Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Whether all those STA “gleanings” posts are worth the effort: a hunch and a wish — plus a plan for STA-C

Are all those “gleanings” worth the effort? I doubt it every time I collect, assemble, and post them. They take work; they delay trying to offer “big think” about STA; and they don’t get read or remarked on much. Nonetheless, a hunch and wish keep me at it.

The hunch is that I will ultimately be glad I did these gleanings posts. But it’s an inchoate hunch — I’m not sure how it will be validated. The gleanings perk my interest, help me stay focused on STA, and indicate angles for thinking about STA that the books I review don’t cover. But my hunch is about more than those immediacies — it’s that the gleanings will act as attractors and/or inspirations for getting a few more readers to think in STA terms and see that STA has merit. We’ll see.

As for the wish, it is that a professor somewhere who teaches about space, time, and/or action perspectives would see enough merit in collecting, posting, and discussing gleanings like these that he/she would direct his students to do so as a regular instructive exercise (and circulate it online). Right now, this feels like a distant, even vain wish, for my few meager attempts to call my book-review series, or STA more generally, to the attention of established writers on social space and time analysis have mostly been ignored. But, I’d speculate, if a systematic way could be formulated for collecting, culling, and categorizing such gleanings over time, the trends might reveal something interesting about society and culture, our own and others’.

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Here’s an oddity about all those gleanings: I began collecting them when I began reading and writing to do the three book reviews about space, time, and action orientations, i.e., around February 2014. Which means the four “gleanings” posts on space associated with Lefebvre’s book were from a period of just three months, until late May 2014. Whereas the three recent “gleanings” posts that go with Zimbardo & Boyd’s book were compiled over 11-12 months. And I can already see that the gleanings related to action and Bandura’s book will again be a bit smaller, even though spread over still more months.

That’s a curious outcome — lots of gleanings about space, less about time, and still less about action/agency, whereas the collection period increases. Is it because the materials I browse tend to be that way? Or because I tend to respond that way? Or because a deep pattern is at work — be it about the nature of space, time, and agency metaphors, or about the concerns of our times, or about something else that eludes me? I don’t know, but it’s a curious outcome that seems worth a mention.

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My plan for STA is to stay ploddingly on course: Next are the post(s) on a book about action orientations, plus associated gleanings. I’m still flipping around in Bandura’s writings — they seem quite tedious to me, and I’m wishing I had a better choice, but I’ll probably stick with them. After that, I intend to update, revise, and post anew the quasi-briefing slides I did a few months back for visually depicting STA and comparing different analysts’ approaches. Then, maybe a post about an analysis that deliberately emphasizes both space and time, not just one or the other — e.g., a paper on “Space-Time Orientations and Contemporary Political-Military Thought” (see below). And then … well, I’m not sure, but somehow I have to start putting together something of broader theoretical significance, something that can be applied.

Meanwhile, I’m changing the acronym STA to STA-C. The first has never looked good to me, and doesn’t roll off my tongue easily, making it awkward if I am conversing, or if I were to speak a briefing. By changing STA to STA-C, I keep the STA part together as a triad, add a C that stands meaningfully for cognition (or culture, consciousness, or complex), and make the acronym easy to pronounce, as “stay see” or “Stacy”. So “STA-C” it is for now — standing for “space-time-action cognition”, as well as indicating that a framework acronymed STA-C is under development.

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A heads-up note: There was a mention above about a paper on space+time analysis. What I have in mind is Kevin Cunningham and Robert R. Tomes’ paper, “Space-Time Orientations and Contemporary Political-Military Thought,” Armed Forces & Society, 2004, vol. 31, no. 1. pp. 119–140. The abstract reads:
“Conflicting time and space perceptions, seated in the cultural centers of societies and rooted in social rituals and patterns of life, are important aspects of strategic interaction. In some societies, these spatiotemporal perceptions play a major role in defining social order; in others, they provide undercurrents of dissention and social cleavages. This article explores how shifting aspects of spatial determinants influence policy behavior, particularly the influence of temporal intensification — the acceleration of social and political life. We argue that cultural aspects of space and time are dangerously underrepresented in military science and in studies of the cultural determinants of security policy. Especially in modern strategic planning, the expectation that military organizations can simultaneously compress time and control space influences the cultural as well as practical sides of the policy decision of when and how to use military force. After reviewing the rise of Western time orientations and current US military theory, the article explores aspects of military doctrines that unconsciously assign high priority to time dominance.” (source)
That looks pertinent — and rather unique since I’ve not come across nothing else like it — for making points about STA-C and strategy. Especially since I’ve already begun to claim that,
“Furthermore, STA may provide a fresh way to think about strategy and tactics. Strategy is traditionally treated, particularly in the military world, as the art of relating ends, ways, and means — and sometimes, mostly in the business world, as the art of positioning. STA implies that strategy is the art of positioning for spatial, temporal, and actional advantages, in light of one’s ends, ways, and means. To design a strategy, STA implies making a comprehensive examination of space, time, and action factors as a set. Don’t just focus on time and space — as some strategic analysis seems to do — assuming that should determine action.” (source)

UPDATE — May 27, 2015: I see I still have much to learn about the historical precursors of ideas I like to tout. For I just learned (re-learned?) that Napoleon once stated that “Strategy is the art of making use of time and space.”

Where I learned this is from a new blog post by Robert Tomes, interestingly the co-author of the 2004 paper noted above. Tomes pivots off this quote to blog about Trading Space and Time in the Cold War Offset Strategy in order to discuss implications for developing a next-generation offset strategy. As in the 2004 paper, time and space figure centrally in his analysis:
“The third offset strategy, from one perspective, is about the art of making use of time (responding quickly and decisively to a surprise attack or regional aggression) and space (operating in forward areas facing adversaries with relatively more capable long-range strike systems).” (source)
I shall hope STA:C can come to his attention someday. Onward.

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