Â D. Linda Garcia, PhD
My intellectual background and career path is, I suspect, more roundabout than that of other Georgetown academics.Â Â However, as the Austrian economist Eugene von Bohm-Bawerk observed, roundaboutness serves to enhance value, insofar as it allows for more diverse interactions and inputs. I believe that my varied experiences both in government and in academia have served the same end.Â In the statement below, I describe how my present educational philosophy, research, and teaching agenda, as well as my administrative style, have all emerged through the cumulative process of my own academic and work experience.Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â My enthusiasm for interdisciplinary scholarship was sparked at Syracuse Universityâ€™s Maxwell School, where I received my undergraduate degree in international relations, with an emphasis on economics.Â Indeed, I had selected international relations as my major because it was inherently interdisciplinary, allowing me to view subject matter through the theoretical lenses and analytic methodologies of diverse disciplinary domains.Â Â At the time, very few universities had such programs.Â It was this rich and rewarding educational experience at Syracuse that induced me to pursue an academic career.Â With the encouragement of my two mentorsâ€”economics professor, Dr. James Price, and the chairman of the economics department, Dr. Melvin Edgarsâ€”I applied to, and was accepted at, Columbia Universityâ€™s School of International Affairs, an interdisciplinary masterâ€™s program.Â Once I had completed my masterâ€™s degree (1965), I transferred to the PhD program in the Department of Public Law and Government, known for its institutional approach to the study of politics and social change. Â
My years at Columbia (from 1963 to 1974) were heady, transformative times. As students coming into maturity in the late fifties and early sixties, we had been imbued with the idea that by participating, we could make a difference. The result was the blurring of academic and political boundaries.Â Â Â Eager to find the right answers, and make a difference, I found the situation confusing to say the least.
At the age of 21, I found it hard to grasp the intense partisanship that dominated the campus and the subsequent overhaul of traditional scholarly approachesâ€”such as Talcott Parsonâ€™s structural functionalismâ€”in the face of challenges by neo-Marxists on the left and Cliometricians on the right.Â Caught up in this intense intellectual maelstrom, I participated in the raging campus debates about â€˜value free science,â€™ andâ€”during the 1968 student strike–stood in the line of people circling Columbiaâ€™s math building, shielding the rebellious students from the police, and calling for amnesty.
These events had a significant impact on the University, as well as on me.Â For in the wake of the 1968 student strike, faculty members and students holding different points of view stopped conversing, and communication came to a halt at the door of each discipline.Â Â As importantly, in an effort to circumvent the political fray, many of our social science faculty turned away from holistic, qualitative analysis and adopted a more reductionist, quantitative approach.Â I was determined not to â€˜pick sidesâ€™ but rather to continue on an interdisciplinary path grounded in the intellectual tradition of scholars like Veblen and Weber.Â In pursuing these goals, I benefited greatly from mentors such as Otto Kirchheimer, Juan Linz, Albert Hirschman, and Bela Balassa.
Â Despite my strong academic ambitions, I was obliged to take an extended detour in 1974.Â Pressed to go back to work, I left Columbia (ABD) and assumed a full time job at the newly established US Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).Â Hence, it was not until twenty-two years later that I completed my Doctorate at the University of Amsterdam, under the tutelage of my promotor, Professor Abbe Mowshowitz, a sociologist and computer scientist. Appropriately, given my interests, my degree from the University of Amsterdam was in the burgeoning, interdisciplinary field of social science informatics and the subject of my dissertation focused on the emergence of electronic commerce. In should be noted, moreover, that, although unconventional, one might argue that, prior to this formal degree completion, I had engaged several times in experiences similar to the conventional development of a dissertation while at OTA.
Just what was OTA? Faced with having to make decisions about rapidly advancing technologies, such as supersonic transport, and radioactive waste, the Congress decided that it needed independent help in thinking about the long-term implications and unintended consequences of these technologies.Â To this end, it established the OTA in 1974, as a nonpartisan, independent research arm of the Congress.Â In contrast to many universities, which tended in these years to adopt increasingly reductionist approaches and specialization within individual disciplines, the OTA embraced holism and complexity, reaching out to all parties and domains, entering into collaborative dialogues, and integrating, synthesizing, and translating for the Congress the emergent wisdom that arose from these interactions. Looking back from a vantage point of today, I think that OTA was not only a precursor in performing complexity analysis, but also a test-bed for developing ways to use academic analysis to inform complex technological issues that confounded public decision makers.
Luckily for me, I was able to be part of this process, spending twenty years at OTA, during which I rose from the position of Research Analyst to that of Senior Associate.Â It was a unique and very rewarding experience.Â At a minimum my tenure at OTA experience provided me with a wide range of data sets, upon which I could build future research.Â As importantly, to address the broad array of questions that Congress posed, I was required to expand further my intellectual horizons, learning not only new analytic frameworks and methodologies but also the nitty-gritty of a range of technologies.Â But, above all else, my experience at OTA taught me that the value-free debate that had bedeviled me so during my graduate days was somewhat misguided. For, at OTA, I discovered ways to address real-world, thorny issues and problems in an academic fashion, without sacrificing my intellectual integrity.Â
My work at OTA covered a wide array of topics ranging from transportation, oceans and the environment, to advanced information and communication technologies, the later being my primary focus during my last decade at OTA, as well as the basis for my activities in the Communication, Culture, and Technology Program at Georgetown.Â During my tenure there I developed and conducted numerous study projects.Â Specifically, I researched and wrote project proposals (subject to internal competitive funding decisions), recruited people who served as research assistants, and recruited outside experts to serve as members of project-specific advisory panels.Â I wrote (depending on the project) entire book-length reports or the majority of the chapters of such reports, reworking text contributed by research assistant colleagues.Â Draft reports were subject to external review, and I was responsible for responding to all review comments and the completion of the final text.Â This process is similar in many respects to conventional research collaborations in the social sciences.Â Although the OTA process assigns specific labels to different kinds of collaborators and advisors, the reports I list belowâ€”which are only a subset of all of the projects on which I worked while at OTAâ€”are the ones for which I am recognized as the lead author.Â Â These include:
- Â· Critical Connections: Communication for the Future
- Â· Intellectual Property Rights in an Age of Electronics and Information
- Â· Global Standards: Building Blocks for the Future
- Â· Rural America at the Crossroads: Networking for the Future
- Â· The Electronic Enterprise: Looking to the Future
- Â· Global Communications: Opportunities for Aid and Trade.
All of these studies are in keeping with the OTA mission to anticipate future technology issues employing a holistic investigative methodology.Â Some have had major policy impacts.Â For example, my study Critical Connection provided a roadmap for the Clinton Administrationâ€™s information infrastructure initiative.Â Likewise, my intellectual property study provided early warning about how electronic networks might affect intellectual property law.Â As well, my study on standard settingâ€”considered by many to be seminal in the fieldâ€”has served as the springboard for the ever-growing dialogue about global standards.Â This body of work formed the basis for numerous presentations at professional conferences, as well as articles.Â All of these studies continue to be sought out on the OTA archive hosted at Princeton University (see: http://www.princeton.edu/~ota/ ).
Georgetown and the CCT Program
OTA came to an end in 1995, when the 101st Congress, true to the Republican leadershipâ€™s campaign promise to cut government spending, eliminated the Agencyâ€™s funding, notwithstanding the strong protest of scholars and policy analysts throughout the world.Â When hired by the newly established CCT Program at Georgetown University, I was delighted.Â For I had come full circleâ€”from academia to government and back againâ€”getting the â€œbest of all possible worlds.â€
CCT is a unique, cutting edge, program, which aimsâ€”much like the Office of Technology Assessmentâ€”to create a better understanding of the potential impact of new communication and information technologies on all realms of life, as well as the ways that we, as a society, can guide them.Â Serving as Associate Director and later Director of CCT, I have had the privilege of working with the Founding Director, Martin Irvine, and the faculty, to build out the program in keeping with its interdisciplinary mission, and its dedication to grounding students with a rigorous theoretical understanding so as to prepare them for addressing real-world technology-related problems, whether in academia or in the public and private sectors. In helping to build such a program, I have drawn heavily on my prior OTA experience, encouraging modularity and flexibility in our course curriculum, which is focused around a number of diverse course clusters, allowing students to mix and match their courses as new issues and studentsâ€™ interests evolve.Â I like to believe that, in teaching students to think comprehensively and to conceptualize their research in an interdisciplinary framework, I am planting the seed corn for the time when policy makers recreate organizational capacity such as that of OTA.Â Already, the National Science Foundation has recognized the need for this type of scholarship, especially as it relates to the realm of science, as reflected in its support of Science, Technology and Society Programs, and its recent decision to establish an Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI).
Research and teaching have been as important a part of my life at CCT as administration.Â While I draw heavily on the diverse domains of knowledge and expertise that I garnered at the Office of Technology Assessment, these activities share a common themeâ€”the nature of networks (from the technological to the social) and how their design and architectures serve to structure social interactions and emergent outcomes in a variety of institutional settings.Â Â Thus, networks are my unit of analysis, and case studies and social network analysis (SNA) are the methodologies that I use to examine them.Â Conceptually, my work is grounded in an institutional/historical framework that spans a number of disciplines.Â This complexity science approach has been facilitated by new computational technologies just one example of how new technology shapes new research.Â
Â The focus of my research not only draws on my years at OTA; it has also been guided by a number of research grants that I have received while at Georgetown.Â My work on rural economic development, for example, was funded by a $90,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture.Â In this work, I develop the idea ofÂ â€œrural area networks,â€ describing how they might be employed to support the development of greater social capital and economies of agglomeration in rural areas where institutional resources are very thin.Â This research provided the basis for a $100,000 grant received from the World Bank, through the Competitive Marketplace Program, which supported a project in India to foster womenâ€™s textile cooperatives.Â Six CCT students were able to participate in this program, as well as to write their theses about it.Â A $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation allowed me to work on a project together with two students, employing social network analysis to examine the circumstances under which policy issues rise and fall.Â We jointly presented and published three papers based on this grant.Â A generous $200,000 grant from Sun Microsystems allowed me to continue my investigation into the standard setting process.Â A number of the students who worked with me on these projects not only published and presented on these issues; they are now employed in this field.
My research has served to inform and sustain much of my teaching.Â My course, Networks and International Development, for example, considers how the positioning of developed countries in global society affects their ability to gain greater leverage, whether political, cultural, or economic.Â My course entitled The Networked Economy considers the insights to be gained by looking beyond neoclassical economics, and employing a number of diverse disciplines to study the changing nature of todayâ€™s economy.Â Network Technologies and Society, another course, lays out a variety of ways of understanding the relationship between technology and society, and considers a number of technological issue areas in the light of them.Â Believing that teaching and research are both collaborative processes, in which more minds are better than one, I continually seek ways to include students in my work as teaching assistants, research assistants, and co-authors.
As I relinquish my position as director of the CCT program, and join our talented faculty members, I look forward to exploring further technology-related problems and issues as they emerge in the context of an increasingly complex world.Â Moreover, building on the approaches employed by OTA, I would like to experiment with waysâ€”such as the use of e-portfoliosâ€”to engage our students in communities of practice outside the university, allowing them to enrich their academic analyses with data and feedback from the world of practice.Â
Free of administrative duties, I am looking forward to extending my research agenda both with respect to the issue areas that I presently cover as well as the methodologies that I use.Â At present I have two works underway.Â One, a paper that I have written with my colleague Garrison Le Masters, entitled Standards for Virtual Worlds: Potential Unintended Consequences, examines whether traditional standard setting criteria are appropriate for an on-line environment.Â This paper will be presented at this years Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC) as well as published in the Journal of Virtual Worlds.Â Both of these are peer-reviewed venues.Â Following up on this work, Garrison and I are looking forward to undertaking a study lookingâ€”from a networked perspectiveâ€”atÂ â€œintellectual property rights and the creative process.â€Â Â At the same time, I am working on a paper with two collaborators, one a second year CCT student, entitled â€œHas President Obama Read Ron Burt.â€Â Ron Burt, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, argues that good ideas result from network structure.Â In our paperâ€”which we presented in June of this year to the Harvard Conference on Politics and Social Networking, we mapped Obamaâ€™s network advisors.Â Our data supports Ron Burtâ€™s hypothesis.Â Encouraged by others at the conference, we are now mapping President Bushâ€™s network, in order to draw some comparisons.Â Â As I move forward with these kinds of analyses, I am also looking forward to develop my methodological skills, especially in the area of social networking analysis and the use of genetic algorithms and generative communities.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â