Monday, May 27, 2013

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being QWERTY

A Harvard Law School grad with an idea he hasn't bothered to think through (from 2004):
In this Essay I demonstrate that a network economic analysis of race provides an important and intuitive explanation of racial inequality. In short, Microsoft’s Windows operating system, or the QWERTY keyboard, or the standard (non-metric) measurement system,and it is difficult to dislodge for many of the same reasons. ....
This insight casts new light on mainstream explanations of racial inequality, supporting the critique that (1) current racial inequality is not the result of unequal “merit,” but is the legacy of history, and (2) no racist intent or conspiracy is required for this inequality to continue. Rather, specific intent and determination is required to dislodge it.
'Dislodge' whiteness?  Wouldn't that require 'racist intent or conspiracy'?

Brant T. Lee of the University of Akron School of Law, further explains his understanding of what he has dubbed network economics effects;
...because of various forms of positive feedback, network markets tend to “lock in” to the dominant standard, which proves “sticky,” or difficult to change or penetrate. I describe in Part II how various complementary goods and services support Whiteness and further strengthen its dominance. In addition, a collective action problem makes it costly for a firm or individual to switch standards unless everyone else does at essentially the same time. Thus Whiteness tends to persist as a racial standard. I argue that displacing Whiteness would require personal and institutional retraining.
Third, the establishment of dominant standards in network markets is“path-dependent,” that is, it is contingent on small events and historical circumstance rather than optimal intrinsic features, utility, or merit. In Part III I argue that the dominance of Whiteness in the economy is primarily due to the history of the social and legal construction of Whiteness, rather than to superior merit and open competition. 
Left to our imaginations is why the Chinese, with a head start of thousands of years of civilization didn't lock-in their dominance, but were displaced by the inferior white guys coming along later.  Nor, why, say, English wasn't precluded from displacing French as the dominant language of European trade and diplomacy.  Among other puzzles.
The ability to speak English is virtually useless unless there are others who speak the same language. The more people there are who speak English, the more valuable that ability is. English speakers share a common technical communication standard—here, a set of words,definitions, grammatical rules, and idioms—that allows them to communicate with a great number of people. Thus one might expect that a dominant language standard would develop. Indeed, some claim that despite intense cultural and nationalist opposition, English is becoming the de facto worldwide language standard, especially for business, scientific,and tourism purposes.
That fact has implications for his theory which seem not to have penetrated.

No comments:

Post a Comment