Monday, October 12, 2009

Crooked Timber on Elinor Ostrom

Henry writes:

Lin’s work focuses on the empirical analysis of collective goods problems – how it is that people can come up with their own solutions to problems of the commons if they are given enough room to do so. Her landmark book, Governing the Commons, provides an empirical rejoinder to the pessimism of Garret Hardin and others about the tragedy of the commons – it documents how people can and do solve these problems in e.g the management of water resources, forestry, pasturage and fishing rights. She and her colleagues gather large sets of data on the conditions under which people are or are not able to solve these problems, and the kinds of rules that they come up with in order to solve them.

This is, as Kieran suggests, a vote in favor of detailed, working-from-the-ground-up, empirical work, which doesn’t rely on sharply contoured theoretical simplifications and flashy statistical techniques so much as the accumulation of good data, which reflects the messiness of the real social institutions from which it is gathered. Quoting from Governing the Commons:

An important challenge facing policy scientists is to develop theories of human organization based on realistic assessment of human capabilities and limitations in dealing with a variety of situations that initially share some or all aspects of a tragedy of the commons. … Theoretical inquiry involves a search for regularities … As a theorist, and at times a modeler, I see these efforts [as being] at the core of a policy science. One can, however, get trapped in one’s own intellectual web. When years have been spent in the development of a theory with considerable power and elegance, analysts obviously will want to apply this tool to as many situations as possible. The power of a theory is exactly proportionate to the diversity of situations it can explain. All theories, however, have limits. Models of a theory are limited still further because many parameters must be fixed in a model, rather than allowed to vary. Confusing a model – such as that of a perfectly competitive market – with the theory of which it is one representation can limit applicability still further. (pp.24-25)

One plausible characterization of her life’s work is that it is about demonstrating the empirical weaknesses of a ‘cute’ economic model (the Tragedy of the Commons) that assumed a role in policy discussions far out of proportion to its actual explanatory power, and replacing it with a set of explanations that are nowhere near as neat, but are far more true to the real world. It is also worth pointing out in passing (as an email correspondent has brought to my attention) that she has received roughly a dozen grants under the NSF program that Senator Tom Coburn wants to abolish. Tom Coburn vs. the Nobel committee as a judge of scholarly quality – you decide.

It is also a vote in favor of supplementing quantitative work with qualitative understanding...


It is important that the Nobel Committee recognizes that there is more than one approach to science in general, and social science in particular. It strikes me that Darwin used "detailed, working-from-the-ground-up, empirical work, which doesn’t rely on sharply contoured theoretical simplifications and flashy statistical techniques so much as the accumulation of good data," and he moved our understanding of how life on earth works. Real scientists tell me that an awful lot of his specific predictions have stood up, as well.

11 comments:

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★採用比例對稱並不一定是一成不變的造型,間隔對稱呈現另ㄧ種不同的風貌。

Anonymous said...

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系統傢俱在市場上已運用許久,且早已經跳脫出早期的單元櫃,取而代之的不單只是優質的環保建材,更涵蓋整體的設計感都能契合消費者的需求。當然也可以運用巧思再增添實用及樂趣,以下由實際的個案為您打開系統傢俱的新視野。
1.顏色搭配
系統傢俱顏色確實是十分主觀的印象,但是顏色卻能清楚傳達直覺的感受,因此如何搭配顏色也是系統傢俱很重要的一環,且運用於不同的功能的空間都需要以室內設計顏色來突顯特色。
★下方運用深色黑鐵刀木紋,左右為霧銀色以及上方白色結晶鋼烤亮面門板的混搭室內設計,踢腳板以淺色楓木洗白木?並內縮1/3減少碰撞。
★運用淺黃色、蘋果綠、澄紅色三色混搭出老少咸宜的鮮豔色彩,也增添系統傢俱空間的明亮程度以及活潑性。
2.比例原則
系統傢俱中櫥櫃設計的美觀除了顏色之外在長寬比例與對稱等分,則是直覺上最容易呈現的感覺;所謂長寬比例所指的是由正面觀看的高度與寬度比利,對稱等分則是連續銜接的櫥櫃掌握同等寬度的原則,上述兩項原則並不會使櫥櫃失去活潑與設計感,反而更能提升系統傢俱櫥櫃整體性。
★衣櫃門片尺寸以總長等分的規劃方式。
★左右對稱的高櫃以及下方矮櫃左右兩邊大小對稱的等分原則,當然上方高櫃亦可選用單邊也是系統傢俱不錯的選擇。
★採用比例對稱並不一定是一成不變的造型,間隔對稱呈現另ㄧ種不同的風貌。

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Very interesting post; i agree with you on your point of Nobel committee. There is always more than one approach to any theory in science and social science.

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