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  • Mark 9:46 pm on July 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , political parties, ,   

    The Labour leadership’s embrace of social media outriders 

    Even if I wasn’t a supporter, I’d have been fascinated by Labour’s use of social media in the last election and how this built upon prior successes in successive leadership elections. The new book by Steve Howell, deputy director of strategy and communications during the election, contains many fascinating snippets about this that I hadn’t encountered anywhere else. Perhaps the most interesting is the Labour leadership’s embrace of social media outriders which I’d seen speculated about but never confirmed. From loc 818 of Game Changer: Eight Weeks That Transformed British Politics:

    But, if I was ever frustrated by some of those early discussions, one thing that would always lift my spirits was the irrepressible activity of what were known in LOTO as ‘Jeremy’s outriders.’ There were dozens of them on Twitter and Facebook who, day in and day out, were pumping out great material exposing the Tories and putting across many of our arguments. I include in this organised groups such as JeremyCorbyn4PM and Momentum, but mostly they were people acting on their own initiative out of sheer personal commitment. And some of them, such as @Rachael_Swindon and @ScouseGirlMedia, have suffered a fair bit of abuse and harassment for their trouble. The two outriders I had most contact with were Eoin Clark and Peter Stefanovic. Eoin will be known to many people for his @ToryFibs Twitter feed and its forensic rebuttal of Tory claims and attacks in detailed memes. Peter specialises in hard-hitting videos on the NHS, on the miners’ compensation, and in support of the WASPI campaign against the raising of the state pensionI  age for women born in the 1950s. When I suggested to Jeremy that we should invite Peter in for a chat, he was very enthusiastic. The meeting was one of the highlights of those early weeks. Peter’s passion for what he was doing was inspiring and infectious. He had given up his day job as a lawyer to spend a year campaigning and was eager to persuade the groups he was working with that a Corbyn-led government would address their issues. “That was an incredibly important meeting,” he told me recently. “We discussed what might be included in the manifesto and that allowed me to go back to WASPI, the miners, and the junior doctors to tell them what Labour would do.”

    What does this mean in practice? It’s hard to say but it seemingly reflects the most prominent examples of a much broader spectrum of engagement, extending as far as Howell having regular exchanges via DM with independent activists who provided on the ground perspectives of unfolding events which couldn’t be reached through the party machine. The importance of this could be overstated but I’m interested in how it strengthened their conviction to drop or downplay tactical aspects of political communication which were held as certainties by those within the party organisation. It’s also easy to imagine this activity being seized upon in the event of a poor result as an example of the leadership’s willing embrace of a filter bubble.

     
  • Mark 1:30 pm on July 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    What is it like to be a stray dog in a city? 

    An artistic answer by Andrea Luka Zimmerman to a question I have found myself reflecting on with disturbing frequency:

     
  • Mark 1:17 pm on July 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , communicating theory, , marco de mutiis, , , , ,   

    Hybrid formats for communicating theory 

    For the next edition of Social Media for Academics, I’ve been thinking a lot about hybrid formats for presenting theoretical ideas through social media. A really powerful example of this is the video essay Camera Ludica by marco de mutiis which explores photography in video games through a three-part essay combining in game footage, plain text slides and screencasts of browsing scholarly material. Different sources are overlaid against a black canvas, providing a gripping collage of a debate playing itself out in real time. As well as finding the subject itself interesting, I thought this was a fascinating example of a powerful format which sufficiently creative academics could use with relatively little technical skill.

    It reminds me of a project Margaret Archer tried to setup a few years ago looking at visualising social theory, using the affordances of digital media to develop ways of expressing theoretical ideas without depending on linear text or the idiosyncratic diagrams of theorists. If theoretical ideas are to survive in the attention economy then we need to become creative in how they are expressed. But there are immense opportunities here to find non-linear ways of exploring theoretical questions which might prove to be engaging to a much broader audience then is typically the case with theoretical publications.

     
    • landzek 8:22 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink

      That is interesting. Did you know the name that I make music under is called the covert sound philosophy? 😆 in the past it was called the commercial sound product. But I think the next album is going to be called the Carnivorous Stegosaurus Pact. 🦖

    • landzek 8:24 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink

      But honestly, my music I have always said is just like the opposite side of the same coin and his philosophical in that regard, communicating something particularly philosophical. But it’s actually kind of resides in a sphere that is perhaps outside of theory but yet represents the theory, at least often enough. Some of the songs are just …cool

    • landzek 8:31 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink

      That is a great little clip. I’m kind of liking this thing you’re talking about and people are doing. I think I’m going to have to do some of this. 🐙

  • Mark 1:05 pm on July 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: alex prager, , , , , , , , ,   

    The Face in the Crowd 

    I saw a wonderful exhibition this weekend, collecting work by Alex Prager combining photography and film in intricately staged hyper-real scenes. The collection that has been playing on mind since seeing it is Face In The Crowd. If you click on the screenshot below, it will take you to the website where you can see the work:

    Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 13.50.27.png

    The accompanying notes described how these are “dynamic tableaus where individual characters are presented in equally sharp focus, seemingly lost in their own internal conversations”. It reminds me of Hannah Starkey’s work in its fascination with how interiority plays out in social scenes, showing how private experience nonetheless has a public existence.

    However I found the staging of the scenes troubling, as much as I recognise the intention behind them. It feels like the relationality is washed out, as if collectivity is exhausted by the artefact of the social situation. There’s a strange emptiness between inner and outer, with interaction reduced to staging such that the bonds of social life appear as little more than fragile constraints.

    Each of these scenes is a collage of individuals rather than a collective, creating images which are sociological in their intention but not in their enactment. Individuals are either lost in the reality of their own lives or looking forlornly through the artifice of shared reality, as is the case with the red-haired woman in the image above. It foregrounds that artifice but also inflates it, losing track of how it functions as a collective tissue which knits together individual lives in the mundane interactions throughout the day.

    It is scaffolding which often fades into the background, facilitating the relationality which is lost in these scenes. It is a deliberately stilted vision of the social, hugely succesful in its staging and producing an aesthetic which I find immensely unsettling.

     
  • Mark 8:14 am on July 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    The Sociological Review and the History of the Discipline 

    This one-day event intends to raise awareness of the Foundations of British Sociology archive maintained by Keele University. This remarkable resource collects a diverse array of materials from the 1880s to the 1950s, gifted to the university when the Institute of Sociology was dissolved in 1955.

    ‘Members of the societies founded The Sociological Review, contributed to early University teaching of Sociology, published many books and papers and collected survey material from the UK and Europe. The archive comprises personal papers, business records, newspaper cuttings, lectures, reports, plans, surveys, lantern slides and an extensive collection of books from the LePlay House Library. It includes material relating to key activists and opinion-shapers such as Victor Branford, Francis Galton, Patrick Geddes, H. G. Wells, Lewis Mumford and Alexander Farquharson on themes such as the responsibilities of the state and the citizen, planning urban development, the position of women, the role of technical education, local government reform, regionalism, the co-operative movement, rural society and the family. Researchers will find valuable materials on the origins of modern British sociology, and related social sciences such as social psychology, cultural geography, town planning and demography’ (Source, Keele University).

    We look forward to welcoming delegates to Keele University where they will have a chance to explore this rich resource and discuss the enduring cultural, historical and evidentiary value of this archive for British Sociology.

    Confirmed Speakers:

    David Amigoni (Keele University), Helen Burton (Keele University), Gordon Fyfe (Keele University), Rachel Hurdley (Cardiff University), Rebecca Leach (Keele University), Chantelle Lewis (Goldsmiths).

    Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

    Application to Attend

    TSRF have 20 places available to attend this workshop. As places are limited they will be allocated through a competitive application process. Applications will close 17th August, 17.00 BST. Decisions will be communicated early September 2018.

    The application form can be found here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1r8RhiHsBI-vR4s-XHgxpJA28pD08Sos1MHsejdUT724/edit

    Applications will be peer reviewed by Sociological Review editorial board members. Consideration will be given to research interests as related to the event, as well as distribution of career trajectory and institutions.

    This event is free and lunch and refreshments will be provided. Places are limited and allocated via the application process. There are also a number of bursaries available for unfunded PGRs and ECRs.

    *Please note, TSRF will not accept late applications under any circumstances.

    Room Location and Accessibility Information

    The event will take place in the Campus Library Training Room located on the top floor of Keele University library, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG

    Visitors can report to the Library counter on arrival and staff will direct you to the room. The main entrance to the Library is on the second floor, up an external staircase. The accessible entrance is on ground level. Non Keele card holders should press the intercom and a Library porter will give assistance. The library has an accessible lift to all three floors of the Library and the training room is wheelchair accessible.

    All toilets, including the wheelchair accessible toilet, are on the ground floor.

    For more details on accessibility to the library, please see here https://www.disabledgo.com/access-guide/keele-university/library-and-information-services-building

    There are a number of disabled parking bays in front of the Library. If these aren’t available, any other space outside or near the Library can be used as long as a valid badge is displayed. A campus map and guide can be found here: https://www.keele.ac.uk/connect/howtofindus/maps/keele-campus-guide-colour.pdf

    Bursaries

    We have a limited number of bursaries for this workshop – including childcare bursaries. You can apply for a bursary if you meet TSRF criteria for funding. I.e. (1) unfunded postgraduate research students, (2) Early Career Researchers (ECR) within 3 years of completion of PhD and not in receipt of a full-time wage, and (3) others on the grounds of need (e.g. those in casual employment and not in receipt of a full-time wage).

    Travel bursaries are limited at £100.00, childcare bursaries are limited to £50.00 per day of the event and day before if needing to travel and stay overnight. Accommodation will be organised by TSRF.

    Please note, that if you have been awarded a place at The Sociological Review’s ECR writing retreat this year (2018) or a full bursary (travel and accommodation) at the Undisciplining conference or the ECR day, then you are not eligible to apply for event bursaries until next year (2019).

    Contact Details

    For academic enquiries related to this workshop, please contact Mark Carrigan: mark@markcarrigan.net

    For enquiries related to applications, please contact Jenny Thatcher

     
  • Mark 7:59 pm on July 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , assumptions, , , cognitive habits, , , ,   

    The Sociology of Stupid Assumptions 

    A few months ago, I recounted to a collaborator the details of a foolish mistake I made when planning a special occasion. Assuming the cake would be the easiest item on a long to do list, I left this till last, failing to recognise that cakes of this sort would require a lot of notice. It left me phoning round in a panic, until I eventually found someone who could do it at short notice. My collaborator remarked that he too could have seen himself making such an assumption, recognising aspects of himself in the assumption I had made and the problem it had created. ‘Easiest’ to me was coded as the most immediate and straightforward task, considered in terms of its internal logic, rather than being the  most predictable, quickest or controllable. I suspect this assumption reveals something quite deep about how I’m orientated towards the world, regardless of the counter-factual question of whether I might have planned this process more carefully had I been less stressed about the impending event.

    This has left me thinking about the sociology of stupid assumptions. By this I don’t mean those occasions on which we make a mistake due to rushing, error or stress that could easily have been avoided. I mean those mistakes which result from deeply held, though flawed, assumptions running up against the reality of the world. These are assumptions we might not knowingly hold yet which find themselves revealed through our actions. They are the common threads which bind together persistent missteps as we make our way through the world, reflecting a subtle incongruity between the structures of our thought and the structure of the world. They can become things we are aware of and reflect upon, even things which we struggle against. But they are persistent and deep seated, raising the question of where they come from.

    The obvious answer to this is the Bourdieusian one, finding the origins of these habits of thought in our original social context. The assumptions of our natal context get reproduced in the assumption we make about the world as adults, with contextual features sedimented into cognitive habits that reflect the world as we were brought up to exist within it rather than the way it is necessarily is. This is a brief sketch but I hope it’s not a facile one because I respect this line of argument and I believe I understand it, even if it’s not possible to convey its depth and sophistication in a short blog post.

    Nonetheless I wonder if it can account for the feeling of recognition which my collaborator felt when recognising my stupid assumption as something akin to his own? Can it account for the recognition we come to in ourselves, often isolated from an awareness of class and upbringing because it relates to an assumption so specific that it can be claimed to be inherited only in the tautological sense that it must have come from somewhere? Can it account for the role of technologies in fermenting these assumptions? In my case, I suspect the problem is as much to do with the constraints of the to do list, something I rely upon to an immense degree (as does at least one of my parents), failing as it does to capture contingencies surrounding a task in the sequential logic it imposes upon our tasks. These aren’t really counter-arguments as much as requests for elaboration, reflecting my newfound belief that the sociology of stupid assumptions tracks some of the most interesting questions in social theory.

     
  • Mark 8:16 pm on July 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , post truth, , , russia,   

    The epochal tetchiness of Anglo-American centrists 

    In his wonderful October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, China Miéville uses the phrase ‘epochal tetchiness’ to describe the political contribution of Russian liberals prior to 1917. Their angry, disjointed responses to events failed to influence the changes which provoked their outrage, leaving them acting frantically without consequence as they were superseded by history. While the political context couldn’t be more different, it strikes me this is a remarkably apt description of contemporary centrists in the UK and the USA.

    It is a political emotion, irritability conjoined with concern, reflecting political coordinates which are disintegrating while it feels more urgent than ever to have an adequate grasp on what is going on. Understanding this political emotion is important because it plays a part in how centrists are adapting to shifting political ground, regardless of how much stress we place on it as the explanation of their actions. What does it feel like to be a self-identified centrist when the centre ground feels under threat? What does it feel like when your experienced certainties, things any fool knows, bewilderingly seem to be called into question by unpredictable events?

    I’m not offering this as an explanation of contemporary centrism, as much as a speculative interrogation of what it feels like to have your assumptions about politics repudiated, facing the prospect of being left behind while remaining determined to avoid this. I suggest it plays a part in a whole array of current trends, ranging from the recalcitrant centrism of Labour moderates through to the increasingly bellicose rhetoric of American democrats towards Russia and the shrill proclamations of the post-truth era by liberal commentators. I was delighted to find Evan Davies describing the latter as “an expression of frustration and anguish from a liberal class discombobulated by the political disruptions of 2016”.

    There’s a wonderful description by Alex Nunns on loc 4468 of The Candidate, an incisive account of Jeremy Corbyn’s path to the Labour leadership, conveying the role of the ‘centre ground’ as touch stone for the Blair and Brown establishment. It is where you are supposed to be and it is where you should always return to:

    The political centre ground, in this view, appears as a clearing in a forest—a fixed location—and politics is a simple orienteering exercise where the parties are given a map and a compass and told to go and find it. Occasionally they inexplicably wander off into the woods and have to be scolded by journalists until they take their navigation task seriously again. The great, unpredictable social and economic forces that constantly sculpt new historical terrain are, in this Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme version of politics, merely gusts of wind that must not blow the parties off course. Nothing changes.

    What happens if you find yourself in the centre ground and nothing happens? What happens if you find yourself in the centre ground and no one recognises you’re where you’re supposed to be? What happens if you find yourself in the centre-ground and people begin to query whether you are where you think you are? Perhaps your compass is broken, you’ve forgotten how to navigate or the map itself is somehow flawed? This would be a disconcerting experience and I suspect a frustrating one. This accounts for the tetchiness and its epochal character stems from the fact that the times are indeed changing, as opposed too this being a misunderstanding that has resulted from insignificant contingencies.

     
  • Mark 11:01 am on July 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    Nietzsche on the narrow chamber of human consciousness 

    From the Third Treatise: What Do Ascetic Ideals Means of On The Genealogy of Morality:

    Much more frequent than this sort of hypnotic general suppression of sensitivity, of susceptibility to pain – which presupposes even rarer forces, above all courage, contempt of opinions, “intellectual stoicism” – is the attempt at a different kind of training against conditions of depression, one that is in any case easier: mechanical activity. That this relieves a suffering existence to a not inconsiderable degree is beyond all doubt: today this fact is called, somewhat dishonestly, “the blessing of work.” The relief consists in this: that the interest of the sufferer is thoroughly diverted from the suffering – that is continually doing and yet again only doing that enters into consciousness and, consequently, that little room remains in it for suffering: for it is narrow, this chamber of human consciousness! Mechanical activity and that which belongs to it – like absolute regularity, punctual unreflected obedience, one’s way of life set once and for all, the filling up of time, a certain permission for, indeed discipline in “impersonality,” in self-forgetfulness, in “incur Sui”-: how thoroughly, how subtly the ascetic protest knew how to use these in the battle with pain.

    Today we see mechanical activity pursued with even greater vigour, heavily individualised though no less regimented. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to express in the last few years in my writing on cognitive triage: how we embrace the narrowness of the cognitive chamber, losing ourselves in movement in order to blot out the existential challenges which otherwise impinge involuntary upon our consciousness.

    (Translated by Maudemarie Clark and Alan Seensen in a 1998 Hackett Publishing edition)

     
    • Sourav Roy 11:07 am on July 21, 2018 Permalink

      Yet again, just the words I was looking for, but didn’t know I was.

    • landzek 10:14 pm on July 21, 2018 Permalink

      I thought that he was expressing the relief of suffering upon the realization that the suffering is not due to some sort of moral lack, Or better that morality is not attached to whatever sufferingis going on. Like he is indicating that suffering is basically a self-centeredness, in so much of self-centeredness is based on the idea that consciousness is some based in some sort of transcendence, some sort of essential beyond human Ness. The discomfort is then just take it in stride because one knows that it is an automatic feature of ones being for that period or the moment. One realizes that whatever thinking is going on could not have been any other way and neither could any sort of suffering occur in any other way. It is a contradiction but I think he was really talking with in contradiction, not rejection of it. Within the contradiction of suffering lies no suffering.

  • Mark 6:52 pm on July 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    things I’ve been reading recently #42 

    • The Party by Elizabeth Day
    • The Power by Naomi Alderman
    • The Secret History by Donna Tart
    • The Space Barons by Christian Davenport
    • Machine Platform Crowd by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
    • Alt-Right by Mike Wendlin
    • The People vs Tech by Jamie Bartlett
    • Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier
    • Bean Counters by Richard Brooks
    • The Sober Diaries by Claire Pooley
    • Post-Truth by Matthew D’Ancona
    • How Democracy Ends by David Runciman
    • Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
    • Reckless Opportunists by Aeron Davis
    • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
    • The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (I plead morbid curiosity while stuck at an airport)
    • Revolution Française by Sophie Pedder
    • Game Changer: Eight Weeks That Transformed Politics by Steve Wheeler
    • Post Truth by Evan Davis
     
  • Mark 7:53 am on July 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    What does the case of Jeffery Sachs tell us about the accelerated academy? 

    The Idealist by Nina Monk, cited by Daniel Drezner in the Ideas Industry, presents a vivid account of the frantic pace at which the economist Jeffery Sachs has tended to work. This intensified work, fitting as much action as possible into each day, will appear to his detractors as a desperate lust for influence. His fans might accept his protestation that “If you haven’t noticed, people are dying – it’s an emergency” as he told Monk. But what each would be responding to is the quantity of his activity:

    Day after day, without pausing for air, it seemed, Sachs was making one speech after another, as many as three in one day. At the same time he lobbied heads of state, testified before Congress, held press conferences, attended symposiums, advised government officials and legislators, participated in panel discussions, gave interviews, published papers in academic journals, wrote opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, and sought out anyone, anyone at all, who might help him spread the word. The only time he seemed to slow down was when he was sleeping, never more than four or five hours a night.

    For anyone interested in Sachs, this is a fascinating book looking at his politics throughout his career, speculating about how his early failures as the architect of neoliberal shock therapy might have motivated his later turn to developmental economics. What interests me here however is what his life says about the possibilities of academic labour. He was tenured at the age of 28, published hundreds of journal articles and has been cited 118,231 times. He has published 9 books, a number of which were New York Times best sellers. He has raised tens of millions of dollars of research funding, as well as hundreds of millions in funding for projects based on his research. He writes endless op-eds in high profile publications and has 257,00 Twitter followers.

    He is the limit condition for what Liz Morrish calls The Trump Academic, anchoring the horizon of possibilities an upwardly mobile aspiring thought leader (or what Linsey McGoey calls a TED Head) confronts at the start of their academic career. The co-ordinates of what Drezner calls the marketplace of ideas and the possibilities for academics to participate are expressed in the trajectory of Sachs, as well as the trail he has left behind him. What sort of scaffolding is necessary to enable this pace of activity? How much of the funding he receives goes on keeping the Sachs show on the road? When does he have time to think? He is the counter-point to the familiar stress of those running through the academic year in order to carve out time to think over the summer without interruption.

    I confess a prurient fascination with the working routines of people like Sachs because they seem to repudiate the notion that thought requires withdrawal from the world, even if we can make the argument that the single-minded devotion of Sachs to his cause at any moment suggests there is at least a certain kind of thought he rarely engages in. But if he is the apotheosis of a worldly scholarship, always on the move and always seeking ways to implement his ideas, it surely cautions us against an uncritical embrace of such an orientation towards the scholarly vocation.

     
  • Mark 3:20 pm on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    From the Ivory Tower to the Glass Tower 

    I just realised this keynote I did in Nottingham last year is available online as a videocast:

    https://mediaspace.nottingham.ac.uk/media/UoNSMart+KeynoteA+Mark+Carrigan+-+The+Glass+Tower/1_qwp6r8ah

     
  • Mark 8:51 am on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Call for Papers: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University 

    December 13th-14th, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

    In recent discussions of capitalism, the notion of the ‘platform’ has come to play a prominent role in conceptualising our present circumstances and imagining our potential futures. There are criticisms which can be raised of the platform-as-metaphor, however we believe it provides a useful hook through which to make sense of how socio-technical innovations may be leading to a new phase of capitalist accumulation. To talk of ‘platform capitalism’ in this sense does not exclude consideration of parallel notions such as digital capitalism, data capitalism and surveillance capitalism but rather seeks to frame these considerations through a focus upon the platform as a novel assemblage.

    While research into social media and the sharing economy is relatively advanced, the increasing centrality of platforms to the operation of the university remains understudied and undertheorised. Our conference seeks to rectify this, raising the possibility of the ‘platform university’ as a provocation to stimulate discussion concerning platforms, the commercial and academic science they depend upon and contribute to reshaping, as well as their implications for the future of the university. We see the university as a case study for inquiry into platforms, but also as a horizon of change within which the social sciences seek to address these processes.

    We invite papers which address the full range of questions posed by these considerations, including topics such as:

    • The ontology of platforms
    • The epistemology of platforms
    • Methodological challenges in studying platforms
    • The transformation of the social sciences
    • The politics and political economy of platforms
    • Platforms as evaluative infrastructures
    • Platform education and the platform university 

    There will be a keynote by Ben Williamson on The expanding data infrastructure of higher education: public-private policy networks and platform plug-ins.

    We welcome abstracts of 500 words or less by July 31st 2018, sent to mac228@cam.ac.uk. Please include a brief biographical note, as well as three key words to categorise your submission. We also plan to publish a select set of papers as a special issue or edited book and are in conversation with journal editors and publishers. We hope to have limited travel and accommodation funding available for unfunded PhD students and post-docs but cannot confirm this at present.

     
  • Mark 8:15 am on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , platform providers, , ,   

    What we mean when we talk about the Platform University 

    Via Janja Komljenovic

     
  • Mark 8:05 am on July 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , interest rates, tech stocks, , theranos,   

    The cultural consequences of start-ups remaining private 

    There’s an interesting anecdote on loc 3960-3972 of Bad Blood, John Carreyrou’s gripping account of the Theranos scandal, recounting a follow up meeting between Rupert Murdoch and Elizabeth Holmes which sealed the former’s investment in the latter’s company. I thought it was a vivid account of the distinctive corporate culture which had emerged within Theranos and how this ran contrary to the expectations that could be found within other sectors, even amongst international elites who could be expected to have seen a great deal in terms of the personal entourage of fellow elites and the business expectations they bring with them into potential collaborations:

    They met again a few weeks later at the media mogul’s Northern California ranch. Murdoch, who had only one bodyguard, was surprised by the size of the security detail Holmes arrived with. When he asked her why she needed it, she replied that her board insisted on it. Over a lunch served by the ranch’s staff, Holmes pitched Murdoch on an investment, emphasizing that she was looking for long-term investors. Don’t expect any quarterly reports for a while, she warned him, and certainly not an initial public offering. The investment packet that was later delivered to Murdoch’s Manhattan office reiterated that message. Its cover letter stated in the first paragraph that Theranos planned to remain private for the “long term” and went on to repeat those two words no fewer than fifteen times.

    There are financial consequences to start-ups remaining private for longer, in some cases seeking to avoid going public altogether. Furthermore, it is only a possibility because of the ready availability of capital driven by low interest rates and the (illusory) promise of exponential growth. But what are the cultural consequences of firms remaining private for longer? How were the cultural pathologies of Theranos facilitated by their status? How did this corporate culture shape how the firm was seen by outsiders? Was the corporate culture of Theranos exceptional or can we see extreme manifestations there of tendencies which can be identified in other firms?

     
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