New Academic CV and Publications Track Record

I have a new Academic CV and Publications track record (PDF).

 

The document integrates for the first time my academic research; PhD and Masters studies; Disinformation website work (mainly from my first editorial and writing tenure in 1998-2003); journalism; and subculture research. There are some known gaps in the publications history – notably the Black Box magazine project in 2002, two small REVelation excerpts in 1996-97, and many more Rabelais student journalism articles / reviews from 1994. It’s as near complete a list that I’m likely to get – unless I do further archival work. Many of the Disinformation articles in 1998-2003 are available at Archive.org. Much of the academic research is available from this website or in the specific academic journals.

 

A personal reflection:

 

I spent much of my first decade of public writing as a freelance journalist, subcultural researcher, website editor / writer during the end of the dotcom speculative bubble, and then in the Swinburne University Masters program in strategic foresight. This period covered several phases: (1) a 1994-95 period of primarily New Journalism experimentation; (2) a 1996-97 period of immersive subculture research and magazine articles which largely ended in March 1998; (3) a 19998-2003 period of my first Disinformation editorial tenure; and (4) my 2002-04 Masters studies which were largely a reflection cycle on the prior periods and the lessons I had learned. This period transitioned when I joined the Smart Internet Technology CRC research consortium in December 2003.

 

I spent my second decade as a researcher; pivoted into research management; did Masters and early PhD work on counterterrorism and political science; and then collaborated with others on academic research. This period covered several phases: (1) a 2003-2007 period of Smart Internet Technology CRC research in which I also pivoted out of doing magazine research due to employment contract restrictions; (2) a 2007-09 pivot period of moving into research management and transitioning my academic research career into political science; (3) a 2010-14 period of collaborative research articles; and (4) a 2009-present period of focus on PhD research about pattern languages and strategic culture, and applied research on hedge funds / terrorist organisations as strategic subcultures.

 

Collectively, I put in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over the 20-year period in journalism and research. The 1994-95 period of New Journalism was skills acquisition and experimentation. The 1996-97 period of subculture research benefited from close work with several talented magazine editors, and led to new insights during the 2003-07 period at the Smart Internet Technology CRC. This was a period in which I enjoyed a brief publicly visible profile as an editor and writer. The 1998-2003 period at Disinformation led to a renewed focus in 2009 on event arbitrage and understanding hedge fund strategies. I experienced personal crises in 1997 and in 2006-07 over financial and ‘decision to publish’ issues that led to life-changing pivots. The 2002-04 and 2007-09 periods were active reflection cycles on these pivots. In Spiral Dynamics terms, the 20-year timeframe of writing involved several sequences of skills cultivation (Alpha new state), rapid growth (Delta surge), life crisis (Gamma Trap problems), and pivot to new opportunities (alternation of Beta questioning and new Delta surge).

 

This 20-year writing arc has led to a current personal synthesis: (1) PhD and recent academic publications as a new phase of skills building; (2) applied research as a strategy to address the life circumstances of the 1997 and 2006-07 crises; and (3) this blog as a way to capture and communicate some of these ideas to a public audience. My writing is more focused and often more private. I publish more slowly in academic journals than in past internet and magazine work. I work with a smaller group of collaborators. I have a more sustainable daily routine.

 

I’m grateful for the past experiences. I’m looking forward to sharing new writings in the future with you.

3rd November 2012: Good Reads

I have started a Good Reads book list here. The list is revealing in a cumulative sense about what I have read at different times of my life — and it will be updated in the coming weeks. Starting the list also prompted me to clean out my bookshelves. Major insight: I bought a lot of books during research for the dotcom (1995-2000) and post-September 11 (2001-2011) speculative bubbles. I also bought a lot of books whilst: (a) trying to decide on a PhD topic; (b) browsing Melbourne’s (dwindling) secondhand bookstores from the early 1990s to about 2009; and (c) working on various postgraduate degrees and research projects. I expect to do a similar cull once the PhD is done. Casualties: dotcom era media theory (a former life); September 11 anthologies; partisan books on United States counterterrorism; ’emerging threat’ books that I am never going to read; and pop techno-futures. The half-lives of many of these memes is short. I also seem to have read a lot more business strategy books whilst in Swinburne University’s Strategic Foresight program and whilst at the Smart Internet Technology CRC than I remembered. I’ll be donating other parts of my personal library, such as Masters books on North Korea and genocide, to Melbourne-based university libraries.

19th September 2012: On CRC PhDs

The Australian‘s Jill Rowbotham on Australia’s Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) and PhD programs:

 

The $165 million annual program is also the 12th largest provider nationally of research students, including those undertaking research masters degrees, according to Nigel Palmer from the University of Melbourne who authored the study, The CRC Contribution to Research Training.

 

Rowbotham’s reportage omits a crucial detail: Who controls the PhD’s resulting intellectual property?

 

In 2006, a former colleague and I were offered PhD scholarships at the Smart Internet Technology CRC (SITCRC) to research internet futures and would be based at Swinburne University. The offer was an Australian Postgraduate Award equivalent amount plus CRC top-up funding of $10-15,000. The contract’s catch-all clause was that the CRC would gain the PhD’s intellectual property and would control the ‘decision rights’ for its public dissemination and commercial use. The former colleague and I both rejected the deal and retained our existing roles. We privately felt this was a way for the SITCRC to pad its research outputs with minimal investment in research programs. I later saw a PhD candidate criticise the SITCRC for this policy in an internet media interview. The SITCRC projected over its existence that it would have 100 PhD students; in reality it had about 30. I worked on the successful bid for the Smart Services CRC and its initial organisational plans had similar goals to recruit and fund PhD students. (In 2011, I began a part-time PhD in political science at Monash University and you can read my initial proposal here.)

 

Palmer and Rowbotham appear to take the CRC’s industry collaboration viewpoint at face value. Yes, this has benefits: PhD researchers often learn project management skills and gain knowledge of specific industries. There are many different types of CRCs, and variances in organisational cultures and research management practices (which an aggregate level analysis can miss). However, there are also often strict, commercial non-disclosure agreements on research and publication that affect the collegiality of CRC PhD programs. These non-disclosure agreements can isolate PhD researchers: if you don’t sign then you don’t get the PhD stipend or CRC research position. I have talked with several current PhD students at other CRCs who are frustrated by these agreement clauses. The CRC focus on industry reports is also at odds with the Excellence for Research in Australia’s emphasis on publication in high-impact, peer reviewed academic journals (an issue raised in ERA 2010 reviews by former researchers at another CRC). If the CRC embargoes research or modifies it then the delays and changes can detrimentally affect a researcher’s publication track record and thus their competitiveness and future career path. Finally, the former senior quality officer in me wonders: “leads world in collaboration” compared with whom? Stanford’s innovation programs and Silicon Valley? Stanford and Sandhill Road‘s venture capital firms?

 

CRCs are complex, collaborative vehicles for industry research. There are lots of potential improvement opportunities.

 

For some background on this, read my 2008 submissions to the Review of the National Innovation System (PDF) and the Review of the CRCs Program (PDF).

28th February 2012: Wikileaks & Stratfor’s Emails

Stratfor in December 2011

 

Yesterday the activist site Wikileaks prepared to publish 5 million emails from the Austin-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. Anonymous hacked Stratfor on 24th December 2011 and gained access to client passwords, databases, and internal emails. Wikileaks claims the emails: “reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.”

 

The leak prompted some hilarious and insightful responses from political pundits. “That @Wikileaks thinks publishing @Stratfor emails matters is a big compliment for Stratfor, biggest sign yet that Wikileaks is clueless,” tweeted Dan Drezner, and then he wrote a Stratfor/Wikileaks critique. “Statfor is on the mild end of the scary shadow CIA/stodgy think tank spectrum,” observed Dan Murphy for The Christian Science Monitor. “A friend who works in intelligence once joked that Stratfor is just The Economist a week later and several hundred times more expensive,” noted The Atlantic‘s Max Fisher.

 

I briefly subscribed to Stratfor so am probably on the leaked email/credit card list. I found many of Stratfor’s weekly reports to inflate threats. I got Friedman’s first book America’s Secret War during the book buy-up for my PhD but found it to be sensationalistic. Several Stratfor analysts contacted me whilst I edited the alternative news site Disinformation and claimed to be ex-psychological operations people.

 

I seriously considered developing a private intelligence capability on two occasions.

 

The first time was at Disinformation in 2000, I pitched a subscriber service to publisher Gary Baddeley that would do for the nascent conspiracy industry what Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood does for the United States entertainment industry. I also had in mind the subscriber services that do 5-8 page summaries of business books. Baddeley wasn’t interested and the nascent conspiracy industry evaporated after the September 11 attacks.

 

During my postgraduate studies I studied under David Wright-Neville, Andrew Newman and Philip Gregory, and wrote essays on Ulrich Beck‘s world risk society (PDF); Rupert Murdoch’s use of game theory (PDF); considered the developments circa 2002 for news publishers (PDF); explored the collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management (PDF); outlined the post-September 11 changes to intelligence services (PDF); and evaluated DARPA’s Terrorism Information Awareness system (PDF).

 

The second time was at the Smart Internet Technology CRC (SITCRC): I scoped out a project for Canberra firm The Distillery and looked at the major international and Australian firms that provided market intelligence on information technology trends. I proposed a market intelligence capability for the Smart Services CRC successful bid that would use strategic foresight and strategic intelligence methods. However, this remained scoped out work only for the unfinished Disruptive Internet project, although I did trial the methods in a public blog for a month. I left the CRC in March 2007 due to infra-team conflict.

 

During preparation for my PhD studies I considered several topics. One was on design patterns and counter-terrorism. A second idea was ‘The Markets for Political Risk: An Analytic View’ modelled on the research of Deborah Avant (The Market For Force) and Andrew Lo (Hedge Funds: An Analytic Perspective). I outlined the historical precursors to Stratfor (RAND, Royal Dutch/Shell, and Kissinger & Associates); found six market segments; considered risk arbitrage, securitisation and trading applications; and began to develop contagion/rumour models. I noted that Friedman “may cultivate ’boutique mystique’ as reputational capital.” In 2009, I began reading the hedge fund and trading literature, and decided it was easier to develop a personal capability for market arbitrage and trading (reflected on during an October 2011 visit to Tokyo’s Stock Exchange). In March 2011, I began a part-time PhD on the strategic culture debate and counter-terrorism studies (2011 initial proposal PDF).

 

Stratfor’s chief executive officer George Friedman is scheduled to speak at SXSW Interactive 2012 in Austin. I’ll definitely be attending.