Friday, December 15, 2006

IT Analysis, Calvin, etc.

I always run into certain issues as an industry analyst. The most significant is that I don't work for Gartner. The big G is in an enviable position. It is the 800-lb gorilla and has conditioned buyers how to purchase and consume research. Gartner has also managed to define the rhetoric of the field. Their analysts created the acronyms that dominate the minds of today's technology buyers (what would Lakoff or Foucault say?). It has also established the visual rhetoric with the very influential--yet empirically dubious--Magic Quadrants.

So what's a small analyst shop to do? Our situation isn't new. In many ways, it's a classical problem: a group of upstarts is unsatisfied with, and wants to unseat, the dogmatic and heavy handed discourse of a blessed group of individuals who speak the truth (whatever that may be). We are facing a reformation of IT research just as Luther and Calvin faced off against the established Catholic church.

We can learn the lessons of those earlier reformers. We can't just repeat the approach and tenets of the incumbent; we can't just introduce yet another gospel that only we can interpret. Instead, we have to help our parishioners develop their own personal relationship with IT (or God) through personal study of the word. We can't just preach. We must give them tools.

Suddenly those templates and tools that we all chaff against are starting to make some sense!
Classical Donkey Pr0n

Sometimes you come across something that is just too good to bypass. Pamela Long recounts a very interesting anecdote from a very old novel. Apuleius was amazingly modern in his second century novel, Metamorphoses. His tale of the travails of man who was turned into a donkey has the makings of a Fox TV program in some near-future Philip K. Dick universe:

“The subsequent tales in Metamorphoses recount the misadventures and sufferings of the ass that Lucius had become and record his failure to find and eat the roses that are required to change him back to a man again. In one notable incident Lucius engages in a long night of lovemaking with an aristocratic woman attracted by his huge donkey penis. Intrigued by the moneymaking potential of the situation, the donkey's owner plans a public show featuring a similar event. Just as Lucius is about to be subjected to public humiliation at a carnival by forced copulation with a condemned woman and to probably death by the wild beasts who are then to be set upon her, he escapes.” pg. 53

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Another Hint of Ramelli's Whereabouts

"Fortification was the principal reason for Philip's eagerness to acquire engineers. The new Italian system with its bastions and regular polygonal trace had slowed the pace of sixteenth-century land warfare, keeping the enemy at a distance and eliminating the former superiority of artillery attack. The men who know how to construct the impregnable defences were in great demand throughout Europe. In October 1561 Philip wrote to the duke of Savoy requesting the loan of Francesco Paciotto of Urbino, the working in Turin. He wanted to consult the engineer on fortifications, and urgently: 'the quicker you send him to me the happier I will be.' Paciotto subsequently fortified La Coruña and designed the famous citadel at Antwerp. When Granvelle was viceroy of Naples, Philip asked him for a detailed report on engineers in the kingdom, their experience and their salaries, with a view to bringing them to Spain. Granvelle replied that none of the nine he listed had the necessary experience, though he singled out 'Jacobo, a Fleming' who was 'not very expert in fortification but is very well trained in mathematics and mechanics, has a fine intellect and so we can expect very good service from him.'

News on engineers, indicating competence in fortification, current salary, and purity of blood, was also sent to the king from the embassies. There was a certain amount of intrigue in attempting to lure to Spain or parts of Philip's empire engineers employed in the service of other princes. From the embasy in Venice Philip's empire engineers employed in service of other princes. From the embassy in Venice Philip learned that Orologio of Vicenza, an engineer 'who is reputed to have a better understanding of the art of fortification than anyone else in Italy' was discontent in spite of the high salary given him by Signoria. Word had reached the Spanish embassy that he would be willing to serve Philip instead and this was confirmed in secret discussions with him. The embassy asked the king for quick decision, emphasizing that, apart from his familiarity with Venice, 'this man knows every corner of France'. This soliciting of engineers could cause resentment when it resulted in the loss of a valued military expert. Venice protested to the Spanish ambassador when Giovanni-Paulo Ferrari left to serve Philip in Naples. Philip was sometimes the loser. In 1572 he heard from his envoy in Turin that an Italian engineer who had recently completed fortifications in Flanders had become disgruntled and switched his services to France. There was concern about what this man might do for the enemy and Philip commented that 'it would be desirable to know his name' and inform the duke of Alva, captain-general in the Netherlands."

It's interesting--to me at least--that this mysterious engineer went to France in 1572, the same year that Ramelli appears at the seige of La Rochelle in the service of Henri, Duke of Anjou.


Goodman, David C. (1988) Power and penury: Government, technology, and science in Philip II's Spain.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ramelli and Drainage

I had written earlier that Ramelli's designs for drainage schemes may indicate his presence in the low countries. It seems that he woudn't have had to travel nearly so far to gain such experience. It seems that following the fall of Siena there were renewed efforts to drain the local marshes of the Val-di-Chiana. The best English references seem to be:

Alexander, David (1984). The reclamation of Val-di-Chiana. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 74.4: 527-550.

Jayawardene, S.A. (1965). Rafael Bobelli, Engineer-Architect: Some Unpublished Documents of the Apostolic Camera. Isis, 56.3: 298-306.
Bourdieu on Books

In 1997 McDonald prepared an interesting account of the history of the book. His discussion is similar to Johns's but he presents a criticism of Darnton's approach. He notes that the "field" of study presented by Darnton is limited to the literary field and ignores other issues such as technology, social, etc.

"The agents on his single-axis scheme are defined primarily in terms of their function in the process of material production and distribution." (pg. 111)

This approach forces Darton to conflate both the agent's horizontal position with their vertical position, i.e., class. McDonald goes on to introduce Bourdieau's "symbolic production" i.e., the creation of percieved value and status. This argument may have very real significance for TM.

"...the first task of any cultural an analysis in not to interpret their meaning but to reconstruct their predicament. Initially, this might involve tracing the text's journey through Darnton's circuit. Yet, since the full significance of what is happening in the circuit can be discerned only in terms of the field's particular structure, this stage of the analysis can only the provisional. The primary task, then, is to reconstruct the field." (pg. 113)


McDonald, Peter D. 1997. Implicit structures and explicit interaction: Pierre Bourdieu and the History of the Book. The Library. Sixth Series 19.2: 105-122.
Thoughts on the Dutch Revolt

I noted earlier that Ramelli may have seen action in the Spanish Netherlands. While I now have my doubts about this possibility, the war presents a whole series of interesting phenomenon.

The first is the notion of the professional soldier and calls for advancement based on merit rather than just birth or bearing. As noted by Leon, "Flanders, the 'cockpit of Europe,' as it has been called, thus became Spain's (and indeed Europe's) academy of military science." (pg. 64) Alba's occupation of Flanders promoted a whole spate of military books. The new books spoke of promoting ability over nobel bearing or upbringing. Escalante, for example, describes the necessary components of "el arte militar": "to besiege a town and to defend it, to wage war on the open country and to foray, to repel ambushes, construct bridges over rivers and fortifications on level country, to transport artillery, and many other such things." (pg. 67)

A variety of Spanish works from the late 16th century stress the importance of technical ability. These works were written primarily by professional soldiers and their intended audience was military leaders. Captain Cristobal de Rojas, author of Teorica y Practica de Fortificacion, fought in the French Wars of Religion but dedicated his book to Philip III and called for greater technical proficiency.

This genre of works quickly tapered out. It was eventually replaced by wholly technical works without criticism or polemic. It seems that war was necessary to create the conditions for these works that called for the rise of techne. But was ultimately an economic exercise. Other economic indicators could also have been a factor.


Leon, Fernando Gonzalez de Leon. 1996."Doctors of the military discipline": Technical expertise and the paradigm of the Spanish soldier in the Early Modern Period. Sixteenth Century Journal. 27.1: 61-85.
The Importance of Place

I noticed something last week while we were visiting Jamaica. I remember seeing the same thing while living in Nicaragua almost ten years ago:

Buildings are never finished. The concrete framed structures built by the local population are crowned by trellises of rebar jutting up from the corners. These metal lattices seem awfully lonely. Their lower halves are fulfilling their mission of providing tensile strength. The upper sections have only the promise of future employment.

This rebar seems to be a phenomenon of the developing world; I have yet to walk down the street in London Ontario and see naked reinforcement jutting out of an otherwise completed structure. There are any number of reasons why someone would elect not to trim this rebar or to design the structure with properly shaped cages. Local builders, for example, may lack the means for trimming these bars. Chop saws may be in short supply and going at a #4 with a hack saw or cold chisel is a lot of work!

I prefer to think that these structures are just simply never finished. They present a whole world of opportunities. If the owners ever decide to add another floor the reinforcement is easy to tie-in. Living in a structure that is in a perpetual state of being modified and built must instill a certain mindset, a certain sense that structures evolve to meet our needs. The notion of the perfect model home seems ill at ease with this idea.