John McCreery's Blog (129)

Industrial-Scale Ethnography: An Unfinished Project in Search of a Team

I have been invited to give a talk on March 13 at the Institute of Technology, Academia Sinica, in Taiwan, where, it appears, I am now regarded as an anthropological elder. Fair enough, given my age and the fact that my dissertation research was conducted in Puli, a market town in the exact center of Taiwan, in 1969-1971. Trying to pull together my thoughts about what I might talk about, I have drafted the following proposal. Any and all feedback will be…


Added by John McCreery on February 18, 2017 at 3:06am — No Comments

Some people take culture seriously. Why?

With a tip of the hat to Bill Bishop at Sinocism,

Cultural reflection can improve modern governance: Xi - Xinhuaat Politburo study session  //  Xi argued that ancient ideologies still have deep influence on people nowadays, and they should be scientifically analyzed so as to inherit and promote the good parts…


Added by John McCreery on October 16, 2014 at 8:33am — No Comments

Why should I read what you have written?

Why should anyone read what you have written? This should be question No. 1 for anyone writing anything. So, let me rephrase the question: Why do so many of the contributors to the online forums in which I participate assume that people will be interested in what they are writing about, then feel disappointed when no one responds?

As students, we learn to write assignments. The teacher who hands us a topic has to read what we write. But once we leave school and start writing for…


Added by John McCreery on October 15, 2014 at 9:41am — No Comments

The Third International Conference on Applications of Anthropology in Business

     It was my third time to participate in the annual International Conference on Applications of Anthropology in Business, organized by Robert Tian Guang and held at a venue in China, and my second time to visit Jishou University, which is located in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Hunan Province in the west of China. The first two…


Added by John McCreery on May 23, 2014 at 4:30am — No Comments

Who says anthropology can't rock?

Serendipitously, the entertainment section in this morning's Japan Times carries an article about an Indie band, three young Japanese women, called Crunch. One of them, Noriyo Hotta says,

"For example, take 'Mori no Naka,' the first track on the album. This song was influenced by Radiohead, especially the songs 'Jigsaw Falling' and 'There There,' and a funk tune by Japanese rock band Jagatara called 'Tango.' But I was also inspired by a book about the Yanomami tribe in the Amazon.… Continue

Added by John McCreery on March 5, 2014 at 3:06am — No Comments

Collective? Individual? Both? How should we think about thinking?

Just found an interesting piece titled "Good Group Think" on eighteen Resurrects some shrewd observations by Karl Mannheim, from Ideology and Utopia. Most of what we think we learn from others. We add a bit and pass it on. Tracing the routes is a project called the sociology of knowledge. Enjoy. Reflect. Respond. Pass it on.

Added by John McCreery on February 3, 2014 at 8:29am — 7 Comments

How would you cope with calamity?

Last night I was at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo attending a "Book Break." The book in question was Japan Copes with Calamity: Ethnographies of the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters of March 2011, ed. by Tom Gill, David Slater, and Brigitte Steger. I don't know Brigitte, but Tom and David are old friends. Both are anthropologists, one from the…


Added by John McCreery on February 1, 2014 at 2:53am — No Comments

How would you rate the Proctontologist?

Yesterday, in a comment on the Lee Drummond forever thread, I posted the following quote from

“Ontologicality is a proctology, but only if you allow for the proctological to speak its ontologicality. Ontology is just a set of assumptions postulated by the anthropologist for analytical purposes. Indeed, it is well worth pointing out that such an exercise in conceptual creativity needn’t be territorialized with reference to any…


Added by John McCreery on January 27, 2014 at 4:40am — 6 Comments

Ritual, Liminality, and Social Facts

I have recently been engaged on LinkedIn with Jonathan Cook, who is writing a book about ritual in the advertising business. It has been a delightful conversation, with a lot of productive to and fro, but yesterday Jonathan wrote something that I strongly disagreed with. In responding to him, several different arguments that I have been thinking about for years suddenly clicked into place. Here is what I wrote. I will be happy if it proves useful to someone who reads it, ecstatic if they reply… Continue

Added by John McCreery on January 26, 2014 at 2:58am — 2 Comments

Heart, mind, ethnography

Read it and weep. 

Added by John McCreery on November 16, 2013 at 1:46am — No Comments

Loyalty is a Two-Way Street

With a tip of the hat to Kevin Lyda, I direct your attention to an analysis of why whistle blowing has become an easier option for contract employees without job security, Bruce Schneier's Government Secrecy and the Generation Gap. 

The central question: If organizations outsource operations and treat their employees as expendable tools, how can they possibly expect them to  keep their secrets?

Added by John McCreery on September 10, 2013 at 8:28am — No Comments

Can we Cynefin?

What is not to like about a new approach to organizational strategy developed at MIT, that cites ancient myth and Mary Douglas, emphasises the primacy of human sense-making in organizational behavior, and is named Cynefin

a Welsh word whose literal translation into English as habitat or place fails to do it justice. It is more properly understood as the place of our multiple affiliations, the sense that we all, individually and collectively, have many…


Added by John McCreery on September 7, 2013 at 2:30pm — 3 Comments

Multidisciplinary Research with Real-World Applications

I have just downloaded a free ebook published by Australian National University that addresses the topic identified in the subject of this post: Multidisciplinary research with real-world applications. I have not yet read it and do not promote it, my intention here is simply to note its existence, since some who read what appears on OAC may find it interesting. 

Added by John McCreery on July 28, 2013 at 4:32pm — 1 Comment

Could it be time to rethink the social sciences altogether?

Nicholas Christakis, Professor of Network Science at Yale, asks why the social sciences remain divided by the same disciplinary boundaries while the natural sciences have abandoned some departments and replaced them with others, typically representing research made possible by new technologies. He suggests that it may be time to rethink the structure and applications of the social sciences overall.…


Added by John McCreery on July 24, 2013 at 6:29am — 4 Comments

Mapping Stereotypes

Bulgarian designer Yanko Tsvetkov has been traveling around Europe and creating maps in which the names of countries are replaced with stereotypes other Europeans have about them. I want to ask my European friends here, how accurate do you think these depictions of stereotypes are, as descriptions of the stereotypers, as descriptions of the stereotyped? 

Added by John McCreery on July 21, 2013 at 6:44am — No Comments

Strange Bedfellows

The Frankfort School at War is a thought provoking piece for anyone interested in the relation of social and cultural research to war and national security issues. Who among us would have imagined that such icons of the New Left as Herbert Marcuse and other…


Added by John McCreery on July 20, 2013 at 7:00am — No Comments

An evolving understanding of urban ecology

Metaphor has long been an interest of mine, and I've also been fascinated by Mary Douglas's discussion of natural symbols. So this article instantly caught my attention.  The idea that architects and engineers are closely studying natural models in search of ideas: obvious, once you think about it, but wow.

Added by John McCreery on June 26, 2013 at 4:26am — No Comments

Can anthropologists play well with others?

Some here might be interested in a brilliant conversation now underway on the anthrodesign Yahoo! list, under the subject heading, “Serendipity.” Arvind Venkataramani has just offered a provocative proposal,

The language we’ve been using so far is heavily driven by methodology selection and its cognates, so much so that participatory research is being treated as a method, not an approach (just like ‘lean=process’). I suggest that we need instead to focus on problem framing…


Added by John McCreery on June 24, 2013 at 4:43am — No Comments

A Project to Keep an Eye On

The following message from anthrodesign is cross-posted with permission of the author, Lynne Lohfeld. It should be of interest to anyone involved with applied or medical anthropology or the role that anthropologists can play in research teams with members from other disciplines. 

Adrian, I like the analogy you make with getting to deep understanding incrementally rather than in phases, because the latter suggests (to me) following a predetermined path in a…


Added by John McCreery on June 21, 2013 at 7:00am — No Comments

Ever wonder what doing business anthropology or design ethnography is in real life?

This war stories series from the Portigal consulting company's website will keep you riveted. It would be interesting to hear what our colleagues or lurkers have to say.

Added by John McCreery on June 13, 2013 at 8:02am — No Comments


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