Thursday, September 01, 2005

The other day Dr. Barnett posted at length on how blogging related to his productivity as a writer and conceptual thinker. It's a good post on a number of levels.

First, it more fully illuminated the role of one Critt Jarvis as someone who was more than just a webmaster. I always suspected as much from reading Critt's very occasional posts on his own blogs [ Critt likes to post quarterly I believe :O) ] where he'd hint at some very interesting subjects; from his bio on the old New Rule-Sets Project site; or from things I heard through email. It is now evident that Critt was a driving force in many aspects of Dr. Barnett's own
" connectivity" in a way that put him way ahead of the curve compared to most other authors of foreign policy books.

Secondly, in terms of general interest it offers insight to a creative process most readers never see and seldom think about when holding the book as a finished product in their hand. This is something I've been curious about for a while because I've contemplated writing a book for a number of years. I've held off partly due to the tender age of the kids since my time is better spent with them; partly because I have not quite decided on " the" subject, being interested in a lot of esoteric fields; and partly due to a need to learn more about the writing and publishing process. Toward that end I've done some research, pestered the always graciously patient Geitner Simmons for updates on his book project and picked the brain of a co-worker who is a successful writer of mysteries ( 5 books so far I think, and some kind of movie/TV deal) under a pen name. So, it was helpful to read about the creative steps Tom was going through as BFA was taking shape.

Thirdly, the post illustrates the blogosphere's immense capacity as a synergistic feedback loop and sorting mechanism to bring intellects together who might not ever have been in contact otherwise. Along that line, Dr. Barnett was very kind to acknowledge my small contributions to his work and he also cited T.M. Lutas, Michael Lotus and Sean Meade in particular. All of us happened to get in contact only because Critt had talked Tom into setting up a blog. Obviously I've drawn a lot of intellectual energy from PNM discussions but I have to say there were many times that I felt a similar powerful resonance while bouncing ideas back and forth with Marc Schulman, Jeff Medcalf, Curzon, Younghusband and Chirol and especially Dan of tdaxp and Dave Schuler. These guys are intellectual peers and blogfriends who have really pushed me to think hard at times.

( Two others Collounsbury and Pundita, who mix like oil and fire, served a different role, occasionally, by sharply questioning my assumptions. in their own hard-edged, sometimes vehement, sometimes witty, highly distinctive manners. This is not the same function as the creative feedback loop but it's also an invaluable one. Valid criticism does not hurt, it makes you a stronger thinker if you can integrate it and adapt. Invalid criticism you ignore. Wisdom is being able to discern the difference)

Prior to the advent of the internet and in particular the blogosphere, these sorts of group exchanges rarely happened outside of think tanks and universities. Corporate culture discouraged free exchange for reasons of power hierarchy and business focus that encouraged, by subtlety or coercion, extensive groupthink. Politics and law are highly adversarial, competitive, fields where the thinking style is dominated primarily by zero-sum mentalities and vertically-oriented perspectives.

The person who figures out how to productively harnesses this latent, horizontally-directed, creative feedback loop that is inherent in the blogosphere in order to drive an economic entity is going to make a significant mark.

Thanks for the shout-out! :)

Blogging has been so useful for me, for the same reasons you list. You, the guys at CA, Thomas Barnett, John Robb, Collounsbury, Organic Warfare, Phatic Communion, Chet Richards, Duck of Minerva, etc, are so knowledgeable.

In my discussion seminars the concepts I learned from blog discussions have given me a very unfair advantage. The blogosphere is a great vehicle for simultaneous horizontal creativity and vertical specialization.

For instance, in yesterday's seminar I applied the concept of stand-off capacity (which I picked up from Sean Edward's RAND thesis through John Robb) to US negotiating policy in the International Court of Justice and the World Trade Organization. I added to the discussion, established myself as a knowledgeable thinker among my pears, and (juding by his reaction) significantly impressed Dr. Forsythe (supposedly some great expert on human rights international law) -- all because of the blogosphere.

I'll try to get back to meaningful blogging, because I believe that my physical and blogospheric communities can really supercharge each other. I've been in daily discussions with a music theorist about how "General Aesthetics" and "Beauty" seems to be a perfect horizontal analogies for "Victory" in political science and war. Music seems to have different terms for all the same concepts we go over here (fingertip-feeling, methodical war, superempowerment, people's war, &c, &c) -- so why not ssteal the hard work of our music theorist friends?

Likewise, Boyd's discussion of moral warfare trisects with my Instruction and Human Cognition and Seminar in International Relations class. For example, in international law:

Legitimacy is the result of cognitive instruction
Law is the result of social cognitive instruction

So open question, which I never would have seen otherwise:

????? is the result of behavorial instruction

Again (and I know I am rambling here):

"Hard Law" is a fuzzy concept on two axes: physical-moral and implicit-explicit. But "physical" and "moral" are also two types of Boydian isolation -- the third is "mental." So while we can create a square diagram with the physical-moral axis and a implicit-explicit axis to understand hardness in law, what if we make if hyperdimensional with mental-moral and mental-physical axes?

Grad School Blogging r0x0r5!!!111
Hi Dan,

I can honestly say I've learned from blogging - I just did a couple posts above from Stu & Matt's suggestions.

Good job in class. Grad school is about two things really:

1) Establishing yourself as a budding scholar, meeting professional standards in terms of performance and content knowledge and

2) Finding an effective mentor to guide you in this process and who can promote you by opening doors either to the job market or to admission for doctoral studies/fellowships etc.

It needs to be somebody who is not just field competent but field effective - there are many big name guys who won't lift a finger for their grad students or who are so obnoxious on a personal level to their peers that their rec letters are the often the death knell for an applicant.

Then there are profs who will move heaven and earth for their grad students. Allan Bloom, the late U. of Chicago humanist, was famous in part because he pushed the careers of his students until they formed an entire network of influence and power.

I don't know of Forsyth, my familiarity with IL specialists is limited to Anthony D'Amato and John Pritchard who venture into Diplo history, plus those who are media self-promoters like Bassouini.

IL is a tricky field - you need to know it well enough in terms of its internal consistencies but you need to recognize that much of the sweeping claims of IL is completely ephemereal to diplomatic practice and war and does not exist outside of the seminar. IL is best viewed in terms of lowest common denominator of acceptance rather than its maximialist theorectical claims of jurisdiction.*

* note: Unsurprisingly, my view is NOT a popular one among most IL profs but it is, as most FSO/IC/DoD practitioners will tell you, reality.
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