Reworked 14 February 2005
On re-reading I discover with some embarrassment that the INDELIVERABLE project is inadequate and needs to be reworked entirely. The same holds true for the outline below. I will not delete the old description, but insert new text and mark the old text in brown colour.
INDELIVERABLE is a project investigating a fictional EU-funded project called PANOPE, which deals with the market validation of a system offering internet-based tourism services. The main thing worth investigating is not the project PANOPE, but to understand how it has turned me into a function, a function which even crept into the benevolent critique I was going to offer in INDELIVERABLE. This is no longer possible. I have no intention now to 'respect the ethnographic dignity of project work as life form' or 'to bring, by manner of repair, a more self-reflexive investigative attitude to project work'. (I would wish the best explanation for this aberration was an unresolved infatuation with Lucy Suchman.)
Nevertheless, it is in keeping with the method (this at least has not changed) not to delete the embarrassing declarations, but to confront them and depart from them, if possible.
While there is no real project called PANOPE, there is a real base of experiences collected under that token name. The most fundamental, pervasive feelings of disgust at the market ideology, of self-abuse and shame when picking up and working the lingo, was (or had to be) hidden at the time of writing, as we will see. The title "INDELIVERABLE" indicates that the output will not be shaped like the "deliverables" which together make up the output of PANOPE and similar projects: reports (such as market analyses, cost-benefit analyses, state-of-the art reviews, user requirements) or other outputs such as software, standards, etc. It seems I have been prepared to write another deliverable through INDELIVERABLE, just a smarter one, a meta-thingy, but the same stuff in essence. The name I have picked, indicating the mould, the negative form of the horrid thing, gives it away. How could a negative form of anything get truly away from it, transcend that thing? Re-reading conveys an imbecile attitude of a wiseguy informally 'spilling the beans' on something, revealing the inner workings in the production of research and marketing artefacts that are probably familiar to most involved in similar project work. Why on earth should a 'self-reflexive attitude' remedy supposed flaws in projects that mask, whatever small benefit they may produce on immediate levels, the fundamental and pervasive idiocity of a capitalist society (here: its tourism business)? In aiming to be more self-reflexive, did I seriously intend to make my market analyses more quizzical, fuzzy or 'caring', rather than to reject the scum wholesale? How could I believe that there could be anything redeeming about tourism's takeover of ever more sectors of life after whatever industries or crafts had been brought down (noble things like tuna-fishing - OK, I romanticise)?
The simple answer is that in PANOPE, I had better be numb and blind to go along with the work. I had no means to determine my own work within the project, or even, to influence in any significant way its instruments or outcomes; the Ten Telecom programme has the bracket of 'market validation' project, and the ideology and its protocols are defined at the outset in the call and the information for proposers. Take it or leave it. The only way to work in such a project with ease is to snuff out the feeling that the whole thing stinks and should be rejected, or fundamentally questioned. Am I surprised that I was apparently quite able to do just that? I don't know. There are many ways of casting one's actions and ommissions in a way that does not bring up conflicts with one's own belief systems (or, speaking on other levels, one's accepted truths; or Ueber-ich constructs; or whatever).
The rest may remain here unchanged for now:
The nature of a deliverable is that it covers aspects that have been defined at the outset and that are put down in the technical annex, against which the project success will be measured. The modus operandi is therefore to try to meet the self-set targets, which often leads to a glossing over (or suppression) of significant emergent problems and changes that became apparent during the execution of the work. The reason for this suppression is simple: if the evaluation by the funding body uncovers deviations from the technical annex or finds that the promised targets are not met, it may ask for expensive changes or in the worst case, reclaim funds or refuse further funding (abort the project).
In contrast to the deliverables in projects such as PANOPE, the (in)deliverables of INDELIVERABLE are not known in advance and will slowly aggregate through an investigation both of the topics and contents of PANOPE, and a reflexion of the mode and frame of investigation itself. The first-order investigation brackets out aspects that become visible only when stepping back from the pragmatic, goal- and success-oriented approach implicit both in first-order projects, both in commercial projects and in EU projects that (as we will see) may have considerably less grounding in a particular business interests or actual user needs.
class="old">Aspects that will not enter PANOPE deliverables are prime content of INDELIVERABLE. INDELIVERABLE's space may be defined as the inverted space of PANOPE, i.e. INDELIVERABLE will focus especially on what cannot or should not be said in official PANOPE documents.
It must be considered what stance to take with regard to the possible use of such information as 'reconnaissance information' for the Commission. There is an efficiency argument and a relevance argument which both favour such forms of possibly compromising feedback. On the other hand, chances are none of this will be news to anyone in the commission or informed ppolitical circles. But by virtue of becoming public, a situation might arise through an unlikely cumulation of publicity (this is entirely unpredictable) in which the commission might be forced to play surprised with ensueing consequences for the project, it's partners, subcontractors, employees. Unlikely, but possible.
INDELIVERABLE operational internals: Recursive Management control
Commission - >Co-ordinator -> Project Partner -> Subcontractor CEO -> Subcontractor Project manager -> Subcontractor Intern
The actual loop is more complex:
Co-ordinator -> (Project Partner) -> Subcontractor Project manager -> Subcontractor Intern Commission ^ CEO Subcontractor ^
In a sense the subcontractor is accountable to the project-coordinator as much or more than to the partner acting as customer/contract provider. This has partly project-historical reasons. Which means the Commission has a supervisory role, checking the project (via the coordinator) periodically to ensure things appear to be on course, while the Subcontractor CEO has a supervisory role with respect to the Subcontractor project manager, giving feedback when asked, checking occasionally whether things are on course, and take corrective action where it appears necessary, without getting really involved in the day-to-day management.
This loop is rather loose; in other instances, it has allowed for one-year delays.
We really have to watch the positivism and descriptivism of this piece.
This is the common thing in many work processes: on the assumed basis of a background of knowledge / social rules / dos and donts:
..where depending on the task the direcives may be very tight, or very loose, even non-existent; in this case, directives would only be called up by actions veering outside the expected field or in response to outside warnings (say, by the co-ordinator).
taking photos, asking questions, documenting things not cionsidered worth documenting
There is the possibility of a cover-up story, a second identity of INDELIVERABLE: as a straightforward project documentation, even a project showcase of the PANOPE project and its partners; to be tackled as a dissemination task.
This it's not simply a decoy, there is the real possibility that it might work both ways. What needs to be determined is whether the integrity of the piece is compromised by being used as an 'optimised' subset for a partivular purpose (e.g., suppressing all the introspective aspects of the project process, anything potentially compromising or casting the project in the light of a gravy train or its results as possibly inconsequential.)
Another aspect is the rights issue if the material is used in a context different from the one presented (first-level dissemination). The awkward choise is:
If copyright clearance is not given, documenting this may replace the original document. Still the question remains whether this could damage the company's reputation and thereby, the project manager's job position.
Prepare for surprise or explain in writing/discussion?
Or just use material which seems suitable for 'normal' dissemination activities (such as group photo of consortium) and photos at the own office space with consent of the photographed?