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Cross-Disciplinary Theory in Construction of a World-Historical Archive


DOI: 10.5195/jwhi.2013.3

Manning, Patrick, and Sanjana Ravi. “Cross-Disciplinary Theory in Construction of a World-Historical Archive.” Journal of World-Historical Information 1.1 (2013): n. pag. Web.

p.3: Following the relatively specific analyses of the eighteenth century, Marx and Comte, each in his own way, proposed a grand mid-nineteenth-century synthesis of the social sciences. Later in the century the main developments in economics, sociology, and even politics focused on micro levels. As the twentieth century unfolded, larger-scale work emerged in sociology (Weber) and economics (Leontief and Keynes). Postwar work brought important theoretical and methodological advances on multiple scales, most notably with the development of systems analysis. One of the biggest practical advances was the extension of national income accounting to most countries: the United Nations and later the World Bank created and diffused comparative national statistics. Most social-science advances, however, took the form of developing additional silos within which new specializations grew. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.4: Yet to clarify our understanding of historical human society we must proceed by distinguishing between the real world itself and the symbolic world of our disciplines and theories. This distinction, while widely understood, is not often formalized. We formalize it here in the hope that it will clarify problems we expect to encounter in laying the groundwork for a broad system of social archiving and analysis. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.6: For instance, figures on national income could reveal simply the aggregate total or give breakdowns by province or industry. It is a priority for us to retain the localized data as we aggregate them, to permit analysis of interactions among local and global levels. While aggregation is characterized by simple joining or grouping, “organization” in a systems context involves the meaningful arrangement of systemic components, lending the system in question a teleological function. To discuss multiple levels in these phenomena, one may introduce the terminology of a “spectrum of aggregation” or a “spectrum of organization.” -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.8: In the first case, we can imagine that a pre-existing, comprehensive theoretical system exists implicitly in some adjoining dimension, waiting to be revealed with the details of its analysis of global society: in that case its direction is inevitable. In the second case, we can imagine that world-historical social-science theory must be constructed and assembled by conscious agency and initiative: in that case its direction is fully contingent. In the third case, we can assume that broad socialscience theory will evolve by some systemic and unconscious mechanism in association with human agency, in a development somewhat parallel to the evolution of historical society itself. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.9: The post-World War renaissance of the social sciences, for example, demonstrates the role of sociopolitical factors in shaping the current foci and scopes of the disciplines: social movements, decolonization, and the welfare state brought major advances in social-science analysis. Narratives such as this actually serve as valuable descriptive tools, although some scholars might question the subjectivity – and consequently, the reliability – of narratives in analyzing complicated systems. Narratives allow for alternatives to triumphalist tales of disciplinary advance; they hold on to complexities and incongruities and feed them back into later analysis. Because they present us with a method for metaphorically capturing the nuances of micro-level phenomena, narratives may in fact function as important theoretical linkages between occurrences in real-world systems and the aforementioned symbolic systems of disciplinary analysis. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.15: human migration is underpinned by strong social and institutional influences. Though much attention has been granted to the migratory act itself – the movement of individuals, populations, or communities from one location to another, over time – we now shift our focus from global patterns of human relocation to the microscopic phenomena (which span multiple disciplinary sub-systems) associated with migration. In our analysis, let us consider a few of these phenomena as micro-level variables within a complex human population. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.17: Bridging this gap relies on our ability to develop analytical tools or identify proxies that accurately measure the changes stemming from migratory activity. Finally, we see that although global migratory dynamics differ from their micro-level counterparts, they nonetheless influence the future course of micro-level phenomena, often through feedback loops. Therefore, we might also consider the utility of a migration dataset in terms of our ability to use it to identify such patterns retrospectively, and hypothesize prospectively about future systemic phenomena. -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014

p.18: for construction of Big Data centering on social issues, the methodology of interdisciplinary analysis relies on both old and new techniques. Reaffirming the strengths of the old, interdisciplinary analysis builds fundamentally on the methods established within each discipline. Charting new and broader terrain, interdisciplinary analysis requires attention to every aspect of aggregation and disaggregation in theory and data -- Highlighted mar 12, 2014