Helena Miton’s blog

ICCI's cabinet de curiosités. Hodgepodge of cultural items. Be my guest!

Ubiquitous yet nowhere to be found: on the Invisible Hand’s success

Adam Smith’s invisible hand is a tremendously successful metaphor. Quotes abound to state how important and pervasive the idea is (and was) for both economics and social sciences at large. Yet, the invisible hand also happens to also be a remarkably ill-defined metaphor. It seems nearly impossible to find an agreement through the literature as to what the metaphor is, exactly, or which phenomena would count as occurrences of the invisible hand. I want to suggest that the lack of a precise definition was not a problem, but the precise reason why it got so successful: it offered a versatile label that could be used to refer to causal links across scales of analysis, while avoiding to commit to any more precise mechanistic explanation.

Hand with a Stick, and Four People Sharing a Meal (Vincent van Gogh, 1885)
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Scientific aesthetics, sacred values, and interdisciplinary collaborations

Ever since I started working in research, I was lucky enough to work in interdisciplinary settings - starting with small research groups, up to an ERC-funded multi-teams collaboration. I have thus interacted with researchers from a variety of backgrounds and thought I would make public my two cents of wisdom on the topic. I would like to suggest a few things that can make scientific collaborations across disciplines or fields of expertise go slightly more smoothly, and at least feel more mutualistic.

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What it took for break-up songs to become cultural items

Gloria Gaynor singing I will survive

Some of the skills you develop as a PhD student were not on the program. Now two years into my PhD, I realize that I have become much better at composing nice playlists, and in particular break-up songs playlists. Admittedly, this is not what I thought I’d get good at, but, well, it still counts as a skill or knowledge of some sort, and I enjoy my newly-won status of information-provider. After years been given advice about music by others, ending up in the position of the adviser feels like an achievement.

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Why would Japanese spirits haunt toilets and ghosts hitchhike? [Halloween special]

  After getting lost in the meanders of the Internet—well, to be fair, of Wikipedia— a grayish Sunday morning, I ended up in the Urban legends section, and may have found some ‘blogpo

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Cow-tipping, and the strange performativity of ‘scientific studies’ – and cultural transmission

One of my all-time favorite scientific papers is the ‘Academic Urban Legends’ by Ole Bjorn Rekdal, published 2014 in the journal Social Studies of Science. Very briefly, the author goes through

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