Posts Tagged “Business”

08w14:4 The Shameful Minimum Wage

by timothy. 3 Comments

Honestly, if a business can’t afford to pay all its employees a livable wage, than that business should be considered a fail. What are businesses for? (The wrong answer is to say the enrichment of the owners at the expense of the employees, because that’s like Marxism or something, and we’re supposed to be past all that).

I remember when I was working for a minimum wage in Halifax, feeling both totally exploited and humiliated into enforced poverty. Further, the business had like 6 people on the payroll when it only really needed three. That’s where I got the idea that mismanagement should never be an excuse to pay people peanuts. And why I have no sympathy for the business owners who claim raising the minimum wage would be too hard on them. They’re not paying themselves a minimum wage are they?

My greater concern for raising the minimum wage is this society’s capacity to maintain an unfair status quo. As is pointed out in this article, adjusted for inflation, today’s Ontario minimum wage is equivalent to what it was thirteen years ago. I’ve noticed in the past that whenever the minimum wage goes up, so do the prices at Tim Hortons, (which I consider to be an unofficial index of inflation). So the gains of the working poor are immediately offset to erase them. The article begins by pointing out that the Ontario minimum wage went up last week. This week Tim Hortons had signs at its counters saying the prices of some menu items would rise next week. Two weeks ago, the Go Train commuter system rose its ticket prices too.

So, in 2010, when the minimum wage rises to $10 and hour, count on 1.60 coffees (rather than the current 1.42 lg) at your national coffee chain, and corresponding ticket prices across our belle province and sun-shiny country. – Timothy

Wage Ain’t Nothing But A Number | Jaime Woo
“Last week, minimum wage was raised to $8.75 an hour in the first of three scheduled increases. According to the arguments provided in the media (and on Torontoist), an increased minimum wage is necessary to help people make ends meet, but could force businesses to cut jobs to accommodate the increased costs. From a numbers point of view, the raise was a necessary antidote to the minimum wage being frozen at $6.85 from 1995 to 2003. Using the Consumer Price Index for Toronto, $8.75 adjusted for inflation ends up being $6.85 in 1995 dollars. Businesses caught off-guard by this year’s minimum wage increase must be pretty naïve to not realize that, after eight years of locked minimum wage rates, a correction was coming. However, each increase (or decrease) of the minimum wage by the government must be justified as the costs come off the back of the employers.”

08w14:2 Immanuel Wallerstein's Commentary for 1 April 2008

by timothy. 0 Comments

Immanuel Wallerstein’s Commentary No. 230

“Wall Street is Really Predicated on Greed”

It is not I who is saying that Wall Street is really predicated on greed, but Stephen Raphael. And who is Stephen Raphael? He is a former member of the Board of Bear Stearns, the Wall Street bank that collapsed last month. And where did Raphael say this? In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, which is more or less the house journal of Wall Street. And what was Raphael’s point? It was to explain (or was it to excuse?) the collapse of the firm. “This could happen to any firm,” he said.

Yes, indeed it could. And it did. Meanwhile, while this was happening, the chairman of the firm, Jimmy Caynes, was nonchalantly playing bridge in a tournament. Not too smart for a greedy banker. As a result, he lost most of his personal fortune, and another greedy firm, JPMorgan Chase, came in like a vulture and made a killing. Oh, incidentally, some 14,000 employees of Bear Stearns are, or will soon be, out of a job.

Is then capitalism nothing but greed? No, there are other things to it, but greed plays a very big role. And greed, by definition, works for some at the expense of others. So, some firms are going bankrupt these days – on Wall Street, and elsewhere in the world – and others are not. The United States as a country is going bankrupt, and others are not. The United States doesn’t call it that, but that is the truth of it.

Is it always like this? No, not always. Just half the time. Let us review how Wall Street and the United States got into this particular disastrous corner. It all started out well – for Wall Street and for the United States in 1945. The war was over. The war was won. And the United States was the only industrial power whose factories were intact, untouched by wartime damage. There were destroyed cities elsewhere, and actual hunger in Europe and Asia.

The United States was set to do well, and it did do well, very well. It could outproduce the world, and get the rewards. It made a deal with the Soviet Union – we call it rhetorically Yalta – so that there would be no nuclear wars that could really damage the United States. And, at home, the big manufacturers made a deal with the big unions so that there would be no destructive strikes to interfere with the profitable production. Rosy times loomed, and the standard of living went up dramatically. Actually, the years after the war proved to be fairly rosy times for most of the world. It was the moment of the greatest expansion of production, of profit, of population, and yes of general welfare in the history of the capitalist world-economy. The French called it the “thirty glorious years.”

Must all good things come to an end? Well, cyclically, in the five hundred years of the modern world-system, I fear this has always been true. When everyone begins to cash in on economic expansion, the rate of profit has to go down. Profit from production depends on relative monopolization of the leading industries. But if too many countries have steel factories or auto factories (the leading industries of the times), there is too much competition. And, despite all the nonsensical slogans, competition is not good for capitalists. It reduces the profits.

And when profits get hit too hard, the world-system enters into one of its periodic periods of stagnation. This happened circa 1970. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, things have not been rosy since then, despite once again all the nonsensical slogans. What happens in a period of worldwide economic stagnation? The factories begin to move out of the erstwhile locales (like the United States, but also Germany, France, Great Britain, and Japan) to other countries (like South Korea, India, Brazil, and Taiwan) in search of lower costs of production. It seems good for the new places of steel and auto production, but it means layoffs in the old centers of production.

But runaway factories are not the whole story. What do big capitalists do, if they want to make money, in times of lower profits from production? They start to shift their money from productive enterprises to financial enterprises. That is to say, they begin to speculate. And, in a time of speculation, greed knows no limits. So we have junk bonds and takeovers and subprime mortgages and hedge funds and all those curious things with curious names. It seems that even Robert Rubin, one of the really big people in the financial world, admitted recently that he doesn’t know what a “liquidity put” is.

The underlying story – from 1970 on – has been that of debt, greater and greater debt. Corporations borrow, individuals borrow, states borrow. They all live above their real incomes. And, if you’re in a position to borrow (it’s called credit), you can live high on the hog, as they say. But debts have a small downside. At some point, you’re expected to repay debts. If you don’t, there is a “debt crisis” or a “bankruptcy” or, if you’re a country with a currency, a dramatic decline in the exchange rate.

This is what we call a bubble. And if you blow up a balloon long enough, no matter how good it feels, at some point the balloon bursts. It is bursting now. And everyone is frightened, as well they might be. When the bubble really bursts, it is really painful. The thing is, it is usually more painful for some than for others, even if it is painful for everyone.

At the moment, it might turn out to be most painful for the United States – as a country, and for its capitalists, and above all for its ordinary citizens. It seems the United States has been spending not billions of dollars but trillions of dollars on some wars in the Middle East it has been losing. And it seems that even the wealthiest country in the world doesn’t have in its coffers trillions of dollars. So it has borrowed them. And it seems that its credit in 2008 is not as good as it was in 1945. It seems that the creditors are today reluctant to throw good money after bad. It seems that the United States might be going bankrupt, like Bear Stearns.

Will the United States be bought out by China or by Qatar or by Norway, or by a combination of all of them at $2 or even $10 a share? What will happen to those very expensive toys that the United States keeps buying, like military bases in a hundred countries, and those airplanes and ships and superduper guns the United States constantly orders to replace yesterday’s toys? Who will feed the people on the breadlines?

Come back next decade, and let me know.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write:

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

07w46:5 Classic Academic Bullshit

by timothy. 1 Comment

Worth quoting in full (after all, it is a press release) with emph mine:

What’s in a name? Initials linked to success, study shows (Link)

Do you like your name and initials? Most people do and, as past research has shown, sometimes we like them enough to influence other important behaviors. For example, Jack is more likely to move to Jacksonville and marry Jackie than is Philip who is more likely to move to Philadelphia and marry Phyllis. Scientists call this phenomenon the “name-letter effect” and argue that it is influential enough to encourage the pursuit of name-resembling life outcomes and partners.

However, if you like your name too much, you might be in trouble. Leif Nelson at the University of California, San Diego and colleague Joseph Simmons from Yale University, found that liking your own name sabotages success for people whose initials match negative performance labels.

In their first study, Nelson and Simmons investigated the effect of name resemblance on batters’ strikeouts. In baseball, strikeouts are recorded using the letter ‘K.’ After analyzing Major League Baseball players’ performance spanning 93 years, the researchers found that batters whose names began with ‘K’ struck out at a higher rate than the remaining batters. “Even Karl ‘Koley’ Kolseth would find a strikeout aversive, but he might find it a little less aversive than players who do not share his initials, and therefore he might avoid striking out less enthusiastically,” write the authors.

In a second study, the researchers investigated the phenomenon in academia. Letter grades are commonly used to measure students’ performance, with the letters ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ and ‘D’ denoting different levels of performance. Nelson and Simmons reviewed 15 years of grade point averages (GPAs) for M.B.A. students graduating from a large private American university.

Students whose names began with ‘C’ or ‘D’ earned lower GPAs than students whose names began with ‘A’ or ‘B.’ Students with the initial ‘C’ or ‘D,’ presumably because of an unconscious fondness for these letters, were slightly less successful at achieving their conscious academic goals.

Interestingly, students with the initial ‘A’ or ‘B’ did not perform better than students whose initials were grade irrelevant. Therefore, having initials that match hard-to-achieve positive outcomes, like acing a test, may not necessarily cause an increase in performance. However, after analyzing law schools, the researchers found that as the quality of schools declined, so did the proportion of lawyers with name initials ‘A’ and ‘B.’

The researchers confirmed these findings in the laboratory with an anagram test. The result of the test confirmed that when people’s initials match negative performance outcomes, performance suffers. These results, appearing in the December issue of Psychological Science, provide striking evidence that unconscious wants can insidiously undermine conscious pursuits.


Author Contact: Leif Nelson

Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. For a copy of the article “Moniker Maladies: When Names Sabotage Success” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Catherine West at (202) 783-2077 or

The Rady School of Management at UC San Diego educates global leaders for innovation-driven organizations. A professional school within one of the top-ranked institutions in the U.S. for higher education and research, the Rady School offers a Full-Time MBA program, a FlexMBA program for working professionals, undergraduate and executive education courses. Our lineage includes 16 Nobel Laureates (former and current faculty) and eight MacArthur Foundation award recipients. The Rady School at UC San Diego transforms innovators into business leaders.

Comments: I’m thankful that the author of this press-release took the time to explain letter grades to me, and thought it was interesting that students with initials ‘a’ and ‘b’ did not perform better than students with grade-irrelevant initials, which is only the entire rest of the alphabet. This alone seems to make such a correlation absurd.

The only reason I’d understand having the scale explained is to account for the international audience, but then again, this is written in English, so it’s not like there are a ton of Chinese out there who suddenly know about how North American grading works. For the Europeans, I imagine they’ve watched enough American movies and television to already be familiar with the system.

Is the argument then that the increased ‘slightly less’ performance of the world’s Cynthia Donaldsons, Charles Davies’, Duncan Camerons is based partially on their names? So you’re saying that the reason Albert Burns got an 80, whereas David Connors got a 78 is because of their names?! Is this is why Cory Doctorow believes in ‘anti-copyright policies’!?

And this from a school that considers itself an educator of global leaders! No wonder the world is so fucked up. For one thing, such a study takes for granted a measurement of success which is itself a social construction dating back a century and out-of-step with the needs of present society. For example I imagine that to graduate with top marks from an MBA school you’d need to do rather poorly in the ethics department, especially environmental ethics. Failing the Humanities would also help, since at no point should you consider your employees as human beings desiring to live full lives. They must be refered to as ‘human resources’ (which would have served as a perfectly adequate term for slavery). Their natural desire to be as richly compensated as your gang at the top of the hierarchy must be kept in check and exploited for ‘superior job performance’.

The fact that they felt the need to explain to us the letter-grade system seems to be evidence of an inability to imagine another, from which the ethical disasters of capitalism naturally follow. Further, the awarding of the marks leading to grades is mostly arbitrary, and dependent on many factors, including the fact that teachers are as biased as any other human being. So Connor gets 77 while James gets 80 because the teacher likes James more and gave a slightly higher mark to his answers over Connor, who doesn’t say a lot in class.

This study is trying to suggest that Connor, Cory, Charles, Cynthia, Duncan, David, etc, have an ‘unconscious attachment’ to their initials and are thus sabotaging their ‘success’ in order to see it written on their tests as a reward counterbalancing the anguish of feeling like a failure. Not to mention the subsequent mockery from the class’ ‘successful’ students (a mockery which is ‘unconsciously’ endorsed by the teacher since schools are supposed to help establish the pecking order, so that the authors of this press-release and study get sorted by high grades into university; then onto Masters and PHD programs and are then able to conduct such stupid studies open to such easy mockery).

As for the quoted baseball example, it is equally absurd and subject to the same critique offered above.

In my arbitrary grading system, based on my measurements of success, this study gets an F. Or, no, no, I’ll make the system so that L and N are the lowest grades, and J isn’t much higher, to make it fit with Leif Nelson’s and Joseph Simmons’ thesis.

06w05:1 Good Audio

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 05 number 1 (good audio)
I’ve been listening to my iPod at work for the past month, so I haven’t been able to spend as much time in front of the computer finding good reads. What I present here then is the result of finding good podcasts. – Timothy


Not Self (Week 1) | Gil Fronsdal 2006-01-16

John Ralston Saul speaking on the Collaspe of Globalism | SBS Radio (Jan 06)

and on ABC Radio (Aug 05):

The Leonard Lopate Show:

The Wal-Mart Effect 2006-01-23
“70 percent of Americans live within a fifteen-minute drive of a Wal-Mart. Charles Fishman looks at how Wal-Mart got so big, and how it’s changing America’s economy, in The Wal-Mart Effect.”

Covering 2006-01-20
“In Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, Kenji Yoshino explores the ways in which the law, civil liberties, and self-identification intersect. A Yale Law professor and a gay, Asian-American man, he describes the prejudices that he sees written in America’s civil rights legislation.”

Open Phones: Fact or Fiction? 2006-01-19
“We’ll take your calls on the recent revelation that James Frey made up some of the incidents he described in his best-selling memoir, A Million Little Pieces.”
Note: Personally I think this whole controversy about this book is a little pointless. Saturday night at my birthday dinner my Mother and Sister got into a discussion about it and I had to pipe up to say, “Imagine if you used all that brain power to think about better things; we’d have a beautiful world’. I mean, the book’s cover alone should be enough to clue you in it’s bullshit: all those tiny little coloured specks on the guy’s hand. Honestly, I always thought it was some book about viruses and illness, and noticed everyone reading it on the subway and train and thinking, ‘why would they want to read something so sad?’ Turns out its about drugs, debauchery, and the cheating ways of a trust fund brat. Perfect book for American society don’t you think? Ah well. At least America’s citizens aren’t paying attention to the war in Iraq. This episode of the Lopate show tried to equate the outrage of the book’s falsity with being lied to by the government, which I found crazy and thus fascinating.

Melville: His World and Work 2006-01-18
“Herman Melville wrote one of the most important American novels of all time: Moby-Dick. But he wasn’t recognized as a towering literary figure until 40 years after his death. Andrew Delbanco, the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, studies Melville’s life and works in a new biography.”

Fast Living 2006-01-12
“Renee Price is the curator of the current Egon Schiele exhibit at the Neue Galerie. She revisits the significance of the Viennese artist’s highly-sexualized work, and his very short life.”

Animal Insight 2006-01-10
“Last year, we interviewed animal scientist Temple Grandin about her latest book: Animals in Translation. In this book, she describes how her autism helps her decode animal behavior. She joins us now with an update on her work, and on new developments in autism research.”

This link on autism and it’s relationship to not only the way animals think, but to representative art, reminded me of Nicholas Humphrey’s paper Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind:

Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind | Nicholas Humphrey
“The emergence of cave art in Europe about 30,000 years ago is widely believed to be evidence that by this time human beings had developed sophisticated capacities for symbolization and communication. However, comparison of the cave art with the drawings made by a young autistic girl, Nadia, reveals surprising similarities in content and style. Nadia, despite her graphic skills, was mentally defective and had virtually no language. I argue in the light of this comparison that the existence of the cave art cannot be the proof which it is usually assumed to be that the humans of the Upper Palaeolithic had essentially ‘modern’ minds”.

From IT Conversations:

Laughter in a Time of War | Tim Zak talking with Zach Warren
“In the Fall of 2005, Zach Warren set the World’s Record for running the Philadelphia marathon–while juggling! […] In this second installment in his series on Play, Globeshakers host Tim Zak asks this World Record holder to describe what gives him the inspiration to pursue these feats of extreme endurance. What role does ‘play’ have in the health of the planet? And ultimately, what has he learned about what it takes to re-build an entire country? ‘One of the first casualties of war’ says Zach Warren, ‘is imagination.’ In one of the most war torn regions in the world, the Afghan Mini Mobile Children’s Circus (MMCC) serves as a child protection program to help Afghan children recover from the traumas of war. The MMCC, a Danish-registered NGO, is run by native Afghans. It helps children to be more self-directed in creating their own dreams for the future through theatre and the arts. So, what is the role of the jester in a time of extreme danger? ‘If we’re really serious about building a democracy in this country,’ says Warren ‘then we need to protect their imagination.'” Note: I found the questions asked in this interview to be really boneheaded, but Zach Warren was almost inspiring, making the case rather well that his admitedly silly contributions do in fact make a difference.

The Future of Blogging | Joichi Ito
“The internet is truly becoming an open network with the rise of amateur content and open source software. In this talk, Joi Ito takes us through the growth of the internet as an open network in layers to the point where the killer app is now user generated content. Earlier, it was the little guys around the edges of the internet who created the open standards which made the web work, and today it is those same people who fuel it with their creativity. He also shares with us his observations of the remix culture seen on the net.Joi notes that it is futile to make any attempts to change user behaviour. It is better to observe it and then make a business out of it. He also talks about how people on the internet do not want to be fed content from a handful of sources – they want to create their own content and have a conversation with others at the same time, and that is the revolution we are witnessing today.”

What Do We Know | Robert Trivers
“The capacity of humans to deceive each other is well documented by history and personal experience. Less well known, however, is the capacity of most living things to deceive each other – species deceiving other species, members of their own species and themselves. We are, it seems, not that different from parasites, insects and bacteria in this regard.Dr. Robert Trivers talks about the evolutionary basis of deception in this address from Pop!Tech 2005. The first half of this talk focuses on the biological examples of deception in the natural world, with explanations for the evolutionary advantages of deception and self-deception.Later in the talk, Dr. Trivers supplies easily recognizable examples of common human self-deception. He then delves into an overtly political criticism of human deception and self-deception, with an emphasis on current events.”Note: This was really good. I love how he expressed his anger with the Bush Administration. You know something’s worth listening to when it comes from a geek website and has a language warning at the beginning of it. (Because geeks of course never say the word fuck, especially when dealing with Windows software). And speaking of the Bush Administration:

State of the Union Address 2006 | James Adomian
“This year I’m submitting to congress a plan for a 400 billion dollar education plan. Because our children must be literalized. Children that don’t read will not grow up. I’m against hunger. I’m against that. For all our small businesses out there I want to make sure that they have clothings. For every old person out there dreamings, I want to make sure they have the pills to make those dreams happen. For every college student out there, I will make sure that they will be able to take the loans to go to college to be able to pay back those loans with interest. That’s why this year I’m proposing a 400 billion dollar tax cut on our upper income earners.”

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emailed by Timothy on Sunday 29 January 2006 @ 7:01 PM

04w27:1 The MBA

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 27 number 1 (the mba)

Business embarks on design revolution | Harvey Schachter
“‘I would argue that to be successful in the future, business people will have to become more like designers,’ he writes in Rotman Management. ‘This shift creates a huge challenge, as it will require entirely new kinds of education and training, since until now, design skills have not been explicitly valued in business.’ His comments come as The Harvard Business Review, in its look at breakthrough business ideas for 2004, suggests that the MFA — Masters of Fine Arts degree — has become the new MBA, essential currency for a business career.”

Is MBA degree a sham? | Ellen Roseman
“Last year, the Harvard Business Review asked 200 business intellectuals who they admired most. Peter Drucker got the most mentions, but Mintzberg wasn’t far behind. This well-known academic no longer works with full-time MBA students. He thinks teaching methods are outdated and irrelevant. ‘Management is a practice that has to blend a good deal of craft (experience) with a certain amount of art (insight) and some science (analysis),’ he says in the 460-page book, which expands on views he has held for years. Current management education over-emphasizes the science — using case studies and analytical models — and results in a new style of ‘heroic’ managing that Mintzberg calls ‘pervasive and destructive.'”

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emailed by Timothy on Friday 02 July 2004 @ 4:14 PM

04w12:1 The Corporation

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 12 number 1 (The Corporation)


Review of “The Corporation” | What is The Message?
“First, let me say that the film is worth seeing for a lot of reasons. […] While I wouldn’t call the reportage exactly balanced – this is a film promoting a definite point of view – it isn’t all Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky all the time either. In particular, the testimony by Ray Anderson, Chairman of Interface, Inc., one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers, clearly demonstrates the good that corporations can do, and provides part of the answer to the problem proposed by the film’s premise. […] The widely-publicized set piece is the ‘diagnosis’ of an archetypal corporation as a psychopath. […] But the examples are clearly selected to prove the point, essentially begging the question. What struck me as ironic was how the film decried corporations for using manipulative advertising and marketing techniques to attract customers, while simultaneously using the same methods to make its own points, especially the incriminating diagnosis.”

What CEOs can learn at daycare | Jim Stanford
“In fact, my only disappointment was the gradual realization that this nurturing and generally peaceful environment was completely different from the real world that my daughters were destined to inhabit. At daycare, they learn to be compassionate and co-operative human beings. But capitalism does not reward compassion and co-operation; it is driven by acquisitiveness and individualism. The rules of the game change once you leave daycare, and so do the teachers who enforce them. […] How ironic that we train our children first to be good, social human beings, only to later demand that they act like acquisitive, hard-hearted machines. Personally, I prefer the approach that rewards co-operation and compassion, and that produces an environment in which everyone succeeds. If toddlers can learn to do it, why can’t the rest of us? ”

How to Lead Now | John A. Byrne
“In truth, this is the stuff of Leadership 101: drawing the very best out of people by making the emotional bond every bit as important as the monetary one, feeding the soul as well as the wallet. But as profits have plunged and unemployment has soared, nurturing and innovative approaches to leading have fallen by the wayside, replaced by tougher, more autocratic, and more egocentric styles. Inspirational leadership has come to be lumped in with the fripperies of the bubble: the snazzy dotcom digs, the office concierge, the take-your-dog-to-work days. In many workplaces, the message has changed from ‘What can we do to keep you happy and keep you here?’ to ‘You’re lucky to have a job, so sit down and shut up.’ […] But if the recent period of excess and arrogance has taught us anything, it’s that leadership must return to the principles that are practiced by people like 49-year-old Cadagin. […] Katzenbach, who has long studied high-performing organizations, thinks that it comes down to one core issue: building pride. ”

The Morality of the Market | Jerry Z. Muller
“One perennial pitfall in thinking about the moral effects of capitalism is issue of comparison. When philosophers ask about the morality of capitalism, they too rarely ask ‘compared to what’? Of course capitalism is morally inferior to many a philosophical utopia. […] But the flip side of the cash nexus is first of all the freedom and self-determination that comes from having cash, and second the fact that relations based on cash do not involve the total subordination of one individual to the will of another […] there are plenty of good arguments about the moral hazards of a market society. But there are also good arguments about its moral advantages, and these should not get overlooked in discussions about globalization. Many of the moral advantages and conceptions of selfhood that those in capitalist societies take for granted are due in no small part to capitalism itself. ”

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emailed by Timothy on Monday 15 March 2004 @ 10:48 PM


by timothy. 0 Comments

A recent conversation on the pros and cons of PowerPoint vs. good old fashioned slides promted these selections. On the one hand, PowerPoint is derided for oversimplifying and on the other David Byrne thinks it’s an art form. – Tim


PowerPoint Makes You Dumb | Clive Thompson
“Perhaps PowerPoint is uniquely suited to our modern age of obfuscation — where manipulating facts is as important as presenting them clearly. If you have nothing to say, maybe you need just the right tool to help you not say it.”

Power Point is Evil | Edward Tufte
“In a business setting, a PowerPoint slide typically shows 40 words, which is about eight seconds’ worth of silent reading material. With so little information per slide, many, many slides are needed. Audiences consequently endure a relentless sequentially, one damn slide after another. When information is stacked in time, it is difficult to understand context and evaluate relationships.”

Learning to Love Power Point | David Byrne
“Although I began by making fun of the medium, I soon realized I could actually create things that were beautiful. I could bend the program to my own whim and use it as an artistic agent. The pieces became like short films: Some were sweet, some were scary, and some were mysterioso. I discovered that even without text, I could make works that were “about” something, something beyond themselves, and that they could even have emotional resonance. What had I stumbled upon? Surely some techie or computer artist was already using this dumb program as an artistic medium.”

Turning Heads with PowerPoint | Xeni Jardin,1284,61485,00.html
“This is exactly what was intended by the people who developed this program. They hoped that this tool would allow people to bypass the middleman, to communicate without having to work through a gauntlet of graphic designers or AV professionals. Do it yourself. After all, I learned how to do it in only a couple of hours.”

The Epistemology of David Byrne | Brian Braiker
“They all make assumptions about what you want to do with them and what kind of use you’re going to put them to, and therefore how you lead you’re life and what’s important to you. And it comes down to really simple things. Like in address books, it has a slot for your parents and your house and your spouse. That makes assumptions about how you live–and most of them are absolutely true–but what I’m talking about is stuff that’s not visible. It’s about how the architecture of the software makes assumptions about how you do things. This is going to sound high-falutin’, but it’s in the same way that Wittgenstein would say that the limits of our thought are the limits of our language. What we can say, what we can verbalize or write, determines what we can think. ”

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emailed by Timothy on Sunday 25 January 2004 @ 2:54 PM