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Usable Social Science

Neil J. Smelser (Author), John S. Reed (Author)


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This volume is a one-of-a-kind contribution to applied social science and the product of a long collaboration between an established, interdisciplinary sociologist and a successful banking executive. Together, Neil Smelser and John Reed use a straightforward approach to presenting substantive social science knowledge and indicate its relevance and applicability to decision-making, problem-solving and policy-making. Among the areas presented are space-and-time coordinates of social life; cognition and bias; group and network effects; the role of sanctions; organizational dynamics; and macro-changes associated with economic development. Finally, the authors look at the big picture of why society at large demands and needs social-science knowledge, and how the academy actually supplies relevant knowledge.
Introduction: The Problem and Our Take on It
Part I. Arenas of Usability
1. Space and Time: Constraints and Opportunities
2. Some Dynamics of Cognition, Judgment, and Bias
3. Sanctions in Organizational and Social Life
4. Groups, Teams, Networks, Trust, and Social Capital
5. How Decisions Are Made
6. Organizations and Organizational Change
7. Economic Development and Social Change
8. Methods of Research and Their Usability
Part II. The Big Picture of Usability
9. Social Change, Social Problems, and Demands for Knowledge
10. The Production of Knowledge in the Social Sciences
Neil J. Smelser is a senior scholar and University Professor at the University of California and author of several UC Press books, most recently The Odyssey Experience and Reflections on the University of California.

John Reed is currently Chairman of the Corporation of MIT and former Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange and former Chairman and CEO of Citicorp, Citibank and Citigroup.
“A readable, nontechnical identification and assessment of areas of relevant, usable social science knowledge. . . . Recommended.”—M. Oromaner, formerly, Hudson County Community College Choice
"Usable Social Science represents a remarkable collaboration between Neil J. Smelser, one of America’s most distinguished sociologists, and John Reed, a highly successful member of corporate America. Together, they accomplish an even more remarkable feat of making accumulated social science knowledge accessible to non-academics while, at the same time, making an academic contribution to the social sciences by reviewing the history, accumulated findings, and conceptual approaches in key areas of specialization in sociology and elsewhere in the social sciences."—Jonathan H. Turner, University Professor & Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of California, Riverside.

“This book is an ambitious project to provide the public with a review of the available and practicable knowledge for decision-making people (and who is not that today?) that the social sciences have produced over the last 250 years or so. Typically, such efforts are bound to fail. But this project is a full success, keeping its promise to present knowledge in an understandable and exciting way. The language is charming and the elegant prose is the product of a fluent, transparent style. In short: a must read!”—Hans-Peter Mueller, Professor of sociology, Humboldt-University of Berlin.

Chapter 1

Space and Time

Constraints and Opportunities

We focus first on two omnipresent dimensions of human life: space and time. Their very pervasiveness, however, sometimes renders their precise influence elusive. It is not common to find them as chapter headings in books such as this one. Therefore, our gathering of knowledge under these headings as organizing principles for usable knowledge is unorthodox and sometimes speculative, but also, we hope, novel at times.

Peculiar Features of Space and Time

We notice initially an apparent paradox. Time and space can be regarded as both universal and unyielding but at the same time manipulable by humans and therefore culturally and socially variable. They are universal in that both have to be confronted as existential conditions of life. All actions occur in space, and space is forever an obstacle to complete freedom of movement. The same can be said of time. Furthermore, the rhythms of nature (diurnal, seasonal, annual) and body processes (e.g., menstruation, reproduction, generations, life-cycle regularities, and death) impose themselves (Silverman, 2001). Yet there is enormous personal, social, and cultural variation in representing both space and time, as anthropologists and others have demonstrated (Levinson, 2001; Gell, 1992). Both are also objects of endless symbolization, as revealed in expressions such as social time, political time, ritual time, geographic space, social space, personal space, and symbolic space. It is essential to keep this double aspect of universality and variability in mind.

Space and time are represented differently in the social-science disciplines. Geography is most explicit in its incorporation of space; place arrangements, distribution of populations, and movement in and constraints of space have been at the center of that discipline (e.g., Pred, 1973). Urban studies, planning, architecture, and design deal explicitly with spatial arrangements, as does social ecology. Even though much of neoclassical equilibrium theory is presented as "timeless" (Vickers, 1994), economists explicitly refer to time in discussing topics such as interest, investment, inventory cycles, business cycles, and economic growth, and consider space in the analysis of markets and location theory. Sociologists acknowledge a sociology of time, and a few write about it (Sorokin, 1943; Gurvitch, 1964; Zerubavel, 1981). Anthropologists have analyzed the centrality of time in political contestation and the exercise of power (Rutz, 1992), as well as the apparently universal relationship between space and a sense of belonging (Lovell, 1998). Psychologists write on how individuals organize their own sense of space (Eliot, 1987), on neuropsychological mechanisms involved in temporal processing (Pastor and Artieda, 1996), and on ways of experiencing time over the life cycle (Levin and Zakay, 1989). Demographers take time and space into consideration in analyzing trends, generational and cohort effects, migration patterns, and the aging of populations. At the same time, these two variables have limited visibility in these disciplines. If one examines the list of "sections" of their professional associations, there are no subdisciplines or sections with the names "psychology of time," "sociology of time," or "anthropology of time" among their dozens of subspecializations, and there is a similar lack of explicit reference to space as a category.

Despite this semihidden status, social scientists have recognized the power of these fundamental dimensions of human existence, incorporated them directly into their research, and produced relevant and usable research findings. In this chapter, we draw together a sample of their results.

Two Classical Studies on the Space-Time Axis

Friendships in a Housing Project

More than six decades ago, three psychologists, all later to become very distinguished, published a study (Festinger, Schachter, and Back, 1950) of social dynamics in a housing project for married veteran graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They focused on small friendship groups and cliques, norms, conformity, and deviance. They employed a method (sociometric analysis) favored at the time and since reborn and employed under different names in network analysis (see chapter 4, pp. 00-00). Using that method, the investigators simply asked respondents about whom they saw socially and whom they liked and disliked. Then they proceeded to construct sociometric maps of friends, "stars," and isolates.

Earlier Stouffer (1940) had written about the importance of space in social life in general: "Whether one is seeking to explain 'why' persons go to a particular place to get jobs, 'why' they go to trade at a particular store, 'why' they go to a particular neighborhood to commit a crime, or 'why' they marry the particular spouse they choose, the factor of spatial distance is of obvious significance" (845). The authors of the MIT study were especially interested in the principle, well established in the literature, of residential propinquity in marriage-an inverse relationship between the residential distance between potential marriage partners and frequency of marriages. In a word, space appears to play a central role in the opportunity structures people face. Some economists and economic geographers incorporate spatial barriers into notions of transaction costs-e.g., how much does it cost to move people and commodities from point A to B?

Each building of the housing project was spatially arranged as a number of apartments on two floors, with exits from the second floor available only by stairwells leading to the first floor at each end of the building. These arrangements alone dictated in large part the "passive contacts" among residents: that is, meetings that occurred in the daily rounds of coming and going. The investigators assumed further that frequency of passive contacts would facilitate speaking relationships, acquaintances, and friendships.

The findings were striking. Mere physical distance between apartments proved to be a predictor of friendships. Those living in the same building had more friendships with one another than with those living in different buildings. Those living on the same floor had more social relationships with one another than with those living on different floors. Those on the first floor who exited onto the courtyard frequently ran into others while entering and leaving their residences, and friendships clustered among them as well. Those who lived at the ends of houses with exits directly facing the street were involved in fewer friendships than those who faced an open courtyard. Those living in apartments on the first floor at the base of the stairwells had more friends among those from the second floor (who passed by their apartments going to and fro) than did those who were isolated from the stairwells. While other factors, such as personal compatibility and not having or having children of the same ages, were also determinants, spatial contiguity retained a central role. Festinger and his colleagues also traced the evolution of friendship patterns into enduring cliques-along with their features of conformity, social pressure, and deviance. These, too, followed the spatial contours of the housing project.

The principles demonstrated in this research are evidently generalizable to other settings: housing in college dormitories, placement of recruits' bunks in basic training, cell assignments of inmates in prisons, classroom seating arrangements, closeness of workers to one another on assembly lines, and nearness of desks to one another in offices. Summarizing research on physical proximity in workplaces, Sundstrom (1986) noted that "people in factories and offices choose to converse with their closest neighbors and make friends with them" (262). He also noted the social (as well as practical) drawing power of "activity nodes," such as corridors, water fountains, bulletin boards, coffeepots, computer terminals, and vending machines (ibid.: 263-78). More generally, when one moves from one neighborhood to another, one begins to shop in different places, take different walks, bank at a different branch, and, over time, visit with nearby new friends more than now-distant old ones. With respect to the encouragement of informal associations, we should also mention the social wisdom built into university commons rooms and lounges, common residences such as fraternities and sororities, the clustering of lockers in the halls of high schools, neighborhood parks, the placement of coffee machines and water dispensers in offices, and even the location of employees' mailboxes. Recent studies (e.g., Hipp and Perrin, 2009) have reaffirmed the impact of different kinds of distance on network ties: the greater the physical distance, the weaker the ties; the greater the social distance (as measured by wealth), the weaker the ties.

A few different, though related, observations: Throwing people together in spatially isolated settings-ocean voyages and rafting trips, for example-magnifies the development of intense, short friendships, most of which dissolve as these groups disperse. The spatial ecology of cities, hinterlands, and rural areas dictates in part the loci of market exchange and travel patterns. Residential segregation by race and class produces spatially based slums, ghettoes, suburbs, exurbs, and pockets of gentrification-and transitional zones among them-all of which contribute to differing exposure to personal danger, environmental contamination, quality of medical care, and educational opportunities, as well as endogamous acquaintance, friendship, and marriage patterns (Massey and Denton, 1993).

A further, negative example confirms this centrality of space and time. In the late 1980s, Smelser was asked to evaluate the sociology department at Sonoma State University in Cotati, California. In visits with the chair, he learned that she had been concerned for some time about anomie among students in the department. Some of them complained of impersonality, inaccessibility to faculty and other students, and lacking a sense of belonging. Some years earlier, in an enlightened moment, she had managed to beg resources from the university administration to set aside space for a conveniently located commons room complete with easy chairs, a small library, coffee, and open doors. The experiment was a failure. Almost nobody came. The reasons for the failure, moreover, were other space-and-time considerations affecting the students. Since this was not a residential college, many of them commuted from a distance, many worked part-time or full-time, and many were married with children. Most simply drove to the campus for classes or meetings with faculty, then departed to run errands or go home. So while the students might have continued to feel isolated and alienated, their own, more important space-and-time exigencies defeated the space-time experiment designed to make them feel more at home.

One further point about the pervasiveness of space. We mentioned the anthropological work linking space and a sense of belonging. Even in a presumably neutral living place such as the MIT housing project, the residents had a definite sense of residing in a spatial unit and expressed varying degrees of satisfaction about living there (Festinger, Schachter, and Back, 1950: 30-40). More generally, space is a fundamental defining element of people's expanding circles of belonging and identity-their rooms, their homes, their gathering and loitering spots (Whyte, 1943; Liebow, 1967), their neighborhoods, their communities, their cities, their athletic teams (often identified with and named after spatial entities), their regions, their nations, and, in a weaker way, their world or planet. The nation-state is above all a spatial entity with borders.

With space comes territoriality, a trait shared with nonhuman species and one of the most fundamental driving forces in human life. Territoriality involves identification of boundaries, defense against intruders, aggression against outsiders, and sometimes expansion into others' territories (as in gang wars, regional competition, colonialism, aggressive wars, and academic imperialism). Like space in general, territoriality is capable of symbolic representation, as the phrases "personal space," "social space," and "living space" (Lebensraum) reveal. As we will observe in chapter 10, academic life is fraught not only with competition over physical space in the form of the size and location of offices and laboratories, but also with symbolic jurisdiction and defense of subdisciplines, schools of thought, and theories.

While these illustrations establish the omnipresence of space and time in social relations, we should remind ourselves that these variables alone do not solely determine and perpetuate relationships. Kinship and friendship bonds motivate people to transcend spatial and temporal barriers in order to keep contact with distant others. Technological innovations such as the telegraph, telephone, and computer-to say nothing of the ease, convenience, and cost of travel-compress both space and time and permit continued contact at relatively low cost. Furthermore, as people's financial resources increase, they are more willing to spend those resources in traveling longer distances to visit loved and liked ones. Despite all this, the dimensions of space and time continue to matter. Later we will show how these ramify in many symbolic directions, including the symbolization of importance, status, and authority, and in that way constitute bases for individuals' satisfaction and dissatisfaction, as well as group conflict.

An Experimental Study of the Structure of Communication

About the same time that Festinger and his colleagues were conducting their research, Bavelas published an essay on patterns of collaboration in task-oriented teams (1950). A year later Leavitt (1951) constructed a laboratory situation in which five different kinds of task-oriented groups were instructed to limit their communication among themselves to one of five types: the wheel, the "Y," the "chain," the "circle," and the "all-channel," represented graphically in figure 1. [Figure 1 here]

In the wheel, the central member could communicate with everyone else in the group, but the others could communicate only with the central member. The wheel and the Y are centralized, and the chain, circle, and all-channel are decentralized. In the experiments, communication was controlled by having the subjects pass notes to one another through slots between cubicles. Participants in the wheel and Y patterns reached solutions faster; in the circle and other groups, people sent more messages and made more errors.

Over the next several decades many variations of this simple experiment were repeated, and as of 1981, Shaw could report the following consistent findings:

• Centralized networks perform more efficiently (faster and with fewer errors) than decentralized ones.

• Decentralized networks send more messages than centralized ones.

• Centrally located members in centralized groups emerge as leaders, whereas no leadership patterns emerge in decentralized networks.

• Decision-making in decentralized groups are arrived at by slow consensus-building, whereas in centralized ones messages are passed to the leader and decisions announced.

• Members in decentralized groups express more satisfaction with the experiments than those in centralized ones, though centrally located members in the latter express high satisfaction. These differences can be traced to the degree of participation and responsibility experienced in decision-making processes.

(The last point is perhaps culturally specific insofar as it reveals a positive association between individual participation and level of satisfaction. We might expect this association in cultures with a high premium on individualistic and democratic values, but it might not be found in cultures with collectivist or hierarchical traditions.)

This early experimentation captured the two dimensions that have dominated small-group and to some degree organizational studies-group performance and member satisfaction. In addition, the power of small networks to influence group process, decision-making, and in some measure satisfaction has persisted, even though technology has altered the space-time axes. Consider the following illustrations:

1. The telephone conference call, in which both space and time are radically compressed. Often designed as task-oriented committee work, a conference call has a structure of communication that combines the all-channel and the wheel principles. All participants have access to one another, but there is typically a "chair" for the call, which places him/her in a central position. The participants are usually not anonymous. Because they are not visible to one another and their voices cannot always be recognized, however, special means of identification are sometimes called for, such as speaking one's name at the beginning of an intervention. Also because of the lack of eye contact, gestures, and other face-to-face communication, special conversational rules develop for initiating, turn taking, interrupting, and finishing, sometimes evolving unconsciously and sometimes engineered by the chair of the call. Emotional expression is limited to verbal forms, and for that reason is not as rich as in face-to-face meetings. Finally, in conference calls it is easier for participants to engage freely in other activities, such as reading mail or simply zoning out if bored or unengaged in the business of the call. We know of no systematic research on the relative performance level, efficiency, and satisfaction levels of conference calls, but we suspect that they complete their work faster and are affectively more neutral than face-to-face committee meetings, even dull ones.

2.Videoconferencing. This form of communication is more varied than the typical conference call. Sometimes it is similar in structure, with space and time compressed, but because vision is possible, it can be placed somewhere between invisible and face to face. Often, however, a videoconference is a meeting between two groups at different physical locations, thereby calling for a more complex communication structure. Some leaders or central persons in the system of communication are called forward to monitor interventions, move the meeting along, offer summary suggestions, call for or indicate consensus on specific items, and suggest when the meeting is approaching the end of its work.

3. E-committees. Later in the chapter we will take up the general topic of electronic communication, which an extreme compression of time and space dimensions. At this moment we mention only one type: committee work by computer.

We offer two impressions based on our own experience. In various e-committees on which we have sat, we have developed the impression that the chair of the committee probably has a degree of power greater than he or she would in standard face-to-face committees. While in principle all members can communicate with all or some others at any time, in practice they do not bother to do so. The chair initiates communications, receives input, digests it, informs members of tentative or final conclusions, and typically deals with individual members on refinements or wording of the committee's conclusions. This dynamic resembles the classic circle or Y patterns even when chairs are committed to including everyone in the proceedings. This centralization appears to derive in large part from the medium.

We should also mention a peculiar type of e-group, an all-channel decision-making structure without any leadership. An example serves best. When Smelser was director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in the late 1990s, it was the custom for each class of forty to fifty fellows to decide on a collective gift for the center in appreciation of their year of scholarly freedom. Normally a small gift committee chosen by fellows processed the decision and produced a recommendation, usually acceptable to and welcomed by the center. The director did not intervene in the committee's deliberations except occasionally to veto an outrageous suggestion (such as an espresso machine, which was anathema to the kitchen staff, who would have had to clean up around it several times a day). One year the gift committee decided to go fully democratic and ask everybody to make suggestions and to circulate every suggestion to all forty-five other fellows by using email's "reply all" option. Within less than a day this process fell into chaos. Many fellows responded to others' suggestions by pointing out that they were good, not suitable, or outright stupid, and sometimes offered countersuggestions, always sending the message to "all." The result was a muddled flurry of suggestions, all ventured in a mass way, without any machinery for deliberating or reaching consensus, that produced some flaming, counterflaming, insulting, and wounded feelings. At a certain moment the director had to intervene with a message to "all," announcing that matters had gotten out of hand and that the gift committee should reconstitute itself and proceed along more conventional consultative lines. The lesson: It is difficult to reach a structured decision without a structure, and it is easy to lose control in a free-for-all communication setting.

Space-Time and Symbolic Elaboration

One lesson deriving from many lines of social-science work is that the human being is a symbolizing animal. The extent of symbolization is without apparent limit; almost anything can be a symbol for something else. Once a symbol is created and fixed, furthermore, it can become the object of personal affection and identity, as well as a source of symbolic wounds, often as real in their consequences as physical wounds. We refer to this general principle from time to time, but limit ourselves to a few observations on space and time symbolization in this section.

Consider territoriality in the world of work. A large private office for an executive or administrator obviously offers a larger place to work, but it also connotes privacy and control over information as well as freedom from surveillance. It is also a major symbol of status and authority. As such, holders of large private offices are motivated to defend their occupancy of them. Transfer to a smaller office, while perhaps justifiable from a practical or cost point of view, is more often than not a personal threat (suggesting that one is now smaller in others' regard) that leaves the transferee wondering where he or she stands in general. Office accouterments also become a matter of status and personal entitlement: desk placement, distance of desk from door, composition of desk (plastic, metal, wood, type of wood), type of desk lamp, wooden chairs or armchairs, convenience to phone, type of computer, windows or none, view or none, type of view (Sundstrom, 1986: 228). All these are matters to notice, covet, and fight over. Such jurisdictional preoccupations become all the more salient when an office or company migrates from one location to another. These moves are typically accompanied by extended seasons of jockeying and struggling for the desirable spatial accouterments of the new home. Academics are not immune from territorial symbolization. All of the above matter to them. More abstractly, they claim ownership and compete over intellectual territory as well, appropriating theories and approaches as their own and not others', and defending them against attack. It has been remarked that college and university faculties (like inhabitants of monasteries) fight more or less exclusively over symbols, not only because they live in the world of ideas, but also because so little real power resides in these kinds of organizations. [Box 1-Moving-here]

Those who control a given space in a workplace also make symbolic use of it. Who travels to whose office for a meeting typically symbolizes the superior power or status of the one who hosts. If the superior goes to the subordinate's office, this may communicate a symbolic message of equality or friendship. An office person attempting to influence a client may move from behind his or her desk and sit next to the client, symbolizing equality and friendliness; he or she may also use the desk to symbolize authority and distance from subordinates by sitting behind it. In committee and board meetings, who sits to the right or left of-and how far from-the boss typically corresponds to the rank, authority, and status of the members attending. Alternatively, if leaders are interested in promoting equality or a participatory culture, they may strive to symbolize that equality in spatial ways such as identically sized cubicles for all or randomized circular seating in meetings. Finally, those in workplaces turn space into extensions of personal identity through adornment with their own special coffee mugs, photographs of family, and other memorabilia. That these, too, are important is revealed in the resistance that often develops when superiors initiate neatness and "clean desktop" campaigns.

It is a saying among real estate brokers is that the key to selling houses is "location, location, location." Some of this preoccupation may be practical-access to shopping, transportation, schools, and services. Another part is more symbolic and raises issues of location in the world of status. What kinds of shops and schools are nearby? What kinds of people live nearby and ride the buses? Is the neighborhood regarded as high, acceptable, marginal, transitional, or low in status?

Time is also an important symbol of status. Low-status employees have to punch clocks; others do not. Some are expected to stick by their desks; others are not. When and how many breaks (and of what length) one may take from work, when one may arrive at or leave from work, and how one is paid (hourly, weekly, monthly) are also temporal manifestations of status. And just as coming from a distance for a meeting is a symbolization of status in space, so having to sit and wait for an appointment is a temporal symbolization of status. It is said, no doubt as an unfriendly cultural jibe, that professors in Japanese universities are obliged to delay a requisite amount of time before admitting a waiting student into the office, or else risk losing status. More generally, the symbols of both space and time attributes evolve into normative realities. They are subject to expectations and control, and breaking these often excites alarm, opposition, blame, and efforts to restore the status quo.

Further Demonstrations of the Power of Spatio-Temporal Arrangements

The Power of Seasons, Events, and Scheduling

Versions of the annual calendar are a typical feature of civilizations. They express astronomical, solar, lunar, climatic, agricultural/fertility, and religious ingredients. The division of the dominant Judaic-Christian calendar into weeks, for example, is derived from the days of the Lord's work as described in Genesis, and sets boundaries for work and rest; days of travel and nontravel to work; times of opening and closing offices and commercial establishments; leisure; and travel (two weeks or a month of vacation per annum)-all basic dimensions of life. Such scheduling shapes patterns of shopping and commercial activities, and produces and aggravates certain types of problems, such as traffic congestion, overcrowding, noise, and periodic cluttering and environmental spoiling of specific locations.

The annual calendar is a powerful, time-based influence on human affairs. In western experience, it is originally derived mainly from religious sources (seasons such as Christmas and Lent, often influenced by the timing of pagan fertility and celebratory rites), saints' days, and other observances. The rise of the nation-state superimposed new calendric moments. The enthusiasts of the French Revolution rewrote the annual calendar in a wholesale (though, as it turned out, temporary) way, with a new, more rational decimal monthly system and an entirely new set of secular celebrations of the revolution (Zerubavel, 1981). Derived from the new nation-state are national holidays celebrating historical events such as Bastille Day, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Armistice Day, and the admission of states to the Union. Still other holidays are determined by historically political forces or events (Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day), and some special annual days are remembered and noted widely but are not official national holidays (December 7, September 11).

The individual life cycle, imposed in the first instance by the biological clock, is also organized by temporal scheduling. The most important is the day of birth, typically celebrated on a regular annual basis. The assumption of memberships, rights, and duties-religious confirmation, voting, service in the military, sexual consent, and license to drive-is scheduled by age. Less distinct and more variable-but also time-bound-are the seasons of life such as youth, adolescence, early adulthood, adulthood, midlife, and the senior years (see Furstenberg, 2002). Marriage anniversaries and remembering deaths of loved ones are also counted by years. Even the personal experience and social expression of feelings such as joy, nostalgia, sadness, and grief are tied to these temporal rhythms of life.

Nowhere is annual scheduling more constraining than in the world of athletics. The year is divided into "seasons" according to when certain types of sports are played (football, soccer, basketball, track, baseball, and others). Superevents such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games are quadrennial but also regular in schedule. During any given year, fans prepare for and participate as mass spectators in specifically annual climaxes such as the Super Bowl, March Madness, the National Basketball Association playoffs, the All-Star Game, the World Series, traditional rivalries such as the Army-Navy, Harvard-Yale, and USC-UCLA games, the traditional New Year's Day and other bowl games, and then the Super Bowl again. Time and sequencing also determine the structure of individual athletic events. Baseball games have nine innings, each of which must proceed in order. The sequence of football kickoffs, runbacks, snaps of the ball, kicking extra points, and penalties all must be ordered in time; otherwise the game would make no sense. Major athletic events also determine patterns of commercial activity (ticket buying, travel to the site of the event, advertising, and hawking) and aggravate social problems such as traffic jams, overcrowding, overloaded sewage systems (during commercial breaks), pickpocketing, threats to physical safety, and, recently, threats from terrorists. They perhaps reduce other social problems; the day of the Super Bowl regularly produces the lowest number of thefts among all other days of the year, presumably because so many viewers are watching the events in their homes (thus discouraging intrusion) and because many potential criminals are viewing instead of working.

The Political Calendar

One of the central institutions of representative democracy is the conduct of elections, the main mechanism-supplemented by other forces-for expressing the voice of the people and influencing those in power. In some democracies, elections are not precisely scheduled but are held on the occasion of a parliamentary defeat or called by a party in power; even though not scheduled, they are nevertheless expected to be held periodically. The American constitution and political tradition call for a more rigid temporal scheduling (with variations such as recall elections, initiatives and referenda, and special elections) on specific dates of specific years. Elections constitute a formal use of time as a means of political control-an opportunity for the electorate to speak, an opportunity for different individuals and parties to assume power, and an opportunity for others to lose it. Scheduled elections are supplemented by other temporally based arrangements, for example term limits, an institutional device to limit the concentration of power by means of curtailing the duration of office holding. Impeachment is still another potential limitation on power, though not scheduled.

Scheduling national, state, and local elections profoundly influences politics and policies. Scheduling mandates that politicians must, among other things, cast their eyes on the next election from the moment they are elected, if they are good politicians. Under these circumstances, the building of political credit and the avoidance of political liability necessarily become important imperatives for political survival. Politicians and parties out of power are aware of the same temporal exigencies, and schedule their discrediting and damaging efforts according to the same clock. To many, such a system overemphasizes political opportunism, strategic-tactical considerations, and public relations, and underemphasizes political statesmanship. Certainly it generates an outlook of political short-termism that induces political leaders to concentrate on immediate (e.g., pocketbook) issues and to downgrade (if in power) or exaggerate (if not in power) emotional or dramatic issues (e.g., religious anxieties, political scandals). Perhaps most consequential, short-termism leads politicians away from issues that may be grave in their long-term consequences, such as the impact of budget deficits on future generations, long-term survival of social-security systems, and environmental planning, because these issues are not experienced as pressing within the time-scope of the next election or two. In a word, election arrangements involve governing officials and government itself in a temporal trap. We observe, finally, that electoral and other time constraints on the political process are extremely difficult to alter because they are embedded in the national constitution, generally regarded as sacred and legally protected from change by the cumbersomeness of the procedures required to amend it.

The Agenda as Calendar

At a more microscopic level, the agenda is an example of the political manipulation of time. It is a device employed in boards of trustees and standing committees as well as in temporary instrumental forms such as task forces, commissions, committees, and working groups. An agenda is a simple device, determining (by a list of topics) what will be talked about and in what order, and what kinds of decisions are expected. As a rule an agenda is adhered to, though there is some latitude in the time given to each item and in skipping or postponing items.

Who writes the agenda exercises power, largely because he or she determines what is on it and, perhaps more important, what is not. The leader or administrator who writes a committee's "charge" tells it what to attend to, and can call it to account if, in its deliberations and report, it fails to address items in the charge. The committee chair also has discretion in emphasizing or downplaying specific items in the charge, and, more important, in scheduling specific meetings and writing more detailed agendas for them. The mechanism of overruling the chair limits this discretion to a degree. Two other players also carry some discretionary power: first, the secretary or notetaker, though the general understanding is that this person is mainly a recorder and, furthermore, the mechanism of approving and correcting minutes limits that power. Second, and more important, the person (most often the chair) or subcommittee responsible for drafting the report of the committee's deliberations presumably expresses the group's will and consensus but can exercise power through omission, selective emphasis, and use of rhetorical devices.

The order of items on the agenda is consequential. The first item is likely to take time and possibly to generate heat, because consideration of it is mingled with requisite processes of airing general concerns, establishing philosophical points, and engaging in rituals of status-claiming and status-cementing on the part of members (the "baboon" phase of meetings). Taking these into account, a skilled chair may place less important items at the beginning of the agenda to permit the opening phases of meetings to occur without contaminating important work. Placing items near the scheduled end of a meeting is also an important exercise of power. A skilled chair may put the most critical and most controversial items at the end, when resistance is likely to be reduced on account of members' exhaustion, their eagerness to get away, or even the actual attrition of attendance. It has been observed that a strategy of communist groups in labor union or political meetings was to introduce crucial issues late in meetings and argue for them passionately and at great length to take advantage of this exhaustion factor.

Getting onto the agenda of political agencies (legislatures, executive officers) is also a matter of consequence. The media play a role in this agenda-setting process by selecting which news to report when and polling citizens about which issues are most on their minds (Weaver, Graber, McCombs, and Eyal, 1981). Other important mechanisms are the noisiness of lobbyists, influence brokers, special interest groups, and social movements, as well as the occurrence of scandals, natural disasters, or crimes (Kingdom, 1984). Numerous case studies of establishing an agenda-for example, on child abuse (Nelson, 1984)-in the public and political mind have been carried out, as have studies on denying the importance of keeping issues off the political agenda (Cobb and Ross, 1997). It goes without saying that knowledge of the temporal dynamics of agenda setting constitutes directly usable knowledge for all parties involved in the struggles of political life; these dynamics themselves may become the focus of open struggles.

Some Time-Space Considerations in Economic Life

As noted, economists sometimes build an assumption of timelessness and spacelessness into their analyses: for example, the instant availability of full market information and complete mobility of resources in classical models of the perfectly competitive market. Transaction-cost analyses have demonstrated the practical unrealism of such assumptions, as the acquisition of information and resources is never complete and requires time, the overcoming of obstacles, resistance to movement, and, in consequence, costs.

Time enters into the analysis of economic and social processes in myriad other ways, and the knowledge of the consequences of this constitutes usable economic knowledge.

1. The division of the business year into quarters-a temporal factor-has come to have profound effects. Many businesses must report on their diverse lines of activity to themselves, their directors, and regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission. In some cases they are required or forbidden to undertake certain activities for a specified time after a report has been issued. When aggregated, quarterly reports become an important economic signal for investors and government agencies alike. The scheduling of meetings of boards of directors and trustees also imposes a lunar or quarterly cycle of activity on an organization, a cycle that structures a great deal of its reporting behavior and sometimes imparts a cyclical pattern to the level of anxiety experienced in the organization.

2. Just in time systems. These are a part of the "total quality control" approach invented by Japanese firms, which involves compression in time as a means of rationalizing production and distribution systems by the systematic manipulation of time. Inventories, for example, involve the storage of goods in space in anticipation of their sale. The primary costs are rent and maintenance of the space. One principle underlying the "just in time inventory" is reduction of those costs by rapid, last-minute distribution of products to markets. The process compresses storage time and shipment time (Hirano and Furuya, 2006).

3.The tragedy of the commons means long-term negative externalities for the collectivity that result from individuals' short-term rational behavior in using resources. Time is clearly built in as an assumption, even though duration is not precisely specified in abstract models. The logic is most clearly applicable to issues of environmental degradation and exhaustion.

4. Path dependency and related processes. Path dependency is a widely applied formulation in economics and elsewhere. More than forty years ago, Shackle wrote about the principle of "no going back" to a previous, prechoice state of affairs after an economic decision is made (1969). The concept refers in the first instance to investment or commitment of resources. The "path" created is the difficulty of reversing or changing that commitment without substantial costs. Three commonplace economic examples are (1) the QWERTY lettering of the typewriter, which, once it became internalized in the skill sets of millions and millions of clerks and typists, could be unlearned (and another learned) only at tremendous cost, even though it was demonstrated that alternative lettering systems are more efficient. That lettering system created a path that carried over to computer keyboards. (2) The internal combustion engine, the foundation of so much economic activity, persists not only because it is economical, but also because it is embedded in so many facets of transportation and leisure and because so much of the economy has become implicated in its perpetuation. (3) At the social-structural level, the adoption of an employer-based health insurance system in the United States set up vast, ongoing machinery that, among other things, now constitutes an obstacle to taking other paths.

The notion of path dependency extends widely as a social principle and, as such, has accumulated many meanings. Carroll and Hannan (2000) have given it the name of environmental imprinting, a term broader than path dependency. The history of organizations, they argue, is greatly influenced by the structural characteristics embedded at the moment of the founding of an organization; these characteristics impart enduring definitions of how attachment to the organization is defined, how employees are selected, and how internal control is exercised and justified (for example, by rules, professional commitment, voluntary cooperation, or some combination of these factors). The literature on organizational culture has also stressed the enduring impact of the "myth of the founder" of the organization, in whose name different values, practices, and modes of internal control are referred and legitimized. At the same time, these imprinted patterns become sources of organizational inertia. In fact, the age of an organization has been identified as a kind of master clock that yields an organizational life cycle of the vigor (plus uncertainty) of newness, the dynamism (plus vulnerability) of adolescence, and the maturity (plus brittleness) of older organizations (Carroll and Hannan, 2000).

Another variant of path dependency is "sunk costs." One simple meaning of this term is an unwise past investment that is scrapped and written off. A second meaning refers to an initial commitment of economic and organizational resources to a line of action, which often exerts pressure to continue along that line because those costs have already been made, or sunk. The logic is that if these costs are discontinued, the organization will experience a loss. Daily life experience and some experimental literature on heuristics (Arkes and Blumer, 1985) indicate that people often distort the importance of sunk costs (when compared with "rational" gain-loss figures), biasing judgments in the direction of sticking with them because they do not want to "waste" what has already been committed. A less appreciated dimension of sunk costs is its connection to political conflict: such costs often create conflicts between those who advocated sinking the costs in the first place (and want to continue the course) and those who want to bail out because they consider that the initial investment launched the organization on a losing course. This political dimension supplements the straightforward economic assessment of path dependency.

To move to another area, the enactment of laws constitutes an example of deliberately created path dependency. A national constitution is a society's program for the future, against which the legitimacy of legal and political arrangements is measured. In addition, the message of a new law is, by definition, that "this is the way that things are to be done from now on." The enactment of laws is a continuous process of setting society's gyroscope, and it retains this significance even though laws themselves change when their limitations or irrelevance (for example, requiring hitching posts for horses) or the need for new ones are discovered. Despite their revocability, however, the general expectation associated with laws is that they bind society into an indefinite future. The same can be said for many organizational decisions, in that they commit resources to a given line of action and not others, and lay down directions for organizing resources and actions in the future.

An extension of path dependency is found in the concept of punctuated equilibrium (Gould, 2002) as a principle of social change. The logic of this: At a given moment of discovered need, social imbalance, or even social crisis, those responsible for decisions in society establish laws, rules, or other arrangements to set things right. An example is enactment of a law that provides health insurance for a part of the population heretofore not covered. Under such a law, new implementing administrative machinery is established, and as the law is implemented, the system of health care continues with a new, altered gyroscope to guide it. Suppose, further, that over a period of years these arrangements appear to yield an unacceptable increase in costs for the health care system that alarms the economy-minded, who agitate to remedy that trend. After a season of political debate, the government then enacts new, corrective rules, and these set the course of health expenditures on another trajectory that extends into the future until its tendencies produce the need for additional adjustments. The general principle is that newly established equilibria establish their own-sometimes unsuspected-tendencies for imbalances and perhaps crises in the future. This is what "punctuates" processes and gives them an episodic character. It is a more dynamic formulation than simple path dependency, which implies a more rigid determinative path into the future. Punctuated equilibrium implies continuously interrupted and changing patterns of path dependency.

5. Capitalism and short-termism. A central feature of capitalism is that entrepreneurs' and businesspeople's level of self-generated capital is typically not sufficient for economic innovation and new enterprises. More capital must be generated from third parties such as friends and relatives, investors, banks, and governments through the mechanisms of investment, loans, and credit. The prices of capital are scheduled interest payments, scheduled loan reduction, and scheduled dividends to stockholders, all presumably derived from the productivity, market success, and profits of the enterprises. These payments for capital, even long-term loans, are mandatory if the enterprise is to survive. The advancers of capital thus become a class of constituents in the sense that they expect the obligations of enterprises to be met. On some occasions, such as the rise and consolidation of the shareholder interest culture in the last third of the twentieth century, the demands for short-term performance by enterprises is accentuated, and, as a result, short-termism as a business outlook and as a spur to profit-making rises in salience.

In light of these arrangements, short-termism is understandable as a recurring feature of capitalist economic activity. It is also a feature that builds in incentives for excessive and harmful business practices: the motivation to ignore damaging externalities such as environmental degradation because these costs detract from earnings and profits; cutting corners; sometimes engaging in damaging labor- and human-relations practices or unethical and criminal practices; and irrational exuberance and reckless investments that promise short-term gains but often result in economic overreaching. These failures, moreover, initiate periodic seasons of demands for reform, social justice, and regulation. In sum, if we combine the political short-termism fostered by our system of democracy and the economic short-termism fostered by our system of capitalist organization, we discover a recipe for dynamism and responsiveness in the short run, but neglect its consequences in the long run.

Economic Development as Transformation of Time and Space

Economic development is most often described in terms of increases of wealth, technology, motive power and productivity, changes in composition of the labor force, transformation of organizations, expansion of markets and trade, urbanization, and, in some quarters, human betterment or human suffering (see chapter 7). Economic geographers see these as radical transformations of space and time and as central features of development. By way of illustration:

• The putting-out system, which predated the rise of the factory system in British textile production in the late eighteenth century, involved distributing yarn to weavers scattered over the countryside, then collecting the woven goods at a later time. By comparison with what was to come, this system was cumbersome from the standpoint of management of time (weavers worked at their own pace, and mechanisms for ensuring work discipline were minimal) and involved time-consuming fetching and hauling of materials over long distances.

• The onset of the factory system in its various forms radically altered such rhythms by bringing workers to central places (first to water-powered country mills, then to steam-powered factories in urban communities). This concentration of workers permitted on-the-spot supervision and discipline that were, however, often difficult to impose because of inherited understandings about the pace of work. Work time was also radically altered by the consolidation of the factory-associated workday, with a beginning, an end, and machine-imposed rhythms.

• The rationalization and control of both time and space in factory and office settings reached new heights with the "time-and-motion" principle of Taylor's engineering approach and with the mass-production methods of Fordism, in which the movement of the assembly line dictated in detail where workers were located and how they spent their time. The rise of automation as a productive process in the mid-twentieth century extended and consolidated this process.

• In many ways, later developments in the twentieth century undid much of the extreme discipline of Taylorism and Fordism with respect to the control of time and space. The list of changes, some noted elsewhere in this and other chapters, includes the movement toward flexible specialization of work (Piore and Sabel, 1984), downsizing and outsourcing, reliance on teams and networks, increases in part-time and short-term employment, work-at-home, and the "virtualization" of many aspects of work. These have in common a deemphasis on time in favor of an emphasis on results, a deemphasis on onsite authority and discipline in favor of cooperation and coordination, and temporal and spatial dispersion of work activities made possible by information technology.

• In another arena, the imposition of instrumental rationality and discipline has given rise to principles and movements that assert that the "human" sides of work and organization are short-changed by the rational organization of time and space, as well as by the systematic control of work. Among these reactions are the human relations movement in industry in the mid-twentieth century; ongoing literature on deskilling (Braverman, 1974) and alienation (Blauner, 1964); the Bürolandschaft, or open office-space, movement in the 1950s (Boje, 1971); and the more recent strand of literature that stresses the human costs involved in corporate restructuring (Pucik and Evans, 2003). In fact, the history of organizational and labor studies can be regarded as a process of punctuated reassertion-if not a full dialectic cycle-of two dominant emphases, the rational-technical and the human. [Box 2-Reshuffles-here]

A second, massive reorganization of the spatial and temporal dimensions of life is urbanization, also closely linked to economic development. This process is above all spatial: it brings together large numbers of people into a central space, mainly for purposes of work in and residing near factories and offices. The movements toward suburbanization, exurbanization, and industrial dispersion are partial reversals of this centralizing tendency, but nonetheless involve spatial reorganization and patterns of temporal movement. Among the benefits of urbanization have been its economic efficiency, its concentration of culture (urbanity), and the increased availability of that culture.

Urbanization has also produced many real and perceived social problems (Lincoln Steffens wrote of "the shame of the cities"). Early industrial cities suffered from lack of sanitation, spread of disease, and inadequate disposal of accumulated waste-all subsequently ameliorated by reforms. Other effects are the development of urban slums and the concentration of poverty; residential segregation by class and concentration of class conflict; ghettos; property crime; urban gangs; and some new adverse social and psychological effects of crowding (Nagar, 1998; for general effects and "noneffects," see Fischer, 1984). The history of urbanization has also been a history of social movements, inventions, and institutions meant to alleviate these real and perceived problems. These include the development of urban police forces, mass transportation systems, public health measures, slum clearance, and attempts to revitalize neighborhood life. Many other adaptations have been less formal: new patterns of visiting; the social use of the telephone; and the consolidation of racial, ethnic, and friendship communities in urban settings (Fischer, 1992). The history of urbanization also reveals a pervasive tension between commercial/economic emphases and reforms meant to ease or eradicate the presumed human costs of urban life, especially depersonalization and anomie. Urban planning, in particular, reveals a contrapuntal pulsation similar to that observed in the world of work: between rational-technical and engineering principles on the one hand and the humane, communal, and aesthetic dimensions of urban life on the other. Recurrent sequences of action-reaction between these first principles also constitute part of ongoing academic and political dialogues.

The Information Revolution: Space and Time

Among the major transformative revolutions in history (see chapter 9), the information revolution ramifies throughout economic, social, cultural, and political life. Here we consider its features as they relate to space and time. Research on this massive topic is of mixed quality, largely because researchers are feeling their way on a new topic and because it, like many new topics, it is the subject of ongoing and not easily resolvable debates, such as the merits and demerits of face-to-face versus "lean" computer communication (Sadowski-Raskers, Duysters, and Sadowski, 2006). Nevertheless, some revealing findings have emerged.

Generic Features of Computer-Mediated Communication

The defining core of computerized communication is both spatial and temporal. Unlike the movement of published information (personal letters, newspapers, and pamphlets), it does not face the obstacles associated with spatial movement that consume time. It is written (and now photographic) communication that can be delivered instantaneously (in no time) and to anywhere in the world that is online. It can be one on one (like most telephone calls); it can be among a few (as with telephone conference calls); or it can be from one to a potentially unlimited number of receivers (not possible by telephone). At the same time, it is communication without voice or physical presence, though this feature is being overcome in large part by transmitted aural and visual images. Considering e-mail as a special form, these features make for great speed; uninterruptibility while a communication is being composed or sent (unlike personal or telephonic conversation); and flexibility in responding (one may or may not respond and, if responding, can choose his/her time to do so). Yet at the same time e-communication remains a lean form of communication, as contrasted with face-to face contact. The main features of leanness are as follows:

• Spontaneous interactive discussion is somewhat inhibited because of the structured message-response requirement of e-mails.

• Communicators often have little real-time knowledge about one another because of the lack of immediate social presence; even frequent communicators lack this knowledge unless it has been explicitly communicated or inferred from cues in past messages.

• Social-context cues, such as gender, age, physical attractiveness, and race, are unavailable unless a sender makes them available. It has been remarked that, because of this feature, the Internet makes for equal status among users and greater freedom of expression (McKenna, 2008).

• Communication tends to bend to the formal, explicit side in comparison with face-to-face conversation.

• Communication lacks many ongoing corrective devices, such as turn taking, interruption, discourse markers, and conversational repair, stressed by conversation analysts (Heritage, 2001).

• Feelings of liking, friendship, and sexual attraction may develop, but in the absence of many of the usual cues that have proved to be powerful determinants of these feelings (Yamauchi, Yokozawa, Shinoihara, and Ishida, 2000; McKenna and Green, 2002).

These principles of leanness must be qualified by the fact that they apply best to situations in which those who communicate are strangers. If such communication is among people who already know one another (as many e-mail and other virtual communications are), then otherwise unavailable cues and contextual features are filled in from background knowledge about those in communication.

More generally, electronic communication presents some peculiar features that call for adaptations. Consider the following:

1. With respect to the leanness of meaning and emotional poverty of computer communication, one adaptation is that communicators invent or have access to symbols for smiling and frowning-e.g., : ) and : (-and have devised hundreds of abbreviations (e.g., lol for "laughing out loud" [not "little old lady"]; 2G2BT for "too good to be true") to communicate in shorthand some meaning or emotion that is not otherwise readily expressible in the medium (thus the name emoticons). A compilation of abbreviations (available on the Web) yielded a list of thirty-four single-spaced pages (and growing, no doubt) of chat acronyms, a minilanguage in itself. Many of these are understood by only a few (e.g., "FGDAI" for "Fuhgedaboudit" or "Forget about It"; AFAHMASP for "A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted"), and some are ways to disguise profanity or sexual references. In general, these codes and emoticons save time, vividly express ideas and emotions, and perhaps generate a certain intimacy-the sense that the communicators are part of a group that understands this invented language.

2. With respect to time, three aspects stand out: (1) the initiator of or responder to a communication has time to postpone, think through, and prepare the message, which is not as true in face-to-face or telephone conversation, with its norms for immediate feedback; this operates to improve the quality of communication in an otherwise lean medium. (2) Not needing to respond immediately or at all, the responder to a message can delay responding and think before he or she writes, or may not respond at all, thus making the process leaner than it already is and making possible irresponsibility or deviance through nonresponding. Both of these are countertendencies to the highly advertised characteristics of efficiency and speed of Internet technology. (3) Those who work collaboratively on the Internet have explicated rules of thumb and practical guidelines designed to minimize problems associated with these features by making ideas explicit, describing the context of communications fully, soliciting feedback, expressing appreciation, and apologizing for mistakes (Knoll and Jarvenpaa, 1998).

3. Crosscultural misunderstandings are a generic problem, not restricted to the electronic mode. They arise whenever people with different backgrounds and outlooks communicate with one another, and are more important when people from different cultures do so. Electronic communications simply aggravate the problem because of the absence of contextual cues about other persons, the inability to recognize from others' reactions if one has been insensitive or insulting, and the lessened ability to do face-to-face repair work once a gaffe has been committed.

4. In terms of personality variables, some research (Phillips, 2006) indicates that otherwise introverted people tend to be more at ease when communicating on the computer because they do not have to deal immediately and directly with many of the cues and anxieties that face-to-face interaction creates for them. Enhanced freedom of expression and initiative-taking afforded by the impersonality of the medium also makes for greater satisfaction among inhibited users (McKenna, 2008). Other research shows that having too few extroverts on a team may diminish performance, but too many extroverts may cause the group to lose focus on task completion (McCrae and John, 1992).

5. As communication on the Internet exploded, some voiced apprehensions that the medium would become addictive (Greenfield, 1999), with terms such as Internet addiction, Internet abuse, Internet dependency, compulsive use, and problematic Internet behavior appearing in the literature. Special foci of interest are searching for pornographic materials, abuse in interactive games, and, more recently, gambling on Internet poker (Morahan-Martin, 2008). Views of the Internet as a seductive monster have softened as research has shown that those addicted generally bring preexisting clinical disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorders, delinquent behavior, and sexual problems, to the medium (Phillips, 2006). A small field of "cybertherapy" has also emerged, with doctrinal subdivisions as to the most effective type (Suler, 2008).

6. Deviance and pathologies constitute another problem. Carayan, Kraemer, and Bioer (2005) mention hacking, sending viruses, theft of proprietary information and identity, political abuse, spying and terrorism, and personal aggression. Of special interest is flaming, a term that refers to uncivil, insulting, or generally aggressive behavior made possible by lowered inhibition on the part of computer users and encouraged by the impersonality of the medium and the unavailability of immediate censure and other corrective feedbacks. To this range of intentional violations, we should add those sometimes massive and damaging consequences arising in large part from "innocent" human error-"wrong-button" disasters such as erasing databases and disseminating secured information.

Other peculiarities and adaptations will appear when we consider virtual teams and other forms of cooperation on the computer (see below, pp. 00-00). But already we may conclude that the mass adoption of e-communication has set up a demand for understanding its special social psychology. Certain dynamics such as cue processing, categorization, and stereotyping continue to be applicable. But many features of conversational analysis (interrupting, feedback, repair) either are not relevant or must be recast. Modification of attribution theory (see below, pp. 00-00) is probably called for as well, as is reconsideration of the determinants of affiliation, friendship, and love on the Internet-for example, the relative decline of physical attractiveness and spatial proximity as factors (A.J. Baker, 2005).


Another offshoot of computer technology is the modification of work roles and organizations through the rise of work performed full-time or part-time in the home, with primarily virtual communication between the organization center and widespread dispersion of domestic workplaces. This is commonly called telework. It has been defined formally as "a work arrangement in which organizational employees regularly work at home, or at a remote site, one or more complete workdays a week, in lieu of working in the office" (Duxbury, Higgins, and Neufeld, 1998: 221). It has been hailed as "the return of cottage industry," a reversal of the spatial separation of workplace and home, and a core feature of factory and office development. Its growth involves a convergence of factors during the past several decades on both the supply and demand sides: (1) general increases in the service sector (many aspects of which involve the generation and supply of information and not the production and movement of physical products); (2) the development of virtual communication technologies that reduce or erase the exigencies of space; (3) general trends toward decentralization, outsourcing, and downsizing in spatially based organizations; and (4) the interest of workers, especially married women workers, in flexible scheduling of work in order better to meet family obligations (Owen, Heck, and Rowe, 1995). Tax advantages (e.g., deductions for home workspace and child care) are also motives. As indicated, most home-based workers are in the service sector (e.g., editing, marketing, consulting). They are also better educated than workers in general, live in larger-than-average households, and express stronger-than-average attachments to those households (ibid.).

Home-based work removes or eases a number of the features of central-place work: spatial mismatch (people can do telework at any distance from the center), direct visual supervision, and the cost and inconvenience of commuting to and from work. Many issues of space allocation in the same building-as well as the myriad complications associated with status symbolization-more or less disappear. Telework also radically alters the temporal pace of work (typically giving more flexibility) and the nature of the workday (results of work tend to replace time spent in accomplishing it as the main criterion). By the same token, supervision is less continuous and more indirect, and for some managers less effective. The principle that workers do not appropriate capital is also compromised by the ownership of home computers, printers, and copying machines by some employees, as well as the use of private automobiles for work purposes. At the same time, the dispersion of the workforce into homes dissipates the large critical masses of workers concentrated in workplaces, neighborhoods, and urban centers, and for that reason directly weakens the capacity of workers to organize. As a consequence, work at home has emerged as an object of concern and antagonism on the part of labor organizations and feminist groups who fear that decentralized work arrangements "can lead to exploitation ... can undermine labor standards such as: health and safety regulations, minimum wage laws, maximum hours, child labor laws" (Donaldson and Weiss, 1997: 34).

The keenest areas of research interest in home-based work are the level of worker satisfaction and the tensions between work and family. The majority of surveys show high levels of satisfaction with telework on the part of both men and women workers; the reasons cited are flexibility of work schedule, increased control over work, saving time, avoiding hassles (Heck, Owen, and Rowe, 1995), easing some of the conflicts between work and family obligations, and ease in combining a career with parenting (Hill, Hawkins, and Miller, 1996; Duxbury, Higgins, and Neufeld, 1998). On the negative side are reports of intrusiveness of work on family and leisure time in the form of clients coming into the home; sacrificing home space to business space; telephone calls at all hours of the day, night, weekends, and holidays; and difficulty in setting limits on amount of time worked (Rowe and Hick, 1995; Zadeck and Mosler, 1990). As with most institutional innovations, the costs and benefits of the new cottage industry show a mixed picture, but in this instance the positive aspects appear to outweigh the negative, especially for workers in the home.

Virtual Teams

The last quarter of the twentieth century witnessed the flowering of the idea of teams as instruments in the workplace (see below, pp. 00-00). The idea was inspired and given impetus in the 1970s by the apparent success of semiautonomous teams in manufacturing units such as Volvo, the "quality of worklife" movement in the United States, and the "quality circles" movement in Japan and elsewhere (Levi, 2001). Teams occupy a central place in some current managerial theories and ideologies. The growth of the approach was consistent with larger movements affecting organizations in general: flexibility in organizing and executing work and organizational flattening as alternatives to hierarchy and authority.

With the spread of computer technology, it was a short step to imagining and implementing virtual teams. The movement took off in the 1990s. The term came to refer to project groups, standing groups, and sometimes entire organizations. A virtual team can be defined simply as an instrumental group that does not interact on a face-to-face basis but relies on electronic communication (Jones, Oyung, and Pace, 2005). In practice it also covers groups that supplement e-interaction with occasional face-to-face meetings and/or telephone calls. Virtual-team development was also timely in that it combined the efficiencies of Internet communication with master trends toward cost reduction through downsizing, restructuring, outsourcing, and "crossing silo lines" in differentiated organizations. Teams, including e-teams, are typically egalitarian in structure, though this shades into informal coordinative and leadership roles. Early reactions to virtual teams as either magical formulas or misdirected fads have given way to a more realistic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and to the realization that "virtual teams ... are not appropriate for all jobs, all employees, or all managers" (Cascio, 2000: 81).

Interaction in electronic teams reveals all the generic peculiarities of electronic communication, plus a few more specific to itself. Because its assigned work is instrumental and it involves a cooperating long-distance group, several exigencies stand out:

• A virtual team has to deal with what has been called team opacity (Cuevas, Fiore, Salas, and Bowers, 2004), which refers to an atmosphere of ambiguity; decreased awareness of team members' actions; a process loss of hand gestures, nonverbal ingredients, and paralinguistic cues; and a lack of shared mental models. Some correctives to this can be addressed in training and in feedback mechanisms, but these are more limited than in face-to-face groups. When misunderstandings, unproductive emotional reactions, and hurt feelings appear in such opaque settings, moreover, fewer and less effective corrective mechanisms are available.

• The establishment of a team culture is important. This includes early clarification of goals; a need to be familiar with the rules and procedures to be followed; a period of deliberate socialization before beginning work of those who join the team midway; inclusion of all members of the team at all times; and developing tele-rituals such as joking, small talk, and revealing personal information from time to time (Connaughton and Daly, 2004).

• Because direct leadership is often minimized in favor of cooperation, the leadership that does exist often evolves and is exercised informally. This fact, combined with the paucity of other mechanisms to generate conformity and cooperation, leads to a premium on mutual trust in the virtual team. Almost all analysts stress this element, using phrases such as "trust is the single most important driver for the success of virtual teams" and the "virtual handshake" (Jones, Oyung, and Pace, 2005: 27-28). This illustrates a more encompassing axiom: In the absence of unambiguous information, direction, and structured controls, more personalized attitudes (trust, charisma, and suspension of critical judgment) rise to greater salience in execution and coordination (see chapter 4).

• One suggestive finding is that virtual teams appear to be superior in efficiency when the assigned task is a divergent one (less structured brainstorming), whereas face-to-face groups do better when the task is convergent (calling for coming to a consensus) (Rutte, 2006). If reliable, this finding makes sense in light of the fact that virtual interaction is limited in enforcing influence and conformity, to say nothing of imposing groupthink (see chapter 5); such freedom may yield a marginal advantage for deliberating in virtual groups.

• Certain forms of deviance are particularly disruptive in virtual work groups. Expressions of aggression (flaming) and scapegoating threaten mutual trust and are difficult to bring under control. The other is "cyberloafing": putting forth minimal effort for the team, not answering communications, not submitting work on time, and generally being regarded as not pulling one's oar-all damaging to the culture of cooperation.

• When e-groups are international or multicultural, two additional problems rise in salience: differences in cultural outlook and nuance, which can be erosive of trust via the avenues of misinterpretation, insult, and distrust; and the almost ineradicable limitations of different time zones, which can lead to delays in response to communications, chaotic work schedules, irregular sleep, and impatience. Those who have participated in international e-teams find that contending with zonal time differences is invariably burdensome. This is an extension of the long-experienced difficulties in telephone communication between the coasts of the United States and between the United States and other countries.

Virtual Organizations

Also linked to Internet communication, this term refers not to a single entity, but to a variety of networking arrangements, including temporary consortia of networking among partner organizations to pursue a marketing task; more enduring networks among organizations acting as one organization and interacting mainly through virtual means; and a dispersed firm carrying out much of its business through telecommunication. Other names for the phenomena are virtual enterprise, lean enterprise, extended enterprise, and agile manufacturing (Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh, 2005). They extend the ideas of reducing transaction costs and outsourcing, and incorporate economies based on information sharing, time saving, risk spreading, market accessing, synergy creating, and operating on cooperative rather than formal-legal linkages (Kürümlüoglu, Nøstel, and Karvonen, 2005). Viewed another way, virtual organizations are an expanded system of principal-agent relations, knit together mainly but not exclusively by electronic communication. As such, they place a high premium on mutual trust and a cooperative culture. In addition, a number of new security arrangements specific to information control have been regarded as necessary (Magiera and Powlak, 2005). Some notable commercial successes, such as GANT and IKEA, have been identified, and certain countries (e.g., Sweden) and regions (the European Community) have been leaders in virtual organizing (Hedberg, Dahlgren, Hansson, and Olve, 1997). The future of virtual organizations seems assured, but it also seems certain to raise new issues of legal status and regulation at both national and global levels.

Globalization: A Spatial and Temporal Revolution? A Whole New World?

If a single topic has dominated the macrosocial sciences in the past three decades, it is globalization. This emphasis is not entirely new, having been foreshadowed by earlier preoccupations with colonialism, cultural diffusion, imperialism, modernization, dependency theory, and world-systems theory (see chapter 7); but none has reached the magnitude of the multifaceted and often elusive subject of globalization.

Globalization is many things, but in the first instance it involves dramatic reorientations of economic and other activities in space and time: a vast increase in world trade, capital flows, and financial institutions; the transformation of production into world phenomena (largely through multinational corporations); increased movement of peoples via internal and international migration and tourism; and an accelerated international flow of information. Via these changes, globalization has thus produced a paradox: On many counts it has expanded world horizons through its incorporation of the globe; with respect to the information revolution, however-almost always included in discussions of globalization-the world has shrunk by virtue of its instant reachability.

Globalization has altered the time contours of the factors of production, but differentially so:

• Capital. Information, knowledge, and ideas (intellectual capital) can be spread to anywhere in the world in an instant. So can financial capital. Embedding capital into the physical means of production, however, consumes time and occupies space.

• Labor. The movement of labor is more fluid than ever before, but both internal and external migration (e.g., to sites of multinational manufacturing firms) generates serious problems of adaptation on the part of migrants. International migration is not a simple flow, but meets resistance from receiving populations and restrictions by many governments. If international migration includes adaptation and assimilation in addition to the physical movement of persons, then the process takes years, perhaps generations, to run its course. Shifting personnel (e.g., managers) from one international assignment to another also involves time-consuming processes of accommodation. Adaptation of traditional women's roles to wage labor in the market poses special issues of change and conflict.

• Organization. Manufacturing firms and service organizations can be transferred from place to place, or even dispersed to many places, but their implantation into new geographical and cultural settings often occasions adaptations to different conditions and subsequent structural modifications.

• Land. Considered in its narrow sense, land is the most spatially immobile of all the factors of production. The other factors must be brought to it and assembled. Furthermore, location in a specific place involves both initial commitment and a form of path dependency in that movement to another site involves costs, even though it may be economical in the long run.

The net effects of increased international flows of resources and globalization of production, trade, and finance have been an unprecedented porosity of national boundaries, increased dependency of nations and societies on one another, and myriad other ramifications. Conspicuous among these are the following:

1. The nation-state as a formally sovereign entity remains the world's dominant form of political organization. This form is the product of the political evolution of the West over the centuries; states were the operative units that initiated, executed, and solidified the colonization of the world; they were the model-national independence-to which movements in those colonies aspired; and they were the institutional form that was adopted as colony after colony broke from western domination. The nation-state is the membership category in the United Nations (see chapter 7). In ideal-typical form, the state is the spatially bounded locus of political organization (as the principal war-fighting unit, controller of borders, and monopolist of the use of legitimate force within them); the ultimate regulator of economic life (the national economy); a common language and perhaps a common religion; citizenship; and the solidarity of peoples (Marsh, 1967).

Many forces have conspired to erode this ideal state form, including (1) the "unnatural" inclusion of religiously and ethnically/racially/tribally diverse populations in colonially imposed divisions of domination; (2) the continuation of that inclusion in postcolonial states (Iraq is a prime example) and the granting or imposing of statehood when the peoples affected were not culturally prepared for it (Libya is a prime example); (3) migration, which has generated expatriate, diaspora, religious, linguistic, and ethnic/racial subcommunities within nations; (4) an explosion of world tourism, simultaneously generating increased cosmopolitization of those who travel and cultural diversification of areas that host tourists; and (5) partly as a result of the porosity of borders and border regions arising from (3) and (4), many identity issues have arisen for subpopulations living on or near the borders between nations. Globalization has accelerated all these effects, plus one that is even more profound: it renders more problematic the political sovereignty of nations.

International turbulences of trade, inflation, and currency rates are sometimes beyond the powers of governments (especially small, weak, and poor ones) to resist them and their impact on the economic lives of their peoples. Multinational corporations constitute a new political entity within the nations they inhabit. Intergovernmental and international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, international environmental agencies, and other international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)-numbering in the thousands and growing annually-all partially limit the sovereignty of states. One observer concludes that "the operation of states in an ever more complex international system both limits their autonomy (in some spheres radically) and impinges increasingly upon their sovereignty" (Held, 1995: 135, italics original).

Such a flat conclusion must be qualified in two ways: (1) While their sovereignty is thus threatened, states still retain formal political responsibility and (depending on their level of democracy) political accountability for their fortunes, and often find themselves beleaguered in the sense that they come under political attack for affairs over which they have little or no control; for example, they may promise to rein in inflation, but fundamentally they cannot. (2) The very fact of the increasing political impotence of states and state leaders creates a motive for them to strive to become more activist in order to overcome that impotence. This sets up a paradox-a process of simultaneous decline and increasing salience of the nation-state, and weakened states struggling to maintain, recover, or enhance their strength.

2. The cultural ramifications of economic and political globalization have been profound. We mentioned cultural diversification and multiculturalism generated by migration and tourism. Several other cultural complications may be mentioned. (1) Exposure to alternative cultural values and beliefs are magnified through international communication, especially the mass media, particularly television. This acceleration is made possible by the condensation of time and the irrelevance of space permitted by technological advances in communication. Among the most important messages that are imparted-mainly in communications emanating from the advanced countries-are the cultures of materialism and consumerism, democracy (especially democratic participation and responsibility), human rights, and secularism. All these cultures communicate new standards of expectation and evaluation that typically contrast with traditional values of the receiving cultures, and are often presented as desirable and enviable. Widespread effects on the receiving peoples include a sense of relative deprivation (traditional cultures fall short materially, politically, and culturally); feelings of dispossession; yearning for liberation from the burdens of traditional values; generational conflict; and movements for gender liberation and equality. (2) The penetration of new cultural standards invariably incites their opposites-antagonism to foreign or western values as material, profane, godless, and corrupting-thus creating multiple internal conflicts expressing the oppositions between modernism and traditionalism/fundamentalism. (3) A principal manifestation of traditional reactions is social movements reasserting localist principles along regional, religious, and linguistic lines. (4) The longer-term effect of the international diffusion of values is neither the cultural homogenization of the world nor the successful reassertion and continuity of traditional values. Nor is it some massive "clash of civilizations." It is, rather, a continuous process of modification, syncretism, and compromise among competing cultural models (Hannerz, 1990). (5) Alongside these effects are the growth of global cultures that crosscut those based on regional and national differences-among international civil servants, among those sharing common NGO membership, a "World Bank culture," a "UN culture," a diffuse "culture of globality" (Robertson, 1992), and many others. (6) The ultimate effects of cultural globalization, then, are a multiplicity of processes: increased international understanding, increased international misunderstanding, cultural diversification, cultural ambivalence, cultural conflict, and cultural syncretism and synthesis.

The lessons to be learned from this review of economic, political, and cultural globalization, then, are the same the lessons learned about other phenomena of change. As global forces intrude, being relatively unfamiliar, they excite immediate and somewhat polarized reactions along the spectrum extending from Panglossian to Cassandrian views-a brave new world and a road to positive revolutionary changes, or an avenue leading to ruination and disaster. Both views persist despite the reality of all social change, which is always partial, always checkered, always a mixture of the new and the old, always a dynamic force superimposed on habits, vested interests, resistances, path dependencies, and traditionalism that conspire to moderate change, to defeat revolutionary potential, and to disappoint both Panglossian and Cassandrian seers.


This is the first of a half-dozen chapters to deal directly with substantive knowledge that might be usable to people in positions of decision-making, problem-solving, and policy-making. We decided to begin by tracing the ramifications of space and time in the organization of social life. Social scientists have contributed a great deal of knowledge to these topics, but have not bundled them into discrete, tightly disciplined lines of inquiry. For that reason we built this chapter from many topics that are seldom related to one another. Highlighting space-time dimensions, however, sets up continuities among otherwise scattered phenomena.

With respect to usability, many ingredients in this chapter constitute potentially useful orienting knowledge. Consistent with our belief that usability is of many types (chapter 10), we move from the generally orienting to the more specifically applicable:

• By focusing on time and space, we identified a number of dimensions that help us in understanding the way the social world is constituted, and that are ever-present in assessing decisions and policies.

• More specifically, we have identified a number of specific ways of conceptualizing space and time in different settings.

• By stressing space-time dimensions (for example, the infusion of time and space into expressions of social status), we hope to persuade actors to pay more attention to them, and to recognize them as ingredients in decisions that affect the organization and conduct of life.

• We have identified a number of implications of space and time for power (e.g., agenda setting), status (e.g., standing in organization), and performance (e.g., the limitations of virtual communication), all of which are tied closely to dimensions of morale, satisfaction, and interpersonal conflict. They can be taken directly into account in designing and managing workplaces.

• We have identified a few pitfalls in not thinking about time and space; examples are the failure to explicitly recognize the power of sunk costs and other path dependencies, and failures in designing office space and the symbolic placement of people and things.

Despite their tangibility, all these potential points of usability are in the nature of informing reminders and cautionary tales rather than fixed formulae. We do not regard this as a shortcoming, however, because throughout our analysis we treat social-science knowledge mainly as orienting and informing, not as direct or complete devices for solutions.

In the next few chapters, we move closer to discipline-based lines of knowledge, bringing many psychological and organizational variables to bear on the quality of deliberation, decision-making, and policy.

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