The thesis or gadgetry: one will drive me mad


in Daily updates, Oxford, Rants

Bridge beside the Isis

Educational matters

During an animated ninety minutes, Dr. Hurrell and I went over my two most recent papers and a number of ideas for the thesis. I feel like we’ve hit upon something exciting. The idea is less to look at institutional arrangements meant to use science to develop better policy, and more to look at the conceptual linkages between science, politics, and policy.

The most straightforward view, which I identified, is what I call the planning/engineering dichotomy. Planners decide that it might be nice to have a bridge across Burrard Inlet. The engineers work out if it’s possible, what it will cost, and how to do it. A similar model is commonly implicitly applied to the relationship between science and policy. Science identifies problems, and then outlines possible solutions for policy makers to debate and implement. Really poking at that model could be a good starting point for a broader discussion. What is the character of science, as it relates to politics and policy? What does it let us do? Without getting off topic, the question might be expanded still further. For instance, asking what the purpose of the natural world should be, from a policy perspective. Is it simply a matter of working out how much good stuff we can squeeze out of it without destroying it for ourselves or future generations?

The next stage is to read probably a dozen or so books, in order to get a more extensive sense of how science and policy are understood with regards to each other and what it might be interesting and useful to expand upon. I will start with Dr. Hurrell’s own book, as well as Andrew Dobson’s Green Political Thought. It’s also worth re-reading Peter Dauvergne and Jennifer Clapp’s Paths to a Green World. I am excited about the project, in any case, and not just because of the enthusiastic energy that I tend to leave supervisions with an excessive amount of.

Without giving too much away, I will also say that there’s something in the works on the fish paper front.

Damnable contraptions

Due to its increasingly erratic behaviour, iPod the third is going the way of iPod the first and second: back to Shanghai to be replaced. The first one was defective straight upon arrival, pausing automatically at the slightest jolt. The second one had a hard drive that failed while I was driving through Hamilton, Ontario with my cousin and brother. Sasha’s iPod later succumbed to the same fate. Because it is laser etched, it will probably take them three weeks or so. Whereas the first one had the tendency to pause whenever it was bumped the slightest amount, this one is just freezing every ten or fifteen minutes, changing languages once in a while, and refusing to be recognized by a computer that recognizes its brethren with alacrity. Godspeed, little white rectangle.

Apple is quite good, if a bit slow, about fixing things. The lesson is probably that it’s worth spending the extra $60 on a three year Applecare plan. When I can actually manage to tolerate a few weeks without it, the iBook will likewise be going in for service on account of its one defective USB port.

Strange IR theory words:praxis: The practice or exercise of a technical subject or art, as distinct from the theory of it ; Habitual action, accepted practice, custom. ; Action that is entailed by theory or a function that results from a particular structure.reify: The mental conversion of a person or abstract concept into a thing. Also, depersonalization, esp. such as Marx thought was due to capitalist industrialization in which the worker is considered as the quantifiable labour factor in production or as a commodity.PS. One email I’ve been most anxiously awaiting since Saturday night has still not materialized. The only thing for it, for the present moment, is just to keep waiting.

PPS. No word either on the Chevening, ORS, or Armand Bombardier awards. No word is better than a negative response, but I am really crossing my fingers to get at least one yes this time.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 14, 2006 at 7:18 pm

Judging by past form, neither gadgets nor the thesis will drive you mad. Bugs in Blogger will.

Milan March 14, 2006 at 9:16 pm

The Google servers in general seem to be having trouble. I can’t log in to my GMail account or upload photos to the blog. Also, the bits of the blog that are hosted on their servers have been loading slowly and inconsistently for the last couple of days.

Meghan March 15, 2006 at 6:17 pm

Since you brought up fish again, you might be interested in this.

Anonymous March 15, 2006 at 6:33 pm

Dear Milan,

Your IPOD (CLICK WHEEL) has reached our repair centre. We will notify you by email when the repair is complete.

Date received: 2006-03-15

Anonymous March 16, 2006 at 4:24 pm

Just wanted to give that enormous brain some love. Science + Policy are MFEO. Come work for the feds with me…

Sarah March 17, 2006 at 7:41 am

I didn’t know either of those words were associated with IR theory, but both are common in discussions of Marxism and praxis also features in debates about the relation between academia and political activism (eg. amongst feminists).

Milan March 17, 2006 at 10:13 am


It seems that only constructivists use these words, but they use them a lot.

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