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Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category

how sociology professors choose their specialties – a guest post by james iveniuk

James Iveniuk is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Chicago. He recently collected data on professors to understand how people choose their research specialty. He collected data on all professors at 97 ranked sociology doctoral programs in the US News & World Report. Click on this link: Iveniuk Discipline Analysis. Lots of fun results. In my view, this report supports the “Prada Bag hypothesis,” which suggests that the areas of cultural, politics, and historical are luxury items more likely to be found at higher ranked programs. Add your own interpretations in the comments.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!! 

Written by fabiorojas

February 2, 2015 at 12:01 am

defending computational ethnography

Earlier this week, I suggested a lot is to be gained by using computational techniques to measure and analyze qualitative materials, such as ethnographic field notes. The intuition is simple. Qualitative research uses, or produces, a lot of text. Normally, we have to rely on the judgment of the researcher. But now, we have tools that can help us measure and sort the materials, so that we have a firmer basis on which to make claims about what our research does and does not say.

The comments raised a few issues. For example, Neal Caren wrote:

 This is like saying that you want your driverless cars to work for Uber while you are sleeping. While it sounds possible, as currently configured neither ethnographic practices nor quantitative text analysis are up to the task.
This is puzzling. No one made this claim. If people believe that computers will do qualitative work by collecting data or developing hypotheses and research strategies, then they are mistaken. I never said that nor did I imply it. Instead, what I did suggest is that computer scientists are making progress on detecting meaning and content and are doing so in ways that would help research map out or measure text. And with any method, the researcher is responsible for providing definitions, defining the unit of analysis and so forth. Just as we don’t expect regression models to work “while you are sleeping,” we don’t expect automated topic models or other techniques to work without a great level of guidance from people. It’s just a tool, not a magic box.
Another comment was meant as a criticism, but actually supports my point. For example, J wrote:
This assumes that field notes are static and once written, go unchanged. But this is not the consensus among ethnographers, as I understand the field. Jonathan van Maanen, for example, says that field notes are meant to be written and re-written constantly, well into the writing stage. And so if this is the case, then an ethnographer can, implicitly or intentionallly, stack the deck (or, in this case, the data) in their favor during rewrites. What is “typical” can be manipulated, even under the guise of computational methods.
Exactly. If we suspect that field notes and memos are changing after each version, we can actually test that hypothesis. What words appear (or co-appear) in each version? Do word combinations with different sentiments or meanings change in each version? I think it would be extremely illuminating to see what each version of an ethnographer’s notes keeps or discards. Normally, this is impossible to observe and, when reported (which is rare), hard to measure. Now, we actually have some tools.
Will computational ethnography be easy or simple? No. But instead of pretending that qualitative research is buried in a sacred and impenetrable fog of meaning, we can actually apply the tools that are now becoming routine in other areas for studying masses of text. It’s a great frontier to be working in. More sociologists should look into it.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!! 

Written by fabiorojas

January 23, 2015 at 12:01 am

mimetic isomorphism and social movements at work

mimetic_photo

This weekend, I visited Bates College and participated in their celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a lovely campus and I enjoyed myself. At the beginning of my workshop, one of the Bates students gave a brief talk about the history of Black Studies at Bates. A key issue was that it was a late adopter. The protest in favor of the program used late adoption as a frame for their argument. The photo above is from a student publication and shows students pointing out that Bates isn’t following its peer group. The banner actually lists the peer organizations that have Black Studies circa 1988. Great example of how movements hook up into institutional environments.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!! 

Written by fabiorojas

January 22, 2015 at 3:24 am

Posted in education, fabio, sociology

computational ethnography

An important frontier in sociology is computational ethnography – the application of textual analysis, topic modelling, and related techniques to the data generated through ethnographic observation (e.g., field notes and interview transcripts). I got this idea when I saw a really great post-doc present a paper at ASA where historical materials were analyzed using topic modelling techniques, such as LDA.

Let me motivate this with a simple example. Let’s say I am a school ethnographer and I make a claim about how pupils perceive teachers. Typically, the ethnographer would offer an example from his or her field notes that illustrates the perceptions of the teacher. Then, someone would ask, “is this a typical observation?” and then the ethnographer would say, “yes, trust me.”

We no longer have to do that. Since ethnographers produce text, one can use topic models to map out themes or words that tend to appear in field notes and interview transcripts. Then, all block quotes from fields notes and transcripts can be compared to the entire corpus produced during field work. Not only would it attest to the commonality of a topic, but also how it is embedded in a larger network of discourse and meaning.

Cultural sociology, the future is here.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!! 

Written by fabiorojas

January 20, 2015 at 12:01 am

“nonviolence is the most powerful weapon for oppressed people”

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!! 

Written by fabiorojas

January 19, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in ethics, fabio, sociology

party in the street: the first podcast

New Books in Political Science has dedicated their first podcast of the year to Party in the Street:

Heaney and Rojas take on the interdisciplinary challenge at the heart of studies of interest groups and social movements, two related subjects that political scientists and sociologists have tended to examine separately from one another. What results is a needed effort to synthesize the two social science traditions and advance a common interest in studying how people come together to influence policy outcomes. The particular focus of this work is on how the antiwar movement that grew in the mid-2000s interacted with the Democratic Party. They ponder a paradox of activism that just as activists are most successful – in this case supporting a new Democrat controlled House and Senate in 2006 – the energy and dynamism of the movement often fades away. Heaney and Rojas look to the relationship between antiwar activists and the Democratic Party for answers. They find that in a highly polarized partisan environment, party affiliations come first and social movement affiliations second, thereby slowing the momentum movements generate in their ascendency.

Please click on the link for the podcast.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!!

Written by fabiorojas

January 12, 2015 at 12:01 am

review of missing class by betsy leondar-wright

Managment INK, the blog about management research links to my recent book of review of Missing Class by Betsy Leondar-Wright. The book is about the cultural differences between working class, middle class and wealthy activists. Overall, I liked it. One thing that I would like to see if more of a focus on group outcomes, similar to Kathleen Blee’s work. Did the cultural differences make a difference in mobilizing? But aside from that point, it’s a good review of how mobilizing occurs in the North American left. Recommended.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($1!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street!!

Written by fabiorojas

January 10, 2015 at 12:01 am

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