Dr. Natasha Miric, PhD

Another overdue news item:

Natasha Miric successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Letting Nature Take Its Course? An Analysis of Global Institutional Conflict around the Proliferation of National Parks.”  Congratulations Natasha!

The dissertation examines the worldwide growth of national parks.  Natasha coded the newest version of the IUCN dataset, which has high quality data on protected areas around the globe.

The core of the dissertation is a cross-national and longitudinal founding analysis.  Among other things, she observes a classic world society “INGO effect” whereby countries strongly connected to the international community tend to expand parks faster.

The project has a number other novel and interesting findings.  Natasha originally planned to contrast pro-environmental “world society” pressures with economic & neoliberal pressures deriving from foreign  trade, investment, and international development finance, which might plausibly impede pro-environmental activities such as park establishment.  However, countries that received World Bank development assistance actually protect land area more rapidly than countries receiving little or no assistance, ceteris paribus.  Likewise, FDI and trade are often positively associated with parks.  This was quite unexpected… and for a long time I was quite skeptical.  However, the findings are rather robust.  It seems that any form of international connectivity speeds the diffusion of parks.

The project also has many layers… for instance, Natasha digs down into the different levels of park “quality”, which the IUCN tracks.  And, she uses fuzzy set QCA to explore whether some distinctive combinations of factors are necessary to generate lots of parks (or the converse).  Altogether, an impressive project!

Professor Uno!

More good news: Mayumi Uno has joined the faculty at the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan.  

Mayumi recently finished her dissertation had just started on the job market.  Mayumi is one of the very few people to get a job right away, from her very first interview.  That is an impressive accomplishment in a competitive job market!

Congratulations Mayumi!

Global Communication Circa 1900

Glad that summer is here! Time to revisit the blog, which has been dormant for a while.

I saw this map on boingboing — an early look at global communication networks, including undersea cables. No idea of the quality of the data. But, it is a reminder that there was interesting structuration of world society well back into the 19th century… which is something we haven’t studied very much. (Actually, I was just talking with Marc Ventresca about this very issue… this map is apropos.)

Original link here.

Personal Update

I don’t usually discuss personal things on the blog, but I’ve been getting a lot of queries so I thought I’d give an update.

I’ve been behind on blogging, email, and life in general (not to mention reviews) for the past six months or more.  Ann (Hironaka) and I have had a lot going on.

On the down side, Ann’s father passed away and her mother has needed serious assistance.  As a consequence she was traveling a lot.  There have been challenges on my side of the family as well.

On the plus side, Ann and I had a wonderful job opportunity, at UNC Chapel Hill.  Since people keep asking:  we are staying at UC Irvine.  It was a super-agonizing decision.  We loved UNC.  (And, wow, do they publish.  Pick up a random ASR.  There isn’t always an author from UNC, but it is pretty scary.)  At the same time, we’ve been tremendously happy in Irvine.  And, the decision was complicated by our family difficulties.  Anyhow, we feel incredibly fortunate to have had such options.

Good and bad, we’ve been busy.  Fortunately, the pace of life is returning to normal.  I’m looking forward to a calmer schedule, which will mean, among other things, more time to update this blog.

Decline of empires

Someone has figured out a clever way to look at the fall of maritime empires (from Andrew Sullivan):

It is a neat way to show the diffusion of modern nation-states (as well as the decline of colonial empires). One can imagine a similar video showing the expansion of various global organizations, with lots of little bubbles representing a bunch of smaller NGOs. Or, maybe someone can figure out a way to show the proliferation of micronations?

International Communication and Global Culture

John Meyer emailed me about an interesting paper at ASA:

Rob Clark and Jason Hall presented a paper entitled “The International Telecommunications Network and Human Rights.”  The paper explores the idea that global telecommunication may be a useful measure of global cultural embeddedness, similar to “INGO membership”.  It turns out that their measure predicts human rights scores.

It is really important to keep developing measures of global embeddedness, going beyond what we have — which is pretty much just measures of international association (INGOs).

Obviously, INGOs are great.  John Boli & George Thomas’s book (Constructing World Culture) does a great job of explaining how INGOs are an important embodiment of world culture.  And, INGOs work really well in predicting a lot of things.  AND, people have largely come to accept INGOs as the “standard” way to test world polity effects.  But, it isn’t great to be wholly dependent on a single measure which, like all cross-national data, has its quirks.  Moreover, there’s a tendency to reify measures — to start thinking that INGOs = world culture, and to forget about other interesting stuff, like communication, media, movement of people/students, etc.

Anyhow, John Meyer had an exchange with the authors of this new paper and learned how they created their measure.  They started with a matrix of calls to & from each country (separately for incoming and outgoing calls).  Then they dichotomized — essentially creating dummies of whether any dyad has a relationship.  Finally, they used degree centrality — calculating the total number of other countries a given country is linked to.  Also, since telecommunication was strongly correlated with INGOs, they residualized the telecom variable to reduce collinearity.

The authors found that (residualized) incoming telecommunication had a positive effect on human rights scores.  Outgoing calls didn’t.

Seems like a reasonable approach.  Of course, one could think of other good ways to do it — which would be worth trying — such as normalizing by country size in some way, or dealing with the actual density of calls.  Also, it wasn’t entirely clear whether the zeros were all real or might include missing data.  Finally, it would be useful to see which countries score high/how.  I wondered:  Are the paper’s findings general to all cases, or mainly due to a few extreme “basket case” countries like North Korea, which might be outliers?

Anyhow, I was really glad to learn of this interesting paper.  It suggests a new direction for thinking about and operationalizing world polity/world society processes.  We should definitely be exploring this type of data.

Philanthropic Affinity Groups

One of the organizations I have come across in my dissertation research is Grantmakers Without Borders, a philanthropic affinity group that works to build networks between grantmakers in the global North and grantees (and some grantmakers) in the global South.

I had a great conversation yesterday with John Harvey, the executive director. From what I can tell, Gw/oB is one of six or seven affinity groups that provide a key infrastructure for transnational philanthropy. For example, they sponsor various “philanthropic learning” activities , such as workshops and “learning calls” for individuals and organizations who want to donate their cash to global projects (in this case, especially projects with a sustainability or social justice theme).

Organizations like this one provide a jazzy lens for studying transnational fields in formation. Philanthropy is particularly interesting given its unique blend of voluntarism and general do-gooderness with massive amounts of wealth. My early impressions are that the field is also a stratified one, with the big fish (i.e. Gates) at the top and a bunch of smaller fish in the middle.

All in all, Gw/oB is an impressive organization. Definitely worth following up on…