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NUMBERS / Vol. 68, No. 2 (Summer 2001)

July 1, 2001

Arien Mack, Editor

 

Table of Contents

 

Arien Mack
Editor's Introduction

This issue on “Numbers” covers ground that has been explored many times before, but it is a process that probably cannot be exhausted. For a journal that lives in a social science faculty, the decision to organize this issue seemed long overdue, and its appropriateness was recently confirmed by the welcomed arrival of our new dean, Kennith Prewitt, who until early January of this year was the director of the United States Census Bureau.

 

Alain Desrosieres
How Real Are Statistics? Four Possible Attitudes

The article presents a revised version of the article originally published in French by the INSEE (Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques) and translated in English by Jonathan Mandelbaum. It discusses the four possible attitudes to reality offered by business statistics including metrological realism, accounting realism, use of material from a database and nominalist or constructivist attitude. Metrological realism relies on the assumption that the existence of reality may be invisible but is permanent even if its measurement differs over time. On the other hand, the nominalist attitude's concern is on the reconstruction of coding and measuring conventions, arising from controversy.

 

Otniel E. Dror
Counting the Affects: Discoursing in Numbers

The article presents an essay on human-affective machine technologies, which are new modes of interactions between computers and humans at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Affective Computing Laboratory. A technology which was considered by the author to have been developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The author examines the genealogy of numeral transformation of emotions. He begins with survey of the meanings of emotions, its mechanization and vulgarization in its scientific study and its repression in the post-Victorian era of emotionology.

 

Peter Miller

Governing by Numbers: Why Calculative Practices Matter

The article presents the application of calculative practices of accounting in the sociological literature and how these alter the capacities of agents, organizations and connections among them. It focuses on how accounting such as cost accounting shapes social and economic relations. Likewise, it deals with management accounting as a practice used in various services and as a set of tools with which to manage an organization like an enterprise and to act on individuals for producing specified rates of return.

 

Mary Poovey
For Everything Else, There's...

The article presents the logic behind the commodification in the modern social imaginary epitomized by finance capital system such as in the promotion of a credit card. It is a logic that puts an exchange value and a market price to everything and every experience. The said logic feeds on the imagination with value, sensations and experience of time and space of the modern world. Commodification is introduced through the concepts of quantification, abstraction and market price as well as in historical context including the English economy.

 

Marcel Boumans
Measure for Measure: How Economists Model the World into Numbers

The article discusses economic models as instruments of measuring economic phenomena from obtainable numerical facts; as in the theory of measurement where measurement is the mapping of a property of the empirical world into sets of numbers. Contributions of notable people such as Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen in macroeconomics and econometrics with focus on the business-cycle phenomena are likewise discussed. In addition, Galileo's model of intelligibility based on Archimedean simple mechanisms is also explained.

 

Martin Bulmer
Social Measurement: What Stands in Its Way?

The article deals with the challenges in improving social measurement used in social science research, which may be in terms of social indicators, social class and race and ethnicity. Measurement is defined as the process to which a numerical value is assigned to the level or state of an object. The author discusses in details the complexities of conceptualization, measurement, operationalization and execution in quantitative social research. He focuses on the need for the processes involved in social classification.

 

William Seltzer
The Dark Side of Numbers: The Role of Population Data Systems in Human Rights Abuses

The article presents the use and misuse of population data systems in human rights abuses. It references the earlier version of the article presented by William Seltzer at the International Association of Official Statistics 2000 Conference in Montreux, Switzerland on September 4-8, 2000. The uses of such population data systems include taxation purposes, military and economic planning and analysis. However, a documented review of the history of genocide and forced migration is discussed as a result of the misuse of population data systems.

 

Claudia Baracchi
Numbers of Earth: The Labor of the Intellect in Nature

The article presents the geometry of the earth, where geometria means the measure of the earth. Geometry as the author states is an attempt at coming in terms with the earth. The author talks about abstractions as stated by Plato, Husserl in his discussion of the constitution of the geometrico-mathematical objects, Proclus and Herodotus. In addition, the author talks about the relationship of poetry in all these abstractions about the earth; that poetry primordially illuminates the earth and that it lets transpire that earthly provenance.

 

Libby Schweber
Manipulation and Population Statistics in Nineteenth-Century France and England

The article presents an essay that deals with the study conducted by Donald MacKenzie and the case studies comparing the use of population statistics in France and Great Britain in the periods of 1825 and 1885. It analyzes Donald MacKenzie's study on the ways professional and political commitments informed the choice of statistical indexes in the British statistical community. Furthermore, the author is interested in knowing how this influenced the development of mathematical statistics in Great Britain. The author concludes that the differences in the debates over population statistics are accounted to the differences in the social and epistemological logics of population statistics.

 

 

 

 

 

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