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the one and only hans reichel

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

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Written by fabiorojas

April 22, 2018 at 5:06 am

is the non-profit model inherently a problem? the case of the $100 laptop

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The Verge has a neat article on the history of “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC). If you remember, it was a project unveiled in 2005 by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte. The idea was simple – why can’t we make a small laptop that was so cheap it could be given to millions upon millions of poor children? As you may have surmised, the OLPC project never took off.

The article then goes into all the problems with the project. For example, when it was shown to the public, they only had a mock up – there was no real planning behind it. Heck, there wasn’t even a working prototype. Another problem: finding hardware suppliers is not an easy thing. In fact, the difference between victory and defeat in the hardware world is often the ability to find good and cheap suppliers. Furthermore, the OLPC was internally divided in terms of vision and strategy. To this general story, I have one additional comment: It may be the case that making cheap laptops is an example of a task that non-profits are unsuited for. In this case, hardware manufacturing.

Consider the following. In the thirteen years since the OLPC project was announced, for-profit manufacturers have actually managed to make a very good $200 Chromebook lap top (about $160 in 2005 currency). Let’s assume that you had $10 million dollars to spend in 2017. You could either (a) burn it on hardware development or (b) buy about 50,000 Chrome laptops and give them away for free. Which would you choose? If you cared about direct benefit, you’d probably go with (b). If you responded by saying that OLPC had planned to have a crank to make electricity, I would ask you if a child that poor really needs a laptop and not basic nutrition or medicine.

I am not against philanthropy but I am against wasting tons of money. The for-profit sector seems to have solved the cheap laptop problem and it makes sense why this is the case. There is competition, incentive, and deep technical expertise. In contrast, the non-profit world might specialize in giving away stuff for free. The OLPC case shows why this might be a wise division of labor.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 18, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Posted in uncategorized

the contexts editorial method

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The Winter 2018 issue of Contexts is out and IT IS FREE until May 3. I’ll take a moment to discuss how Rashawn and I edit Contexts. We are motivated by a few things:

First, Contexts combines two missions – public sociology and scholarly development. Thus, we expect our articles to be interesting and they should also reflect current thinking within the discipline of sociology. So we like articles that have a solid “take home point” and are well written.

Second, we don’t play games with authors. For feature articles, we only ask for a 1 page outline. If we don’t like it, we pass. If we like it, we ask for a full paper that we will peer review. There is only 1 round of peer review. Then, we either reject or accept with revisions. We do things in a matter of weeks, even days.

Third, unlike most journal editors, we actually edit articles. We don’t sit back and wait for reviewers to tell us what we think and say “here are some comments, you figure it out.” We know what we think. We will sit with you and line edit. We will help rewrite. No games, just plain old editing.

You got something to say? Would you like it printed in a beautiful magazine? Send us a proposal. We’d love to read it.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 16, 2018 at 3:41 pm

book spotlight: freedom from work by daniel fridman

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Fridmanbookcover

Daniel Fridman’s Freedom from Work is an ethnographic account of people trying to create economic mobility in Argentina and the United States. The core of the book is a study of people using various “self-help”strategies to improve their economic position. This may include reading self-help books, forming entrepreneur clubs, and, interestingly, playing board games that teach skills that one needs to run a business.

Theoretically, the book is interesting because it is a contribution to a genre that one might call “studies of the self under capitalism.” The phrase comes from Foucault, but it is really a sort of Bourdieusian style habitus study. The idea is that people have a specific set of attitudes and beliefs about the nature of success and mobility. The interesting thing about Freedom from Work is the way these ideas are shaped and reshaped through these self-help activities. Normally, you’d think these activities are uninteresting and frivolous, but they reveal how people understand the nature of success and what individuals can do to affect that.

So what do we learn from the ethnography? A few things. First, from a very basic point of view, is that extracting economic success from a market system requires very specific skills that many (most?) most people do not have. Perhaps a lesson for students of entrepreneurship is that economic actors must be socialized in a specific way. Second, we learn how market logics are applied to individual behavior, which Fridman calls the construction of a neoliberal self.  I normally hate the word “neoliberal,” but I’ll let it slide here. Understanding how market-oriented calculability is applied to daily life and how it transforms the self is a worthwhile topic.

I found the book to be well written and engaging. I think economic sociologists, entrepreneurship scholars, and cultural sociologists will like this book. I also think it is interesting  to those in a Foucauldian tradition, who have a taste for very late Foucault. Recommended!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 11, 2018 at 12:55 pm

facebook’s data scandal won’t make much of a difference: a comment on interpersonal vs. structural privacy

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Right now, Facebook is under tremendous criticism because the firm inappropriately allowed a third party to use their data. There is much consternation and even Facebook’s stock price has taken a hit. But from my view, I don’t think much will change. Why? People are very comfortable with a lack of “structural privacy.” In contrast, they deeply resent the violation of “interpersonal privacy.”

These discussions assume that there is a single thing called “privacy” and that people will get upset when they don’t have privacy. This assumption comes from the nature of human interaction pre-industrial revolution. Before the rise of modern information systems, whether they be Census documents or Facebook meta-data, privacy meant that people in your immediate environment did not have access to all the information about you. This even applied to families. Many of us, for example, have diaries that we don’t want other family members to read.

Why do we value “interpersonal” privacy? There are many reasons. We may not want our immediately relations to know that we are critical of what they do. Maybe we don’t want our neighbors to know that we like strange food. Or maybe we don’t want our employer to know that we don’t like them so much. What these reasons and others share in common is that the possession of knowledge prevents inter-personal conflict. Without privacy, we wouldn’t be free to form opinions and we would likely be in constant conflict with each other.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Snowden revelations are about a different flavor of privacy – one that I call “structural privacy.” In the modern age, all kinds of institutions collect data on us. It could be the phone company, or the Internal Revenue Service, or Facebook. However, the data is often summarized so that it doesn’t involve a single person. When people access it, they rarely have any personal relationship to the people in the data base. Thus, people don’t usually experience interpersonal conflict when they loose “structural privacy,” the privacy that is maintained when information is collected by institutions for collective purposes. The IRS agent who peeks at your return or the Facebook employee who looks at your friendship list almost never know you and they don’t care.

This suggests that Facebook will probably be fine in the long term. People, in general, seem to be ok with the fact that firms and states routinely violate their structural privacy. The Snowden revelations barely elicited any push back from the public and almost no change in public policy. Here, I think the same process will play out. As long as Facebook can maintain privacy at the interpersonal level, they can carry on as usual.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 9, 2018 at 4:45 am

go ahead, it’s ok, sing along (4 julie andrews)

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

April 8, 2018 at 4:11 am

how to not suck at teaching social theory

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Yesterday, there was a discussion started by Jeff Guhin about how to be better at teaching theory:

My suggestions for better theory teaching:

  1. Drop history of social thought
  2. Minimize jargon
  3. Drop meta-theory

How to do it??

  1. Teach theory as an engine for generating concrete explanations of social phenomena.
  2. Use lots of current examples.
  3. Use lots of empirical examples
  4. BUY MY BOOK!!!!

Seriously, when I switched from “classical sociology” to teaching actual social theory, the students just got it way better and the class made sense, instead of being a long string of disconnected examples (“then we did Marx and then Weber and then intersectionailty and then some rational choice”).

Be brave – drop classical theory and teach the social theory students deserve.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!  

Written by fabiorojas

April 6, 2018 at 4:09 am