Archive for the ‘fun’ Category
Over at Scatterplot, Jeremy’s been writing about his life gamification experiment, which involves giving himself points for various activities he’d like to be doing more of. I find this sort of thing totally compelling and have to admit I’m now giving myself all sorts of points in my head. (Finish unpacking one box — 5 points! Send an email I’ve been procrastinating on — 5 points!) Although not in 100 million years could I get my husband to play along with me, even for brunch, of which he is fond.
Anyway, the game brought to mind this post from Stephen Wolfram, in which Wolfram presents a bunch of data from the last 25 years of his life. Here, for example, are all the emails he’s sent since 1989. (Note the sharp time shift in 2002, when he stopped being completely nocturnal.) He’s also got keystroke data, times of calendar events, time on the phone, and physical activity.
Fascinating to read about, but perhaps not terribly healthy to pursue in practice. Although in Wolfram’s case, it sounds like he was mostly just collecting the data, not using it to guide his day-to-day decisions. Others become more obsessive. I don’t know if David Sedaris has really been spending nine hours a day walking the English countryside, a slave to his Fitbit, or if he’s taking poetic license, but it’s a heck of an image.
Clearly there are a lot of people into this sort of thing. In fact, there is a whole Quantified Self movement, complete with conferences and meet-up groups. One obvious take on this is that we’re all becoming perfect neoliberal subjects, rational, entrepreneurial and self-disciplined.
For me, though, what is fun and appealing as a choice — and I do think it’s a choice — becomes repellent and dehumanizing when someone pushes it on me. So while I’ll happily track my work hours and tally my steps just because I like to — and yes, I realize that’s kind of weird – I hate the idea of judging tenure cases based on points for various kinds of publications, and am uneasy with UPS’s use of data to ding drivers who back up too frequently.
It’s possible that I’m being inconsistent here. But really, I think it’s authority I have the problem with, not quantification.
Good opens the article by suggesting that Go is inherently superior to all other strategy games, an opinion shared by pretty much every Go player I’ve met. “There is chess in the western world, but Go is incomparably more subtle and intellectual,” says South Korean Lee Sedol, perhaps the greatest living Go player and one of a handful who make over seven figures a year in prize money. Subtlety, of course, is subjective. But the fact is that of all the world’s deterministic perfect information games — tic-tac-toe, chess, checkers, Othello, xiangqi, shogi — Go is the only one in which computers don’t stand a chance against humans.
This is not for lack of trying on the part of programmers, who have worked on Go alongside chess for the last fifty years, with substantially less success. The first chess programs were written in the early fifties, one by Turing himself. By the 1970s, they were quite good. But as late as 1962, despite the game’s popularity among programmers, only two people had succeeded at publishing Go programs, neither of which was implemented or tested against humans.
I could have used some Grad Skool Rulz back in the day. But seeing as how I am solidly past that phase of my life, the single most useful orgtheory post I can remember was one on movie clips for undergraduate orgs classes, all the way back in 2008.
There were some great ideas in that post and its comments. The first few minutes of The Devil Wears Prada, where a dowdy Anne Hathaway shows up for an interview at high-fashion Runway magazine, is perfect for illustrating organizational culture. Thank you, commenter brubineau.
Brayden suggested back then, and Kieran seconded, Apollo 13 to show how bureaucracies can be efficient. I still use that, starting with “Houston, we have a problem” and ending with “We just lost the moon.” We watch the clip, then I ask the class which of Weber’s characteristics of bureaucracy they think is most dispensable here. When I can get undergrads arguing about Weber, I know I’ve done my job.
Beyond the suggestions in that post — and I’ve tried a bunch of them — I have two other teaching favorites. One is from Pentagon Wars, the single most organizational movie of all time, on the evolution of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Individuals rationally pursuing organizationally created inducements produce an incredibly dysfunctional outcome — very Carnegie School:
Col. Smith: In summation, what you have before you is…
Sgt. Fanning: A troop transport that can’t carry troops, a reconnaissance vehicle that’s too conspicuous to do reconnaissance…
Lt. Colonel Burton: And a quasi-tank that has less armor than a snow-blower, but carries enough ammo to take out half of D.C. This is what we’re building?
The other is the cool-as-a-cucumber George Clooney in Up in the Air — great for illustrating rationalization and the iron cage. The intro shows Clooney at his job, flying around the country firing people. Then we skip to the roll-out of the new, more efficient method: firing people by video chat. Gets them every time.
You will notice, though, that I’ve got a problem here. MY NEWEST MOVIE IS STILL FIVE YEARS OLD! And two of my four picks came out before my undergrads hit kindergarten. Okay, they never would have seen Pentagon Wars even if they were fifteen years older. But dude, it would be nice to at least pretend I’m keeping up with the times.
I looked, but didn’t see a newer movie thread. (Though Brayden had another short post even earlier, in 2006.) Anyone have other favorites from, you know, the 21st century?
Jerry Kim and I have an op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times about our new paper on status bias in baseball umpiring. We analyzed over 700,000 non-swinging pitches from the 2008-09 season and found that umpires made numerous types of mistakes in calling strikes-balls. Most notably, we expected that umpires would be influenced by the status and reputation of the pitcher, and this is indeed what we found:
One of the sources of bias we identified was that umpires tended to favor All-Star pitchers. An umpire was about 16 percent more likely to erroneously call a pitch outside the zone a strike for a five-time All-Star than for a pitcher who had never appeared in an All-Star Game. An umpire was about 9 percent less likely to mistakenly call a real strike a ball for a five-time All-Star. The strike zone did actually seem to get bigger for All-Star pitchers and it tended to shrink for non-All-Stars.
An umpire’s bias toward All-Star pitchers was even stronger when the pitcher had a reputation for precise control, as measured by the career percentage of batters walked. We found that pitchers with a track record of not walking batters — like Greg Maddux — were much more likely to benefit from their All-Star status than similarly decorated but “wilder” pitchers like Randy Johnson.
Baseball insiders have long suspected what our research confirms: that umpires tend to make errors in ways that favor players who have established themselves at the top of the game’s status hierarchy. But our findings are also suggestive of the way that people in any sort of evaluative role — not just umpires — are unconsciously biased by simple “status characteristics.” Even constant monitoring and incentives can fail to train such biases out of us.
You can can download the paper, which is forthcoming in Management Science, if you’re interested in learning more about the analyses and their implications for theories about status characteristics and the Matthew Effect.
Russ Roberts interviews political scientist Mike Munger on the topic of rules and institutions, using sports as an example. One of the most interesting things about sports is that there are informal rules governing fighting. A few key ideas:
- To decrease overall fighting, you allow a little bit. It acts as a deterrent.
- In sports with little protection, like hockey or baseball, you get ritualized fighting.
- In sports with ritualized fighting, you get fight specialists. You don’t want skilled players getting injured.
- In low fighting sports, like football, you need to slow things down with heavy referee intervention.
- Once you protect athletes with equipment, fighting goes up because it is less damaging.
- If sports becomes lucrative, then norms change to reduce fighting. You don’t want your money generating stars missing the game.
A nice discussion of how norms, rules, and technology all affect each other.
One of the somewhat terrifying or, for some of us, invigorating aspects of being an academic is learning and practicing cross-cultural and local norms, especially for research or travel. Typically, these lessons involve careful observation of what seems unthinkable (cutting in line?!? OR waiting one’s turn in line?!?), inadvertently breaking norms in front of aghast or amused locals, and the thrill of mastering a new skill.
In a few weeks, those of you who are relocating or returning to Britain might find the following links handy for immersion in the local milieu:
- An excruciating obsession with ennui, politeness, and queues – a few sample quotes about VeryBritishProblems:
- “Feeling your life lacks excitement, so dunking your biscuit for an irresponsibly long time“
- “The anxious bewilderment when clocking the stranger deciding to join the queue at your side rather than behind you“
- “The unwelcome surprise of someone telling you how they are after you’ve asked them how they are”
- “Secretly hoping it stays cold so there’s always something to talk about”
- “Feeling guilty taking your M&S Bag For Life into Tesco“
- Habits and mannerisms: Kate Fox’s Watching the English : The hidden rules of English behaviour
Coming to NYC for ASAs? Try season 8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm and brush up your “waiting on line” etiquette. Tip: don’t assume you’re at the back of the right line.
attention stratification researchers: we now have seven social classes, i repeat: we now have seven social classes
From the UK, a new survey, conducted by the BBC and six universities, asserts that there are now seven social classes in Britain. The Guardian has a humorous take, using example from UK sitcoms:
Elite: General Melchett from Blackadder Goes Fourth. Braying, bellowing, incompetent and utterly contemptuous of the lower orders, Melchett would naturally expect to find himself at the top of the pecking order.
Established middle class: Margot and Jerry Leadbetter from The Good Life. As the establishment pillars of comfortable and conservative 1970s suburban society, the couple existed in pointed contrast to their more free-thinking neighbours Tom and Barbara Good.
Technical middle class: David Brent from The Office. Despite his supposedly rock’n’roll past, Ricky Gervais’s fist-gnawingly embarrassing general manager was resolutely middle class.
New affluent workers: Miranda from Miranda. Miranda Hart herself may be established middle class, but the heroine of her eponymous sitcom sits comfortably in a slightly lower category.
Traditional working class: Jim Royle from The Royle Family. Could Ricky Tomlinson’s armchair-bound, TV-addicted patriarch be anything other than proudly working class? My arse!
Emergent service workers: Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd. Young, nerdish and living at home with his mum, Moss could fit the emergent service worker class but probably needs a little work to increase his social and cultural capital levels.
Precariat: Rab C Nesbitt. Gregor Fisher’s much-loved and enduring sitcom creation has assumed the status of folk hero despite his resolutely unglamorous life.
A very learned commentary on the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons. For example, where “alignments” come from:
First of all, the paper explores crucial editorial mistakes in the production of the earliest version of original Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D). These are cases where some passages in OD&D are inconsistent with the remainder of the text in a way that hints at what early drafts of OD&D must have looked like. Previously, these have been curiosities to scholars of OD&D. Why does the elemental monster text refer to elemental controlling devices as “medallions, gems, stones or bracelets” instead of the names in the magical item list? Why does the languages passage refer to alignment languages as “divisional” languages? How did the percentage range for the “Ring of Delusion” end up broken? With the Dalluhn Manuscript in hand, we can find answers to all of these questions: each inconsistency points to the content of an earlier draft, a pre-publication system which is preserved in the Dalluhn Manuscript. For “divisional languages,” for example, we learn that “dvision” was the name for “alignment” in Dalluhn.
Required for nerds.
Posting will be light until January 2, 2013. If you want to write a post or two, send me an email with a short description. Long as it is is academic and fun, I’ll seriously consider it. In the Winter, we’ll have posts on the following:
- a new book forum will be annnounced
- digital natives vs. computer literacy
- my endless anxiety about neo-institutionalism
- progress in network analysis
- The Hobbit was no Phantom Menace, but I’m still disappointed
- a possibly cool research result
- historians and the antiwar movement
- the tragedy of the Fabios
Have a happy Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Festivus/Winter Solstice/Hibernation.
- ASA: Your legal name
- GenCon: Your character name
Figuring out your registration fee:
- ASA: Use your income
- GenCon: Roll on table F2
- ASA: A world where power and justice don’t depend on income inequalities
- GenCon: A world where LARPers and table top gamers are treated as equals
When someone walks by you in the convention hall:
- ASA: You check out their name tag
- GenCon: You check out their name tag and then get an attack of opportunity
The book sale area:
- ASA: A bunch of dorks trying to get their fantasies published
- GenCon: A bunch of dorks trying to get their fantasies published
- ASA: A place to match schools with recent PhD graduates
- GenCon: Um… jobs?