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The perils of parsimony. "National culture" as red herring? Macfadyen, Leah P. 2008-12-31

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THE PERILS OF PARSIMONY ?National culture? as red herring? LEAH P. MACFADYEN Skylight (Science Centre for Learning and Teaching), The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada  Abstract.  This  paper  discusses  the  ways  in  which  Hofstede?s  model  of ?dimensions  of  (?national?)  culture?  ?  and  similar  models  developed  in  a functionalist  paradigm  ?  are  problematically  used  to  classify  people.  It  briefly surveys critiques of Hofstede?s  research method, but focusses on the dangers of attempting to develop models of culture within a functionalist paradigm. Although such models may be parsimonious  and  rapidly applied,   I  argue  that they are  a poor  fit  for  CATaC  investigations  of  the  dynamic  and  reciprocal  interactions between human cultures and technology. Instead, I contend, we must abandon this paradigm,  and  embrace  methodologies  that  permit  meaningfully  explorations  of the multiple and dynamic conditions influencing the field of cultural practices in human societies. I discuss the merits of ?articulation? as theory and method, and offer Hacking?s theory of ?dynamic nominalism? as one example. R?sum?.  Ce  travail  d?crit  comment  le  mod?le  des  ?dimensions  de  culture nationale? de Hofstede (ainsi que d?autres mod?les similaires dans un paradigme fonctionnaliste)  est  utilis?  de  fa?on  probl?matique  pour  classifier  les  gens. J?examine bri?vement les critiques de  la  m?thodologie de Hofstede, mais je me focalise sur les dangers de d?velopper des mod?les de culture dans un paradigme fonctionnaliste.  Bien  que  ces  mod?les  peuvent  ?tre  parcimonieux  et  appliqu?s rapidement, je soutiens qu?ils ne marchent pas pour les investigations CATaC des interactions  dynamiques  et  r?ciproques  entre  les  cultures  humaines  et  la technologie.  Au  contraire,  j?affirme  que  nous  devons  abandonner  le  paradigme fonctionnalizte  et  consid?rer  des  methodologies  nouvelles  qui  nous  permettront explorer  les  conditions  dynamiques  et  multiples  qui  influencent  les  pratiques culturelles  dans  les  soci?t?s  humaines.  Je  discute  les  m?rites  de  l?articulation comme th?orie et m?thode, et j?offre la th?orie du ?nominalisme dynamique? de Hacking comme exemple. 2  THE PERILS OF PARSIMONY  1.  Introduction: The Problem with Classifying People I worry about classifying people. The nature of my worry is  illuminated by Hacking (2006),  who  distinguishes  usefully  between  ?kinds  of  people?  and  ?ways  of  being  a person?.    Hacking  (2006)  describes  how  we  tend  to  think  about  ?kinds  of  people?  as ?definite  classes?  with  ?definite  properties?  (p.  2),  especially  when  such  classes  of people are the objects of scientific inquiry: the obese, the poor, suicides...the Japanese, the Australian. Worse, Hacking explains that the ?engines of discovery? (p. 3) that we routinely  employ  in  the  human  sciences  (ranging  from  sociology  to  medicine)  are actually responsible for ?making up people? ? they literally create the kinds of people that we then claim to have identified, and that did not previously exist. What are these engines  of  discovery?  Statistical  analysis  is  primary:  we  count  and  quantify,  we determine norms and assess spectra of deviations, and we calculate correlations in order to  objectively  divide  humanity  into  ?kinds?.  Medicine,  biology  and,  more  recently, genetics, are employed to try to uncover root causes and explain underlying defects that manifest as ?kinds of people?: the autistic child, the homosexual. We use our engines of discovery  to  make  up  kinds  of  people...and  then,  too  often,  these  new  forms  of classification become fixed in our collective understanding as universal and essential, descriptive of unchanging differences between peoples. (Indeed, there exists a school of thought  in  cognitive  sciences  that  maintains  that  essentialist  thinking  is  innate  to  the human mind, that we are unable to avoid it).    This is not to argue that different groupings of people throughout history have not shared  or  do  not  share  common  features;  but  it  is  an  attempt  to  flag  the  dangers  of relying on such ?static nominalism? (Hacking, 2006, p. 3). Conceptualizing people in ?species  mode?  (ibid.,  p.  13)  depersonalizes  them,  turning  them  into  objects  for scientific study, bureaucratic management, treatment, or control. Methodologically, by adopting  such  thinking  we  fall  into  the  trap  of  believing  that  naming  a  problem,  or group, or phenomenon, effectively solves it ? the nomothetic fallacy.   Although  beyond  the  scope  of  this  paper,  Hacking?s  extensive  work  that  has detailed the making up of different kinds of people over historical  time convincingly supports his argument that ?there is no clear and distinct class of human kinds, and no vague class either? (2006, p.6). Most significantly (see below), Hacking highlights the complex  ways  in  which  classifications  interact  with  the  people  classified  ?  a phenomenon  he  calls  ?looping?.  ?Our  investigations  interact  with  the  targets themselves, and change them,? he argues (ibid, p. 2), making them not quite the people they  were  before.  Groups  of  people  are  therefore,  he  notes,  ?moving  targets?,  in dynamic relationship with the names we give them and the ways we (embedded in our network of power relations) define them.   By  differentiating  between  ?kinds  of  people?  and  ?ways  of  being  a  person?, Hacking  allows  us  to  conceptualize  in  a  different  way  what  is  signified  by  the classifications of human kinds that our discovery engines produce. Accepting that ?real kinds? of humans do not exist, it becomes meaningless to investigate whether such and such a kind of people (Italians? homosexuals?) existed in the past, whether such kinds will  exist  in  the  future,  or  whether  we  can  identify  universals  that  comprise  their essential nature. Equally, it is meaningless to consider such a grouping as a static and homogenous  cohort  of  ?cultural  dopes?  that  interacts  with  the  world  as  a  pinball   PERILS OF PARSIMONY  3  interacts  with  the  bells  and  paddles  of  a  pinball  machine:  moved  around  but fundamentally unchanged.   Instead, a focus on ?ways of being a person? allows us to examine the specific and situational conditions and social forces that have brought such a grouping into being, and with which it continues to interact. It becomes possible to say:  Before time t, X was not a way to be a person, people did not experience themselves in this way...but after time t*, this was a way to be a person, to experience oneself, to live in society (ibid., p. 13)   In the realm of culture, this perspective recalls Street?s insistence that ?culture is a verb? (1993), an active and dynamic process of interaction. It demands that we examine the ways in which social, institutional, technical, economic and political forces ?at a certain moment, yield intelligible meanings, enter the circuits of culture - the field of cultural practices - that shape the understandings and conceptions of the world of men and  women  in  their  ordinary  everyday  social  calculations,  construct  them  as  potential social subjects, and have the effect of organizing the ways in which they come to or form consciousness of the world. (Hall, 1989, p. 49) 2. CATaC?s Search for (a) Theory of Culture How ironic, then, that in the history of CATaC?s existence we have devoted such a lot of time and ink to theoretical models of culture whose main thrust is the classification of  people  (and  thus,  it  is  proposed,  their  interaction  with  information  and communication  technologies).  These  include  models  developed  by  Schwartz  (1992), Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner (1997) and the Chinese Culture Connection (1987). But foremost among them is the ?dimensions of culture? model developed by Hofstede (1980).   Hofstede, a Professor of Organizational Anthropology and International Business, developed his model by undertaking a large empirical study in which he  examined a pre-existing set of attitude surveys completed in 1967 and 1973 by marketing and sales employees of IBM in 66 countries. Hofstede determined that some of the questions that had been asked in these surveys might give answers that revealed respondents values, which, he argues, are the ?core element in culture? (Hofstede, 1991, p. 35). Moreover, because  he  assumed  that  the  variables  of  ?occupational  culture?  and  ?organizational culture?  could  be  considered  equivalent  for  all  of  these  IBM  employee  groups,  he concluded  that  ?the  only  thing  that  can  account  for  systematic  and  consistent differences...is nationality itself? (1991, p. 252). From statistical analysis of the survey data,  Hofstede  elucidated  four  main  bi-polar  dimensions  of  culture:  power  distance, uncertainty  avoidance,  individualism  versus  collectivism  and  masculinity  versus femininity.  Furthermore,  he  calculated  that  40  of  the  66  countries  assessed  could  be assigned comparative scores on each of these dimensions. (Hofstede later added a fifth dimension,  long-  versus  short-term  orientation,  based  on  analysis  of  data  from  a Chinese values survey (Chinese Culture Connection, 1987).   Hofstede?s model of culture has been cited in 18% of CATaC papers from 1998-2006, and indeed the frequency of citation of this model has been increasing: in 2006, 27% of CATaC papers cited Hofstede?s model (Rogers, 2008). 4  THE PERILS OF PARSIMONY    More  widely,  Hofstede?s  model  has  been  embraced  by  investigators  across  the human  sciences,  as  well  as  by  intercultural  educators  around  the  world.  A  Google search  for  ?Geert  Hofstede?  on  March  1st  2008  revealed  76,600  hits;  Williamson (2002) notes that Hofstede?s model ?is probably the dominant explanation of behaviour differences between nations? (p. 1392), and Hofstede himself (rather self-importantly, I suggest) has argued that has work had ?made a paradigm shift in cross-cultural studies?, becoming part of ?normal science? (2002, p. 1355). 3. Why Should We Worry? If Hofstede?s model is so widely accepted, and, indeed, replicated and corroborated in subsequent  empirical  studies  (see  studies  reviewed  by  Sondergaard  (1994),  and Chanchani and MacGregor (1999)) why should I be so concerned about the application of  this  model  in  CATaC  work?  Williamson?s  (2002)  careful  differentiation  between ?methodologies? and ?research methods? offer a useful framework for articulating my concerns.   3.1 CONCERNS ABOUT RESEARCH METHOD Research method refers, of course, to the techniques used by researchers in gathering and analyzing data. In his extensive critique of Hofstede?s work, McSweeney (2002) first  takes  aim  at  Hofstede?s  research  methods.  Although  the  total  number  of questionnaires  used  in  Hofstede?s  study  was  117,000  (Hofstede,  1980),  McSweeney notes  that  this  large  number  in  itself  does  not  guarantee  representativeness  (Bryman 1988).  Moreover,  although  the  initial  data  covered  66  countries,  only  data  from  40 countries was ultimately used in development of the ?dimensions of (national) culture?. In reality, he notes, the total number of respondents per country was small or even tiny: the  total  number  of  respondents  was  only  greater  than  1000  in  six  countries;  in  15 countries the total number of respondents was less than 200; and in some it was less than  100  (McSweeney,  2002,  p.  94).  McSweeney  argues  that  Hofstede?s  analysis simply  cannot  meet  the  conditions  for  reliability  and  validity  of  standard  survey research  because  these  assume  that  the  surveyed  population  is  representatively homogeneous with regard to the criteria under study.   McSweeney (2002) also points to the narrowness of the population surveyed: very specific kinds of employees in a single multinational company. In addition, he critiques Hofstede?s underlying assumptions that organizational and occupational cultures can be assumed to be the same across the 66 countries studied.   Lastly,  McSweeney  (2002)  raises  concerns  about  the  ways  in  which  the  initial survey  data  was  collected.  He  notes  that  survey  questions  focussed  exclusively  on workplace issues; that they were administered by the employing company itself (IBM), in  the  workplace;  that  some  questionnaires  were  completed  within  groups  and  not individually; and that respondents ?had foreknowledge that ?managers were expected to develop  strategies  for  corrective  actions  which  the  survey  showed  to  be  necessary? (Hofstede, 1984, p. 46). Not without cause does McSweeney wonder whether ?gaming? might have influenced respondent answers.   Williamson (2002), and, of course, Hofstede himself (2002) rebut McSweeney?s criticisms of method, pointing to corroborating empirical studies.   PERILS OF PARSIMONY  5  3.2 METHODOLOGY: THE REAL CONCERN We may quibble over details of method, but the heart of the matter, in reality, is the choice  of  an  appropriate  research  paradigm  for  cultural  and  intercultural  studies. Williamson  (2002)  reminds  us  that  it  is  methodology  that  underlies  our  choice  and justification  of  research  methods.  And  methodology  is  dependent  on  the  values  and beliefs  of  the  researcher,  including  assumptions  and  beliefs  about  epistemology, ontology and human nature (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). Selection of a methodology is therefore essentially political in nature (Llewellyn, 1992); it cannot and should not be adopted for simple pragmatic reasons.   My  real  difficulty  with  Hofstede?s  model  (and  similar  models),  and,  indeed, McSweeney?s  difficulty  with  Hofstede?s  work,  is  the  paradigm  within  which  it  sits. Hofstede?s  work  is  firmly  situated  in  what  Burrell  &  Morgan  (1979)  have  called  a ?functionalist?  paradigm.  This  has  been,  they  note,  the  primary  paradigm  for organizational studies. It is deeply rooted in sociological positivism, and assumes that human  interaction  can  be  identified  and  quantified  scientifically  through  statistical measurement. It presumes that the researcher is an objective observer, and that research is a process of testing hypotheses in order to explain causality in interrelationships and develop  formal  laws  that  can  be  generalized  as  statements  of  regularities  among objective  properties  (Packer,  1999).  As  Williamson  (2002)  points  out,  Hofstede?s  a priori  assumptions  about  the  existence  of  ?national  culture,?  and  his  selection  of research method, are clearly consistent with his functionalist stance.   It may be that models of culture founded on functionalist assumptions about ?kinds of  people?  have  a  certain  utilitarian  value.  It  may  be  that  ?quantification  of  national cultures opens up what is otherwise a black box of cultural factors? (Williamson, 2002, p. 1391) in a way that is sufficiently meaningful for organizational and business studies. I contend most strongly, however, that a functionalist approach and functionalist models of culture are not at all appropriate or useful for our collective study of dynamic human cultures  and  their  reciprocal  and  evolving  relationships  with  technology  (itself  in  a constant state of development and change). To be fair, even Hofstede himself noted that ?cultural dimensions were never intended to provide a complete basis for analyzing a culture? (Hofstede & Peterson, 2000, p. 404). 3.3 THE PROBLEM WITH THE PARADIGM McSweeney (2002) questions many of the assumptions underpinning Hofstede?s model, and these are worthy of careful consideration (a full survey is beyond the scope of this paper). Williamson (2002) points out that many of McSweeney?s criticisms are simply critiques of Hofstede?s paradigm and the resultant (and internally coherent) choice of research  method...but  this  does  not  reduce  their  significance,  in  my  opinion.  Three difficulties of such models are worthy of elaboration here, and support, I believe, my proposition that the functionalist paradigm is a poor choice for our work.   Primary  among  these  difficulties  is  the  assumption  that  culture  is  a  ?national? phenomenon that simply distinguishes the members of one nation from another. This classification of people into territorial groups is, of course, a division that rests entirely on the (relatively recent) history and vagaries of the modern political State, and ignores both internal cultural diversity within political States (for example, between the nations of Great Britain) and ?national? cultures that span multiple political States. States ?may fissure, coalesce, combine, be combined, expand, or contract? (Connor, 1978) and yet 6  THE PERILS OF PARSIMONY  none of these  changes  can be  accommodated  into the models of culture projected by Hofstede  and  others.  As  McSweeney  (2002)  points  out,  the  evident  instability  of political states means that they are poorly matched with a cultural model that claims to have ?achieved measurement precision? (p. 111).   A  second  difficulty  of  such  models  is  their  static  and  essentializing  nature, especially when they are used to try to predict an individual?s values or behaviour. In Hacking?s language, such models seek  to classify ?kinds of people?,  and they permit non-alert  investigators  to  view  individuals  as  ?cultural  dopes?,  lacking  agency,  and carrying uniform cultural attributes. Hofstede?s model emerged from data collected 40 years  ago.  Can  we  really  convince  ourselves  that  such  data  is  relevant  now,  for meaningful  investigations  of  contemporary  cultural  attitudes  to  technology  and communication?   A third significant difficulty of using such models is their inherent reductionism and determinism. Geneticists would say, wisely, ?you get what you select for? (Shuman & Silhavy, 2003); that is, if you create conditions to test for an expected difference, that difference is the only difference you will see. In the context of culture, over-reliance on functionalist models of national  culture fools us into  identifying and studying only  a small  number  of  a  priori  cultural  dimensions  as  causal,  and  blinds  us  to  the  myriad cultural  and  non-cultural  conditions  that  influence  values  and  behaviour  in  specific places and times, as well as to emic conditions that are specific only to an individual culture. In an era in which we are increasingly acknowledging that societies can be best understood as a dynamic formation of competing truth regimes, rather than a mythical unity (Hall in Grossberg, 1986, p. 136), I would argue that is a tragic weakness.    Others (Bhimani, 1999; Harrison & McKinnon, 1999; Krug, 1993; Redding, 1994) have offered additional warnings about an over-dependence on functionalist paradigms in analysis of culture and on Hofstede?s model in particular. 4. Popularity: The Perils of Parsimony Given  these  evident  difficulties  with  functionalist  models  of  culture,  why  do  we continue to invoke them so frequently? Williamson (2002) suggests, and I agree, that the appeal of Hofstede?s model (and others within the functionalist paradigm) is their parsimony.  A  parsimonious  theory  ?is  relatively  easy  to  explain,  communicate  and apply?  (p. 1387) and its ?resemblance to parsimonious theories of physical science may enhance  plausibility?  (Kuhn,  1996),  especially  in  a  context  in  which  positivist assumptions about culture are valued. In a research context in which time and money is increasingly  scarce,  investigators  have  an  ?increasing  interest  in  finding  out  ?  and finding  out  quickly  ?  how  to  ?do?  a  cultural  study?  (Slack,  1996,  p.  113),  giving parsimonious  theories  an  increased  appeal.  Hall  calls  this  a  ?thrust  towards codification?  (in  Grossberg,  1986,  p.  149).  He  also  points  to  a  further  positivist assumption  that  may  underlie  our  search  for  a/the  theory  of  culture  upon  which  to establish  our  work:  ?the  assumption  that  theory  consists  of  a  series  of  closed paradigms? (in Grossberg, 1986, p. 19). Closed paradigms may be  seductive  in  their ease of application and their apparent existence as objective, value-free  tools. But by definition they will make new phenomena very difficult to interpret because these will depend on new historical conditions. Such theories and models simply ?let you off the hook, providing answers which are always known in advance? (ibid.).   PERILS OF PARSIMONY  7    I propose, then, that it is critical for us, individually and collectively, to examine and make overt the assumptions of our methodologies; to create, seek out and embrace counter-methodologies or counter-paradigms for our work, and to understand theorizing as  ?an  open  horizon,  moving  within  the  magnetic  field  of  some  basic  concepts,  but constantly being applied afresh to what is genuinely original and novel in new forms of cultural practice? (Hall in Grossberg, 1986, p. 138). 5. The Need to Abandon the Paradigms Our work in the realm of culture,  technology and communication seeks to  explore, I believe, the differential (and often unequal) participation by different groups of people around the world in the so-called ?information society?. As successor to the ?industrial society?,  the  information  society  (sometimes  called  the  ?information  economy?)  is driven by forces of globalization, computer networking and Internet  connectivity. An information society, says Wikipedia (2008) ?is  a  society  in  which  the  creation,  distribution,  diffusion,  use,  and  manipulation  of information  is  a  significant  economic,  political,  and  cultural  activity.  The  knowledge economy  is  its  economic  counterpart  whereby  wealth  is  created  through  the  economic exploitation of understanding. Our  work  asks:  which  values,  practices,  belief  systems,  forces  and  structures  of different  social  groups  influence  the  ways  in  which  they  design,  perceive,  adopt  or utilise  information  and  communication  technologies...if  they  have  access  to  it  at  all? And,  how  do  these  conditions  constrain  the  ways  in  which  societies  are  able  to participate in contemporary systems of knowledge and wealth generation?   If we seek to meaningfully  explore  this digital divide ? ?the gap between  those people with effective access to digital and information technology and the knowledge economy, and those without access to it? (Wikipedia, 2008) ? it is critical that we do not abstract ?culture? ?from its material, technical and economic conditions of existence?. For ?how could culture, on its own, transcend the social, political and economic terrain on which it operates?? (Hall in Grossberg, 1996, p. 139).   This means that we must adopt methodologies that will allow us to examine the dynamic relations of power which structure the many social worlds we study, in pursuit of contextualized understandings of individual behaviour. Such methodologies call for investigation and elaboration of specific cases (rather than a search for universals), and assume  that  individuals  are  positioned  within  ?intersubjective  social  fields  which structure  and  constrain  their  activity,  and  that  these  same  subjects  are  also  actively involved  in  the  reproduction  of  these  fields,  emphasizing  the  role  of  culture  as  a contributing force within the wider context? (Packer, 1999). Importantly, we must seek out  methodologies  that  acknowledge  our  subjective  position  as  participants  in  our research.  What  are  the  assumptions  underpinning  our  methodological  approach  and choice  of  research  methods?  Which  goals  or  knowledge  systems  are  shaping  our interpretations?    Do theories or models even exist that might allow us to structure our research and approach examination of culture and technology in new ways ? one which emphasizes process, dynamic interaction, and context? 8  THE PERILS OF PARSIMONY  5.1 ?ARTICULATION? AS THEORY AND METHOD Cultural  studies  has  encountered  the  impasse  of  essentialist  and  reductionist  thinking before. By the 1970s, cultural theorists were actively seeking ways to move beyond the limits of classical Marxist theory, because it simply could not fully account for all of the ?mechanisms  of  domination  and  subordination  in  late  capitalism?,  or  for  the  actual variations in the conditions of existence of different social groups (Slack, 1996, p. 116). Similarly, the essentialism of class that flowed from orthodox Marxism was unable to account  for  the  non-revolutionary  nature  of  the  working  class,  for  what  individuals believed about their living conditions, or for the ways that other conditions of existence (for  example,  gender,  race,  or  subculture)  ?entered  into  what  looked  like  far  more complex  relations  of  dominance  and  subordination?  (ibid.,  p.  116).  Similarly,  I  have argued  above  that  reductionist  and  essentialist  theories  of  culture  fail  to  account  for differences in individual and group encounters with technology, and fail to illuminate how individuals and groups are, in turn, changed by these encounters.   Cultural studies avoided ?falling into twin traps of reductionism and essentialism? (Slack,  1996,  p.  112)  by  adopting  the  notion  of  ?articulation?  as  a  new  approach  to characterizing a given social formation. I suggest that  articulation may help us  avoid these same traps.   In simple terms, a theory of articulation asks us to critically investigate how, and if, different sorts of things are  contextually  connected  to  each other. In  analysis of a social  formation,  it  asks  us  to  examine  how  some  individuals  or  groups  that  have specific  interests  and  values  try  to  connect  to  other  people,  groups  or  economic arrangements,  ideas  or  property,  to  carry  out  their  interests.  For  example,  how  do disparate  social  forces,  under  certain  conditions,  come  to  cohere  within  a  discourse? (Hall in Grossberg, 1986, p. 141). What is important is to understand that this form of analysis  examines  which  critical  assumptions  of  unity  exist  in  a  discourse,  and  how linkages came to be. Linkages are not necessary, determine, absolute and essential for all time it argues. Instead, the ?so-called unity of a discourse is really the articulation of different, distinct elements which?have no necessary ?belongingness?.? In the realm of individuals and communities,  the theory of articulation asks us how an ideology discovers its subject rather than how the  subject  thinks  the  necessary  and  inevitable  thoughts  which  belong  to  it.  (Hall  in Grossberg, 1986, p. 142)   It becomes important to investigate not simply ?how things are?, but to engage in tracing the multi-directional and complex relations of power, desire and knowledge for any particular context (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987).  Moreover, context ?is  not  something  out  there  within  which  practices  occur,  or  which  influence  the development of practices. Rather, identities, practices and effects generally constitute the very context within which they are practices, identities or effects (Slack, 1996, p. 125) Articulation insists that we examine societies as a dynamic field of interacting forces.    Slack  notes  that  ?articulation?  can  also  be  understood  as  a  method  of  cultural analysis,  in  that  it  can  suggest  strategies  for  undertaking  a  cultural  analysis. Investigation of the articulated structure of a culture or society ?requires an examination of  the  ways  in  which  the  ?relatively  autonomous?  social,  institutional,  technical, economic  and  political  forces  are  organized  into  unities?  (Slack,  1996,  p.  124). Moreover,  articulation  as  method  makes  clear  that  the  linkages  are  recorded  in  an   PERILS OF PARSIMONY  9  ?arbitrary  moment  of  closure?  (ibid.,  p.  114)  ?  a  snapshot  recording  a  moment  in  a dynamic system ? and makes no claim that the momentary social formation is universal or eternal.   Perhaps  of  particular  interest  to  the  CATaC  community  is  the  proposition  that articulation  permits  us  to  go  beyond  theory  and  method  to  the  levels  of  politics  and strategy.  Politically,  says  Slack  (1996),  articulation  allows  us  to  illuminate  the ?structure and play of power? (p. 112) that determine  inequalities in our  societies of interest. Strategically, articulation allows us to more meaningfully shape an intervention within a particular social or cultural context. 5.1 APPLYING ARTICULATION: DYNAMIC NOMINALISM? Although Hacking (2006) does not explicitly reference a theory of articulation as the grounding  for  his  work,  the  model  of  dynamic  nominalism  that  he  proposes  for considering  ?ways  of  being  a  person?  might  be  considered  as  one  example  of  how articulation might be applied.   In his 2006 paper, Hacking offers us an interactive ?framework for analysis? of the phenomenon  of  dynamic  nominalism,  which  he  contends  makes  all  kinds  of  people ?moving targets?. A full understanding of how we comprehend a group of people in a given moment in time involves considering     a) Names ? or classifications.  But these are only one part of the dynamic in the continuous looping process of ?making up people?, Hacking insists. In addition, we need to consider:   b)  The  people  so  classified  (and  how  they  respond  to  and  interact  with  the classification)   c) The institutions involved in the processes of study, regulation or control of the people classified.   d) Existing knowledge about the people classified ? both popular knowledge, and the  ?presumptions  that  are  taught,  disseminated,  refined,  within  the  contexts  of  the institutions? (Hacking, 2006, p. 5)   e) The experts or professionals who generate this knowledge, judge its validity and use  it in  their practice (these  experts, of course,  ?work within  the c)  institutions  that guarantee their legitimacy, authenticity and status as experts. They study?the b) people who are a) classified of a given kind.? (ibid., p. 5)   Hacking emphasizes the nature of this list  as ?banal?, and discusses the ideas of other  theorists  that  might  be  usefully  incorporated  into  alternate  versions  of  the framework. He also notes that for each case, the roles and weights of the elements will be different. This is not a prescription.   Why  is  this  framework  useful?  It  continually  reminds  us  to  move  beyond  our attachment to old classifications, or names (the Japanese, the Australian) of groups of people.  It  is,  moreover,  ?a  nicely  positivist  list?  (p.  5)  which  might  appeal  to  our continuing  need  for  speed  and  closed  paradigms.  While  being  relatively ?implementable?, it forces us to keep our eyes on the dynamic horizon. We can ?find out about  people?,  to  some  extent,  using  our  engines  of  discovery.  But  we  are  forced  to acknowledge  that  the  ?target?  ?  the  location  of  these  people  in  time  and  social formation ? is where it is because of the ongoing interaction of all five elements in the framework (and more).  10  THE PERILS OF PARSIMONY  6. Conclusions: The Importance of a Commitment to Practice Certainly,  by  giving  up  on  functionalist  models  of  culture,  we  lose  the  speed  and neatness  they  provide.  We  lose  the  credibility  currently  bestowed  upon  (apparently) ?objective? methods and ?scientific? approaches. And ? nothing to sneeze at ? we lose the easy communicability and applicability of parsimonious models.   I  argue,  however,  that  meaningful  investigation  of  societies  and  cultures  (and, within this, of cultural attitudes to technology and communication) requires a dramatic shift  out  of  the  functionalist  research  paradigm  and  the  abandonment  of  static, reductionist and essentialist theories of culture.   We must not embrace, uncritically, closed theoretical paradigms that simply ?let us off the hook? of doing serious critical work. ?Theory must be constantly challenged and revised?,  argues  Slack  (1996,  p.  113),  highlighting  Hall?s  insistence  that  the  ?only theory that is worth having is that which you have to fight off, not that which you speak with profound fluency? (Hall, 1992).   Similarly, while we tend to think of ?method? as implying the application of ?rigid templates or practical techniques to organize research? (Slack, 1996, p. 114), I wish to advocate most strongly for a perspective of ?method as practice? ? invoking definitions of method both as ?research techniques? as well as the activity of ?practising or trying out? (ibid., p. 114).   In  our  continuing  work  ?  research,  political  action,  strategic  intervention  ?  I propose  that  we  take  for  guidance  Hall?s  strenuous  rejection  of  closed  theoretical paradigms.  "I  am  not  interested  in  Theory,?  he  insisted  ?I  am  interested  in  going  on theorizing" (in Grossberg, 1986, p. 150). And we must be, too. Acknowledgements I offer grateful thanks to Dr. Don Krug (Faculty of Education, The University of British Columbia) for his extremely valuable critical feedback on this manuscript and for the inspiration provided by his graduate seminar course Articulation(s) of Digital Literacies through Ecological Studies (CUST 565) in the spring of 2008. Thanks also to Dr. Jack Martin  (Simon  Fraser  University,  Canada)  and  Dr  Anne  Hewling  (Open  University, UK) for their review of this work, to Federico Rosei and Diana Marquez for assistance with French translation, and to Dr. Connie Kampf (University of Aarhus, Denmark) and Dr. Charles Ess (Drury University, USA) for encouraging my contribution to this panel. References Bhimani,  A.  (1999).  Mapping  methodological  frontiers  in  cross-national  management  control research. 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