September 10, 2002
Strangeness-Squared

I just got home from a Berkeley administrative meeting that seemed very strange to me. And I have just realized why it seemed strange. Let me back up. The Berkeley administration has asked for a proposal to hire six new faculty and create a teaching-and-research program-center-committee-group engaged in the study of "New Media." And they asked me--along with a bunch of other people--to go to an organizational meeting to try to decide what sort of proposal to write. I talked about how a huge honking new-media studio would have allowed my cousin Philip to try out alternative ways of creating and then distributing animation. A music professor talked about how new media interacted with old media--about "Switched-on Bach" and how often one of the first things you did with new instruments was to try to make them sound like old instruments. One of the Information Management School people talked about how new media would flourish only if it could be built on top of viable revenue models. And those were--in fifty minutes of conversation--I swear I am not making this up--the only points made in the discussion that even touched on actual new-media concepts or examples. People talked about how...

Posted by DeLong at 08:52 PM

July 02, 2002
Still the Frontier of Research into Real-World Bureaucracies

C. Northcote Parkinson (1957), Parkinson's Law, and Other Studies in Administration (Cambridge: Riverside Press: 1568490151). I have been rereading Parkinson's Law. Once again, I am very impressed. Quite possibly the best--the very best--the absolute best serious scholarly study of bureaucracies and their functioning ever written. A few of the absolutely choice bits: p. 2: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.... Granted that work (and especially paperwork) is thus elastic in its demands on time, it is manifest that there need be little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size of the staff to which it may be assigned. A lack of real activity does not, of necessity, result in leisure. A lack of occupation is not necessarily revealed by a manifest idleness..." pp. 5-6: "Seven officials are now doing what one did before.... [T]hese seven make so much work for each other that all are fully occupied, and A is actually working harder than ever. An incoming document... [o]ffical E decides that it falls within the province of F, who places a draft reply before C, who amends it drastically before consulting D, who asks G to deal with...

Posted by DeLong at 02:04 PM