Maybe if you get especially pithy bits you could post them?

by johnmccreery

Thanks, Carl. I will, if I may, try something a bit different, an experiment in a different kind of self-publishing. You will, if you are patient, see the whole thing emerge, chunk by chunk, as the first draft is written. I have already set this experiment in motion on the Open Anthropology Cooperative Site, with a blog post that currently reads as follows


It has been three years since I began work on my current research project, Winners’ Circles…. Last fall saw a major breakthrough, when I was able to secure interviews with three of Japan’s top creatives. There is still a lot of research to do, and I am hoping to arrange more interviews this spring. It is, however, time to start writing, for at least in my experience research only starts falling into place when I start writing about it. Procrastination will no longer do.

I will be posting what I write on the  “Consuming Japan” blog that is part of the company website for The Word Works, Ltd., the translation and copywriting company that my wife Ruth and I run in Yokohama. I would very much appreciate feedback and welcome any thoughts and comments you might have as the work unfolds. Clicking here will take you to the introduction I just posted.

UPDATE1: How being a participant in the industry affects the research

UPDATE2: Anthropological background and how the book is structured, revised 10 January 2011

UPDATE3: Why social network analysis?

UPDATE4: Assembling the data

UPDATE5: Designing the database

UPDATE6: Getting started with network analysis

UPDATE7: Network and other perspectives


If everyone is agreeable, I will continue to mirror the updates here. I would be honored if you have the time to read what I write, and feedback incorporated into the final ms will be properly cited.


14 Comments to “Maybe if you get especially pithy bits you could post them?”

  1. I like the introduction. Clean, efficient, no muss no fuss, creates interest(s) in the project without the usual positioning clutter. I’d rather see the lit review developed contextually as you develop your exposition.

    Is the third person voicing a current convention in Japan? I associate it with a history of aristocratic intellection and performative pseudo-objectivity it might be best to abandon nowadays.

  2. In Update 1 I really enjoy how you’ve hinged the account on the two personal stories. Those are a real strength of yours, and although the autobiographical frame is easy to overdo in blogly conversation, a book is a much more monologic form where ironically your stories allow others to speak through and talk with you in an unusually compelling way. The points about learning to be selective and working with what the situation gives you are wise and make an intriguing promise about what’s to come. At this point I’m feeling pretty hooked.

    I also like how efficiently you handle the account of your presence in Japan. Later on readers may care about you personally, but at this point not so much.

  3. Update 2 feels a little rougher. I like the project of establishing your credibility and orientation as a researcher. But I couldn’t make sense of this: “Geertz’s amendment of Lévi-Strauss is a fair summary of what this book strives to be. It substitutes complex pictures of Japan’s advertising industry for the simple ones with which it begins while striving to remain clear enough to be persuasive.” I see that it proposes a synthesis and development of the tradition, but I don’t know how or why. This then leads me to wonder all of a sudden if I know what’s being offered by this ‘product’. Since you present this as a question you’ve been trying to answer since your first fieldwork, it’s going to be important to really nail down a compelling answer here. I’m going to pause here in my reading in case we want to talk about this.

  4. Carl,

    Thanks for the feedback. Invaluable. The third-person thing was just a bit of self-distancing. Ruth doesn’t like it either, which is why it mostly disappears in the later sections. But this is the kind of cosmetic change I can leave for the final editing. The comment about the Geertz and Lévi-Strauss remark is spot on. Let me see what I can do to fix this without stepping too much on what follows this bit.

  5. Carl, I’ve added a bit to clarify my intentions. See what you think.

  6. Cool. I’m starting to get the picture of an exposition that progresses from sketch to map; and yet the map is still not the territory. I’m digging it. It’s a neat question when the map becomes good enough to enable the next step of understanding the complexity of the territory itself.

    This seems a little defensive: “Those who wish to learn more or to challenge its depictions will have plenty of work to do.”

  7. The introduction of social network analysis in Update 3 really works for me. I love how the field review is coming smoothly in the flow of the introduction rather than being tacked on like a big bitter pill.

    I’d consider cleaning out the third person in the first paragraph [can wait for the final edit as you say]. The last paragraph reads like the same defensiveness mentioned in my previous comment. You can’t change that reader’s mind, so sin boldly for the edification of all the other readers.

  8. Thanks, Carl. I will likely get to these tomorrow. Today is taken up by a client and a chorus practice this evening. Ah, the joys of multitasking.

  9. Carl, found a small block of time today. Just made a few changes.

  10. UPDATE 7 is the capstone, the last of the preliminaries. Tomorrow I start digging in the data.

  11. Just wanted to explain that the pace of updates has slowed because I am, at long last, rechecking and digging through data and working with some new techniques I have only recently discovered. I am hoping to get the next update up within the next few days.

    In the meantime, what else is going on? The other voles are awfully quiet.

  12. Sorry – I just began the Spring semester, in which I’m teaching five classes (and a sixth in the second evening term) and sitting in on a grad seminar on the sociology of culture up at Local Big University. So I had a lot of orienting/getting oriented to do….

  13. OK, so back to the drafts. First, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing ability has inspired me. Really the article is spreading its wings rapidly… ;-p

    Anyhoo, as you can see I’ve now read Update 4 and its encouraging comment from our friend Coach Outlet Online. Have you seen Coach lately? How’s he doing?

    Like Coach I see the project spreading its wings here in the description of the research method. To me it looks like you survey the available sources credibly and account for your own more limited sample tolerably. Tolerably in the sense that you admit an opportunistic motive that could well have given your research a merely idiosyncratic shape, but then you frame that shape attractively. Still, I could see this being a place where some readers/reviewers would invidiously imagine a broader survey or at least want a more conceptually compelling account of its particular restrictions.

  14. Carl, I am glad that you and Coach see the spreading of the wings; but—sudden shift of metaphor—what you have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. As you have noticed, I am trying to write this book—and, yes, we are looking at a book-length manuscript—in a way that both realistically depicts the research process behind it and introduces the reader to a lot of probably unfamiliar material in small, easily digested doses. It’s a tricky game I’m trying to play, writing for multiple audiences that include both people with an interest in the Japanese advertising industry, who may start out knowing nothing about social network analysis, and people with an interest in network analysis who know nothing about the industry and how its peculiarities and the way that it has developed over a three-decade period affected both networks and careers.

    The first of the current stumbling blocks is the realization that the usual network analysis text starts with simple 1-mode networks and introduces a bunch of concepts and tools developed to study that kind of network and defers discussion of 2-mode affiliation networks (individuals linked through events). I am starting, however, with 2-mode data. The standard introductions also spend a lot of time discussing directed networks in which the arrows point in only one directions: A loves B, but B does not love A, for example. My data concern only undirected ties — if A is a member of the same team a B, then B is a member of the same team as A. The relation is the same in both directions.

    The second stumbling block is that, as a result of these limitations in the data, I’ve skipped around a lot in teaching myself network analysis, opportunistically picking up concepts and techniques whose relevance to the project was immediately clear to me. Now, going back and reviewing the basic texts, I’ve discovered a couple of things that I let slip too easily. That means some additional number-crunching and charting to try out the new techniques.

    The upshot is that what looked like a straightforward writing project, simply summarizing and elaborating some of the presentations I’ve done over the last few years has become a bit more complicated. Shifting metaphors again—the dance isn’t over, but I still have to figure out the new moves.

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