17th-18th September, 2015
Organisers: Daniel Neyland, Sveta Milyaeva, Vera Ehrenstein
Funded by: ERC project MISTS
At this event, we will ask: What happens when Science and Technology Studies engages with the economic?
Further information on the event including a programme and abstracts can be found here: http://www.marketproblems.com/economic-exchanges-event.html
At the event we will assess what STS work on ‘the economic’ could gain from an exchange with the broader STS community and vice versa. We will discuss the analytic utility of considering the economic in relation to STS research into legal and political formations, notions of embodiment, work on publics, consultation, issue formation and sociotechnical controversies, ideas of expertise, the performative turn, and what it means to move from scientific laboratories to sites of economic innovation.
The event will include four keynote speakers: Franck Cochoy, Sheila Jasanoff, Vincent Lépinay and Fabian Muniesa.
Alongside the keynote presentations will be a number of shorter presentations and discussions involving: Céline Cholez and Pascale Trompette, Joe Deville, Lilliana Doganova, Brice Laurent and Julien Merlin, Véra Ehrenstein, Christian Frankel, José Ossandón and Trine Pallesen, Noortje Marres, Sveta Milyaeva, and Gisa Weszkalnys.
The event is free to attend, but we do require registration for catering (etc). To register please send an e-mail (including any dietary requirements) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advanced research methods in Science and Technology Studies (STS): Laboratory Studies
28-30th October 2015, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff Unviersity.
This short course is the first in series of training events, funded by the ESRC, offering advanced methods training relevant to Science and Technology Studies. In contrast to debates around different schools of thought (e.g. Sociology of Scientific Knowledge or Actor Network Theory), STS training tends to pay less attention to methodological issues. This course aims to remedy this, focusing on three different STS-specific methods: Laboratory studies, Interviews with scientists and Imitation Games.
This first course focuses on Laboratory studies, one of the first distinct points where the sociology of science began to develop its own methodological approaches, leading to such classic studies as Laboratory Life (Latour and Woolgar) or Changing Order (Collins).
Drawing on the extensive experience in ethnographic and qualitative methods at the Cardiff School of Social Science, this course will cover a theoretical component, contrasting the varying methodological positions underpinning classic laboratory studies (such as ‘naïve observation’ and ‘informed observation’) as well as a practical element, spending time carrying out observations in a lab. A key aspect of the course will be encourage students to develop ideas about those sites in which they plan to carry out their research.
Course staff include: Professor Harry Collins
Professor Adam Hedgecoe
Dr. Jamie Lewis
The course is suitable for PhD students and more experienced researchers.
This course is free of charge and travel bursaries are available for non-Wales DTC PhD students.
To reserve a place on this course, please contact Adam Hedgecoe <email@example.com>
All roads lead to Rome, and I suspect that social studies of entrepreneurship also lead to market studies. Therefore readers might be interested in this call for papers for the 2nd EIASM Interdisciplinary Market Studies Workshop in Howth near Dublin, Ireland, June 7-8, 2012. The deadline for a max. 3 page abstract is 27 January 2012. Invited guests will be professors Robin Wensley (Warwick, UK) and David Stark (Columbia, US). Apply here. More information here.
We particularly welcome in depth empirical studies of marketization processes in new areas and of major changes in existing markets. These settings provide excellent opportunities for reflection regarding the ordering devices, objects, models, representations, and tools that are set up and employed to propagate certain market forms over others, as well as the morality and values that underpin those instruments. In short, this workshop will revolve around the major questions of:
• What are the limits of market models and their realization?
• What practices are involved in (dis)ordering markets?
• What kinds of economic orders (markets or others) result from these efforts?
• What are the ‘civilizing’ effects of these orders, on markets, market actors and societies at large?
• What relationships exist between values realized in markets (for instance via the price mechanism) and the values underlying the marketization effort?
• What moral orders are used to justify marketization efforts?
Organising committee: Susi Geiger, University College Dublin, Debbie Harrison, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo Hans Kjellberg, Stockholm School of Economics and Alexandre Mallard, Ecole des Mines ParisTech
Now there is an interesting topic! The reason I’m bringing this up is not to raise the issue whether becoming an entrepreneur leads to having more or less sex (although who knows, maybe there is something to it). It is also not about entrepreneurship in the adult industry. It’s not even about entrepreneurship and gender. Rather, what got me thinking about entrepreneurship and sex is this BBC News article about recent research on how “worms’ sex life yields advantage over parasites.” The article claims that this is the first convincing evidence on why reproducing sexually has an advantage over asexual reproduction:
Worms forced to reproduce asexually succumbed to a nasty bacterial infection and died.
The researchers say the results are the most convincing evidence to date for a key theory in evolutionary biology.
The theory holds that sex evolved because it lets organisms reshuffle their genes into new combinations to stay a step ahead of parasites.
Reproducing asexually – where organisms clone themselves – makes much more sense; there is no need for an organism to search and seduce a mate, fight off competitors, or risk contracting a sexually transmitted disease. (…)
And yet sex exists; the vast majority of animals and plants reproduce this way.
The link to entrepreneurship and actor-network theory–our main interests on this blog–lies in evolutionary theory. Schumpeter drew on biological evolutionary theory for his definition of entrepreneurship as the creation of new combinations. Latour also described himself as a Darwinian philosopher at the February 2008 Harman Review event. In The Science of Passionate Interests, Latour and Lépinay cite Tarde’s critique of Darwin’s evolutionary theory:
His mistake […] seems to me to have been in relying far more on the struggle for existence, a biological form of opposition, than on cross-breeding and hybridization, biological forms of adaptation and harmony. […] And […] a fertile hybridization, as an exception, is far neater than a hereditary accumulation of small advantageous variations, through competition and selection, to explain the formation of new types of life. (p. 36)
Later on Latour and Lépinay provide another Tarde citation:
And, certainly, it is good that Darwin’s genius pushed this paradox to its limit, for, at present, it is still established that natural selection, that excellent agent of purifying elimination, does not create anything and posits that which it claims to explain–living renovations–in the form of individual variations, and that the secret of these creations of life are hidden from our eyes in the depths of the fertilized egg instead of consisting in the outer shock of organisms fighting each other… (p. 44)
It does sound like the above research findings about the sex life of worms justify Tarde’s insight. What does all this mean for entrepreneurship though?
Schumpeter makes a sharp distinction between entrepreneurship as innovation (the creation of new combinations), and the mere reproduction of existing business models. Using the biological metaphor, it seems entrepreneurs producing innovations are reproducing sexually, while managers who replicate existing business models are reproducing asexually. Who or what would be though the parasites that infect non-innovative firms?
The problem with making this sharp distinction between differentiating and reproducing firms, as I’ve suggested in earlier posts, is that it ignores the fact that for the innovation to survive it actually needs adopters, those that ‘merely’ replicate the innovation (which is of course unlikely to be just a mere adoption and is probably more like an adaptation of the innovation). Although one could argue that adopters of an innovation are part of the overall wave or network of innovation, and therefore they are also guests at the sex party. Who are then those unfortunate asexually reproducing firms then, and what sort of parasites are causing their demise? How to identify both?
Maybe this is not as difficult as it sounds. Even from a pop culture point of view, entrepreneurial ventures and entrepreneurs are celebrated as sexy (Just think of Richard Branson’s Virgin, a company name that is almost an ironic reference to the sexy nature of entrepreneurship). Working for a start-up is risky and dangerous but also exciting and sexy, as opposed to working for a boring firm that is engaged in the repetition of formulas. Still, don’t we need boring firms and asexual reproducers as well to maintain and sustain the stability of the economic environment, which then creates the conditions for sexy entrepreneurship?
(In any case, I do hope all this talk about sex is not going to result in an orgy of spammers.)
In The Handbook of Economic Sociology, Howard E. Aldrich has a good summary and evaluation of various definitions of entrepreneurship, most of which have also been alluded to on this blog already. According to Aldrich, there are four competing definitions of entrepreneurship:
- The setting up of high-growth and high-capitalisation firms (as opposed to low-growth and low-capitalisation ‘lifestyle’ businesses);
- Innovation and innovativeness leading to new products and new markets (the Schumpeterian tradition);
- Opportunity recognition (the Kirznerian tradition);
- The creation of new organisations.
According to Aldrich there are problems with all four of these definitions. There is a strong selection bias with the first two. Whether a firm has high growth and had introduced an innovation can only be established retrospectively and high capitalisation is no guarantee of high growth or innovativeness. I would add that the political consequences of these definitions are also far-reaching, as they may lead to government policies favouring firms that are already in a privileged position, rather than provide support where it’s more needed.
The second and third definition according to Aldrich also suffers from the problem of being applicable to a wide range of situations, with entrepreneurship just being one. The effect of that is most evident e.g. in the afterlife of Schumpeter’s concept, which became more popular in the theory of the firm as a way of describing the R&D function, corporate venturing and intrapreneurship, than new venture formation in entrepreneurship studies. According to Aldrich, entrepreneurship studies had forgotten Schumpeter.
The adoption of Kirzner’s notion of “opportunity recognition” also had a particular disciplinary effect: because “opportunity recognition” has to do with an entrepreneur’s alertness and alertness seems to be a something that happens in the mind, this stream of research turned entrepreneurship into a problem of cognitive psychology, preoccupied with the figure – but especially the mind – of the entrepreneur.
The problem with the fourth definition according to Aldrich is that it is difficult to delineate when actually new organisations emerge as new social entities. It is both a philosophical problem and a methodological problem. Nevertheless, this last definition has been gaining support in entrepreneurship studies and Aldrich also picks it as the one to zoom in on in the rest of his chapter.
What can we make of these rival definitions and corresponding theories and their consequences from an STS/ANT perspective? The problem of selection bias in the first two definitions makes them interesting candidates for considering the political consequences of those theories, and the current work-in-progress UK government policy of channelling support away from ‘lifestyle’ firms to those perceived as ‘high-growth’ firms provides an excellent case study.
At the same time Schumpeter’s theory of innovation/entrepreneurship as “the creation of new combinations” deserves renewed attention. An argument could be made for disentangling these two concepts and clarifying their relationship, bringing into the picture those new firms as well that adopt the “new combination” but in themselves may not fit the “high-growth” and “innovative” label. In effect I’m arguing about establishing a link between definitions 2 and 4 that would not be subject to the selection bias (i.e. empirical work would focus not only on the innovating firm that is already in a high-growth stage with its innovation in diffusion but on any enterprise that participates in some form in the adoption or distribution of the innovation, even if it’s a low-growth ‘lifestyle’ firm and therefore seemingly only a consumer or repeater of the innovation). The Schumpeterian concept of “new combinations of resources” also offers an opportunity to examine the nature and origin of those resources (both human and nonhuman) that are being combined, as well as the very activities and practices that are needed for creating a new combination.
Kirzner’s thoughts on entrepreneurship could also be revisited from a ‘new’ new economic sociology perspective. However, rather than focusing on the thought processes of the entrepreneur, it might be more interesting to focus on the aspect of Kirzner’s theory that deals with the relationship between the entrepreneur and the market and considers the entrepreneur as a market participant.
The fourth definition is of course naturally attractive to an STS-inclined researcher, considering that the emergence of new entities has always been a core interest of STS and ANT studies. When it comes to entrepreneurship however, it would be important to consider the same point as with the Schumpeterian theory, namely that the role of seemingly repetitive or imitative venture creations should not be disregarded in favour of the highly innovative or controversial ones. Perhaps a Gabriel Tarde quote can be helpful here:
The problem can be summed up as follows: to grasp as closely as possible the genesis of inventions and the laws of imitations. Economic progress supposes two things: on the one hand, a growing number of different desires, for without a difference in desires, no exchange is possible, and, with the appearance of each new, different desire, the life of exchange is kindled. On the other hand, a growing number of similar exemplars of each desire taken separately, for, without similitude, no industry is possible, and, the more this similitude expands or prolongs itself, the more production is widened or reinforced. (Psychologie économique, cited in Latour and Lépinay, p. 35)