6 Jan 2007

seasonal readings

As you may have noticed, there was a not much posting activity here during December. Two reasons for that, firstly I was pretty low energy, the combination of B's illness, the usual unseasonal bah-humbuggery, and a generalized irritation with aspects of my work-life balance. Secondly, I've been in a bit of a reading phase. The consequence of this is that instead of having nothing to blog, I've had too much, and I haven't known what to pick.

So, I want to tell you about 3 of the books that I have been reading over the last 3 weeks.

  1. Phillip Reeve, Mortal Engines. (I picked this up in a school library while I waited for an engineer to call me back. By the time he called back I was on chapter 4 and totally sucked in. I just had to buy it then. If you liked the Phillip Pullman, "His dark materials" trilogy, you might like this. Pretty gory for the age group it was designed for though.
  2. Sally Hacker, Doing it the Hard Way. One of my presents off B. It was a book that I used extensively in my MA dissertation and really wanted to read again.
  3. Moira Vincentelli, Women Potters. Great book, it examines women's pottery that has been pretty much ignored on a global basis. We are not talking about the fancy thrown and glazed stuff here, we are talking about hand built and bonfired. It also features interesting insights as to why a lot of the 'development' projects in pottery fail as well as a chapter on women's figurative ceramics.
Rather than review them, I'll give you a taster of the three of them. So, in order...

"Never forget, Apprentices, that we Historians are the most important Guild in our city.We don't make as much money as the Merchants, but we create knowledge, which is worth a great deal more. We may not be responsible for steering London, like the Navigators, but where would the Navigators be if we hadn't preserved the ancient maps and charts? And as for the Guild of Engineers, just remember that every machine they have ever developed is based on some fragment of Old-Tech - ancient high technology that our museum keepers have perserved or our archaeologists have dug up."

"Bureaucratic organizations make responsible behaviour difficult. They tend to foster a "who cares?" attitude at lower levels of the organization and a "not me" attitude at the top (Gouldner 1976: Garson 1977). Those who chose engineering as a profession are likely to work in large bureaucratic organizations, but are less likely than most to have an interest in social structure or the complexities of social relations (Rossi 1975). Further, engineering education does little to increase students awareness of these phenomena. And so the engineer is oblivious to the ways in which he or she both affects and is affected by patterns and relations on the job.
If engineers do have a "blind spot" about social structure, altering current patterns and finding alternatives will be most difficult"

"As with all new technology, the introduction of water filters has to be accompanied by an education programme to ensure people understood how to use and maintain them properly.
There is a good argument for suggesting that it is more viable to build on the skills that are already in the community rather than seek radical change. It is particularly dangerous to make people dependent on technology that they cannot themselves produce, control or maintain. Self sufficiency is often assumed to be the aim but in fact projects can create dependency when equipment fails or followup expertise is not there."

Are we noticing any themes emerging?

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