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more evidence for the libertarian chic hypothesis

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I recently suggested that conservatives like to associate themselves with the libertarians because it looks cool, even if these groups believe very different things. There is more evidence that the conservative/libertarian fit is bad. From an article about a survey done by the Public Religion Research institute:

Sixty-one percent of libertarians do not identify themselves as part of the Tea Party, the survey showed. About 7 percent of the adult population is consistently libertarian and that includes 12 percent of those who describe themselves as Republicans.

“There’s largely agreement on economic issues – the gap is in how libertarians approach social issues, ” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, which conducts an annual “American Values Survey” on political and social issues.

And:

Libertarians are more opposed to government involvement in economic policies than those affiliated with the Tea Party and Republicans overall, the survey found. For instance, 65 percent of libertarians were opposed to increasing the minimum wage, while 57 percent of Republicans overall supported it, the survey found.

Ninety-six percent of libertarians oppose President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare restructuring compared to 89 percent of Republicans.

But nearly 60 percent of libertarians oppose making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, while 58 percent of Republicans and those affiliated with the Tea Party favor such restrictions, according to the survey.

More than 70 percent of libertarians favored legalizing marijuana, while about 60 percent of Republicans and Tea Party members opposed such a move, the survey found.

An important tension worth exploring.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 13, 2014 at 12:01 am

of dead sociologies

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I am now old enough that I have seen three traditions in American sociology die. In describing them, I am not necessarily saying that I don’t like them. In fact, I am a published practitioner in one of them. Rather, these traditions have not been able to reproduce themselves at the core of the profession. They may be popular in other fields, but not in soc:

  • Functionalism/neo-functionalism
  • Postmodernism
  • Rational choice

Each promised a lot and had a moment in American sociology. Munch, Alexander, and others led the charge on neo-functionalism in the 1990s, and Luhmann has a following. Rational choice still has notable adherents, like Doug Heckathorn at Cornell or Richard Breen at Yale. And the AJS and ASR had their share of articles discussing postmodernism (here, for example). But still, it’s hard to say that these traditions aren’t dormant in American sociology. Few students, few placements.

The question is whether there is any commonality. Is American sociology resistant to certain types of theory? If these three cases indicate a deeper process, then I’d make the following guesses:

  • “Strong assumptions” – American sociologists don’t like models with what appear to be overly strong assumptions. Rational choice models have smart actors; postmodernism has overly complex actors; and the various functionalisms had actors that were hyper sensitive to social norms and communities were overly structured.
  • “High tech” – With the exception of applied statistics, American sociologists don’t like fancy things. The AGIL system in functionalism; math for RCT; European philosophy/social theory for post-modernism.

So the ideal theory would be one with weak assumptions and requires little machinery. Many of the dominant theories these days seem to fit this: institutionalism/field theory; intersectionality theory; theories of racial privilege; etc. Network theory rests on simple, but weak, assumptions and uses only stats.

It is unclear to me if this is a good or bad state of affairs. However, if you think it’s bad, then you have a real problem. The most obvious way to change it is to recruit different kinds of people into the profession who like demanding theory or high tech tools. That seems like a tall order given our undergraduate audience, which is the major talent pool for the profession.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 11, 2014 at 12:01 am

our blog’s new mission statement

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Written by fabiorojas

August 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, Institutions

how to hang out with computer scientists

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I’ve recently argued that sociology has an amazing opportunity. The emergence of data science means that you should have people who really understand research design and social behavior. It doesn’t mean that sociology will automatically reap the benefits. Rather, we’ll have to work at it. My suggestions:

  • Sociology programs should now make basic programming a standard feature of the undergrad and graduate degree.
  • We have to have an internal discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of Internet generated data, much in the same way that there is a literature on the pros and cons of surveys, experiments, and ethnography.

We should also reach out to our colleagues:

  • Start cross-over workshops.
  • Reach out to faculty who already work with behavioral data by offering to help with grants
  • Personally, I’ve found it hard to work with CS graduate students. They have the normal level of grad student instability + six figure paychecks waiting for them outside of academia. But still, some are very curious, super smart, and willing to think about behavioral science.

The major barrier, in my view, is the differing publication style. CS happens very, very quickly – sometimes in a manner of weeks, while sociology is slow. We have to stop that.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 8, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

creative reconstruction

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One of the most famous passages in economic thought is Schumpeter’s description of markets as an arena for “creative destruction.” This conjures images of the rust belt with its abandoned factories and warehouses. In the Internet age, I think the story is a bit different. Sure, we have Pets.com and other collateral damage of innovation, but it seems that the Internet allows some firms and brands a bit more flexibility. You have creative reconstruction.

For example, people laugh at MySpace and Friendster for losing their early advantage in social networking to Facebook. It sounds as if these firms became the 21st century equivalent of horse and buggy firms (which is also a myth – these firms didn’t just go bankrupt but slowly morphed and merged with auto makers). But if you actually look, you see that MySpace is attracting a million visitors per month and ranks in the top 500 web sites in the United States. Similarly, Friendster is now a gaming web site with a few million users, mainly from Asia.

Make no mistake, these firms will likely never regain their position of dominance. They are quite close to failure (see here for recent MySpace pessimism). But they still seem to have quite a bit of value, nearly a decade after their collapse. If I told you about a company with a few million visitors, but didn’t tell you the origin, you’d probably be impressed. The lesson I take is that the market can allow opportunities for reconstruction.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 7, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, markets

self-publishing at inside higher ed

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A recent Inside Higher Ed article describes the world of academic self-publishing. My own view of the issue:

Fabio Rojas, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, said he’s “still a believer in regular publishing.” (His next book is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.)

“The reason that academia has value is that we’re people who engage in self-criticism,” Rojas said. “We have peer review. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t always work, and a lot of garbage gets published anyway. But that’s why most of the energy in academia may be on traditionally peer-reviewed materials — because that’s what the value added is.”

But self-publishing, the sociologist said, “is now a new tool in the tool box.”

“If I want to get something out there that doesn’t quite fit the mold, then I have this new option,” he said. “What if Mark Zuckerberg had to go to the Myspace people and ask permission to start Facebook? That would be absurd. Same thing with academia: after a certain point you have to say, if this is a truly good idea, you have to take the initiative and get it out there.”

In other words, be an adult. Peer review is very important and it’s usually quite helpful. But sometimes you need to stand up for your ideas and get them out there. I was also happy to see that Sociological Science got attention for its innovative model:

Other scholars, however, aim for a middle ground. They want to avoid the hassles of academic publishing, but they don’t want to abandon the long-cherished forms that scholarship tends to take: the review, the article, the monograph. And they hesitate to publish through Amazon or through similar websites like Smashwords or Lulu, which publish all manuscripts without any screening process.

The online, open-access journal Sociological Science is one example of how scholars have tried to develop alternative publishing models. The journal is peer-reviewed: well-regarded sociologists select which papers to publish. But the journal does not offer editorial suggestions, and it publishes all accepted papers within 30 days of receiving them.

Check out the whole article.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 6, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio

grade inflation experiment

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A recent article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives reports a recent attempt to curb grade inflation. High GPA departments at Wellesley College were required to cap high grades. The abstract:

Average grades in colleges and universities have risen markedly since the 1960s. Critics express concern that grade inflation erodes incentives for students to learn; gives students, employers, and graduate schools poor information on absolute and relative abilities; and reflects the quid pro quo of grades for better student evaluations of professors. This paper evaluates an anti-grade-inflation policy that capped most course averages at a B+. The cap was biding for high-grading departments (in the humanities and social sciences) and was not binding for low-grading departments (in economics and sciences), facilitating a difference-in-differences analysis. Professors complied with the policy by reducing compression at the top of the grade distribution. It had little effect on receipt of top honors, but affected receipt of magna cum laude. In departments affected by the cap, the policy expanded racial gaps in grades, reduced enrollments and majors, and lowered student ratings of professors.

My sense is that this shows that grade inflation, whatever its historical origins, acts as a competitive advantage for programs that few other market advantages. If you don’t have a strong external job market or external funding, then you can boost enrollments via grade inflation. It also absolves programs by masking racial under performance. The lesson for academic management is this: If you have inequality in funding, departments will compensate by weak grading. If you have inequality by race, departments will compensate by weak grading. Thus, academic leaders who care about either of these issues should implement policies where departments don’t choose standards and are accountable for results.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

comment on museums and orgtheory

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Dirk vom Lehn is a lecturer in marketing, interaction, and technology at King’s College London. He is very interested in ethnomethodology and interactionism. He wrote this short comment about museums.

The Organization of Museums

Dirk vom Lehn (King’s College London)

@dirkvl

It’s holiday season and many of the readers orgtheory.net are going not only to the beach but also to museums, galleries and science centers. It therefore is just right that orgtheory.net runs a series of posts concerned with museums as organizations giving us some ideas of what to look out for, apart from the fun and entertainment of the sites. In organization studies and related disciplines there has been of course a long-standing interest in museums as organizations. Many of these disciplines however primarily focus on museums as organizations that deploy technologies to collect, archive, preserve and exhibit original objects. They curiously show little interest in studying exhibitions and the organization of actions through which the general public, including us, the readers of orgtheory.net in our leisure, gain access to and make sense of the original objects on display. Whilst there is considerable sociological and applied research in the area of audience and visitor research in museums, it largely either re-evaluates the intellectual access to museums using Bourdieusian concepts – see for example Tony Bennett’s (cf. 2009) excellent analyses – or conducts evaluation studies that aim to improve the ‘effectiveness’ of museums in providing people with physical and intellectual access to science, culture and the arts. These evaluations of ‘effectiveness’ are of limited use to museums and are in fact, as a recent report by Maurice Davies and Christian Heath (2013, p.3) suggests, “seen as a necessary chore, part of accountability but marginal to the work of museums” (Davies and Heath 2013a, p.3). For organization studies however, it would seem that this concern of museum managers with ‘effectiveness’ could be a starting-point to intervene and conduct studies on the exhibition floor. Rather than starting from educational measures and indicators of learning from exhibits that often are deployed by exhibition evaluators and museum educators, organization studies could flip perspectives and instead investigate how those acting and interacting on the exhibition floor, orient to effectiveness. So, when on our vacation we visit museums we might want to consider if we (and our family and friends) see our engagement with the original objects in the exhibitions as ‘effective’ and in what way. What would have helped our experience with the exhibits? What hindered it? Questions like these might give us a starting-point where to start and expand organization studies’ perspective on museums on our return to the office. Until then, enjoy your vacations and the museums you visit.

Some References

Bennett, Tony, Mike Savage, Professor of Sociology Mike Savage, Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva, Alan Warde, Modesto Gayo-Cal, and David Wright. 2009. Culture, Class, Distinction. Routledge.

Bittner, Egon. 1965. “The Concept of Organization.” Edited by Roy Turner. Social Research 32 (3): 239–258. doi:10.5449/idslu-001091498.176.

Davies, Maurice, and Christian Heath. 2014. “‘Good’ Organisational Reasons for ‘ineffectual’ Research: Evaluating Summative Evaluation of Museums and Galleries.” Cultural Trends 23 (1): 57–69. doi:10.1080/09548963.2014.862002.

Garfinkel, Harold. 1956. “Some Sociological Concepts and Methods for Psychologists.” Psychological Research Reports 6 (October): 181–195.

Heath, Christian, and Dirk vom Lehn. 2008. “Configuring ‘Interactivity’: Enhancing Engagement in Science Centres and Museums.” Social Studies of Science 38 (1): 63–91. doi:10.1177/0306312707084152.

vom Lehn, Dirk. 2014. Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 4, 2014 at 3:10 am

Posted in fabio, nonprofit

my favorite weird al video of the week

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Written by fabiorojas

August 3, 2014 at 12:01 am

fiona rae discusses her art

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Written by fabiorojas

August 2, 2014 at 12:01 am

the creationism museum: lessons for social movement theory

This summer, Casey Oberlin finished her Ph.D. and she will soon join the sociology faculty of Grinnell College. Her dissertation is a fascinating study of the Creationism Museum in Kentucky. It’s hard to do proper service to such a rich work, but I’d like to summarize some key points for students of social movements and organizations.

Roughly speaking, one branch of the creationist movement has decided to drop conventional politics and instead spend their resources on a museum. This is an interesting issue – why would a museum be viewed as a viable movement strategy? A few key points from Casey’s work:

  • This is an example of “bypassing” where movements decide that electoral politics is limited.
  • This is an example of trying to encourage cultural change.
  • This is a leveraging of existing academic and intellectual structures. They don’t reject science and academia, they dispute one specific issue (evolution).
  • This is an example of factionalism and organizational learning, where current creationists have decided to break off and do it differently because of previous movement failure.

There is much, much more. A nuanced work.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 1, 2014 at 1:01 am

museums vs. neo-institutional theory

In this post, I’ll revive an argument that I raised in the journal Museum & Society. In an article co-authored with Nick Rowland (a former guest on this blog), we argued that it is unwise to use museums as an exemplar of institutional theory. According to the traditional view, museums are these completely malleable things that bend to the will of the institutional environment.

Instead, we argue that there is a technical core to museums that often asserts itself. For example, contemporary art often requires large spaces to installations. Museums that wish to preserve their art must have technology for controlling temperature and humidity. Modern museums also have systems for managing accounts, tracking attendance, and other tasks. We don’t argue that institutionalism is wrong, but that museums are not the “cultural dupes” that appear in the literature. Even cultural organizations have technical cores that must be integrated with their social environments.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 31, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

the rock and roll museum sucks, big time

I recently visited Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s not a terribly good museum, even though it covers a topic, rock and roll, which is very exciting. In this post, I’ll try to figure out what goes wrong.

It always helps to start with a discussion of what museums do. In general, they (a) entertain, (b) educate/inform/indoctrinate, and (c) act as an archive or research center. It’s pretty clear that the R&R Museum isn’t scholarly, so we have to think about how the museum tries to entertain or engage the audience, or tell the audience something.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

July 30, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

the people of good taste vs. the george lucas museum

Over the past few years, George Lucas has tried to find a home for his museum, which will house his personal collection of contemporary art and, of course, the deepest collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the world. At first, he tried his backyard, San Francisco, before choosing the city of Chicago.

It turns out the move to Chicago won’t be worry free. Apparently, a coalition of Bears fans will try to stop the Lucas Museum from locating itself next to soldier field. From artnet.com:

The group fighting for maintaining public and open space claims that Lucas’s plans for a 95,000-square-foot cultural institution are in direct violation of a city ordinance that ensures that space adjacent to Lake Michigan be reserved for public use. The other group threatening to sue over the choice of location for the museum—which will house artworks from Lucas’s private collection including pieces by Maxfield Parrish, Alberto Vargas, and Norman Rockwell, as well as Star Wars memorabilia—has a much more practical reason for its opposition: The institution would be built on a site that is currently devoted to two parking lots next to Soldier Field use by Bears fans for pregame tailgating.

This nicely illustrates how organizations fit into urban systems. First, there are the overt politics of an organization. Is it welcome? Does it flaunt public values? Second, how does it fit into the “spontaneous order” of urban politics? While the planner in the mayor’s office probably saw an ugly parking lot, they didn’t see how locals use the space for the very emotionally rooted rituals, like football. Later in the article, various people are quoted as saying that they welcome the Lucas museum, but maybe it should be used to develop low income neighborhoods. Thus, the Lucas Museum has been punted from being part of the “urban engine” of sports and entertainment and thrown into the domain of Chicago race politics. It will be interesting to see if Lucas sidesteps this, or is drawn into another development quagmire.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 29, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

holy smokes, reagan and bush both supported open immigration – just watch this clip

This clip is full of rationality, sanity, and basic human decency. Reagan even proposes an essentially open US/Mexico border at the end. When Reagan is to the left of Obama, it shows our policies are in need of serious overhaul.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power  

Written by fabiorojas

July 28, 2014 at 2:42 am

this is museum week on orgtheory

This week, we’ll have a series of posts dedicated to museums. Some will be personal, others academic. Here’s the line up:

  • Tuesday: The trials of the George Lucas museum.
  • Wednesday: Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could be better.
  • Thursday: The limits of institutional theory as applied to museums.
  • Friday: What the Creationism Museum in Kentucky tells us about social movements.

For some, it’ll be better than shark week.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio, nonprofit

jazz(game of thrones)

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Written by fabiorojas

July 27, 2014 at 12:04 am

explanation of jeff koons

Warning: Some of Koons’ work is NSFW! Not for kids.

Except for the cheesy intro music, I like this review of Jeff Koons’ recent show. I’ve always had this love/hate approach to his work and I think this discussion by art critic Rodrigo Canete helps out. #puppies

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 26, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in culture, fabio

data bleg: categorical data

Please put in the comments, or link to, a data set that has the following properties:

  1. A few hundred cases, but not too many ( 300 < N < 1000).
  2. Longitudinal categorical variable X with the following properties
  3. Categorical variable should NOT be ordered. States should be like {chocolate,vanilla, strawberry}, not {strong agree, neutral, strong disagree}.
  4. About 4-7 time periods.
  5. About 4-7 states that X can be in (e.g., five political parties, five ice cream flavors).
  6. “Legitimate data” – no one will bug me about using this data set. Decent response rate, nice set of covariates for X, data collected for a legitimate research project, etc.

This is for a methods project I’ve been working on. So I don’t need something fancy, just something that that has these specific properties to highlight the strengths of the method. Feel free to email me as well.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 25, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

computer science “brain drain”

has an interesting post on the perceived “brain drain” in computer science. From a recent post at the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing blog:

But what do scientists think of big data? Last year, in a widely circulated blog post titled “The Big Data Brain Drain: Why Science is in Trouble,” physicist Jake VanderPlas made the argument that the real reason big data is dangerous is because it moves scientists from the academy to corporations.

“…But where scientific research is concerned, this recently accelerated shift to data-centric science has a dark side, which boils down to this: the skills required to be a successful scientific researcher are increasingly indistinguishable from the skills required to be successful in industry. While academia, with typical inertia, gradually shifts to accommodate this, the rest of the world has already begun to embrace and reward these skills to a much greater degree. The unfortunate result is that some of the most promising upcoming researchers are finding no place for themselves in the academic community, while the for-profit world of industry stands by with deep pockets and open arms.  [all emphasis in the original]“

His argument proceeds in four steps: first, he argues that yes, new data is indeed being produced, and in stupendously large quantities. Second, processing this data (whether it’s biology or physics) requires a certain kind of scientist who is skilled at both statistics and software-building. Third, that because of this shift, “scientific software” to clean, process, and visualize data has become a key part of the research process. And finally, because this scientific software needs to be built and maintained, and because the academy evaluates its scientists not for the software they build but for the papers they publish,  all of these talented scientists who would have spent a lot of their time building software are now moving to corporate research jobs, where this work is better rewarded and appreciated. All of this, he argues, does not bode well for science.

We’ve discussed this point on the blog before. We aren’t keeping good people in the academy. Aside from the financial incentives, we are really bad in terms of career development, job security, and gender equity. No wonder why we can’t keep people. We have to seriously reconsider the model where the only people who get good rewards are those who spend a decade getting their PhD dissertation published.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 24, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

improving journal review times

Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Saez, and László Sándor have an NBER paper on an experiment to improve journal review times. The experiment? Pay reviewers:

We evaluate policies to increase prosocial behavior using a field experiment with 1,500 referees at the Journal of Public Economics. We randomly assign referees to four groups: a control group with a six week deadline to submit a referee report, a group with a four week deadline, a cash incentive group rewarded with $100 for meeting the four week deadline, and a social incentive group in which referees were told that their turnaround times would be publicly posted. We obtain four sets of results. First, shorter deadlines reduce the time referees take to submit reports substantially. Second, cash incentives significantly improve speed, especially in the week before the deadline. Cash payments do not crowd out intrinsic motivation: after the cash treatment ends, referees who received cash incentives are no slower than those in the four-week deadline group. Third, social incentives have smaller but significant effects on review times and are especially effective among tenured professors, who are less sensitive to deadlines and cash incentives. Fourth, all the treatments have little or no effect on agreement rates, quality of reports, or review times at other journals. We conclude that small changes in journals’ policies could substantially expedite peer review at little cost. More generally, price incentives, nudges, and social pressure are effective and complementary methods of increasing prosocial behavior.

Love it. I wonder if the ASA Pub committee noticed?

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Written by fabiorojas

July 23, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio

indiana student killed in the ukraine

Last week, Indiana Ph.D. student Karlijn Keijzer was killed on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The university news web site reports that she was an athlete, gifted science student, and an accomplished teacher. Her passing is a tragedy that has deeply touched the IU community.

History will likely pin this senseless death, and the deaths of hundreds of others, on the separatists and their cruel patron in Moscow. Yet, we should reflect on a broader point. This type of violence, where governments hand out such sophisticated weapons of war to masked men, is made possible by nationalist sentiments. Putin only thrives because of a deep spring of nationalist pride that legitimizes war, a sentiment that exists in many nations. Before we egg on our leaders and demand that they bring war to other nations, let us remember the innocent people who will suffer.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 22, 2014 at 12:01 am

blogcation/grad skool rulz 2.0

I am taking a blogcation for about two weeks. But before I do, I’ll make one small announcement. The sales of Grad Skool Rulz are doing well and I think it’s time for an update. New cover, new content. I’ll work on it this coming semester, once some other projects are done. So if there is something you want in the new edition, put it in the comments. Also, once the new edition is released, the first 100 copies will be free.

PS. Don’t forget – if you have an idea for a guest post, feel free to send it in.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 11, 2014 at 12:02 am

nooks and experiences

It was recently announced that Barnes and Noble would spin off the Nook. Despite valiant attempts at penetrating the tablet market, they couldn’t do it. What is less remarked is that Barnes and Noble is actually profitable. Only the digital reader is a money loser. The question is, then, how is a brick and mortar outfit still alive in the age of Amazon and digital books?

My answer: experience. I, too, thought that B&N was done for.  But what I realize is that brick and mortar, in some cases, is an experience. A pleasant place to do things, even if it can be done cheaper online. Think restaurant. B&N, and the now rebounding independent book store sector, are providing reading experiences that people value. When I go to a B&N, I see things for kids, music, and a cafe. And it’s probably the most literary place in most suburbs. So, B&N, you shall live to see another day.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, markets

submit to socinfo 2014

This coming Fall, I will be one of the program chairs of Soc Info 2014, the 6th annual conference in social informatics. It will be held in Barcelona, Spain at the Yahoo regional headquarters. It’s a great opportunity to meet the people on the cutting edge of computer science and social science. We’ve already got a stunning line up of key note speakers – Lada Adamic, Duncan Watts, Michael Macy, and Daniele Quercia. Submit a paper or attend!

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Written by fabiorojas

July 9, 2014 at 12:53 am

Posted in academia, fabio

go to big cities, big data!

This August 15, Alex Hanna, a computational sociologist at Wisconsin, will host “Big Cities, Big Data” at the campus of UC Berekeley. BC/BD is a “hackathon” – a meeting of people who program all night long to develop new projects. The next day, the results will be presented at a workshop at ASA. From the announcement:

The theme is “big cities, big data: big opportunity for computational social science,” the idea being looking at contemporary urban issues — especially housing challenges — using data gathered and made publicly available by cities including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Austin, Boston, Somerville, Seattle, etc.

The hacking will start at noon on August 15 and go until the next day. Sleeping is optional. We’ll have a presentation and judging session in the evening of August 16 in San Francisco, exact location TBD.

We’re working with several academic and industry partners to bring together tools and datasets which social scientists can use at the event. So stay tuned as that develops.

Check it out! It’s the place to meet the next generation of sociology hackers!

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Written by fabiorojas

July 8, 2014 at 12:01 am

book spotlight: democracy in the making by kathleen blee

ASQ has just published my online my review of Kathleen Blee’s Democracy in the Making. The book is an intensive study of the development of 97 activist groups in Pittsburgh. It’s a book that has earned its praise. Two key quotes from my review, on methods and the implications for political theory:

A number of empirical points about this book deserve mention. First, the diversity of the groups Blee studies is a nice counterpoint to the focus on highly professionalized groups that often dominates the literature on social movements.
We encounter many small groups run by a single person, in addition to groups that have attracted large followings. Second, Blee employs the language of sequences and turning points to organize the argument, which allows her to focus on specific events that have effects on further development, such as defining issues and setting group boundaries. Third, by identifying the turning points, Blee is able to discuss the paths not taken, which is an analytic strength of this work.

And:

The implication for democratic theory is that the effectiveness of citizen action depends a great deal on what might be seen as innocuous choices made by activists. This is not obvious from other theories of political economy. Mancur Olson’s work, for example, argued that basic features of groups, such as their size, affect their influence. Blee’s work suggests a rather subtle link between culture and democratic decision making. The choice that activists make in defining their group relies on their cultural repertoire: when people define who is in the group, they will likely rely on the practices in their society. This, in turn, will affect how the group develops, which affects its ability to promote its agenda. Thus culture indirectly affects democracies through its influence on activist groups.

Recommended!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

July 7, 2014 at 12:01 am

music is my sanctuary

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

July 6, 2014 at 12:02 am

this post’s just six words long

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

July 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

higher education readings: faculty

The final installment in our readings on higher education:

Add more in the comments.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

July 4, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in education, fabio

sociology/computer science team up: part 2

A few days ago, I suggested that sociologists should seriously consider teaming up with computer scientists. Here, I’d like to sketch out the big picture to suggest why we are in a special moment. Basically, computer science has had three major stages of development:

  • Stage 1 (1949-1970s): The construction of computers. In this stage, it was all about the engineering. How could you make a machine that (a) could be programmed, as opposed to running one command, and (b) do it in a way that didn’t require a machine the size of a house?
  • Stage 2 (1970s-1990s): Learning and theory. Could you make a machine that could, say, solve an algebra equation? Play chess? See things? CS also developed its mathematical side. Does this algorithm find an answer in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Stage 3: (1990s-present): Social computers. Can we build machines that will help people, say, trade using e-currency? Operate in secure networks? In other words, instead of making computers mimic people, we make computers extensions of people.

Of course, people still work in all streams of computer science. The issue is that the social computing stream is now huge. That means that computer scientists are building a technical system that integrates human beings and computer networks. In other words, there isn’t going to be real sharp distinction between online behavior and “real world” behavior. They’ll be connected.

A second observation is that social computing is the engineering analog of “social action.” It’s a broad idea that encompasses a lot of behavior. This is a bit different than say, economics, which reduces a lot to price theory, or political science, which focuses on very specific things like voting or legislation. Instead, computer scientists are dealing with something that is extremely broad. That’s why they can entertain all the different types of data: video recording how people use computers, text analysis, online experiments, and plain old vanilla stats.

None of this means that the CS/soc hookup will automatically happen. Rather, this post explains why this opportunity has appeared. It’s up to us to make the most of it. Otherwise, you can bet on a series of Nature and Science articles that are sociological, but lack sociology authors.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

July 3, 2014 at 12:01 am

rule #6 is a blessing

A while back, we had some problems in the comments. Too much garbage. So we instituted some rules for comments. One that I’ve come to really appreciate is rule #6: we’ll censor you for any reason we want. Of course, in practice, it’s only been applied to a small handful of overly aggressive commenters.

But I’ve learned that Rule 6 is quite valuable beyond moderating comments. I’ve started blocking people on my Facebook feed, Twitter, and email. Once again, I’ve only done it a few times. Extremely negative and disruptive people are few in number. Blocking just a handful can radically change your environment.

So my advice to you all: Do you get too angry at people on Facebook? Just apply rule six. De-friend. Block. Delete. You’ll be better off.

How to Get out of Grad School FAST: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

July 2, 2014 at 12:01 am

blog review: randal collins

Nicolai “The Postmodernist” Foss recently drew my attention to the blog of sociologist Randall Collins. I had never read it before, but I’ve been missing out. My guess is that it documents Collins’ recent thoughts on topics that he’s working on. Examples:

Infrequent, but always good. Recommended.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

July 1, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in blogs, fabio, sociology

sociology: don’t screw this up, but we need to seriously hook up with computer science

Every once in a while, you get a free lunch. About a year and a half ago, sociology got a small free lunch. It was announced that the MCAT would now include sociology material. Awesome.

But there is a seriously huge free lunch coming up – the rise of “big data.” Ignore the nay sayers. Ignore the hand wringers who worry if Facebook is hurting our feelings. Look at the big picture. Silicon Valley has created a new social world that requires analysis. And not just the generic stuff you get from your local management consultant. They need analysis from people who understand human behavior and can build arguments. They don’t want data mining. They want theory and real research designs.

Consider this tweet from Elise Hu, a Washington Reporter, who quoted Joi Ito, director of the MIT media lab:

In other words, the world of computer science has stumbled into social science. As usual, many think that social science is garbage, but that is slowly changing. Many are being hired at Google and Facebook. Others are striking out on their own. Many within the social sciences are using computer science.

The big message? This is a huge opportunity. It can change the discipline – but only if we constructively interact with the computer science discipline. My recommendations:

  • Reach out to your colleagues in computer science. Run a seminar or write a grant.
  • Reach out to computer science students. Create courses for them, invite them to be on projects.
  • Treat “big data” was we would other data. It has strengths and weaknesses, but in being critical we can use it in the correct way and raise the level of discussion.
  • Submit to computer science conference. I’ll be honest, computer scientists are not statisticians. There are a lot of fascinating areas of computer science where the stats are very simple or the ideas are basic. We can add a lot of value.

The benefit? CS will get an infusion of good ideas to work through. Sociology will come into contact with some really cool  people, create a bigger audience, and get more resources. We can also get answers to some great questions.

So don’t screw it up, people. This doesn’t happen very often.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

June 30, 2014 at 1:51 am

the dark tree

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

June 29, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, fun

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