Suzanne Shenk's Weblog

Bio: I’m Suzanne Shenk, a part-time, first-year graduate student at Georgetown University’s Communication, Culture and Technology with a full-time fundraising job and a vivacious appetite to eat well, travel far, and learn much about other cultures and myself in the process. I graduated from undergraduate university with a B.A. in English and Art History, and chose to enter the CCT program because I believe that as the world grows “smaller” through globalization, there will be a great need for communicators to support dialogue across national and cultural lines. I believe in common human denominators and hope to explore more about the sociological, environmental and cultural sacridity of food and cuisine. Food is becoming more local at the same time that ethnic cultures have never been more accessible – these changes affect both the sustainability of resources and the protection of cultural histories. How can we best communicate these expansive changes to the world and what can I do to enrich the dialogue and protect the culture, history, and celebration of food? Stay tuned…

 

Posts

 

Jun 11 2009

Local food movement: Come and get it!

Every other weekend, I look forward to visiting the local farmer’s market. Bright red tomatoes, farm-fresh eggs, and the waft of spice-scented apples – it’s a veritable feast for the senses. I not only feel that I benefit from the visual feast and “local” nature of the food, I know I am supporting families and farms that care deeply about their produce and their standard of living. It’s a luxury that I can (mostly) afford; I continue to frequent farmers markets because my bounded rationality is low – I know almost everything about the products and the people.

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

This led me to wonder: Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

Jun 09 2009

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Vintage thriller movie aside, what would Jane Jacobs have to say about the situation in Qatar? Focusing on the various components of the network such as links through trade, export and import cycles, and diversification and reinvestment in the city region, I aim to divulge some pros and cons about the state of Qatar today. Specifically, I want to examine the architecture of the city, as well as the underlying balance between social capital and reliance on natural resources, which has primed the nation for a profitable leap into the networked economy.

What does the region look like in terms of cities and agglomeration effects?

Doha, the capital city, holds over 400,000 people, with 80% of the nation’s population residing in the city or in surrounding suburbs (Wikipedia). Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

Jun 08 2009

City-regions that struggle together, gain together

 Avner Greif’s article, “Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society…” (1994), presents an important look at how cultural beliefs systems have an impact on trade and markets within societies. When looking at the impact of collectivist societies against individualistic societies, Greif notes that cultural beliefs impact social interactions but can have varying effects on wealth distribution (Greif, 19). The horizontal relationships within collectivism are often very beneficial for individuals in small closed regional economies as they provides the informal institutions of protection and feedback loops, but they do little to grow the market for the overall wealth of the people. It can also have devastating results when groups and their cultural beliefs clash with nearby regions. Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

Jun 04 2009

Technological links in a repressive society

The role of technology in network development is crucial to fashioning a self-sustaining economy. Technology can cut down on transaction costs, bounded rationality (North) and can forge cross-cutting ties (Narayan) that will strengthen the network. It also supports bridging capital (Narayan), in that the up-front costs of implementation then fall to zero when more people are added to such a network. As a development strategist, it is therefore crucial to measure the potential gains of a technological enhancement for a region even at a high implementation cost.

Technological enhancements are especially important for isolated communities or nations with restrictions on free press. Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

Jun 02 2009

Limited Time Offer!

Patterns of socio-economic behavior repeat themselves, regardless of the “shocks” to networks that come through political upheaval or environmental hazards. These patterns become subsequently more and more difficult to break, whether they are positive or negative. Consequently, both formal and informal institutions with agendas for development need to be careful how they insert themselves into the fabric of the global environment now, especially because the effects may be – to borrow a phrase from Stride gum’s marketing slogan – “ridiculously long lasting.”

Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

Jun 01 2009

Restructuring for a Drought Network

This weekend, I spent a beautiful afternoon in the sun at a local pool. As I looked around at the mass of other people enjoying the same opportunity, I acknowledged how bodies of water connect people in communities and connect countries across the open seas. Yet for many developing countries, how isolating it must be during a drought or a particularly arid season in which crops fail and access to water is limited to the point of serious health risks. Through the lens of a development strategist, utilizing many of Douglass North’s principles, I propose the following plan to counteract some of the network interstices that could potentially reconnect such a community to a public good in times of crisis.

20-acre Chilean pool by fak3r

20-acre Chilean pool by fak3r

Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

May 28 2009

CONFIDENTIAL: Live and Let Eat

Your mission (should you choose to accept): Engage food markets of underdeveloped countries enmeshed in global food crisis into regional market economies at nationally (or perhaps globally-sponsored) subsidized rates, potentially outsourcing goods to international firms at higher transactional costs.

James Bond Lego by Dunechaser

James Bond Lego by Dunechaser

Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

May 26 2009

Pace and Place

Scott Storper and Michael Storper explore the ways in which a node can be affected by its geographical place in the world. The externalities that can occur from neighboring nations’ networks can affect a country’s economic and social status. This may be one more reason that Collier’s theory about the precarious situation of land-locked countries has validity. Scott Storper asserts that agglomeration based on the role of the “region” allows for positive effects of urbanization. He speaks directly to complexity theory in that the more tightly-drawn the network, the better chance of connectivity through weak links to a greater market.

As an example of the node/language of a network, I found that the professional networking site “LinkedIn” has their own “Network Statistics” tab, in which they show “Your Network of Trusted Professionals.” Continue Reading »

No responses yet Tags: Uncategorized

May 21 2009

Small-world networks and exponential effects

From my coworkers and the upper-level administration at my job to CCT graduate school faculty and students, my intellectual network is built from very differing styles of networks. In a sense, graduate school is one of the easiest ways to make ties to a very disparate network. As we all begin through a link to the program, our paths are connected through a very large node (CCT) to a very extensive network and we each bring our own smaller intellectual backgrounds with us. I exchange ideas within graduate school to perhaps a greater effect than within my work, where the level of participation is much more like a traditional hierarchy.

In analyzing Buchanan’s theories in relation to my experience, it seems as if the Washington Consensus was built upon a more traditional dissemination model. On page 146, Buchanan notes that “more complex networks tend to fluctuate less and are more stable than simpler networks.” This could be a telling insight into how the small-world network effect, where one chopped link can effectively “destroy” an entire ecological (or economic?) network. The link may have been the dialogue between each and every nation.

Development strategies that might make the workplace more effective is to treat it more like a “graduate school” environment and less like a traditional hierarchical workplace. By allowing in a collection of policy-makers with diverse backgrounds in education and culture and encouraging discussion between them, the force of knowledge would be cumulative rather than disseminated from the top.

“We are living in exponential times…”  If you haven’t seen the “Did you know” video created by Karl Fisch, a high school teacher in Colorado and modified by Scott McLeod, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State Univ, you should take a look.  I think the video’s content effectively demonstrates many of the theories that Buchanan expounds in his book about information technology and the interconnectivity of our networks.

One response so far Tags: Uncategorized