The Midlife Crises of the Generation X

On the occasion of …

Generation X gets really old: How do slackers have a midlife crisis?; ; In Slate; 2013-08-11.
Teaser: Gutted by the economy, shipwrecked by nostalgia, Gen X stares down a midlife crisis. Winona Ryder can’t save it

Original Sources


  • Richard Lerner
  • Neil Howe
    • attributed as: historian and generational expert
    • significant broad background framing of the generations issue.
  • Pew Research
  • Sheryl Connelly, anthropologist (futurist), Ford Motor Corp.
    • Manager of Global Trends and Futuring, Ford Motor Company
    • Significant press cycle 2012-2013; SEO
    • Sheryl Connelly (Ford Motor Company); 10 Trends That Could Change World; adtechevents; On YouTube; 2013-11-13; 46:52 (Sheryl starts at 5:00);
  • Alice Miller; psychologist; child abuse
  • On continued Generation X immaturity, attributed to the author
    • <quote>Naomi Wolf is writing about her vagina.</quote> attributed to the author; as evidence of immaturity (and she’s right).
    • [long list of celebrities & intellectuals who have retired, given up or suicide] <quote>The most accomplished Xers stay out of the way. But to interpret personal experience, it helps to have generational role models to shine a light.</quote>
    • <quote>Where are the thoughtful Gen X politicians? Obama – born in the generational borderland of 1961 — campaigned on getting beyond boomer conflicts. But that hasn’t quite happened. Now the Republicans are figuring out how to keep from imploding and Democrats are trying to choose between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.</quote>
    • <quote>There is a chance that being repeatedly burned by the marketplace may actually help us; our natural skepticism may be something American society needs to hear. Most of our trouble – from the Bush 1 recession to the dot-com bust and the more recent economic pit of despair – has stemmed from unchecked optimism. The Xers have paid for that trickle-down optimism repeatedly.</quote>


  • <quote>If anything, our generation is characterized by not hitting a wall of midlife crisis but having crises throughout.</quote> attributed to Wendy Fonarow.
  • <paraphrase>Other generations say that we lucked out because there was no major war that took legions overseas, no presidential assassinations, no civil rights battles rocking our home turf. Not true, </paraphrase><quote>Our war was at home and it was divorce. They were some of the worst divorces in American history.”</quote> attributed to Susan Gregory Thomas.
  • <quote>There’s this incredible denial of middle age going on. It’s part of this extended adolescence now going into your 40s and 50s. People want to hang onto their youth, so in that sense you’re young-young-young ‘til you’re old.</quote> attributed to Patricia Cohen
  • <quote>Xers are deep into family formation, <paraphrase>The flashy car isn’t important, but building that calm, peaceful fort is.</paraphrase> Xers are keeping stores like Pottery Barn and Architectural Hardware solvent. I think they will continue to spend at home, on the home.</quote> attributed to Sheryl Connelly.

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The Effective Executive | Peter Drucker

The Effective Executive; HarperBusiness, revised; 1966, 2006-01-03; 208 pages; kindle: $10, paper: $3+SHT.

Summary #1

About managing oneself and that executives who do not manage themselves cannot possibly expect to manage other people.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness:

  • “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
  • “For manual work, efficiency was enough. In today world, the center of gravity has shifted from the manual worker to the “knowledge worker”
  • For knowledge work, effectiveness is more important than efficiency.

Definition of an Executive: a knowledge worker who is … responsible for contributions (decisions, actions) … that have significant impact on … performance and results of the whole organization (pages 5 through 9).


  1. Manage time.
  2. Focus on contributions and results
  3. Build on strengths
  4. Set the right priorities
  5. Make effective decisions



1. Manage Time
  • “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed” (page 51).
  • Process
    1. recording time [use],
    2. managing time
    3. consolidating time.
  • Concepts
    • the supply of time is inelastic,
    • time is perishable and cannot be stored,
    • time is irreplaceable (i.e. has no substitute),
    • all work takes place in and uses up time.
  • Diagnostics
    • What would happen if this were not done at all?
    • Which activities could be done by somebody else just as well, if not better?
    • What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness?
  • Waste [of time; e.g.via meetings]
    • lack of system,
    • overstaffing,
    • bad organization structure,
    • malfunction in information.
2. Focus on contributions and results:
  • outward, on contributions and results; as opposed to downward, on efforts.
  • Requirements of effective human relations:
    1. Communication
    2. Teamwork
    3. Self-development
    4. Development of others
3. Build on strengths:
  • “In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problems” (page 98).
  • Build on strengths and make weaknesses irrelevant.
  • Something about the book First Break All the Rules (Buckingham & Coffman; 1999), via Gallup polling confirming that Drucker was right.
  • Rules
    1. Make sure the job is well designed
    2. Make the job challenging to bring out strengths
    3. Have an appraisal policy to measure performance
    4. Put up with weaknesses
      the exception is a weakness in character and integrity, which causes disqualification.
4. Set the right priorities (title: First Things First)
  • Priorities => Concentrate on the areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.
  • Posteriorities => tasks not to tackle.
    • “sloughing off yesterday”
    • “If we did not already do this, would we go into it now?”
5. Make effective decisions (titles: The Elements of Decision Making, Effective Decisions)
  • “No decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone’s work assignment and responsibility. Until then, there are only good intensions” (page 136).
  • Process
    1. Determine whether the problem is generic or unique.
    2. Specify the objectives of the decision and the conditions it needs to satisfy.
    3. Determine the right solution that will satisfy the specifications and conditions.
    4. Convert the decision into actione.
    5. Build a feedback process to compare results with expectations
  • Definition: a decision is a choice among alternatives
  • Disagreement is required.
    “The first rule in decision making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement” (page 148).
  • Create disagreement rather than consensus.

Summary #2

  1. Knows where their time goes (time is the most valuable resource and is inelastic).
  2. Focuses on results (not effort) by asking.
  3. Staff to people’s strength (not the absence of weakness).
  4. Fills the job with the right person (not fits the job to the available person).
  5. Tries to be himself / herself (not someone else).
  6. Concentrates on one effort at a time. (not multi-tasking).
  7. Concentrates on important and strategic decisions (not a great number of small, reactionary decisions).
    Many problems were created in the past, and solving them only re-establishes the status quo. It is better to seek opportunities than just fix problems.
  8. Makes decisions based on dissenting opinions (not pseudo facts and pre-judgements).
  9. Acts or does not act (no hedging or compromise).

Summary #3

Excerpts from “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker; unknown reviewer; undated; 6 pages.

The five habits of highly effective people (sic)

  1. know where their time goes.
  2. focus on outward contributions.
  3. build on strengths – their own strengths, the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that is, on what they can do. They do not build on weakness. They do not start out with the things they cannot do.
  4. concentrate on few major areas where superior performance will produce
    outstanding results.
  5. make effective decisions.

Via: backfill and the reviews.

Alternative Scoring Products | Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Alternative Scoring Products; Spring Privacy Series; Federal Trade Commission (FTC); 2014-03-19.



  • Pamela Dixon, World Privacy Forum.
  • Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director and Senior Fellow at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
  • Claudia Perlich, Chief Scientist, Dstillery (Media 6Degrees, M6d).
  • Stuart Pratt, President and CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association.
  • Ashkan Soltani, activist.
  • Rachel Nyswander Thomas, Executive Director of the Data-Driven Marketing Institute (DDMI) and Vice President of Government Affairs for the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).
  • Joseph Turow, Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.

Speaker Bios


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A History of the Future | David J. Staley

David J. Staley; A History of the Future; In History and Theory; Theme Issue 41; ISSN: 0018-2656; 2002-12; pages 72-89 (18 pages).


Does history have to be only about the past? “History” refers to both a subject matter and a thought process. That thought process involves raising questions, marshalling evidence, discerning patterns in the evidence, writing narratives, and critiquing the narratives written by others. Whatever subject matter they study, all historians employ the thought process of historical thinking.

What if historians were to extend the process of historical thinking into the subject matter domain of the future? Historians would breach one of our profession’s most rigid disciplinary barriers. Very few historians venture predictions about the future, and those who do are viewed with skepticism by the profession at large. On methodological grounds, most historians reject as either impractical, quixotic, hubristic, or dangerous, any effort to examine the past as a way to make predictions about the future.

However, where at one time thinking about the future did mean making a scientifically-based prediction, futurists today are just as likely to think in terms of scenarios.Where a prediction is a definitive statement about what will be, scenarios are heuristic narratives that explore alternative plausibilities of what might be. Scenario writers, like historians, understand that surprise, contingency, and deviations from the trend line are the rule, not the exception; among scenario writers, context matters. The thought process of the scenario method shares many features with historical thinking. With only minimal intellectual adjustment, then, most professionally trained historians possess the necessary skills to write methodologically rigorous “histories of the future.”


  • Covering-Law Models
  • Initial Conditions
  • Counterfactual historians
  • Retrodictions (contra predictions)
  • Narrative sentences => refer to at least two time-separated events; give descriptions of the events which could not have been observed at the time [due to anti-causlity]; e.g. The thirty Years War begin in 1618.
  • scenarios
    • prediction, plausibilities, possibilities
    • opportunities for control
  • The Advice Establishment
    • hardening the soft sciences
    • Rand Corporation, US
    • Futuribles, FR; a think tank, Ford Foundation, Bertrand de Jouvenel
  • Scenarios
    • Peter Wack
    • The Shell Method
    • The Intuitive Method
    • <quote>The goal of scenario writing is not to predict the one path the future will follow but to discernthe possible states toward which the future might be “attracted.”</quote> [page 79]
      • “what if …”
      • [what would you have to believe if ...]
    • <quote>Each version of the future has its own “logics,” “the plot which ties togetherthe elements of the system.”</quote>
    • Three alternates [the tri-lemma concept]
  • A postmodernist approach
    • Wagar
    • the past is just as inaccessible as the future.
    • <quote>Wagar believes historians are empowered to write stories about the future using scenario thinking as a license to avoid making definitive predictions — in the same way postmodernism has freed them from searching for the inaccessible objective truth of the past.</quote> [page 82]
  • Immanuel Wallerstein’s world systems theory
  • <quote>Evidence makes counterfactuals”practicable”and future scenarios “futurible.”</quote> [page 86]
  • thick descriptions; of anthropological methods.
  • <quote>the scenarios historians write would need to be synchronic narratives, rather than the diachronic narratives we usually prefer.</quote> [page 87]
  • structure vs [temporal] ordering


  • Hannah Arendt
  • Michael Biddiss
  • Marc Bloch
  • Fernand Braudel
  • Thomas J. Chermack
  • Paul Costello
  • Arthur Danto
  • Max Dublin
  • Richard J. Evans
  • Niall Ferguson
  • James Gleick
  • Raymond Grew
  • Thane Gustafson
  • Geoffrey Hawthorn
  • Hegel
  • Robert Heilbroner
  • Edward J. Honton
  • Neil Howe
  • Bertrand de Jouvenel
  • Herman Kahn
  • Susan A. Lynham
  • Gordon Leff
  • Antonio Martelli
  • Marx
  • Ernest May
  • William McNeill
  • Matthew Melko
  • Stephen M. Millett,
  • Richard Neustadt
  • Karl Popper
  • Kevin Reilly
  • Nicholas Rescher
  • Wendy E. A. Ruona
  • Marshall Sahlins
  • T. Irene Sanders
  • Arthur Schlesinger
  • Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
  • Hagen Schulze
  • Michael Stanford
  • Leften Stavrianos
  • William Strauss
  • Toynbee
  • Peter Schwartz
  • William A. Sherden
  • Spengler
  • Stephen Vaughan
  • Vico
  • Pierre Wack
  • W. Warren Wagar
  • Immanuel Wallerstein
  • Hayden White
  • Sam Wineburg
  • Daniel Yergin


  • National Standards for History; 2002.
  • Sam Wineburg; Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past; Temple University Press; 2001.
  • Robert Heilbroner; The Future as History; Grove Press; 1959.
  • Arthur Schlesinger; The Cycles of American History; 1986; Mariner Books; 1999.
  • William Strauss, Neil Howe; The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny; Broadway Books; 1997; ; noted herein.
  • William Strauss, Neil Howe; Generations: The History of America’s Future 1584 to 2069; Quill; 1991; noted herein.
  • Matthew Melko; The Perils of Macrohistorical Studies; In World History Bulletin, Issue 17; 2001-Fall; pages 27-32 (6 pages); noted herein.
  • Raymond Grew; “Review Essay on Paul Costello, World Historians and Their Goals: Twentieth-Century Answers to Modernism”; In History and Theory; Volume 34; 1995; pages 371-394.
  • Michael Biddiss, “History as Destiny: Gobineau, H. S. Chamberlain and Spengler”; In Transactions of the Royal Historical Society; Volume 7; 1997; pages 73-100.
  • Max Dublin; Futurehype: The Tyranny of Prophecy; Dutton; 1991.
  • Gordon Leff; “The Past and the New,” in The Vital Past: Writings on the Uses of History; Stephen Vaughn, editor; University of Georgia Press; 1985.
  • Karl Popper; “Prediction and Prophecy in the Social Sciences”; In Conjectures and Refutations;  Routledge and Kegan Paul; 1963.
  • Karl Popper; The Poverty of Historicism; Routledge; 1957.
  • Arthur C. Danto, Narration and Knowledge; Columbia University Press; 1968, 1985.
  • Robert Heilbroner; Visions of the Future: The Distant Past, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow; New York Public Library and Oxford University Press, 1995.
  • Bertrand de Jouvenel; The Art of Conjecture; Basic Books; 1967.
  • Nicholas Rescher; Predicting the Future: An Introduction to the Theory of Forecasting; State University of New York Press; 1998.
  • William A. Sherden; The Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying and
    Selling Predictions; John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1998.
  • James Gleick; Chaos: The Making of a New Science; Viking; 1987.
  • Stephen M. Millett, Edward J. Honton; A Manager’s Guide to Technology Forecasting and Strategy Analysis Methods; Battelle Press, 1991.
  • T. Irene Sanders; Strategic Thinking and the New Science: Planning in the Midst of Chaos, Complexity,and Change; The Free Press; 1998.
  • Herman Kahn; The Year 2000: A Framework for Speculation on the Next Thirty-Three Years; The Macmillan Company, 1967.
  • Pierre Wack, “Scenarios: Uncharted Waters Ahead”; In Harvard Business Review; Volume 63; 1985;, pages 72-79,
  • Pierre Wack; “Scenarios:Shooting the Rapids”; In Harvard Business Review; Volume 63; 1985; pages 139-150.
  • Stephen M. Millett; History of Business Scenarios (busted link)
  • Thomas J. Chermack, Susan A. Lynham, Wendy E. A. Ruona; “A Review of Scenario Planning Literature”; In Futures Research Quarterly; Volume 17; 2001-Summer; pages 7-31.
  • Antonio Martelli, “Scenario Building and Scenario Planning: State of the Art and Prospects of Evolution”; In Futures Research Quarterly; Volume 17; 2001-Summer; pages 57-74.
  • Peter Schwartz; The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World; Currency/Doubleday; 1991.
  • Innovators of Digital Economy Alternatives (IDEA).
    • (ibidem.)
    • (ibidem.)
  • W. Warren Wagar; “Past and Future”; In American Behavioral Scientist; Volume 42; 1998-11/1998-12.
  • Daniel Yergin, Thane Gustafson; Russia 2010, and What It Means for the Rest of the World; Vintage Books; 1995.
  • W. Warren Wagar; Short History of the Future; University of Chicago Press; 1999.
  • “Tomorrow and Tomorrow andTomorrow”; staff; In Technology Review; Volume 96; 1993-04; pages 50-59.
  • David J. Staley; “Japan’s Uncertain Future: Key Trends and Scenarios”; In The Futurist; Volume 26; 2002-03/2002-04; pages 48-53.
  • Michael Stanford; The Nature of Historical Knowledge; Blackwell; 1986.
  • Richard J. Evans; In Defense of History; W. W. Norton; 1999.
  • William H. McNeill; Mythistory and Other Essays; University of Chicago Press,; 1986.
  • Niall Ferguson; VirtualHistory: Alternatives and Counterfactuals; Basic Books,
  • Geoffrey Hawthorn; Plausible Worlds: Possibility and Understanding in History and the Social Sciences; Cambridge University Press; 1991.
  • Hagen Schulze; Germany: A New History; Harvard University Press; 1998.
  • Richard E. Neustadt, Ernest R. May; Thinking in Time: The Uses of History by Decision-Makers; The Free Press; 1986.
  • Marshall Sahlins; Islands of History; University of Chicago Press; 1985.
  • Fernand Braudel; On History; University of Chicago Press; 1980.
  • Douglas Hofstadter; Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern; Basic Books; 1985.
  • David J. Staley; “Realistic and Responsible Imagination: Ordering the Past to Envision the Future of Technology”; In Futures Research Quarterly; Volume 14; 1998-Fall; pages 29-39.

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The Economics of Advertising and Privacy | Catherine Tucker

Catherine Tucker (MIT); The Economics of Advertising and Privacy; In Something (draft preprint submitted to Elsevier), 2011-11-19, 10 pages.


One of the new realities of advertising is that personal information can be used to ensure that advertising is only shown and designed for a select group of consumers who stand to gain most from this information. However, to gather the data used for targeting requires some degree of privacy intrusion by advertisers. This sets up a tradeoff between the informativeness of advertising and the degree of privacy intrusion. This paper summarizes recent empirical research that illuminates this tradeoff.


  1. Introduction
  2. Does consumers’ distaste for ‘intrusiveness’ matter empirically?
  3. How can and do firms respond?
  4. Future Directions
  5. References


  • Harms are asserted
    1. price discrimination [Acquisti, Varian 2005][Fudenburg, Villas-Boas, 2006]
    2. annoyance, especially from retargeting [Turow 2009]
    3. privacy regulation entrenches monopolies [Campbell, Goldfarb, Tucker 2009][Evans 2009]
  • <quote>For example, in the diapers example it is unlikely that there would be a direct effect on the price paid by the mother as a result of the exposure to the ad, since diapers are largely bought offline and manufacturers are not easily able to match a cookie on a computer to a real-life offline customer.</quote>
  • “Results” marshalled as “evidence”
    • theoretical results via reasoning (clausal, syllogistic, etc.)
    • theoretical results via simulation
    • experiments in lab settings
    • interviews, self-attestation
    • something about a large database of actual campaigns <quote>data from a randomized field experiment conducted by a US-based non-profit organization (NPO) to optimize its advertising campaigns on Facebook. <snip/> to raise awareness of its work improving education for women in East Africa</quote>
  • Industry responses
    • more accurate retargeting
    • content targeting contra (personalized) retargeting
    • more obtrusiveness; e.g. self-start video, audio, floaters, roadblocks, interstitials
  • Claims
    • retargeting campaigns are less effective than unpersonalized campaigning (because of reactance, etc.)
    • no tradeoff between personalization and ad effectiveness; softened: not necessarily a tradeoff between … citing EU cookie & privacy laws as paradigm.
    • European cookie & data laws imply 65% reduction in the influence banner ads have on purchase intent relative to non-EU web sites promoting the same [Goldfarb, Tucker, 2011]


  • more research
  • stop retargeting;
    • else stop retargeting but retain the benefits of retargeting
    • else mitigate reactance (by various techniques)
    • else give the appearance of control over personal data
  • regulation, government regulation; data use restriction
  • self-regulation via privacy policy specifications
  • not only online, but QR codes in print, and addressable TV & Radio (e.g. Sirius, TiVo, Generic DVR) are in scope of regulation too


  • Coasian solution of Posner
  • disutility [expressed as ...]
  • information theory
    • asymmetric information
  • reactance
  • signalling [theory]
  • social advertising


  • Coasian solution of Posner => intellectual property law; vest “ownership rights” in data about that owner.
  • Reactance => <quote>‘Reactance’ describes a process where consumers resist something they find coercive by behaving in the opposite way to the one intended, which is in this case not finding the ad appealing </quote> . [White, Zahay, Thorbjornsen, Shavitt 2008][Boehm 1966][Clee, Wicklund 1980][Brehm 1989][Lohr 2010].


  • A. Acquisti, S. Spiekermann (2011, May). Do Interruptions Pay off? Effects of Interruptive Ads on Consumers’ Willingness to Pay. Journal of Interactive Marketing.
  • A. Acquisti, H. R. Varian (Summer 2005). Conditioning prices on purchase history. Marketing Science 24 (3), 367–381.
  • B. Anand, R. Shachar (2009, September). Targeted advertising as a signal. Quantitative Marketing and Economics 7 (3), 237–266.
  • A. R. Beresford, D. Kuebler, S. Preibusch (2010, June). Unwillingness to pay for privacy: A field experiment. IZA Discussion Papers 5017, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • J. W. Brehm (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. Academic Press, New York.
  • J. W. Brehm (1989). Psychological reactance: Theory and applications. Advances in Consumer Research 16, 72–75. eds. Thomas K. Srull, Provo, UT.
  • G. R. Butters (1977). Equilibrium distributions of sales and advertising prices. The Review of Economic Studies 44 (3), 465–491.
  • J. D. Campbell, A. Goldfarb, C. Tucker (2010). Privacy Regulation and Market Structure. SSRN eLibrary.
  • E. Chamberlin  (1933). The Theory of Monopolistic Competition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  • M. A. Clee, R. A. Wicklund (1980). Consumer behavior and psychological reactance. The Journal of Consumer Research 6 (4), pp. 389–405.
  • M. Culnan, P. Armstrong (1999, Jan-Feb). Information privacy concerns, procedural fairness, and interpersonal trust: An empirical investigation. Organization Science 10 (1), 104–115.
  • D. S. Evans (2009). The online advertising industry: Economics, evolution, and privacy. The Journal of Economic Perspectives 23 (3), 37–60.
  • D. Fudenburg, J. M. Villas-Boas (2006). Volume 1: Handbooks in Information Systems, Chapter 7: Behavior Based Price Discrimination and Customer Recognition, pp. 377–435. Emerald Group Publishing.
  • M. Fusilier, W. Hoyer (1980). Variables affecting perceptions of invasion of privacy in a personnel selection situation. Journal of Applied Psychology 65 (5), 623–626.
  • A. Goldfarb, C. Tucker (2011a, May). Online display advertising: Targeting and obtrusiveness.
  • A. Goldfarb, C. Tucker (2011b). Search engine advertising: Channel substitution when pricing ads to context. Management Science 57 (3), 458–470.
  • A. Goldfarb, C. E. Tucker (2011c). Privacy regulation and online advertising. Management Science 57 (1), 57–71.
  • B. Hermalin, M. Katz (2006, September). Privacy, property rights and efficiency: The economics of privacy as secrecy. Quantitative Marketing and Economics 4 (3), 209–239.
  • K. Hui, I. Png (2006). Economics and Information Systems, Handbooks in Information Systems, vol. 1, Chapter 9: The Economics of Privacy. Elsevier.
  • J. Johnson (2009). Targeted advertising and advertising avoidance. Mimeo, Cornell
  • R. E. Kihlstrom, M. H. Riordan (1984, June). Advertising as a signal. Journal of Political Economy 92 (3), 427–50.
  • A. Lambrecht, C. Tucker (2011). When does retargeting work? Timing information specificity. MSI Working Paper 11-105 .
  • S. Lohr (2010, April 30). Privacy concerns limit online ads, study says. New York Times.
  • N. K. Malhotra, S. S. Kim, J. Agarwal (2004). Internet users’ information privacy concerns (IUIPC): The construct, the scale, and a causal model. Information Systems Research 15 (4), 336–355.
  • R. A. Posner (1980). The economics of privacy. Technical report.
  • A. Sherman (2011, October 31). Cable TV tries to catch up with interactive ads. San Francisco Chronicle.
  • S. E. Taylor (1979). Hospital patient behavior: Reactance, helplessness, or control?
    Journal of Social Issues 35 (1), 156–184.
  • C. Tucker (2011a). Social Advertising. Mimeo, MIT .
  • C. Tucker (2011b). Social Networks, Personalized Advertising, and Privacy Controls. Mimeo, MIT .
  • J. Turow, J. King, C. J. Hoofnagle, A. Bleakley, M. Hennessy (2009). Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It. Mimeo, Berkeley.
  • T. White, D. Zahay, H. Thorbjornsen, S. Shavitt (2008, March). Getting too personal: Reactance to highly personalized email solicitations. Marketing Letters 19 (1), 39–50.

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The Perils of Macrohistorical Studies | Matthew Melko

Matthew Melko; The Perils of Macrohistorical Studies; In World History Bulletin, Issue 17; 2001-Fall; pages 27-32 (6 pages)


The Perils

  1. Reification
  2. Complexity
  3. Duration
  4. Forces of History [theory is seductive]
  5. Fame or Notoriety
  6. The Unified Theory
  7. Investment
  8. Ingenuity
  9. Ignorance
  10. Faith

The Alternative

  • rough cycles
  • long-term patterns
  • similarities
  • possibilities rather than actualities


[page 30] <quote>A few years ago, at a regional meeting, when I remarked to a young scholar that my study of general war was beginning to suggest that I couldn’t, with any meaningful accuracy, predict the onset of the next general war, he asked what use I thought there might be in such a study.

I asked if he were on a tenure track.   He was. “I have many years’ experience on Committee A of AAUP,” I said.  “I cannot predict the outcome of your application for tenure.  But I do know a great deal about the processes, adn the kinds of outcomes that do occur.  Might that be of any interest to you?”

He thought it might.</quote>


  1. Faith outlasting reason
  2. Something about framing, priors and reification.
    1. General War is a reification within civilization.
    2. Civilization is a reification
  3. Categorization fluidity; categorical drift; begin/end, naming and ranking (importance).
    1. When does a war begin or end? [absent a document; e.g. declaration of war, mobilization order]
    2. What is a great power; must it always participate or can it “influence.”
  4. More information modifies the hypothesis and the analytic structure
    1. Faulty or omitted information on history
    2. Manuscript construction is difficult; it has an investment
    3. Weaker arguments are buttressed rather than abandoned.
  5. Once published the analytic structure becomes a “text” and is reacted to as such
    1. (pseudo-)science is brought to bear upon it.
    2. Correlations and causations are teased out.
    3. It becomes supported
  6. Forces of History
    1. irresistible, seductive
    2. satisfies a religious the urge in a secular time
    3. fame, fright
    4. simultaneous events theory [world events]
  7. Ignorance
    1. If he had read even the basic literature, he would have known that …
  8. Faith
    1. You can’t read all the information.
    2. You have to have faith that reading some of it can extrapolate the rest.
    3. Faith remains after reason has departed.


See Table I: General Wars in World History; Table II: Outcomes of Successive General Wars

  • Hegemon [winner]
  • Previous Hegemon (PH)
  • Hegemonic Cycle (HC)
  • No Previous Hegemon (NHC)
  • Previous Hegemon Eliminated (PHE)
  • No Initial Hegemon (NIH)
  • System Terminated (ST)
  • Hegemon Initiated [the] Challenge (HIC)


  • Crame Bromtpm
  • E. H. Carr
  • Chase-Dunn
  • Fred Hoyle
  • A. L. Kroeber
  • Thomas Kuhn
  • Jack Levy
  • Matthew Melko
  • Midlarsky
  • Modelski
  • Martin Ryle
  • Thompson
  • Arnold Toynbee
  • Rasler
  • Vasquez
  • Wilkinson


also the endnotes of the work.

Matthew Melko

  • Fifty-Two Peaceful Societies; a book; 1973
  • “General War: No Sneaker Endorsements”; an article; 1996.
  • “Cycles of General War in World History”; In International Interactions; Volume 25; 1999; pages 287-299.
  • General War Among Great Powers in World History; a book; 2001

Via: backfill

Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective | PCAST

Big Data and Privacy: A Technological Perspective; Executive Office of the President, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST); 2014-05-01; 76 pages; landing.



  • White House / UC Berkeley School of Information / Berkeley Center for Law and Technology; John Podesta; 2014-04-01; transcript, video.
  • White House / Data & Society Research Institute / NYU Information Law Institute; John Podesta; 2014-03-17; video.
  • White House / MIT; John Podesta; 2014-03-04; transcript, video.


PCAST Big Data and Privacy Working Group.
  • Susan L. Graham, co-chair.
  • William Press, co-chair.
  • S. James Gates, Jr.,
  • Mark Gorenberg,
  • John Holdren,
  • Eric S. Lander,
  • Craig Mundie,
  • Maxine Savitz,
  • Eric Schmidt.
  • Marjory S. Blumenthal, Executive Director of PCAST; coordination & framing..


  • John P Holdren, co-chair, OSTP
  • Eric S. Lander, co-chair, Broad Institute (Harvard&MIT)
  • William Press, co- vice chair, U. Texas
  • Maxine Savitz, co- vice chair, National Academy of Engineering
  • Rosina Bierbaum, U. Michigan
  • Christine Cassel, National Quality Forum
  • Christopher Chyba, Princeton
  • S. James Gates, Jr., U. Maryland
  • Gorenberg, Zetta Venture Partners
  • Susan L. Graham, UCB
  • Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic
  • Richard C. Levin, Yale
  • Chad Mirkin, Northwestern
  • Mario Molina, UCSD
  • Craig Mundie, Microsoft
  • Ed Penhoet, UCB
  • Barbara Schaal, Washington University
  • Eric Schmidt, Google
  • Daniel Schrag, Harvard


  • Marjory S. Blumenthal
  • Michael Johnson


From the Executive Summary [page xiii], and also from Section 5.2 [page 49]

  • Recommendation 1 [consider uses over collections activites]
    Policy attention should focus more on the actual uses of big data and less on its collection and analysis.
  • Recommendation 2 [no Microsoft lockin; no national champion]
    Policies and regulation, at all levels of government, should not embed particular technological solutions, but rather should be stated in terms of intended outcomes.
  • Recommendation 3 [fund]
    With coordination and encouragement from [The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy] OSTP, the [Networking and Information Technology Research and Development] NITRD agencies should strengthen U.S. research in privacy‐related technologies and in the relevant areas of social science that inform the successful application of those technologies.
  • Recommendation 4 [talk]
    OSTP, together with the appropriate educational institutions and professional societies, should encourage increased education and training opportunities concerning privacy protection, including career paths for professionals.
  • Recommendation 5 [talk & buy]
    The United States should take the lead both in the international arena and at home by adopting policies that stimulate the use of practical privacy‐protecting technologies that exist today. It can exhibit leadership both by its convening power (for instance, by promoting the creation and adoption of standards) and also by its own procurement practices (such as its own use of privacy‐preserving cloud services)

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
    1. Context and outline of this report
    2. Technology has long driven the meaning of privacy
    3. What is different today?
    4. Values, harms, and rights
  3. Examples and Scenarios
    1. Things happening today or very soon
    2. Scenarios of the near future in healthcare and education
    3. Healthcare: personalized medicine,
    4. Healthcare: detection of symptoms by mobile devices
    5. Education
    6. Challenges to the home’s special status
    7. Tradeoffs among privacy, security, and convenience
  4. Collection, Analytics, and Supporting Infrastructure
    1. Electronic sources of personal data
      1. “Born digital” data
      2. Data from sensors
    1. Big data analytics
      1. Data mining
      2. Data fusion and information integration
      3. Image and speech recognition
      4. Social‐network analysis
    2. The infrastructure behind big data
      1. Data centers
      2. The cloud
  5. Technologies and Strategies for Privacy Protection
    1. The relationship between cybersecurity and privacy
    2. Cryptography and encryption
      1. Well Established encryption technology
      2. Encryption frontiers
    3. Notice and consent
      1. Other strategies and techniques
        1. Anonymization or de‐identification
        2. Deletion and non‐retention
    4. Robust technologies going forward
      1. A Successor to Notice and Consent
      2. Context and Use
      3. Enforcement and deterrence
      4. Operationalizing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights
  6. PCAST Perspectives and Conclusions
    1. Technical feasibility of policy interventions
    2. Recommendations
    3. Final Remarks
  7. Appendix A. Additional Experts Providing Input
  8. Special Acknowledgment


  • The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
  • PCAST Big Data and Privacy Working Group
  • Enabling Event
    • President Barack Obama
    • Remarks, 2014-01-17
    • Counselor John Podesta
  • New Concerns
    • Born digital vs born analog
    • standardized components
    • particular limited purpose vs repurposed, reused.
    • data fusion
    • algorithms
    • inferences
  • Provenance of data, recording and tracing the provenance of data
  • Trusted Data Format (TDF)


  • Right to forget, right to be forgotten is unenforceable infeasible [page 48].
  • Prior redress of prospective harms is a reasonable framework [page 49]
    • Conceptualized as vulnerable groups who are stipulated as harmed a priori or are harmed sunt constitua.
  • Government may be forbidden from certain classes of uses, despite their being available in the private

    • Government is allowed some activities and powers
    • Private industry is allowed some activities and powers
    • It is feasible in practice to mix & match
      • government coercion => private privilege => result
      • private privilege => private coercion => result

Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights (CPBR)

Obligations [of service providers, as powerful organizations]

  • Respect for Context => use consistent with collection context.
  • Focused Collection => limited collection.
  • Security => handling techniques
  • Accountability => handling techniques.

Empowerments [of consumers, as individuals]

  • Individual Control => control of collection, control of use.
  • Transparency => of practices [by service providers]
  • Access and Accuracy => right to review & edit [something about proportionality]

Definition of Privacy

The definition is unclear and evolving. It is frequently defined in terms of the harms in curred when it is lost.

Privacy Framework of Via Harms

The Prosser Harms, <quote> page 6.

  1. Intrusion upon seclusion. A person who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise (now including electronically), upon the solitude or seclusion of another person or her private affairs or concerns, can be subject to liability for the invasion of her privacy, but only if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
  2. Public disclosure of private facts. Similarly, a person can be sued for publishing private facts about another person, even if those facts are true. Private facts are those about someone’s personal life that have not previously been made public, that are not of legitimate public concern, and that would be offensive to a reasonable person.
  3. “False light” or publicity. Closely related to defamation, this harm results when false facts are widely published about an individual. In some states, false light includes untrue implications, not just untrue facts as such.
  4. Misappropriation of name or likeness. Individuals have a “right of publicity” to control the use of their name or likeness in commercial settings.



<quote>One perspective informed by new technologies and technology‐mediated communication suggests that privacy is about the “continual management of boundaries between different spheres of action and degrees of disclosure within those spheres,” with privacy and one’s public face being balanced in different ways at different times. See: Leysia Palen, Paul Dourish; Unpacking ‘Privacy’ for a Networked World; In Proceedings of CHI 2003, Association for Computing Machinery, 2003-04-05.</quote>, footnote, page 7.

Adjacency Theory

An oppositional framework wherein harms are “adjacent to” benefits:

  • Invasion of private communications
  • Invasion of privacy ihn a person’s virtual home.
  • Public disclosure of inferred private facts
  • Tracking, stalking and violations of locational privacy.
  • Harm arising from false conclusions about individuals, based on personal profiles from big‐data analytics.
  • Foreclosure of individual autonomy or self‐determination
  • Loss of anonymity and private association.
Mosaic Theory

Oblique referenced via quote from Sotomayor.
<quote>“I would ask whether people reasonably expect that their movements will be recorded and aggregated in a manner that enables the Government to ascertain, more or less at will, their political and religious beliefs, sexual habits, and so on.” United States v. Jones (10‐1259), Sotomayor concurrence.</quote>

Yet, not cited, but related (at least):

Definition of Roles [of data processors]

  • data collectors
  • data analyzers
  • data users

The data generators or producers in this roles framework are substantially only customers or consumers (sic).


  • Definition of analysis versus use
    • <quote>Analysis, per se, does not directly touch the individual (it is neither collection nor, without additional action, use) and may have no external visibility.
    • & by contrast, it is the use of a product of analysis, whether in commerce, by government, by the press, or by individuals, that can cause adverse consequences to individuals.</quote>
  • Big Data => definitions
    • [comprises data with] high‐volume, high‐velocity and high‐variety
      information assets that demand cost‐effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making,” attributed to Gartner Inc.
    • a term describing the storage and analysis of large and/or complex data sets using a series of techniques including, but not limited to, NoSQL, MapReduce, and machine learning.” attributed to “computer scientists” on arXiv.


The strong, direct, unequivocal, un-nuanced, provocative language…

<quote>For a variety of reasons, PCAST judges anonymization, data deletion, and distinguishing data from metadata (defined below) to be in this category. The framework of notice and consent is also becoming unworkable as a useful foundation for policy.</quote>

<quote>Anonymization is increasingly easily defeated by the very techniques that are being developed for many legitimate applications of big data. In general, as the size and diversity of available data grows, the likelihood of being able to re‐identify individuals (that is, re‐associate their records with their names) grows substantially. While anonymization may remain somewhat useful as an added safeguard in some situations, approaches that deem it, by itself, a sufficient safeguard need updating. </quote>

<quote>Notice and consent is the practice of requiring individuals to give positive consent to the personal data collection practices of each individual app, program, or web service. Only in some fantasy world do users actually read these notices and understand their implications before clicking to indicate their consent. <snip/>The conceptual problem with notice and consent is that it fundamentally places the burden of privacy protection on the individual. Notice and consent creates a non‐level playing field in the implicit privacy negotiation between provider and user. The provider offers a complex, take‐it‐or‐leave‐it set of terms, while the user, in practice, can allocate only a few seconds to evaluating the offer. This is a kind of market failure. </quote>

<quote>Also rapidly changing are the distinctions between government and the private sector as potential threats to individual privacy. Government is not just a “giant corporation.” It has a monopoly in the use of force; it has no direct competitors who seek market advantage over it and may thus motivate it to correct missteps. Governments have checks and balances, which can contribute to self‐imposed limits on what they may do with people’s information. Companies decide how they will use such information in the context of such factors as competitive advantages and risks, government regulation, and perceived threats and consequences of lawsuits. It is thus appropriate that there are different sets of constraints on the public and private sectors. But government has a set of authorities – particularly in the areas of law enforcement and national security – that place it in a uniquely powerful position, and therefore the restraints placed on its collection and use of data deserve special attention. Indeed, the need for such attention is heightened because of the increasingly blurry line between public and private data. While these differences are real, big data is to some extent a leveler of the differences between government and companies. Both governments and companies have potential access to the same sources of data and the same analytic tools. Current rules may allow government to purchase or otherwise obtain data from the private sector that, in some cases, it could not legally collect itself, or to outsource to the private sector analyses it could not itself legally perform. [emphasis here] The possibility of government exercising, without proper safeguards, its own monopoly powers and also having unfettered access to the private information marketplace is unsettling.</quote>


Substantially in order of appearance in the footnotes, without repeats.

Via: backfill, backfill


And yet even with all the letters and professional editing and techwriting staff available to this national- and historical-level enterprise we still see [Footnote 101, page 31]

Qi, H. and A. Gani, “Research on mobile cloud computing: Review, trend and perspectives,” Digital Information and Communication Technology and it’s Applications (DICTAP), 2012 Second International Conference on, 2012.

The correct listing is at Springer

Digital Information and Communication Technology and Its Applications;International Conference, DICTAP 2011, Dijon, France, June 21-23, 2011. Proceedings, Part I, Series: Communications in Computer and Information Science, Vol. 166 Cherifi, Hocine, Zain, Jasni Mohamad, El-Qawasmeh, Eyas (Eds.) 2011, XIV, 806 p.


  • it’s → is a contraction for it is
  • its → is a possessive

Ergo: s/it's/its/g;

GNOME v3.8, Configuring to [not] set folders before files

Problem Statement

  • Fedora 19
  • GNOME v3.8
  • The directories appear before the files in the list mode.
  • Make that stop => [make files and directories be treated equally


  • Find the Files Menu of nautilus
  • Recall that the Files Menu now appears outside of the nautilus window
    [on an 8K4K display, you might forget that it exists]
  • Check [uncheck] the option.

But …

  • For nautilus windows browsing truly remote file systems [e.g. via made available by sftp] the ordering cannot be changed at all.  [wow! that's weird, and frustrating] You will have your directories-before-files and you will like it.  Move along.




<snark>Since GNOME 3.0, the GNOME UX/UI crew have been radically altering the desktop behaviors; and not always for the better.  It’s not clear what overarching theory they are following other than: remove as much functionality as possible.  It’s impossible to predict where features are moving or why they are being removed or truncated.  This is supremely disorienting.  It’s even unclear where to read to receive warnings about these changes or participate or even listen to the debate as it occurs.  One’s best bet is to “read the net” and try to find someone who has had the same Q&A, and then try to read their prose to understand how they rediscovered the setting or mitigated the problem. And hence this tutorial series, with the pictures and arrows..</snark>

Concurrence on the Difficulty of Marketing the Chevrolet Volt

<quote ref=”here“>

What about TV ads? I don’t see Volt TV ads these days.
Norwicki: Generally speaking, the category isn’t advertised on TV. You go where the target customer for your vehicle is. And oftentimes people that are drawn to specific categories of cars, alternative-fuel vehicles in particular — those people do not view TV. They are online. They’re in social media. But they are not typical TV watchers. So just because you don’t see us on TV doesn’t mean we’re not advertising online and in social media.
If you advertise on TV, you’ll increase awareness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll increase consideration. So, by targeting we can more efficiently use our marketing funds.


GM’s statements totally align with my buying experience; I indicated such on the post-buy survey forms, and I’m sure many like me did as well.  TV didn’t help, wouldn’t have helped, couldn’t have helped.  The only appointment TV that I watch at this point is MLB and NFL, and typically that is 20 min or more out of phase to skip the commercials.  They [GM] advertise trucks on NFL.  I get that.  I already own a truck.  I’m not in market for a truck [yet]. My kids watch OTT-delivered video; e.g. Netflix or trawled shows in syndication on the TiVo.

What did help in the buy cycle?  Q&A from friends & colleagues in my trade.  These are tech-types who had already gone down the path, walked the walk & gone face-to-face with the “New GM” dealer network. I asked them about their experience: driving across the S.F. Bay, did they have to charge at work, did they charge at home, was it just “trading gas for electrons” or was there something more, etc.?  How did it run when out of juice?  As well, I learned that they had mitigated their ownership risk with a lease. Yet I wanted to buy for various reasons. The factory web outreach info was vastly helpful; the forums less so because of the UX, the unstructured conversations, attitude & chaos of the venues. Of course, the vehicle configurations one could construct in Build-A-Volt were not available at any dealer, but that bait-and-switch is true of any vehicle.  Build-a-Volt was great though because it familiarized me with the vehicle. Seeing the vehicle is important.

My real  persistent Single Nagging Question was: will the power plant “work” across time & distance at the same level of reliability that the Avalanche’s does: for 98% driving around town and freeway <= 40 miles to & from work. But-And-Also, I didn’t want to have to rent a “real” car to go to LA or on vacation, or to take my son to football league games in the north bay [Vallejo, Sacramento]; or worse have to rent a “real” car to go out to dinner with customers after work because my e-car didn’t have enough range.  Reliability over time is, of course, unknowable, but reputation precedes. Yet, the Volt chief engineer Andrew Farah’s testimonial that he drove Pike’s Peak in the car went a very long way towards my imagining that the car wasn’t another toy.  Oddly, so was Bob Lutz’s one-liner, something about Chicago and picking up a family member at O’Hare [cite].  But can I drive it to SF-LA — how will it handle Grapevine uphill after a 6 hr straight shot from Silicon Valley is my version of that.  I haven’t attempted that yet, but it does seem within the realm of convenient feasibility. Marketing is difficult, especially of “new” or “experimental” products; even with headwinds that drive prospective customers away

One way to address the marketing issue is to approach it on a cost basis, with incentives. The state & federal subsidy money was fun, but not a top-tier motivator. Deliberate minds know that recovering abstract incentives like those post-transaction are 1+ year out with substantial execution risk to capture it at tax time or filling out after market subsidy application forms, which might or might not fail on arcane bureaucratic grounds. I bought an L2, and had it installed by a contractor.  You need an L2 at home that you own and you control.  It’s a cost. Also, I’ve bought enough cars to know that what what you pay to drive off the lot is 150% the sticker price on the lot.  That’s how the system works.  As a consumer, you modulate this dealer markup by purchasing fewer vehicles and keeping them for longer.

I have to say that the surrounding culture of electric cars is not actually an attraction or strength in selling the concept.  Not for me.  I wouldn’t buy a car to get into hissy fits at my work with other employees about who is parked where or whether my car needs to be moved because there are too few electrical outlets.  All that does is broadcast to me that the owner has poor planning & buying skills to allow themselves to become dependent upon the kindness of strangers like that.  I bought a Volt so I could have freedom; the same freedom I have had with every other car & truck I’ve owned.  I can come and go when I please.  I get to park in the back of the lot and nobody tells me to move my car.  I would not buy a car to broadcast sanctimony or to whine at others about their lifestyles or choices.  So the “ICED OUT” entitlement, on-high national policy commentariat or intellectual pseudoviolence at abusers of parking norms & signage by electric car owners speaks to me as juvenile & extreme, continuing to define the electric car genre as fully-fanatical and still pre-early adopter; filled with wild-eyed crunchy types. The red-state/blue-state color of the discourse as well.  Why would I want to be a part of that?  Bizzarrely, from a marketing perspective, there is a still a continued self-loathing hypothetical line of grousing about the componentry on the Volt itself (fascias, mirrors, dashboards, etc.), which is often framed “in contrast with other $50K cars.”  Fair, but not fun.  It’s still an experimental vehicle choice; definitely not yet mainstream.  Marketing it sees it as on the cusp of cool in some areas, but definitely not yet “Crossing the Chasm” except here in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, even if Volts, Teslas and Leafs are de rigeur here.

I am mid-funnel in market in late-2014 through 2016 for:

  • a Suburban or Avalanche scale vehicle with a Voltec-type power train.
  • a Cadillac ELR, or ELR-V (whatever that is … I’m imagining it’s the “midlife crisis” variant for folks just like me).

Original Sources

in archaeological order, cut & paste derivatives on top, original works lower down.

The Wealthy-Hand-to-Mouth | Kaplan, Violante, Weidner

Greg Kaplan, Giovanni Violante, Justin Weidner; The Wealthy-Hand-to-Mouth; Brookings Papers on Economic Activity; Spring 2014 Conference; Brookings Institute; 2014-03-20; 65 pages; landing.


The wealthy hand-to-mouth are households who hold little or no liquid wealth (cash, checking, and savings accounts), despite owning sizable amounts of illiquid assets (assets that carry a transaction cost, such as housing or retirement accounts). This portfolio configuration implies that these households have a high marginal propensity to consume out of transitory income changes–a key determinant of the macroeconomic effects of fiscal policy.

The wealthy hand- to-mouth, therefore, behave in many respects like households with little or no net worth, yet they escape standard definitions and empirical measurements based on the distribution of net worth. We use survey data on household portfolios for the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, and Spain to document the share of such households across countries, their demographic characteristics, the composition of their balance sheets, and the persistence of hand-to-mouth status over the life cycle. Using PSID data, we estimate that the wealthy hand-to-mouth have a strong consumption response to transitory income shocks. Finally, we discuss the implications of this group of consumers for macroeconomic modeling and policy analysis.


Definition: households who hold little or no liquid wealth (cash, checking, and savings accounts), despite owning sizable amounts of illiquid assets (assets that carry a transaction cost, such as housing or retirement accounts). [from the abstract]

  • Hand-to-Mouth (W-HtM)
  • Wealthy Hand-to-Mouth (W-HtM)
  • Non Hand-to-Mouth (N-HtM)
  • Poor Hand-to-Mouth (P-HtM)

Thesis: these households have a high marginal propensity to consume out of transitory income changes–a key determinant of the macroeconomic effects of fiscal policy. [from the abstract]


  • W-HtM are  a distinct class
    • Centered around middle age.
    • The behavioral experience is transitory.
    • They cure to N-HtM.
  • Towards Stimulus Policy Generation

    • First we showed that the drop in the consumption response to a fiscal stimulus payment as the size of the payment increases, is much steeper in the model that allows for W-HtM behavior than in the models that do not.
    • Second, we showed that the model that allows for W-HtM behavior implies that to maximize the aggregate consumption response to fiscal stimulus payments, the payments should feature more moderate phasing out with household income.</quote>


  • Life-Cycle Permanent Income Hypothesis (LC-PIH)
    • standard model
    • buffer-stock model
  • the elasticity of inter-temporal substitution; is not zero
    • implies a break-down of the forward looking Euler equation holding with equality.
  • hand-to-mouth consumers (HtM)
  • marginal propensity to consume (MPC)
  • Other Frameworks (that miss)
    • toy studies; frameworks either feature only one asset or feature two assets with different risk profiles, but with the same degree of liquidity
    • Bewley models with uninsurable idiosyncratic risk and credit constraints
    • spender-saver models; patient-vs-impatient consumers; complete markets
  • Other Studies (of the same)
    • <quote>Lusardi, Schneider and Tufano (2012), who document that nearly one half of U.S. households would probably be unable to come up with $2,000 in 30 days.</quote> page 32.
  • Two-Asset Models
    • Classes
      • poor hand-to-mouth (P-HtM)
      • wealthy hand-to-mouth (W-HtM)
      • not hand-to-mouth (N-HtM)
    • Claim:
      • W-HtM are a distinct third class because…
      • W-HtM spend like P-HtM
      • W-HtM have demographics like N-HtM in {all,some,enough} other respects.
  • The Model
    • The two-asset portfolio
    • A two-period timeframe
    • Certain parameter configurations, a portfolio composition with positive amounts of illiquid wealth and zero liquid wealth is optimal.
    • W-HtM in that configuration are better off bearing the welfare loss from
      income fluctuations rather than smoothing consumption.
    • Assumption: there exists a long-term high-return high-illiquid (high transaction cost) asset class.
  • Robustness Questions
    (in majoritarian-significant enough numbers for us to care)

    • Do any of these people even exist?
    • Do they exist over significant periods of time?
      Is it a transient or persistent state (a lifestyle).
  • Data Sources
    • US → Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), since 1983, stable since 1989.
      The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in co-operation with the Statistics of Income Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
    • Canada → SFS
    • Australia → HILDA
    • UK → WAS
    • Euro → HFCS
  • Measurement
    • liquid wealth → short-term cash – short-term debt
      • the imputation procedure
      • Survey of Consumer Payment Choice (SCPC)
      • ratio = Average Cash Holdings via SPC 2010 / Median Value of Cash Accounts SCF 2010
      • Huh? <quote>Average cash holdings, excluding large-value holdings in 2010 was $138. Median checking, saving, money market and call accounts in the 2010 SCF is $2500, making the ratio about 5.5%. </quote> footnote, page 24.  How is this relevant to W-HtM?
      • The “median” of all other liquid wealth is infinitesimal-to-zero.
    • illiquid wealth → a house.

Findings Claimed

  1. HtM → 25-40% of households [US]
    • P-HtM → 33% of that → 8-12% of all housefholds
    • W-HtM → 66% of that → 13-25% of all households
  2. HtM → is age correlated
    • P-HtM are under 40 “young”
    • W-HtM peak at 40 “hump shaped at 40″
      • Figure 5, page 34
      • age span 20-80
  3. W-HtM → Something about “sizable amounts of wealth” → $50,000 in illiquid assets at age 40
    • Claim unclear.
    • This is an uncontextualized, unnormalized [US] number
    • Contextualized page 34; high income is $70,000/year for N-HtM.
    • Contrast with
      • electronic gear (nationally normed)
      • travel [plane] flights,
      • labor service rates [e.g. doctor, dentist, accountant, auto mechanic, gardner, etc.]
      • car prices (nationally normed),
      • house prices (locally normed).
  4. W-HtM are like N-HtM in other attributes
  5. Transience → yes
    • See Table 4, page 37; the numbers don’t add to 100%
    • N-HtM is an absorbing state;
    • P-HtM is semi-persistent
      • 2-year timeframes
      • P-HtM → P-HtM is 52%
      • P-HtM → N-HtM is 37%
      • P-HtM → W-HtM is 11% (apparently; 100%-52%-37%)
    • W-HtM is transient
      • lasting 2-5 years; median 29 months
      • W-HtM → W-HtM is 17%
      • W-HtM → N-HtM is 83% (apparently; 100%-17%)
  6. 50% of HtM consumers are “missed” by “Net worth” estimation
    How is this allocated?

    • all within W-HtM
    • evenly between P-HtM and W-HtM


Via: backfill

Toward a General Theory of Strategic Action Fields | Fligstein, McAdams

Neil Fligstein, Doug McAdams; Toward a General Theory of Strategic Action Fields; In Sociological Theory; Volume 29, Number 1; 2011-03; 26 pages.


In recent years there has been an outpouring of work at the intersection of social movement studies and organizational theory. While we are generally in sympathy with this work, we think it implies a far more radical rethinking of structure and agency in modern society than has been realized to date. In this article, we offer a brief sketch of a general theory of strategic action fields (SAFs). We begin with a discussion of the main elements of the theory, describe the broader environment in which any SAF is embedded, consider the dynamics of stability and change in SAFs, and end with a respectful critique of other contemporary perspectives on social structure and agency.


Neil Fligstein, Doug McAdam; A Theory of Fields; Oxford University Press; 2012-04-16; 253 pages; kindle: $13, paper: $19+SHT.


(quoting where possible)

Components of the Theory

  1. strategic action fields
  2. incumbents, challengers, and governance units
  3. social skill
  4. the broader field environment
  5. exogenous shocks, field ruptures, and the onset of contention
  6. episodes of contention
  7. settlement


Proposition 1. Unorganized social spaces become organized through a crescive social process akin to a social movement.

Proposition 2. Skilled social actors are pivotal for new fields to emerge. They must find a way to translate existing rules and resources into the production of local orders by convincing their supporters to cooperate and finding means of accommodation with other groups.

Proposition 3. Skilled social actors can help produce entirely new cultural frames for fields. They do so by building compromise identities that bring many groups along. In this process, every group’s identities and interests can be transformed.

Proposition 4. Initial resource allocations affect whether or not SAFs become organized hierarchically or cooperatively. The greater the inequality of initial resource distribution, the more likely the field will be hierarchical. Conversely, the existence of a set of groups of roughly equal size or resource endowment will encourage coalition building.

Proposition 5. SAFs are stable when they have role structures that are based on either hierarchical incumbent/challenger structures or political coalitions. Unorganized social space, on the contrary, is characterized by the frequent entry and exit of organizations, no stable social relationships, and no agreement on means and ends. This kind of drift or conflict can go on for long periods of time.

Proposition 6. New SAFs are likely to emerge nearby [to] existing SAFs. They are likely to be populated by existing groups who “migrate” or by offshoots of existing groups.

Proposition 7. States aid in the creation of new social space as intended and unintended consequences of state actions. States will also be the focus of attention from emerging SAFs.

Proposition 8. Emergent fields produce new forms of organizing. These frames can be borrowed from actors in nearby social space.

Proposition 9. Stable SAFs are characterized by a well-known role structure of incumbents and challengers or a set of political coalitions. The rules of the game will be known. Response to instability will be met by attempts to reinforce the status quo. Challengers will be particularly vulnerable to downturn. Challengers risk their survival under stable or crisis circumstances by undertaking actions vis-á-vis incumbents.

Proposition 10. Skilled actors of dominant and challenger groups will engage in moves that they hope will preserve or improve their position in the existing SAF. These constant adjustments constitute a form of organizational learning. Tactics for challengers include building niches and taking advantage of crises of other challengers. Tactics for incumbents include imitation, cooptation, or merger.

Proposition 11. SAFs are generally destabilized by external shock originating from other SAFs, invasion by other groups of organizations, actions of the state, or large-scale crises such as wars or depressions.

Proposition 12. The more connected an SAF is to other SAFs, the more stable that SAF is likely to be. Similarly, new SAFs or those with a few connections will be unstable.

Proposition 13. The more dependent an SAF is on others for resources, or the lower it is in the hierarchy of SAFs, the less stable it is.

Proposition 14. States will be the focus of action in crises. This explains why modern societies appear to be crisis ridden. General societal crises are rare, but when they occur, they have the potential to rewrite the rules across much of society.

Proposition 15. Incumbent socially skilled actors will defend the status quo. It follows that if a new frame emerges, it will come from an invader or challenger groups. They will attempt to create new rules and a new order and therefore either will build a new political coalition based on interest or create a new cultural frame that reorganizes interests and identities.

Proposition 16. An SAF crisis can result in the following:

  1. A reimposition of the old order with some adjustments. This will occur most frequently with the state enforcing whatever new agreements have been reached, most often at the expense of challenger groups.
  2. The SAF breaks down into unorganized social space. If the groups that make up the social space are unable to find a new conception of control and the state is unwilling or unable to impose a new order, then the field can become disorganized. This kind of condition is likely by definition to be unstable for the groups that remain and one can expect that they will migrate to other social spaces or else disappear.
  3. The SAF is partitioned into several social spaces. One solution is to break the field down by redefining the activities of the groups in the field so that they are no longer trying to occupy the same social space. Thus, new agreements are possible amongst potentially smaller set of groups.
  4. The challengers can build a coalition to produce a new SAF. Challengers and incumbents can migrate to already existing social space or they can try and colonize new social space. Depending on the circumstances, it might make sense for groups to join already existing social space. They might do so as invaders, challengers, or incumbents. This may prove problematic (i.e., no one wants them there). Under these conditions, occupying unorganized social space may prove the most appropriate way for groups to survive.


strategic action field
  • is a meso-level social order where actors (who can be individual or collective) interact with knowledge of one another under a set of common understandings about the purposes of the field, the relationships in the field (including who has power and why), and the field’s rules.
  • [Our view] attempts to combine the social constructionist aspects of institutional
    theory with a focus on how, at their core, field processes are about who gets what.
  • [] fields are constructed on a situational basis,
    as shifting collections of actors come to define new issues and concerns as salient.
  • Aspects
    1.  there is a diffuse understanding of what is going on in the field,
    2. there is a set of actors in the field who can be generally viewed as possess-
      ing more or less powe; incumbents vs challengers
    3. there is a set of shared understandings about the “rules” in the field,
    4. there is the interpretive frame that individual and collective strategic actors
      bring to make sense of what others are doing.
  • Perspectives
    • Incumbent vs Challenger
    • Established vs Oppositional
  • Distinctions
    • fields as only rarely organized around a truly consensual “taken for granted” reality.
    • Accent on constant contention in contrast to “traditional” institutional theory (settled fields) where settled times is common, change is rare.
    • Constant contention; with different initial conditions will settle to different states.
incumbents, challengers, and governance units
  • Incumbents vs Challengers
    • obvious definitions; winners write history
    • Most of the time challengers can be expected to conform to the prevailing order.
    • Potentially extended to coalitions; dominant vs disorganized
  • Governance Units
    • Internal to the jurisdiction.
    • External governance is a separate concept.
    • Designed to reinforce the position of the Incumbents; etc.
social skill
  • <quote>Much of sociology contends it is interested in society’s challengers, the downtrodden and the dispossessed.</quote> [So then ... it is stipulated: sociology is institutionalized activism]
  • Viewpoints
    • Standard Sociology => cultural & structural factors dominate causes towards outcomes
    • [theirs] => individuals and groups have varying skill to cause outcomes; there’s a “there” there.
  • Definitions
    • strategic action [is defined as] the attempt by social actors to create and maintain stable social worlds by securing the cooperation of others; to control.
    • social skill can be defined as how individuals or collective actors possess a highly developed cognitive capacity for reading people and environments,
      framing lines of action, and mobilizing people in the service of these action “frames.”
  • Social skill is always required & applied; institutions and consensus may automate the process so that less substantial skill is required to operate [to preserve the current détente]
the broader field environment
  • Three sets
    • distant vs proximate fields
    • vertical vs horizontal fields
    • state vs non-state fields
  • Whither The State?
    • The definition of “a state” is loose; both monolithic and diffuse.
    • Carry jurisdictional authority.
    • Can legitimize (delegitimize) non-state fields.
exogenous shocks, field ruptures, and the onset of contention
  • the interdependence of fields is a source of a certain level of rolling turbulence in modern society.
  • contention as a highly contingent outcome of an ongoing process of interaction involving at least one incumbent and one challenger
  • Three Mechanisms
    1. The collective construction/attribution of threat or opportunity.
    2. Organizational appropriation.
    3. Innovative action.
episodes of contention
  • An episode is defined as a period of emergent, sustained contentious interaction between . . . . [field] actors utilizing new and innovative forms of action vis-a-vis one another.
  • Indica & Diagnostics
    • Within an episode
      1. a shared sense of uncertainty/crisis regarding the rules and power relations governing the field,
      2. sustained mobilization by incumbents and challengers.
    • Continuance else ending of an episode
      • [continues so long as the] shared sense of uncertainty regarding the structure and dominant logic of the field persists.
      • A field is no longer in crisis when a generalized sense of order and certainty return.
      • Continuance can be self-powering; till the revolution consumes itself.
    • Actions
      • Framing, reframing
      • Imposition of settlements
      • Assertion of oppositional logics
  • State actors => state solutions, institutional settlement
  • Non-state actors => spillover, spin-off, legitimate forms from proximate fields


  • Scales
    • Macro => big
    • Meso => medium
    • Micro => tiny
  • Disclaimer of the paper, page 2.
    • <quote>Space constraints preclude a full rendering of our theory here.</quote>
    • <quote>We are presently working on a book manuscript that will allow us to explicate the theory in much greater detail.</quote>


  • branded theories; institutional theories
    • Sectors
    • Organizational Fields
    • Games
    • Fields
    • Networks
    • Policy Domains
    • Markets
    • Social Movement Industries
      • Social Movement Organizations
      • activists
  • viewpoints, perspectives, foc{ii,uses}
    • social poiwer
    • constructionist
  • more branded theory
    • institutional logic
    • organizational logic (generally)
  • branded concepts
    • Bordieu’s habitus is repository of feelings and motives as well as a repertoire of actions and strategies [and other things].
    • Giddens’s view that the function of routines of everyday life is to alleviate ontological anxiety