but sociologists are researchers and theorists. There is a degree of overlap, but the range of sociology is much wider and so sociology methods are more varied. Researchers find data, from experiments or data from everyday life (such as population statistics or Census data), and use is to draw conclusions about the world and society, Theorists go further and want to understand how this data fits into ‘the grand scheme of things’ and want deeper understanding of what is going on. Data alone cannot speak for itself and a wider understanding is necessary to gain real insight from the data. Theorists in sociology develop these wider ideas and help develop theoretical explanations for the data and how it fits in the world.

Although there can be some problems with the way sociology is studied. Firstly they are part of a changing world, one finding may be true one day, but not the next. Secondly, sociologists are part of society so it is difficult to remove oneself from what you are studying. Lastly, sociology knowledge becomes parts of society as it is known and therefore changes society. This cycle of knowledge has an impact of society itself.

Origins of Sociology

The Enlightenment caused a change in society. There was a move to rational thinking, empiricism and science and there was more focus on the individual.

Auguste Comte wanted to understand the ‘human drama’ of his time. He believed that if people had the knowledge of how society operates they would be able to build a better future. He divided his new discipline into two parts: how society is held together; and how society changes. From the Latin ‘to study society’ Comte descried his study as sociology.

Previous to Comte philosophers had been imagining the ideal society, not measuring and analysing society as it was. Comte wanted to develop a scientific approach to study society, thus he was proponent of Positism – to understand the world based on science.

Society is always changing and there have been many great leaps in society and how we look at it, for example during the Industrial revolutions. However, there is a more recent change that is of current interest to my research question: The Cyber Revolution. The Cyber Revolution is linked to the development of digital technology and the spread of information technologies that affect how we communicate and how it has become mainstream. The World Wide Web is a great example of this, launching recently in 1991 it is already embedded in all of our lives and is considered an international technology. This changes surrounding this digital age is a rapid change with large effects on society. The textbook tries to break down these changes:

The Digital Age: The shift of computerisation of life. The way there are computers is most everyday things.

The Cyborg Age: The way humans are becoming more adapted to using these technologies.

The Information Age: The rapid growth of production and availability of information and data.

The Network Society: The change in the way we are networked together through mobile phone and the internet.

The Virtual Age: The mediated nature of reality. We live in a world that is increasingly less direct and instead of face-to-face we communicate through computers and phones.

Another large aspect of sociology is that there are different theoretical perspectives of looking at things which guides thinking and research. Below is a simplified map of Western sociological theory, 1700-2000.

Classical/Traditional Perspectives of Sociology


‘Functionalism is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system those parts work together and interconnect.’ This perspective looks as social structure (finding stable patterns of human behaviour) and social function (all social structures have a function in society, either it be a handshake of family life). Merton also speaks of social dysfunctions, which cover any social patterns that have undesirable consequences for the operation of society. The critique for this perspective is that although this perspective was dominant until recently it presumes that society is stable and orderly. It also does not take into consideration inequality, such as class/gender/ethnicity issues.

Conflict perspective

The conflict perspective is a framework for building theory that sees society as an arena of differences and inequalities that generate conflict and change.’ This perspective complements Functionalism as it focuses on division and inequality. The critique of this perspective is basically the opposite of the Functionalism critique. The Conflict perspective glosses over the shared values and interdependence in society and focuses on the conflict and inequality. Both the Conflict and the Functionalist perspectives could also be criticised for being too broad and glossing over the smaller factors that make differences in society such as family and class.

Social action perspective

Contrary to the broad views of society seen in both Functionalist and Conflict perspective, the Social action perspective focuses on the smaller factors. One founder of social action theory is Max Weber who emphasised looking at a setting from the point of view of the people in it. His approach emphasised how human meaning and action shape society. A critique for this perspective is that this perspective helps us understand how people experience society and how they do things together. But by focusing on these smaller details broader social structures may be missed.

There are also contemporary perspectives such as feminism (looking as gender difference), Anti-racism (looking at race differences), postmodernism (looking at differences and complexities) and globalisation (looking at the larger world and how societies fit in it). The next post will further explore globalisation because I believe it is an important in relation to my research question. The globalisation of industry and society may lend some answers to why independent music can survive if the music industry has been made global.

Information and graphs summarised from:

Macionis, J.J. & Plummer, K. (2008). Sociology. A global introduction. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Written by Gemma Fitzsimmons on November 20th, 2011

Tagged with , , ,

05 – Information Systems   no comments

Posted at 1:29 pm in Uncategorized

Information Systems

O’brien (2007) defines an Information system (IS) as any kind of organized combination of people, hardware, software, communications network, data resources, and policies and procedures that stores, retrieves, transforms, and disseminates information in an organization.

The Framework.

There are 5 main areas that build the framework for the information systems.  All these elements play an important role in the process of building the research project.

Information Systems

Foundation Concepts

To develop an information system, it is important to understand the behavioral, technical, business and managerial elements in order to develop the components for the Information System.

Information Technologies

In this area we will focus on the hardware, software, networks and data management that will affect the project in regard of its development, concept development and management.

Business Applications

Concepts like e-commerce can influence or provide ways of how the management can be implemented in an Information System like the one required for the Museum application.

Developments Processes

This will be focusing on the planning, development and implementation of the system(s) to meet the requirements of the problem or situation.

Management Challenges

Through this process, we will focus on delivering and managing effectively the information technologies at the end-user, business or int this case a multiuser/global institution.

Inside Management Systems

There are several types of Information Systems. They are usually classified into two different groups: Operations Support Systems and Management Support Systems.

Operation Support Systems:

  • Specialized Processing Systems
  • Transaction Processing Systems
  • Process Control Systems
  • Enterprise Collaboration Systems

Management Support Systems:

  • Management Information Systems
  • Decision Support Systems
  • Executive Information Systems
  • Specialized Processing Systems

There are five major resources focusing on the relationship with the IS and the products (O’brien, 2007)

  • People Resources
    • Specialists – software developers or system operators
    • End Users – the person who uses the IS
  • Hardware Resources
    • Machines – computers, monitors, drives, printers or scanners
    • Media – Storage, disks or paper forms
  • Software Resources
    • Programs – operating systems, editors or payroll applications
    • Procedures – data entry procedures, error correction, paycheck distribution procedures
  • Data Resources
    • Communication media, communication processors, network access, control software
  • Information Products
    • Management reports, business visual display and paper forms

All these elements and areas can help us to visualize the complexity of the development of an Information System. We need to know what do we want from the organisation (system) to do? An organisation that includes people is more complex to manage than one that doesn’t (Wilson, 2001). For this, it is important to analyse the system implemented.  Users or a human response will vary which will vary the judgement of the system.

To avoid judging problems we have to follow a specific methodology.  We have to define a problem first of all. From here we can start gathering the appropriate techniques to solve this problem. The implementation or application of these techniques will allow us to go to the next step if effective or back to the previous one if unsuccessful. We also have to analyse the cost/effective solution.  After these steps we can finally implement the solution.

So we have to solve a problem. But, who is defining the problem. What seems to be problematic for one person can not appar to be so for another one. Wilson (2001) explains that instead of focusing on a person’s problem or a problem, we have to focus on defining a situation that is problematic. I believe this will help the project not to isolate on a single person’s perspective.


O’BRIEN, J. A. & MARAKAS, G. M. 2007. Introduction to information systems, Boston, Mass., McGraw-Hill.

WILSON, B. B. 2001. Soft systems methodology conceptual model building and its contribution, Chichester ;, Wiley,.

Sociology for Dummies (1)   no comments

Posted at 12:28 pm in Sociology

The main reference for this blog post is Sociology A global Introduction 5th edition (2012) by John Macionis   and Ken Plummer

Macionis is a professor of sociology and a Prentice Hall distinguished scholar and works at Kenyon College in Ohio and is considered one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the U.S.  Professor Ken Plummer works at the University of Essex.

Sociology is the study of the forces of social integration and how they change in space and time.  According to Macionis and Plummer sociology is

“the systematic, sceptical and critical study of the social.”

So it challenges preconceived ideas about the world like any decent science but what is the social?  For example we mostly think of ourselves as individuals who make our own decisions whereas many sociologists, such as Durkheim (1858-1917), believe that many of the decisions we make are contingent on social factors.   Durkenheim noticed a correlation between the less socially integrated (single people, men, the rich) and higher suicide rates.  He argued that people would have made different decisions had they been born a different gender, social class, in another time or another space.   

Sociologists are interested in the way that different groups (ages, gender, racial etc.) are affected by society as a whole.  In particular, the definition of gender or age or race differs depending on location in space and time.  For example in the Victorian era in Britain, women were expected to dress much more conservatively than they are today.  Maconis and Plummer sum this up succinctly,

“At the broadest level, sociology sets out to show the patterns and processes by which society shapes what we do.”

I think that the word “show” here is very important, it deftly avoids the question, as a sociologist, am I required changing the world or just observe it?  Or are critical observations enough to change it?


Sociologists claim some statement and then build up an argument which supports this statement.  To build an effective argument sociologists use a variety of methods such as case studies, statistical analysis, questionnaires and interviews.  For example Durkenheim (above) used statistics to back up his claim that individual decisions are often not that individual and are contingent upon society

Written by dm1x07 on November 20th, 2011