Monday, November 17, 2008

Geography of the Internet Industry, Assorted Comments

While reading The Geography of the Internet Industry, or, all about venture capital, the links between knowledge and capital brought to mind Foucault. We often think of the power/knowledge couplet, but books like Zook’s really highlight the money/knowledge relationship for me. Try replacing “power” with “capital” in the following passage from Discipline and Punish (which I am reading for my other class):

“We should admit rather that power produces knowledge . . . that power and knowledge directly imply one another; that there is no power relation without the correlative constitutive field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.”  Kind of scares me!

On the capital note, did anyone else get annoyed with Zook’s attributing some person Martin with the idea that money is a social relation?!

Also, I am curious to know what other people thought of Zook’s employment of the term tacit knowledge throughout the book. For example Zook concludes, “Thus, while capital in the most general sense of the word, i.e., money, provided the fuel for many Internet companies, in many ways it was the transmission of tacit knowledge of the venture capitalist that was perceived as the more valuable element” (p. 58). Even though he gives examples, it was easier for me to understand what counts as qualified knowledge than what tacit knowledge might be.

Several of the books we have read in this class have made me consider the relationship between geography and knowledge. I wonder why we have read about “knowledge” in terms of technology. That seems limiting to me. What is knowledge? And what is its geography?

I wanted to say something positive about Zook. I thought I might applaud his use of both quantitative and qualitative research. Some of the quotations from venture capitalists were great. But . . . I am pretty sure that we learned in qualitative methods class that making a point, then picking a quote to support it, making another point, picking a quote to support it—is not the best way to write up what one learns from interviews. It got distracting. But I lost the geography lessons after the first couple of chapters of this book anyway.


Sarah said...

I like your power knowledge substitution.

I heard this week that there is a leisure class on both ends of the income spectrum. The rich leisure class is pretty well advertised, it's the poor leisure class that is much more interesting. They work lower end jobs that don't require a consistent or large time commitment so they can spend time on what they want. They perhaps go against the power/knowledge symbiosis in Zook. I have a few friends who I think qualify: they are fascinated by high quality knitting, or cooking, or history, or travel, and yet they have pitiful incomes. They must spend a lot of time on their knowledges, and live rich lives because of it, but capital and power did not accompany this. Different knowledges have different values.

I liked the idea of tacit knowledge. I think that's probably because I only have a tiny bit of it, and it's the slice that gets me into educational funding. I'd watch my CEO last year though, and boy, he had a different tacit knowledge. He hob-knobbed with federal government educators to sell our product, and not only did he have the personality for it, he also knew what he needed to do. I could guess what was needed, but I didn't feel comfortable doing it. Tacit knowledge is unbearably important, so having some discussion of it here was refreshing.

richard said...

The networked Web offers the promise of distributed, "non-contiguous" collaboration with people. Today we see communities of creative programmers, hackers, and technology developers learning from one another through the Internet. Zook show ways in which f-2-f sharing of tacit knowledge played an important role in the Dot-com boom. Is this not knowledge that could have been shared electronically (particularly I'm thinking of software and web development)? I'm curious to know more specific examples of the tacit knowledges shared among the technology innovators. Does the web 2.0 of today offer even greater potential for such innovation to happen across space, rather than in locally-concentrated places such as the Bay Area?

Was the geographically concentrated investment of money through finance brokering and venture capital the more nece$$ary cause of the boom, while the shared work spaces more a sufficient cause or even a consequence? Or to ask this question a different way, if we round up all the super-nerds hacking away in their mom's attics and brought them together (Google?), would greater innovation necessarily happen?

Nonetheless, what remains is a distributed community of the self-employed, hackers, and bloggers sharing this space of flows with the locally concentrated centers of immense innovation development. Only in place of venture-capital and advertising revenue, the former use their own time and labor to innovate.

Dan Lewerenz said...

I agree on the "tacit knowledge" thing. I'm not sure why he calls it "tacit" - is it because it's stuff we don't know that we know? Or that other people don't know that we know? Anyway, more on that book in a sec . . .

richard said...

My sense is 'tacit' is different than 'explicit' and means that the practice following from knowledge, say getting a certain piece of software to talk with some hardware, can not be gained from procedural instructions (i.e. a manual). Rather, there are subtle 'tricks of the trade' and nuanced ways of going about the technical or scientific practice that will deliver the desired result. Tacit knowledge is experientially learned, rather than through codified rules.