Archive for the ‘what does this have to do w/ org theory?’ Category
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.
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.
One of the awesome aspects of grad school (besides the occasional “free” pizza as you listen to the latest in research) is the sharing of resources among colleagues who are undergoing the same experiences. One grad school friend gave out copies of David Burns‘ seminal Feeling Good, an exercise book that explains how to practice cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Back in the fall, the Stanford alumni magazine had an article about how Burns became convinced of CBT’s efficacy over prescription drugs as a tool for treating depression, anxiety, perfectionism, and other paralyzing feelings:
What Burns did in Feeling Good, the first mass-market, evidence-based, self-help book for the relief of depression, was explain the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the lay person: that depression is caused by self-defeating beliefs and negative thoughts—thoughts like “I’m not good enough,” “I’ll never amount to anything,” or “I have no friends.” Feeling Good included exercises readers could use to change how they reacted to such thoughts and to stop depression before it spiraled down into an endless abyss of despair and pain. Study after study has since demonstrated CBT’s effectiveness.
Burns did not invent CBT; its philosophical underpinnings can be traced back to the Buddha or to Epictetus, the Stoic. Credit for laying the foundation of modern CBT generally goes to Philadelphia psychiatrist T. Aaron Beck and the late New York psychologist Albert Ellis. Burns remembers when he, like most psychiatrists, didn’t believe that something as simple as how we think could cause depression.
Working at the University of Pennsylvania’s Depression Research Unit in the 1970s, Burns researched the theory that low serotonin levels cause depression, an idea widely accepted as the “chemical imbalance theory” and conventional wisdom among popular media, many physicians and much of the public. Although Burns won the A. E. Bennett award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry in 1975 for his research on brain serotonin metabolism, he was not convinced that the chemical imbalance theory was valid. In one study, he and his colleagues gave massive daily doses of the amino acid l-Trytophan to depressed veterans in a double-blind study. L-Trytophan goes directly from the stomach to the blood to the brain, where it is transformed into serotonin. If depression results from a deficiency of brain serotonin, the massive increase should have triggered clinical improvement, but it didn’t.
The study was published in a top research journal but did little to dim the growing excitement about the chemical imbalance theory. In 1988, Lilly launched the world’s first blockbuster SSRI antidepressant, a drug with powerful effects on brain serotonin receptors. During its first 13 years, Prozac generated $21 billion in sales, or 30 percent of Lilly’s revenues. Burns still wasn’t convinced.
“I always wanted to see people’s lives transformed from depression and anxiety to joy and peace,” he says. In his clinical work, he didn’t see that happening very often, no matter how many pills he prescribed. His department chair suggested that he sit in on one of Dr. Aaron Beck’s weekly cognitive therapy seminars.
At first, Burns thought Beck’s presentation sounded like “pure hucksterism”; still, he began using CBT methods if only to prove to himself that they didn’t work. Soon, many patients he’d been treating with drugs and “you talk, I’ll listen” therapy started to get better. A lot better.
Burns felt torn. He had just won a five-year grant to develop a brain serotonin lab at Penn. Yet he wasn’t convinced serotonin played a role in depression or any other psychiatric disorder. After three agonizing months, Burns decided he’d “rather spend my life doing something that works.” He left Penn and opened a private practice “in a storeroom with a window,” two stories below Beck’s Center for Cognitive Therapy.
Burns’s doubts were vindicated by a landmark 2002 metastudy conducted by psychologist Irving Kirsch, now at Harvard, of all trials submitted to the FDA by the manufacturers of the six most widely prescribed antidepressants approved between 1987 and 1999. Not widely publicized until a 60 Minutes report in February 2012, it showed only a slight difference in patient response between the drugs and placebos.
I recently attended the IU Hoosiers show, the Indiana musical review. What struck me is that the performance covered an enormous range of American music – doo-wop, commercial jingles, jazz, disco, and a whole lot more. But what struck me is that rap was completely absent in a two hour show that strives to give something to everyone. Then, I noticed that rap is absent from nearly the entire world of glee clubs/school musicals, even though it is obviously the most important pop music innovation post-1980.
Here are some hypotheses:
- Race – I find this hard to be believe since other Black art forms get a lot of attention in these revues.
- Pedagogy establishment – Choral instructors, for some reason, just don’t like hip hop.
- Musical technique – a lot of glee club/choir music relies on the “American song” broadly construed. Hip hop has way different musical sources.
- Teaching techniques – perhaps people would like to teach it, but there isn’t a common method yet.
In case you were wondering, George Washington represents American positivist sociology and Jong-un represents critical realists, post-modernists, and the other counter-positivist forces. I’ll let you choose who Lincoln represents. In other words, orgtheory is up an running!
Joeff Davis, Malachi Ritscher, Iraq War Protest, Chicago, 2003. Included in the project Malachi Ritscher by Public Collectors. Image taken from the Whitney 2014 Biennial Website.
Last week, while I was visiting CUNY, I made some time to get down to the Whitney Museum to see the Biennial. This year was notable because the show was split three ways. Each curator got her own floor and each took a wildly different approach. The fourth floor was given to Michelle Grabner, a professor and artist. That was probably the most jammed part of the show with art on the walls, floors, and ceiling. It was also the most educational. Basically, Grabner found artists who explored all kinds of materials. For example, Sheila Hicks, one of my favorite fabric artists made this huge rope column. There were also some interesting gems, like a few shiny abstract canvasses mottled with salt by Carissa Rodriguez. Each work was an education in what you could do with particular materials. The floors by Stuart Comer and Anthony Elms were about youth and what one might call “intellectual concerns:” ethnography, politics, etc. For example, there was some strong work dealing with gay subculture, such as Tony Green’s work, Paul P. ‘s watercolors and Elijah Burgher’s pencil drawings.
The critics constantly complained about the whole show. I think it is better to admit that art has massively expanded and that there are multiple centers of gravity. Overall, you’ll be overwhelmed, or bored by the spectacle. But if you slow down, you’ll find that there is a lot to be enjoyed depending on what you want from art.
For me, there was one very moving part of the show, an exhibit by the group Public Collectors dedicated to Malachi Ritscher. He was a Chicago resident who was an avid free jazz fan and antiwar activist. He was notable for two things. First, he created an extensive library of recordings from the Chicago creative music scene. Second, he killed himself in 2006. To protest the Iraq War, he lit himself on fire on the Kennedy Expressway. He recorded that as well.
Malachi’s life and my own crossed many times. I am also a free jazz fanatic and sat next to him many times. I would go to the shows that he recorded. I actually recognized some of the shows whose recordings are in the exhibit. I am pretty sure that I am at least in one them and I am certainly an audience member in many other recordings that are part of Malachi’s library. He documented me. A brooding graduate student, I never introduced myself. But still, he was part of my world.
Later, I would dedicate part of my academic career to recording the antiwar movement. I spent quite a bit of time going to major cities, like Chicago, and conducting surveys and long form interviews with activists. Malachi is probably recorded in my materials. Maybe he filled out a survey. Maybe he was interviewed by me or my research partner. Or, more likely, he is part of an audience that I documented with a photo or audio recording.
The Ritscher exhibit deeply moved me. Malachi and I cared about the same things. Malachi and I passed by each other many, many times over a nine year period. Our lives have been stamped by the city of Chicago and its culture. We were even employed by the same organization – the University of Chicago.
But our stories diverge. He chose a path that I find hard to understand. Faced with the brutality of war, he did something brutal to himself. I have not walked in his shoes, so I won’t pass judgment. All I’ll say is that I remain viscerally shocked by his death. I mourn the loss of him and his knowledge. I responded to the war in a different way. I became the documentarian, the recorder of events.
Ending this post is hard because there simply is no end. I just don’t know what to think of Malachi’s musical contribution, or his suicide, or the crossing of our paths. Perhaps all I can now is dig out my copy of Emancipation Proclamation, which of course, was recorded by Malachi Ritscher.
By Antonio Carlos Jobim & Newton Mendonca
This is just a little samba
Built upon a single note
Other notes are sure to follow
But the root is still that note
Now this new note is the consequence of the one we’ve just been through
As i’m bound to be the unavoidable consequence of you
There’s so many people who can talk and talk and talk
And just say nothing or nearly nothing
I have used up all the scale i know and at the end i’ve come
To nothing i mean nothing
So i come back to my first note as i must come back to you
I will pour into that one note all the love i feel for you
Any one who wants the whole show show do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ci-do
He will find himself with no show better play the note you know
When people discuss Obama’s contribution to racial inequality, people quickly sort into a few camps. In the middle, and among Democratic partisans, Obama has done well. He believes in affirmative action and avoids race baiting. On the hard left, he’s slammed for not taking a more direct approach. They suggest that Obama either openly discuss the legacy of slavery and consider more redistribution. On the right … well, let’s just say that they can’t quite accept the fact Obama isn’t an atheist Muslim who hates America. I think these views all miss something important about race and the US presidency. They all say: What do I wish the president could magically do? Instead, you have to start by asking: What are the biggest racial issues in America? Which of these can the president actually solve?
In my view, the biggest drivers of racial inequality are:
- The mass incarceration of Blacks for non-violent drug related offenses. This is hugely important because prison massively disrupts the economic and social lives of people in nearly irreversible ways.
- The de-facto criminalization of undocumented migration, which is designed to marginalize non-whites on a massive scale.
- The college completion gap between Whites and Asians, and everyone else. This hugely important because college completion is the crucial difference between having a middle class life style and not getting one.
Notice that I didn’t say white privilege or white distrust/hatred of other groups. I certainly believe they are important, but honestly, if one had to choose, most rational people probably end mass incarceration before eliminating white privilege.
Let’s talk about Obama specifically. What can he do about #1? No president can magically undo a maze of Federal and state drug law, or single handedly reform the nation’s prosecutors. However, he could do some fairly simple things like simply remain silent on drug issues or down play excessive drug enforcement. I’ve little evidence that the Obama is especially interested in reforming drug laws and the President has scoffed, in the past, at drug legalization. On #2, Obama’s record ranges from marginal improvement (like promoting the DREAM act) to atrocious (overseeing mass deportation). On #3, there is little that the President can do directly to affect education. The power to improve schools lies mainly in the hands of the states and local school boards. My summary judgment on Obama is that he has done little to directly affect mass incarceration of Blacks and what positive he is doing immigration is outweighed by doing nothing to prevent (or actively encourage?) deportation. On schooling, I’ll give a pass.
Fireworks by Laurie Lipton
New Year’s Eve is, I think, the most civilized of our holidays. Consider the following:
- The whole world celebrates it.
- No one is excluded based on nation, race, or religion.
- Expensive gifts aren’t necessary.
- No one argues with family over holiday dinner.
- It’s a celebration of the time we spend with each other.
- We promise to do better.
- Alcohol is imbibed, but St. Patrick’s style debauchery is not the norm. Apple cider is acceptable. This obviously doesn’t apply to South Philly.
Since defending my dissertation (in 2003), I’ve worked in both academia and for the DMV. Prior to moving back to California, I was an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Texas Christian University (TCU). I’ve continued to teach as an adjunct in the Department of Sociology at CSU-Sacramento while working full-time for DMV.
There are a number of differences between the two types of organization. Some of these differences are obvious, some not. Some of these differences tend to be in favor of the academy, and others tend to be in favor of state service. First, and most obviously, there is the matter of pay and benefits. The salary range of our research program specialist series (the main job titles that are associated with research work in California state service) are roughly equivalent to the salary range of tenure-track faculty in the CSU system. In addition, we have a defined-benefit pension in retirement. On the other hand – and this point will surely hit home for this audience – working for state government involves a non-trivial step down in occupational prestige. Not a season goes by but what I have to answer some version of the question “you have a PhD and you work where?!?” Usually these questions come from persons outside the academy, and probably reflect some inherent sense of the disjuncture between having a high-status degree and working for one of the most “common” government departments (as opposed to a more “rarified” shop like the Demographic Research Unit at the state’s Department of Finance – an outfit which, I should note, does truly outstanding work). Academics may be puzzled by my position, but they are often quickly curious as to the kinds of data we have access to, the kinds of methodologies we use, the publication possibilities, etc. Those working in government are, if anything, impressed by the fact that California DMV has an R&D unit (most states don’t); they are also respectful of the fact that our agency (and the legislature) takes empirical research into account when setting policy.
In a less tangible manner, working for a government agency is stressful in different ways than teaching. While students expect professors to be available 24/7, this is not true of state service. Once the work day is done, I can go home and not worry about checking my e-mail until the next day. That said, the implications of a mistake are very different. In teaching, if we say something that isn’t quite right in lecture we can usually address it in a subsequent class session. If we make an error in a publication, we can issue an erratum. It’s embarrassing, but usually not grossly consequential. In state service, on the other hand, a mistaken statement – or worse, a faulty set of analyses and recommendations – can have real, dramatic, and long-lasting effects on policy and revenues, and ultimately on people’s lives. For that reason (among others), we have multiple layers of review for our studies and publications.
Finally, I would note that when considering a career in government service, it is useful to think about the implications of the grand logics of different types of organizations (cf. Weber 1922; Dobbin 1994; Meyer and Rowan 1977; Meyer and Scott 1983; DiMaggio and Powell 1991). We all know, for instance, that those working in for-profit businesses generally judge a given person’s performance through monetary means. It is only more rarely that we reflect on the fact that those working in government agencies tend to judge personal performance through metrics of power. In my experience, it is rarer yet that we admit the truth about academic institutions: that people are judged almost entirely in terms of reputation (and not just one’s own, but more broadly that of one’s advisor as well as one’s institutions, both past and present – see Etzkowitz, Kemelgor and Uzzi 2000). Switching from one field to another usually necessitates that one be prepared to operate under a different set of institutional rules and expectations. In the case of moving from the academy to the state, this means (among other things) caring much less about what people think about one’s work, and caring much more about making things happen.
First, I’d like to thank Katherine and Teppo for allowing me to guest-blog on this site. I’ve put together three pieces: (1) what does doing research for a state agency involve, (2) how does working in the public sector compare to working in the academy, and (3) are we hiring (yes) and what do we look for in candidates?
We have two units within our branch here at DMV Research and Development (R&D). I work in the Driver Competency and Safety Projects Unit; there is also the Alcohol and Impaired Driving Unit. The distinction between the units is not substantial – many projects involve collaboration between researchers, and in many cases we use very similar types of data and methods to conduct our projects.
In general, I’ve worked on projects that involve the screening, testing, and assessment of physical, visual, and mental functions that may affect driving. If you’ve ever read a newspaper article about some tragic incident where someone pressed on the accelerator instead of the brake, and drove into a fast-food restaurant, you may have wondered “gee, I wonder if anyone’s doing research on this problem?” The answer is “yes,” and I’m one of the people that works on that type of question (if you’re curious, such incidents often involve some element of cognitive impairment – such as occurs in early-stage dementia). The kinds of projects that I’ve worked on as a researcher include: (1) evaluating the results of a pilot project that used novel screening and education tools to identify drivers that may be at risk of unsafe driving due to a physical, visual, or cognitive impairment; (2) calculating projections about the number of cases DMV may see in the next few years of drivers who are referred for evaluation due to a medical problem of one type or another; (3) developing a method by which we can determine the reliability and validity of a drive test that we use (rarely) for persons who drive in extremely limited circumstances, on defined routes or in bounded areas.
In terms of publication opportunities, we mainly publish monographs ourselves (after a rigorous process of internal review). We also submit articles to peer-reviewed journals in the field of traffic safety. Finally, we present our findings at national and regional conferences (Transportation Research Board, LifeSavers, California Office of Traffic Safety Summit, etc.).
I was recently promoted, and my current duties include overseeing the research of others. Some of these projects include: (1) assessing the reliability of machines used to screen people for problems with visual acuity, (2) determining at a descriptive level the incidence of distracted driving incidents, particularly those that involve crashes where there is some indication that usage of a cell phone contributed to the crash, (3) calculating the effect of a particular novice driver training and education program on subsequent risk for crashes and violations. Finally, and perhaps most exciting, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in reviewing research (conducted by others) on automated vehicles; this review has been for the purpose of assisting our policy and legal staff in developing regulations that will govern the testing by manufacturers, and use by the general public, of automated vehicle technology on public roads.
Oh, and since I know at least one person might wonder: my dissertation had absolutely zippo to do with any of these topics. We will address this area (what do we actually look for in job candidates for our research shop) in post #3.