Resource-dependent rural communities

Introduction to the assignment I am currently working on.  Just for you, @raark:

1    Introduction

Australian rural communities that are economically dependent upon a single primary industry can be particularly affected by systemic change in industry viability over time (Marshall, Fenton, Marshall, & Sutton, 2007).  The challenges faced by such communities are only increased by factors such as government policy to reduce local services and policies relating to rural industries (Hyde, 1998) and the narrow and shrinking skill base of the local work force (Humphrey, 1994). 

The resource-dependence of rural communities is detrimental to the long-term economic sustainability of those communities (Buttel & Newby, 1980; Gramling & Freudenburg, 1990).  In this context, Kranich and Luloff (1991) identify several obstacles to the success of rural development programs that seek to increase the robustness of these rural communities by reducing the community’s dependence upon a single industry. 

This paper seeks to further explore these obstacles on the basis of analysis of a subset of twenty-one interview transcripts generated for prior studies (Herbert-Cheshire, 2000, 2003).  These interviews were carried out with key residents of the rural community of Monto in regional Queensland, which at the time of the interview process was heavily dependent upon the dairy industry (Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource and Economics, 2001).  The purpose of this paper is to further consider this evidence in order to examine the manner in which Monto’s historic reliance on dairy farming and other forms of agricultural production has shaped the response of the local residents to the deregulation of the dairy industry, and furthermore to consider the potential of this response to enhance Monto’s viability and economic sustainability. 

How to Present While People are Twittering | Pistachio

Courtesy of @ekreeger, I thought this blog post might be a good one for anyone who presents in a world of Twitter:

How to Present While People are Twittering | Pistachio.

Having been involved in Rostrum for years, public speaking is, you know, one of my things, so it is interesting to know about how Twittering might affect a presentation (hmmm, must add to the PD of Rostrum).  However the only thing I think is that there are negatives for a speaker – it isn’t all Pollyanna and light.

I know that when I was lecturing at QUT I found it very distracting to have people on Facebook chatting away with others – and I think you do lose something if you aren’t paying attention as an audience member.  Still, the problems probably are outweighed by the benefits.

Gail Trimble and Geek Girl eye-candy

I’m married to my very own geek girl, who is a devil at Trivial Pursuit and answers questions like ‘Why can’t dead people participate in the tax refund bonanza going on in Australia at the moment?‘ – and is actually right (unlike most people at pub quizzes).

I also remember going to a musical performance at UQ in 2000 – at the height of Big Brother – and paying $6 to see a performance by the musical geniuses there.  I thought $6 was a lousy amount to pay, but they were so very, very good.  For the record – a xylophone is fine to play as a 5-year old, but when you have five of those donger-things (I’m very musical) going at once, that requires real, absolute, talent.

And despite clear talent and deserving people all over the place, we celebrate so much absolute mediocrity and ignorance on television (bloody bunny-ears on your head and the ‘bum-dance’ – obesity and mediocrity writ large?) so it was with much delight that I see Gail Trimble is apparently not someone you would want to invite around to play Trivial Pursuit – ‘Superbrain’ stuns Britain with genius quiz show run – but is still supremely intelligent and should be celebrated, not mocked, as some seem wont to do.  No doubt they are driven by their own ignorance, fears, and clear lack of interest in the world around them.

Although this piece about burning her at the stake for obviously being a ‘whore-strumpet of Satan and a bit smug‘ is funny, I think any woman who is intelligent, smart, presents herself well and knows her way around Latin literature should be celebrated for their ability and skill.

For the record, I attach a photo of my own geek girl, who I’m very proud of and think is also terrifically good-looking in a swimsuit.  She once answered the question ‘What Irish alcoholic Welsh poet wrote <some bloody obscure piece of poetry>?’ with ‘Dylan Thomas’.  Correctly.  I may be a philistine but I still have little idea of who Dylan Thomas is.  [Ed:  apparently]

You are in clover with intelligent geek girls.  Unless of course they decide to use their powers for evil – in which case run very fast, because they WILL catch you.  Geek girls come highly recommended – although to some it seems that being a demonstrably smart girl is less socially acceptable than taking up another hobby like, say, kitten-blending.

But maybe I’m a knowledge labourer after all

For some time I’ve been one of those accounting/ICT people who delves into the world of knowledge management every now and then.  This is an area of practice where buzz words abound – communities of practice, centres of excellence, and the venerable ‘knowledge worker’ to name a few.

In the past week I’ve had cause to think of these terms, particularly ‘knowledge worker’.  It sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?  After all, you work with knowledge to create all sorts of good things of value for the business.  However recently I’ve been swotting up on the ‘theory of technology dominance’ and a presentation by Steve Sutton in 2006 implied another term for when you work with ephemeral ‘knowledge-based’ stuff but with little latitude for exercising professional judgment due to the constraints of technology:  ‘knowledge labourer’.

And then there was the video recently relating to the ‘mother of all demos’ where Doug Engelbart referred to ‘intellectual workers’ in 1968.  Clearly that term didn’t much catch on – possibly there are elitist overtones.

It seems that we have as a result three terms here that apply – I’ve tried to put my twist into the definition:

  • knowledge labourer:  works to rule creating and storing information and data within the rules set by an information system, and as a result getting little opportunity to develop or exercise professional judgment.  Such people can be recognised by a bureaucratic insistence upon rules and an oft-stated desire to unplug the computer.
  • knowledge worker:  has more freedom to create ‘knowledge’ such as documents, strategies, and developed information, but in response to a business need and with a commercial imperative.  These people spend a great deal of time trying to explain the value they provide to the business, and generally look nervous in recessions.
  • intellectual worker:  tends to be working on several high-brow things at once, mainly because it interests them rather than out of any commercial necessity.  These people use their intellectual smarts to advance the body of knowledge rather than their bank balance.  Such people can usually be recognised as frustrated PhD students who used to have higher-paying jobs as knowledge labourers or workers before becoming ‘bored’.

By my definition I’m at risk of being an ‘intellectual worker’.  Although @sjjoyner probably put it best when describing a ‘knowledge labourer’: "@maxelsen Here I was thinking you were being witty. Now it sounds serious and a deeply awful occupational class."

I wonder how many people are more knowledge labourers than knowledge workers…

Friendly business

The business of accounting is business. Nobody said that, but it’s true nonetheless. Accounting is a profession that is definitely not about counting beans and wearing cardigans these days. CPA Australia members are core parts of every aspect of Australian business life, and so it is unsurprising that they are often among the first to identify new business issues as they arise and they are the ones given to advises for business improvement. For example, an issue noted recently is the potential impact that online social networking has upon business, and if you work from home in your business, you will need to learn how to take home pay for this. These websites allow friends to chat, share photographs, videos, and to discuss their work, lives, loves, wins and losses. At last count, there were more than six million Australians with profiles on Facebook and MySpace.

It is hardly a business issue that Australians have friends. Mateship is an Australian tradition, whether on the Kokoda track or on Facebook. The issue is that, as our world becomes more connected, it is increasingly difficult to separate personal lives from the world of ‘work’. Private actions now take place in very public places, with search engines voyeuristically distributing these activities for the entire world to see. Consider the recent YouTube ‘star’ who made negative comments about his employer. Once, those excruciating videos would have tormented only his unfortunate immediate family. YouTube provides the conduit to a whole new audience. Questionable tastes in humour cross organisational hierarchies though. There may be regrets for the partner of a consulting firm whose photo was posted online by a member of his staff, complete with Hitler moustache, swastika, and a Nazi salute. Not perhaps the look his professional profile is looking for.

Business owners must cross the generational and digital divide to become digital citizens so as not to be caught unawares, like the new owner of a motor dealership who was unaware of a web comment telling prospective customers to ‘avoid [the dealership] like the plague’. Three years on, that advice is still there and is prominently displayed when new customers Google the dealership. Twitter, a relatively new social networking service, allows users to post ‘microblogs’ from their mobile phone. Comments damaging a business’s online reputation are regularly made there – at one store, while still in the store, a customer ‘tweeted’ to her 789 ‘followers’ about the bad service received.

It is not all negative. Delight the digital citizens and your business will benefit. Robert Scoble, a particularly notorious blogger, mentioned a new book he was reading in a single tweet. With over 34,000 followers, it seems people took note, and the book quickly scaled the heights of the Amazon best seller list.

A generation has matured with the internet at their fingertips. This is a different world than the old world of football, kangaroos, meat pies and Holden cars. Your customers use the internet to inform their opinions. A business can take some steps to present itself in the best light possible, but actively manipulating information is unwise. The punishment for chicanery and ‘bad behaviour’ online is unpleasant, caustic and swift. Transparency and honesty are necessary in the digital world. The actions of an over-zealous employee can quickly ensure that a business is condemned to the scrapheap of irrelevance – consider the very public example of the software developer 2Clix who brought legal action against Whirlpool to have negative comments taken down from its forums.

Increasingly, ‘personal’ and ‘work’ lives collide. People need to be a little more circumspect when posting material online. Activities are often publicly available and can be seen by anyone – an audience perhaps not originally considered. Recruiters increasingly Google a candidate’s name to see what can be discovered. Personal information can be used for identity theft, and likewise corporate information on personal profiles can be used for ‘social engineering’ scams to defraud the business.

Is this an accounting issue? Probably not. Is it a business issue? Definitely, and accountants fundamentally are about business. CPA Congress in Melbourne this year includes a workshop to help people understand how they can use online social networking tools without causing great grief and how a business can respond to the business challenge of online social networking in a positive way. For those few people that are natural digital denizens, the workshop will discuss tactics they already know. For others, there will be hints and tips that will save them time, money and a poor online reputation.

The social networking phenomenon is here to stay and will continue to grow. Businesses must understand the impact of social networking upon the business, and monitor their ‘internet footprint’. Individuals must understand acceptable behaviour when living out their digital life. Simply ‘banning’ or ‘ignoring’ online social networking is rarely helpful. A sensible and informed approach is important, with an awareness of the potential risks and problems.

Social networking: sometimes, it’s about business.

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