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Archive for the ‘fabio’ Category

the rock and roll museum sucks, big time

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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

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

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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

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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”

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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.

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

Written by fabiorojas

July 24, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, mere empirics

improving journal review times

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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?

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

Written by fabiorojas

July 23, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in academia, fabio

indiana student killed in the ukraine

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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

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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!

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

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!

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Written by fabiorojas

July 7, 2014 at 12:01 am

music is my sanctuary

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Written by fabiorojas

July 6, 2014 at 12:02 am

this post’s just six words long

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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.

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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

new way to watch star wars

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Written by fabiorojas

June 28, 2014 at 12:44 am

higher education readings: about students

This week, some readings on who goes to college and why:

Use the comments for more suggestions.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 27, 2014 at 12:01 am

libertarianism as right wing chic

Radical chic” is an old term from the 70s indicating that a politically liberal person is trying to look cool by promoting radical causes. I think  we are now seeing a similar phenomenon among conservatives. Many call themselves libertarian to sound cool, but they don’t actually endorse many libertarian positions except for free trade.

Case in point: The person who defeated Eric Cantor is David Brat, a professor of economics who uses the term libertarian to describe himself. But on a range of issues beside economic deregulation, he appears to be a standard issue social conservative. Immigration? Against it. Abortion? Against it. Foreign policy? Vague. Cutting the military? Nope. Gay rights? Silent. And like many conservatives, cutting government means just cutting the programs that conservatives are upset about, like Obamacare, rather than across the board cuts. If you think that libertarians are socially liberal but economic conservatives, he seems to be very close to a social conservative.

My theory? Social conservatives don’t have a very positive image outside of their movement. Social conservatives have been tarnished by anti-immigration hysteria, anti-Black attitudes, and a strong emphasis on abortion. In contrast, libertarianism is a small movement but has some high status adherents (e.g., many well known economists are libertarians, a number of Silicon Valley billionaires, even a Harvard philosopher). It might also be a political term that is less familiar, so there is less risk in using it.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 26, 2014 at 12:07 am

Posted in current events, fabio

relative vs. absolute improvement in policy

Last week, Elizabeth wrote about Finland’s educational system. Like many high performing school systems, Finland relies on a relatively elite teacher corp. However, Elizabeth and other commenters were skeptical that the same approach would work in the US. I.e., you can’t get improvement by firing the worst teachers.  The commenters responded that the issue was that the “new” worst teachers would still be matched with the lowest SES students. This response is not persuasive because it conflates two issues: relative improvement and absolute improvement.

While we would love all students to get exactly equal treatment in school, the most realistic goal for an institution in the short term to seek improvements with existing resources. I.e., the typical school in the South Side of Chicago needs *better* teachers, not the exact same teachers as the elite school in Winnetka. There are two reasons for this.

First, even modest improvements in outcomes matters. The typical low SES school instructor probably won’t have the same effect as the elite math teacher in Winnetka, but improving a graduation rate from 55% to 60% would result in literally hundreds of low SES kids having the high school credential or admission to college. It matters.

Second, in a system of local control, it is not entirely clear why we should expect random assignment of teachers to schools. The way the teaching profession works is that schools compete for teachers by offering higher salaries, nicer facilities, and higher SES students that are easier to teach. One can imagine a Federal system for assigning teachers to schools, but that isn’t coming any time soon. For now, we work with what we have.

Bottom line: Yes, firing the worst teachers will almost certainly increase the educational outcomes of a school. Don’t give up real, achievable gains in an attempt to stamp out all inequality.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 25, 2014 at 12:01 am

“foucault kids”

Last week, I wrote about the strengths and weaknesses of the Indiana style of graduate training. In summary, Indiana succeeds by creating a very structured type of graduate education where we hammer people into the mainstream. Formally, we have a zillion requirements and informally, we do lots of 1-1 work with students. I also discussed the limits of the system. Specifically, I wrote about “Foucault kids,” graduate students who are aiming for unconventional careers. In the comments, someone asked for clarification. Why exactly would the Indiana model not work for these students?

First, let’s start with a discussion of the Foucault kids. In the way that I used it, I roughly mean ambitious graduate students who are doing work that crosses or combines various areas of study. Foucault, of course, was a Foucault kid. His training was in philosophy, but worked with George Canguilhem, who did work on the philosophy of science. In his career, Foucault did this mutant form of work that combined philosophy, history of ideas, and other stuff. Similarly, the Foucault kid is the young scholar who sees himself as some awesome sui generis scholar that breaks boundaries.

Who is a Foucault kid? Not you, probably. In fact, during my graduate career in Chicago, I only met two genuine Foucault kids, this guy (who combined anthropology, ethnography, and hermenuetics) and, I think, one of his students. Later, I’ve seen them here and there, mainly at other elite programs in sociology. You also see them in idiosyncratic programs, like the Committee on Social Thought. But still, overall, they’re rare. I’ve met lots of brilliant people, but they exist mainly within the confines of sociology or some other discipline.

So, what sort of training does such a person need? It is unclear to me since we have little data. Many Foucault kids end up flailing, they can’t complete their dissertations, and you never hear from them. The license to “be great” is often interpreted as a demand for perfectionism, or endless procrastination, or being so weird that no one will take them seriously.

I can offer two hypotheses about what might work for a Foucault kid: (a) no training, just let them wander and demand a dissertation at the end, or (b) demand high quality training but allow weird or unusual combinations of fields. The Indiana model doesn’t do either (a) or (b) well. In fact, our model is the opposite where we require people to be strongly grounded in a disciplinary mainstream. I don’t think it would hurt a Foucault kid, but it would probably frustrate them and probably waste their time. In the end, I think it mainly comes to having just a few faculty members who can tolerate the weirdness of the Foucault kid and teach them the academic survival skills so that they won’t become the legendary 12th year grad student whose dissertation went uncomplete and unread.

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Written by fabiorojas

June 24, 2014 at 12:04 am

illegal immigrants don’t exist … until after 1930

no_illegal

According to immigration scholar and advocate Francesca Pizzutelli, the phrase “illegal immigrant” did not exist in English (or was insanely rare) before the 1930s. Rather, people used the phrase “irregular immigrant” for transitory labor. The bias against outsiders exists in all societies, but this suggests that the modern legal and cultural edifice that bars people from migrating peacefully to the US did not exist till the series of anti-immigration laws passed by Congress in the 1920s.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 23, 2014 at 5:04 am

Posted in ethics, fabio

water babies, shorter (1969)

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Written by fabiorojas

June 22, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, fun

higher education: some basic readings

A loyal orghead asked for a post on readings that address the organization of higher education, to help them understand why the system is set up the way it is. Today, we’ll start with some basics:

The last volume is an anthology that summarizes recent work in a number of areas, including a chapter by me on movements and higher ed.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 20, 2014 at 12:01 am

Posted in education, fabio

the limits of the indiana way of graduate education

Yesterday, I described how Indiana sociology conducts graduate education. It’s a really good system. In fact, when prospective students visit, I describe the system and then say: “Look, if you get an offer from Princeton, take it! They have prestige, money, and an amazing placement record. But if you don’t have an offer from a place like that, you are probably making a mistake if you turn us down.”

Still, nothing is perfect and it is worth talking about the drawbacks of the Indiana model. First, the system only works because most faculty do research where it is easy to get people involved. We do a lot of survey research, interviews, health, education, and public opinion. Thus, it’s probably not the best place for doing certain types of research that are not large team based like ethnography or comparative historical. Our students do well in those areas, but there are other better options out there.

Second, we don’t do well with what I call the “Foucault” kids. These are students who have some insanely interesting project that spans disciplines and is very sui generis. These students need less structure, not more of it. They don’t need all the stuff that IU provides. All they need is one or two older scholars who can give some honest feedback and make sure they don’t take 12 years to finish. I encountered one such student during a visit. This student unleashed this insane ethnographic/multi-site study of health on me and I said: “You are clearly very good. Just go to Harvard. Tell Bob I said hello.

Mind you, a lot of people think they are Foucault, but they’re not. IU is built for people who want to do high quality work within the confines of normal social science – which means most of you! For a few people, or people in specialties where the model doesn’t fit, it may not be appropriate.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 19, 2014 at 12:01 am

the indiana way of graduate education

I am often asked: how does Indiana consistently place people so well? Just to be clear, in terms of elite placement, we do as well as other programs of our rank. Our ranks floats in the 10-15 range, and we can do a good R1 placement every other year. Every few years we place at or near the top. What is amazing is that we consistently place all of our students, not just the “stars.” We place students that routinely get discarded at other programs. How does that happen?

First, it starts with the faculty. In hiring at both the junior and senior levels, we have a preference for people who are committed to graduate education. Also, in terms of culture, our faculty have a very different attitude towards graduate work. We don’t work on the “star system” where a few people get most of the attention. We believe that with the right training, we can help most graduate students start a career in either teaching or research. Finally, in terms of the faculty, we also tend to attract people who are productive and collaborative. Not much dead wood.

Second, we choose graduate students very carefully. Sure, we’ll hand out acceptance letters to a few “stars” of the market every year. That’s because, like most graduate programs, we take GPA and GRE scores very seriously.  But the difference is that Indiana doesn’t mark you down because you didn’t go to the “right” school. We’ve taken people from regional state schools, small liberal arts colleges, lower ranked MA programs, and other places. We read the entire application, not just the name of the BA school or the letter of recommendation. We’ve picked up some fantastic people who’ve gone on to great careers by looking for diamond in the rough.

Third, we have an insane amount of structure. It doesn’t work for everyone, but most people do well in a system that makes you jump through a lot of hoops. Like most soc programs, we have theory and methods in the first year. But we also have a summer research program, required writing workshops, a required minor, a required teaching workshop for TAs, and a bunch of other stuff. Annoying? Yes. But do people have the OLS model hammered into their brains at the end of the sequence? You bet.

Fourth, we have a deep “culture.” Our expectation is that all students should be able to complete the PhD. We also support students on multiple career tracks. We even have a special program for people interested in teaching intensive institutions. And nearly all faculty collaborate and believe in intensive 1 on 1 interaction. More than one visiting scholar has been shocked by this system.

Fifth, we have reasonable expectations and a high level of professionalism. We don’t pretend MA or PhD theses are master pieces. We want them to be good and we want them to be done. We also push people, but we (mostly!) don’t yell at people or treat grad students like children. We tell you what to do and then we try to help you. We’ll get back to you in a few weeks on your dissertation, not a few semesters.

Sixth is funding. While far from perfect, we’ve developed a system where most students can rely on 4-5 years of funding. Then, we have various mechanisms for helping most students. The pay is low, but we don’t play games. You get funding. You will get help. No games.

The issue with many programs is that they drop the ball on one or more of these issues. During my time at Chicago, for example, they had a nearly structureless program and very poor funding. Other programs will chase famous faculty without considering how well they place students. It’s too easy to slide into the star system of graduate training.  Considering all that, it’s a real testament to this department that we can go head to head with programs that have a fancier brand and a much bigger budget.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 18, 2014 at 12:56 am

lesson: get some sleep

sleep_image

A few fays ago, I saw this diagram from New York Magazine which cleverly illustrates how much some famous people slept. I love the circular lay out but it also has a serious message: get some sleep! People vary in terms of when they sleep, but most of them get lots of it.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 17, 2014 at 12:01 am

people, this is what state formation looks like

One of the biggest news stories from last week is that a militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has quickly captured key cities in Iraq. CNN asked if ISIS is the first terrorist group to build an Islamic state?  Well, the answer is no, as long as you define “terrorist” as “armed political group that targets civilians.”

The have been states founded by organizations that, at one time or another, targeted unarmed civilians. For example, Irgun, a militant Zionist group, included people who would become important in Israeli politics. The nation of East Timor was partially founded by an armed revolutionary group, FreTiLin, which morphed into one of the ruling parties. In terms of Islamic states, one could make the argument that the Taliban was a terrorist group that conquered the secular Afghan state and made it Islamic. There are also various Islamic groups in Africa and Southeast Asia that have conquered territory and have acted like states.

Perhaps what is shocking is that ISIS is doing something uncommon – literally ripping territory from two existing states. Normally, armed revolutionary groups or terrorist groups topple existing elites but otherwise leave boundaries unchanged, or maybe lead a secession. But otherwise, armed, civilian targeting groups are fairly normal aspects of state formation. The relative peace of post-WWII Europe is an anomaly in world history.

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

Written by fabiorojas

June 16, 2014 at 3:56 am

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