Posts Tagged ‘Uppsala’

8/14: I visited today the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study.

Pia Hultgren was kind enough to bring me around. I had recently submitted a EURIAS fellowship application on the role of economic knowledge in energy development, which includes a stay at the Collegium. Here is Pia in her office. The Collegium is located and in fact, takes up the North Wing of the 18th c. Linneanum, a botanical garden’s palace in honor of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), father of taxonomy, for his system of classifying organisms.

The Collegium is quite beautiful. It is a small center with areas for scholars to hang out and read and write.

Those few academics awarded a fellowship typically take one year, living in the quarters provided by the Collegium to prepare a book or set of manuscripts dealing with some facet of economic knowledge.

Actually, there are a variety of persons attending the Collegium, from writers, philosophers, economists, and also music composers.

In addition to quiet time to think one’s thoughts, there are a lot of opportunities to present ideas, at various lecture halls within the Linneanum walls, like the one above.

There is a second wing, actually, which holds tropical plants during the winter, and at the far end of this wing can be found a cactus garden.

It is a fabulous place. My own project plans to focus on expertise in economic decision making and the role of performative knowledge.

After the tour of the Linneanum we visited the grounds of the Prefect Villa, the Collegium’s adjacent 19th c. residence.

We will see what happens with the application. Thank you Pia! for a wonderful tour!

Later that day, I milled toward downtown Uppsala to meet with Dr. Ferdinand (“Fred”) Banks, energy economist at Uppsala University. Fred has written quite few superb pieces on natural gas energy systems, a point to which I will return in a moment.

Here is Fred, seeing me off at the train station, after our lunch. Overall, I believe Fred and I got along pretty well. His labor, to which I pay tribute, a narrowness of interest toward his commitment to the idea, perhaps left him feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

I had been looking forward to this meeting. Let me begin by stating Fred B. makes a stir across the blogosphere, a point to which Jonathan Stern remarked upon during his lecture in Oslo during the Petromaks conference in 2010.

I wrote a little cheat sheet while we were chatting, as typical that I do, scribbling on paper, even though my computer was beside me, writing on both sides:

So what exactly is written on this fragment of paper? Let us take a look:

“Statements that can be used by the left or right in a variety of formats” — (experts provide commentary that, while not necessarily neutral, provide a kind of neutrality of form, in that they can be operable in a variety of formats, and utilized by various different types of competing actors, much like, say, polling during an election).

“Int. Energy Economists ass. Pipes from Russia, Gas from Norway, Gas to China, From Middle East holding price up, Exxon investments not paid off” (Fred walks through a vision of what the normal is in gas industry, things that even the most casual of observers should not be mistaken, referring also to meetings he attends).

“Argon Lab, Chicago- breeder reactor, Paris- school run by an oil company” (Fred traipsing across the landscape in reference to various other experts in different locations doing interesting things).

“Ask comparative questions- how long before prices are negotiated” (Fred suggests how I should obtain real information from experts, by not asking questions that provide direct answers, but instead, creating a comparative base of answers in a polite way that illicit ego stroking and a grid of knowledge that can be compared across different informants).

“Santa Barbara oil/gas James Hamilton Michael Lynch on oil – Stern ‘I’m not an economist’, ‘what does that mean?’ Carol Dahl- Colorado Adam Simisnky EIA University of Scotland, Bornstein – Berkeley electricity knows a lot” (more suggestions of folks to examine, and J. Stern’s first sentence to Fred).

Doodads really.

Perhaps the biggest no-brainer of all, a simpleton’s advice really, but one that nails the square on the head is: The biggest thing consultants have in their favor is that [their clients] don’t know anything” (his most sustained critique of experts, “they’re smart but they just don’t know anything”).

I did not quite get this point for sometime, until I began to recognize that my job really is to inquire into the boundary that separates what surplus knowledge someone has to know in order to be just ahead of a client, and what kinds of additional accessories assist in that advancement of notice.

8/13: Meeting tomorrow with Pia Hultgren, for a tour of the Swedish Collegium where I have a EURIAS application in play. Afterward, with Ferdinand Banks, natural gas specialist at Uppsala University.

Tracking down F. Banks, or Fred, concerns method. He carries out his own paparazzi ethnography of sorts on global gas industry, though I doubt he would admit to doing so in such language. His style, what constitutes data when considering relevant developments in industry, and as an economist, results in expressing himself by way of historical economic descriptions, and; sensitivity to underlying gossip about the conditions that could potentially impact developments. In the latter case, only Jonathan Stern lectures off the record in similar manner, a point I return to later.

What I mean is that F. Banks writings identify — in addition to underlying issues, structural conditions in very specific ways, that characterize developments —  such personal observations as data, which include conversations with people, responses by experts to his questions, quotes from newspapers, types of observations as inter-textual data, reflecting a special type of empiricism that focuses on fleeting phenomena of events.

These fleeting phenomena often become the talismans (widely recognized by others) that reduce the complexity of facts into simplicity of decisions. For this reason, I want to understand what types of connections he is making as a form of method.

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