January 15, 2008

Red Light, Green Light (1st Cowen Highlight)

I’ve been a student in some sense all my life. Aren’t we all though, we go through life learning from the most unexpected mentors and teachers? After returning to the class room from a 15 year hiatus I had to dust off the old volumes in my head of what it was like to be in a classroom. Being in the business world I was accustom to participating in open group situations. So when I decided to take an on-line class, an experience entirely new to me, there was an entire new set of signals to learn. Until Econ 398 most of my formal education has been in either an in-person peer to peer or in a classroom situation.

My need to decide what signals I’d send began soon after receiving the syllabus. Downloading it on Dec. 20th I printed it out for my trip to NJ and brought along Harford’s book. Having a lot of time on the plane I read the 1st half of Harford’s book fairly quickly and being a proactive type of person was debating on whether or not to put up a my first essay before the class even started. What sort of signal would that send? Would it be that I was overanxious? A go getter? Maybe I was busy and had to fit the time in as soon as it was available? Perhaps I’m just passionate about what I’m learning? Or maybe I’m just an annoying over achiever? Truth be told I’m a bit of all of those, and I thought of them all before even considering my submission. So why didn’t I put the essay out earlier? Fear, uncertainty, unfamiliarity. Having never participated in this sort of forum before and with a blog being a new type of assignment for me I wasn’t sure how far I could take my creativity. Because of this I thought I’d wait to see what else was done, get a feel for parameters and how other’s interpreted the assignment. If they were wrong and I followed along then I’d die with the masses like a good little lemming. If they were correct in there interpretation of the assignment then I’d have a guideline to base what I did and didn’t do on.

Likewise, a lot of my experience and comfort level in any given situation is gained from interpersonal communication. The blog being online with communication all text based and not immediate interaction was another unfamiliar aspect to me as well as a potential learning experience. I was excited about the idea of a blog, expecting an open exchange of ideas, again though I wasn’t sure what to expect and not wanting to stick what I perceived to be my virtual neck out too far before I created an on-line personality. By waiting to participate I sent a message to myself. With each post I made on the blog I sent a message to others as well as professor Eubanks about my desired level of participation, about what I was comfortable commenting on and what I wasn’t. This goes beyond the actual content I posted, the frequency, the length and the depth of analysis. It showed either with embarrassment or pride where my knowledge range ended and my hubris began. By picking the concept of signals as the main topic for my highlight I send a signal on what I feel is important to me and what is less so. I’ve always believed that what you say is just as important as what you don’t and to conduct yourself as if someone is always watching you, not as paranoia or because I’m concerned what others think but because I am conscious of the message I’m sending and all the potential ways it can be interpreted.

I believe we do this everyday countless times, in reality we couldn’t co-exist without signals. Without signals no market would be able to function and there is a good chance we couldn’t even get it to work each day, if we even had jobs to go to. With every mannerism, every word chosen, the amount of time we spend or the lack of these we send a signal to those around us. We communicate both verbally and through action to define our personal economy with those around us. We’re continuously sending and receiving these signals and as these signals do in financial markets it produces order out of potential chaos. In our daily lives it keeps the world together and functioning as a community both locally and globally making a series of trades between personal economies. Implicitly or explicitly we share our knowledge about what are incentives for us, how we value our own personal opportunity costs and how we establish the control we need to in our lives as Cowen discusses.

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