Archiv der Kategorie: English

Mass Panic at Techno Music Festival in Duisburg

Yesterday, Duisburg in my home region Northrine-Westfalia has suffered a tremendous tragedy. At the Love Parade, a fun and festive Techno event on a wonderful sunshiny Saturday afternoon, a stampede inside a tunnel at the entrance of the festival area killed 19 people and injured at least 340, and some sources even say 400. The deadly crush happened in an underpass between the main event site and the expansion area  [See FAZ, SPIEGEL, SPIEGEL, WDR, Frankfurter Rundsschau (German), CNN, BBC, Guardian, Telegraph (English)]. Weiterlesen


5th EIASM Workshop on Trust within and between organizations

FINT, the First International Network on Trust, has done a number of workshops trust in inter- and intra-organizational relationships. FINT is a network of scholars from various disciplines doing research on trust. In the past decade, issues of trust in inter- and intra-organizational relationships have become more important on the agendas of organizational scholars, due to changes in the social structure of societies, economic exchange relations and organizations. Deteriorating binding power and norms of reciprocity within and between organizations, reduction of hierarchical relations and sanctions for deviant behavior in organizations and other developments have fostered interest in cooperative behavior and trusting relationships. In networked organizations, organizational performance becomes increasingly dependent on trustful relations. A related development is the globalization and virtualization of markets and social relations within and between organizations. Trust is imperative to constructive social interaction in society and to value creation in economic relations. On January 28 and 29, 2010, FINT had its 5 th EIASM workshop on trust within and between organizations in Madrid, Spain. It brought together researchers from 24 countries. Weiterlesen

Note on the German election campaign

Last year, the German public followed the 2008 US presidential election with a lot of enthusiasm. When Barack Obama delivered his speech at the Victory Column in Berlin last July, the US campaign trail even seemed closer to us than our own politics, and the German public was fascinated by the US presidential election campaign. Many – including myself – watched the election night till the next morning. Only three weeks ahead of our own election which will decide if Angela Merkel will remain in office, the German election campaign is arousing little passion among voters, and many Germans are rather bored [NYT]. Weiterlesen

On deception. Or why it makes sense to keep trusting

Harrington - "Deception"

The book „Deception“ (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2009), edited by Brooke Harrington (MPIfG, economic sociology) offers a wide variety of perspectives on deception. The contributors have put together their views from various disciplines, e.g. „Dealing with deception in biology“ (C. T. Bergstrom), „Paltering“ (F. Schauer and R. Zeckhauser), „Thoughts, Feelings and Deception“ (M. T. Frank), „Why most people parse palters, fibs, lies, whoppers and other deceptions poorly“ (M. O’Sullivan), „Digital Doctoring: Can we trust photographs?“ (H. Farid), „Digital Deception: The Practice of Lying in the digital age“ (J. T. Hancock), „Cognitive Hacking: Detecting Deception on the Web“ (P. Thomson), „Leaps and Lapses of Faith“ (G. Möllering), „Crocodile Tears, or Method acting in Everyday life“ (T. Lutz), „Deception and Trust in Health Crises“ (F. Rowan), „Responding to deception: The case of fraud in financial markets“ (Brooke Harrington) and, finally, „The pleasures of lying“ (K. Fields). One the one hand, the book “Deception” broadens the theory of action since it offers fresh insight into one important aspects of human action, it shows complexity of action theory, though it is readable for a broad public, and the insights are applicable to many contexts of contemporary society. On the other hand, the book also deserves some critical commentary.

First, what is deception? For instance, recently I took my parrot to the veterinarian, because it looked very sick, and I hardly believed my eyes when I arrived at the appointment: Within a 30 minute drive, my bird’s appearance had changed to pure livelihood. When I asked the doctor about the reason for the tremendous change in the bird’s appearance, he explained that parrots ‚just do that‘ because they will make any effort to appear strong to predators. But can deception in animals be compared to deception in humans? What does it take to deceive? Can people be deceived by technology? Can they be deceived by institutions or even by the state? Can deception ‚just happen‘, that is, does it make sense to speak of deception without an act of deception? Can deception occur when there is no deceiver? I would prefer to confine a definition of deception to humans and to specific contexts. Wikipedia offers this definition of deception:

an act of convincing another to believe information that is not true, or not the whole truth as in certain types half-truths, involving concepts such as propaganda, distraction and/or concealment


And Wikipedia defines fraud as

an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual.

Editor Brooke Harrington refuses to give a definition of deception and prefers to introduce a distinction between deception and lying:

„Unlike lying, which involves intent to promulgate a falsehood, a deception can take place without either intent or awareness on the part of a deceiver.“ (p. 3).

Harrington suggests that deception ‚just happens‘ and does not require a deceiver, an intent to deceive or awareness on the part of the deceiver. I was surprised by this approach to deception. So, I will give a short summary of a few chosen contributions and then add a few critical comments.


Ralf Dahrendorf has died at age 80

Ralf Dahrendorf

Ralf Dahrendorf

Last Wednesday, after severe illness sociologist and liberal Politician Lord Ralf Dahrendorf at age 80 in Cologne where he was a visiting researcher to MPIfG. His contribution to sociology, to democracy in Germany and to liberalism is invaluable, and Dahrendorf will be greatly missed. Here is an interview (recorded 1989, uploaded 2008) with Ralf Dahrendorf at UC Berkeley in English.

Here is a late talk by Lord Ralf Dahrendorf on Freedom versus Justice at Stiftung für die Freiheit (May 2008):

See also 3Sat, FAZ, Spiegel , Frankfurter Rundschau, Guardian and MPIfG Cologne.

Update 21.08.09: In this late interview (2005, in German), Lord Ralf Dahrendorf discusses welfare reform, freedom, inequality and social justice in western European nations. Dahrendorf criticizes German chancellor Gerhard Schröder for failing to recognize that freedom is always connected with hope.

Capitalism formerly known as the German Model and its Re-Formation. Part II

Wolfgang Streeck (MPIfG), a scholar of political economy, studies the relations between markets, states and institutions, the dynamics of their development, their interrelatedness and historical changes. His new book “Re-forming capitalism” (Oxford University Press 2009) is devoted to institutional changes in capitalism formerly known as the German Model and its social consequences. An important book, particularly to those who refuse to give up on liberalism. Back to Part I

Why capitalism?

“Why capitalism? If the gradual disorganization and liberalization of “postwar market economy” like Germany is to be explained, as I believe it must, as a secular historical process driven by endogeneous dialectical force, conceptions of “the economy” as a system in, ore on the way to, static equilibrium, however defined, are not really of use. Speaking of capitalism instead has the advantage that it conceptualizes the economy as inherently dynamic – as a historical social formation defined by a specific, characteristic dynamism, and as an evolving social reality in real time. Speaking of capitalism, in other words avoids the fallacies of misplaced abstractness that plague mainstream economics as well as rational choice social science and prevent them from engaging the world as it happens to be. Specifically, the concept of capitalism draws our attention to a core concept of market expansion and accumulation that, it suggests, makes up the substance and defines the identity of what is now the hegemonic and indeed the only form of economic organization in the modern world. Moreover, it also (…) moves into the center of analysis the fundamental issue of the compatibility of expanding markets with the basic requirements of social integration, thereby providing a coherent analytical framework in which to consider the manifold social conflicts associated with the ‘capitalist constant’ (Sewell 2008) of progressive commodification. ” (Streeck 2009, p. 230)

A society that consumes its institutions?

Streeck makes a strong argument insofar as the transformation of political-economic institutions he describes with the terms of ‘disorganization’, ‘flexibilization’ and ‘economization’ is severe in its consequences in terms of solidarity and social justice. Of course, all institutions are in transformation. So are the social economic institutions of capitalism: collective bargaining, intermediary organizations, social policy and the welfare state, and, of course, corporate governance. As Streeck shows convincingly, this process also involves public financing. But as the state extensively goes after its own interests, e.g. in rising incomes tax for the wealthier parts of the population, rising taxes on goods, inventing new fees for just about everything, lowering the standard of welfare, and hiding the true level of unemployment, this does not leave social solidarity in Germany untouched. Streeck puts this in the term “capitalism” meaning a social order rather than about an abstract “economy” meaning a functional subsystem or the market in a model of the word. But both terms leave that open tough competition, power struggle, inequality and unfairness occur. Slowly but continuously, without major disruptions, capitalism formerly known as the German model has been undermined in complex interplay of systemic, institutional and endogeneous change, not just as a result of external factors such as ‘globalization’ and ‘technology’, but rather because institutions were struggling with specific problems of systemic and social integration. The logic of flexibilization and disorganization is driven by characteristic dispositions of actors, the relationship of rule-making and rule-taking. Weiterlesen

Capitalism formerly known as the German Model and its Re-Formation. Part 1

Re-Forming Capitalism

Re-Forming Capitalism

Thinking about Germany, what are the first people or things that come to your mind? Friedrich Schiller? Heinrich Heine? Oktoberfest? Abwrackprämie? Coordinated capitalism? Hm, Schiller’s spirit of freedom is unequalled, but Heinrich Heine chose to leave the country, and German capitalism is no longer what it used to be. In the distinction of the ‘Varieties of Capitalism’ introduced by Peter Hall and David Soskice (2001), the German model has been discussed as a paradigmatic example of a coordinated market economy in Europe, Japan as a paradigmatic example for a coordinated economy in Asia. ‘Varieties of Capitalism’ (Hall/Soskice) holds that liberal economies and coordinated economies both have their characteristic set of institutions playing together in such a manner that liberal economies offer ideal structural conditions for radical innovation within companies and their interorganizational networks, and coordinated market economies offer ideal structural conditions for incremental innovation.

Wolfgang Streeck in his new book “Re-Forming Capitalism” – a must read – offers a dynamic version of political economy and shows the German economy has undergone such tremendous change in the areas of wage structure and wage-setting, business organizations and trade unions, social policy, public finance and corporate governance in recent decades, that the term no longer applies. It must be rather discussed about the general political and institutional of capitalism than the idea of varieties of capitalism suggests. The keywords of structural change Streeck identifies are ‘flexibilization’ and ‘liberalization’ rather than ‘globalization’ that forces a shift in the relationship between market, state and civil society. (Streeck 2009: 25). In this and the next blog post, I’ll discuss the transformation of the German model based on Streecks‘ inspiring new book, some old material from my dissertation and a bit of illustrative material I found online. Weiterlesen

Financial crisis visualized


Part 2

Jonathan Jarvis at the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California did this visualization and simplification of the financial market crisis which began as a mortgage crisis, then became crisis and now is an economic crisis affecting all of too. As the author writes at credit crisis visualized, the goal is giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated, rather than figuring a way out. Neither does it mention the larger historical development of mortgage lending business, nor does it talk about state regulation and the role of institutions, e.g. social security or the lack of it. And the black screen at the end of the short film is just the beginning of the downward circle affecting the real economy of production and innovation, as well. Moreover, it is anything but a solution to the problem. Nice work for a thesis and cool visualization, but the limits are also clear. Via Mike Wesch & Spreeblick. Thanks!

Coming up: Post on the involvement of the German economy and the flip side of institutional change of corporate capitalism in Germany, together with the dissolution of „Germany Inc.“ In the meantime, I can offer an older post from July 14, 2008: Why the US recession will bite the German economy, too.

Update: PBS documentary of financial breakdown „On Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008, the astonished leadership of the U.S. Congress was told in a private session by the chairman of the Federal Reserve that the American economy was in grave danger of a complete meltdown within a matter of days.“ [56 min]. Via Sprechblase.


Tina, Warholized

Tina, Warholized

Sun was not really shining today, but at least I got some colors from the Warholizer. Via Daniel Fiene.

Advertising space? „Web Search – Multidisciplinary Perspectives“. A discussion.

Web search

Web search

Search engines are a core component of the internet as we know it. Based on Durkheims idea in his book „Division of labor“ suggesting infrastructure such as roads and railways connect people, enabes economic development and – indirectly – contributes to the transformation of social solidarity, it is hard to overestimate the impact of search engines. On any day in 2006, about 60 million adult Americans entered more than 200 million search queries into searchengines. In 2005, 84 per cent of Internet users have used search engines. On any given day, 56 per cent of those online have used search engines. 92 per cent of those who use search engines say they are confident about their searching abilities, with over half of them, 52 per cent, say they’re “very confident”. 68 per cent of users say that search engines are a fair and unbiased source of information. Only 19 per cent say they don’t place that trust in search engines (PEW Internet and American life project – Search engine users, 2005). As of August 2007, Google is not only handling the majority of all search queries. It manages to increase its share to handling 1200 million searches per day on average worldwide, according to Clickz reporting on Comscore data. Yahoo is way behind at 275 million search queries per day, and MSN at 70 Million. Baidu (a Chinese search engine) beats MSN, coming in at 105 million. 2006 figures for the US only put Google at 91 million searches per day. Reason enough to theorize a little bit about search engines, their importance, their policies and why they give rise to trust concerns online. Search engines are technology, information infrastructure, knowledge infrastructure and a socio-economic thing simultaneously. Hence, if I enter a search query into any search engine, Is it social action? Is it economic action? Can social and economic action be separated in a search query, at all? And how does that relate to trust concerns?

So I came across “Web Search – Multidisciplinary Perspectives” (Springer, 2008), edited by Amanda Spink and Michael Zimmer. The book is structured into three main sections with five chapters each. Following the introduction, Part II presents social, cultural and philosophical aspects of Web search. Part III presents political, legal and economic aspects of Internet search. Part IV presents information behavior perspectives. And in section five – conclusion – the editors draw together the results and discuss avenues for further research.

Essays include “Through the Google Googles: Sociopolitical Bias in Search Engine Design”, “Reconsidering the Rhizome: A textual Analysis of Web Search Engines ”, “Searching ethics: The role of search engines in the Construction and Distribution of knowledge”, “The Gaze of the Perfect Search Engine: Google as an Infrastructure of Dataveillance”, “Search Engine Liability for Copyright Infringement”, “The democratizing effects of Search Engine use: On Chance exposures and Organizational Hubs”, “Googling Terrorists: Are Northern Irish Terrorists visible on Internet search engines?”, “The history of Internet Search Engine: Navigational Media and the Traffic Commodity”, “Toward a Web Search Information Behavior model”, “Web Searching for Health: theoretical foundations and Connections to Health Related Outcomes”, and
“Web Searching: A quality measurement Perspective.” Weiterlesen