asa council decides on gender categories

Remember how the ASA was trying to decide how to expand its gender categories? Since then, the ASA Committee on the Status of LGBT Persons in Sociology has been holding conversations, doing research on how other organizations do it, and thinking through what schema will best capture the sociological categories that are meaningful to people. They came up with the following proposal, which ASA Council voted on and passed at their meeting this week:

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against active learning

I’m against active learning. Well, maybe not against it. Would you settle for “less for it than others are?” Here’s why.

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sociologists statement on Ferguson

Last week, a group of 10 sociologists gathered at ASA to discuss the terrible situation in Ferguson.* Following that meeting, the group wrote up draft text for a statement. Here’s how they diagnose some of the larger problems:

Law enforcement’s hyper-surveillance of black and brown youth has created a climate of suspicion of people of color among police departments and within communities. The disrespect and targeting of black men and women by police departments across the nation creates an antagonistic relationship that undermines community trust and inhibits effective policing. Instead of feeling protected by police, many African Americans are intimidated and live in daily fear that their children will face abuse, arrest and death at the hands of police officers who may be acting on implicit biases or institutional policies based on stereotypes and assumptions of black criminality. Similarly, the police tactics used to intimidate protesters exercising their rights to peaceful assembly in Ferguson are rooted in the history of repression of African American protest movements and attitudes about blacks that often drive contemporary police practices.

If you are interested in signing the statement, you can do so here.

* I was not at the meeting, and thus cannot provide any details beyond what’s in these documents. Links to the petition were circulated by Alison Gerber, who can perhaps answer queries.

clutch

Posted here for posterity: my first appearance in a Vine video (thanks to @kimberlybrogers).

The backstory is that, as Social Psychology section chair, I was supposed to keep and pass on our section’s gavel, but because I was coming to the meetings directly from Australia, I wasn’t able to bring the gavel with me. So right before our business meeting I had to rush to a store and find something gavel-ish that I could improvise. As a fellow blogger on our masthead can confirm, the trick shown may be simple, but nevertheless I tried it roughly 20 times as we were chatting before the meeting, and came nowhere close to getting it to work.

productivity, sexism, or a less sexy explanation.

I apparently attended the same session at the ASA conference as Scott Jaschik yesterday, one on Gender and Work in the Academy. He must have been the guy with press badge who couldn’t wait to fact-check his notes during the Q&A.

The first presenter, Kate Weisshaar from Stanford University, started the session off with a bang with her presentation looking at the glass ceiling in academia, asking whether it was productivity that explained women’s under-representation among the ranks of the tenured (or attrition to lower-ranked programs or out of academia all together). A summary of her findings – and a bit of detail about the session and the session organizer’s response to her presentation – appeared in Inside Higher Ed today. Continue reading

northwestern is hiring!

We are hiring for two positions. One of them is an open position, for which I presume there is little extra need to get the word out. But we are also hiring a new “Assistant Professor of Instruction,” which is a job title that did not exist when I started my sabbatical (although the basic type of position has existed under the heading of “Continuing Lecture Faculty”). That position got some attention last year in a study indicating that instructors in this position performed as well in the classroom (in the metric of the study) as tenure-line faculty.

I’ll paste the ad below the jump. I don’t know anything about the ad’s stated preference for candidates with “demonstrated experience working with diverse student communities.” I completely adore Northwestern, but compared to my previous stints at middle-American public universities, the NU student community feels noticeably less diverse except with regard to race/ethnicity and geographic origin. On the upside, perhaps, a palpable part of this lower diversity is the overall high classroom performance of so many of our undergraduates.

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your chance to sound off about asa tech

Some of us have had our share of fun ribbing the ASA for being slightly behind the times in its approach to technology and social media. We have whined about wifi. We have had a laugh or two about The HUB. We have said salty things about the HUB’s stuffed bear mascot. And, of course, we have mercilessly mocked the “app.”

With all this, the staff at the ASA office might be forgiven for ignoring us, claiming the higher ground of dignified intellectual discourse. Luckily for us, however, they have decided to give us a listen. Introducing the brand new feedback forms for the ASA App and the ASA website.:

I should also add that the person collecting this feedback is a brand new staff member at ASA, not responsible in the least for the existing infrastructure, so please give a lot of details in your feedback, and be nice about it.

splaining

This essay is about the phenomenon often called mansplaining (with its variant whitesplaining). It is prompted a recent 90 minute episode of what felt to me like mansplaining. Any use of the term mansplaining or whitesplaining in mixed company typically evokes complaints that the term itself is sexist/racist. Even our own scatterplot had a minor eruption of this conflict when mansplain was used to describe something women had said to a man  Of course both mansplaining and whitesplaining are very common special cases of the more general privilegesplaining or, better, just splaining. The term splaining has not been applied to class, or to student vs. professor status, or other hierarchies, but it could and should be. Let’s begin by saying that I am often guilty of splaining, at least in the basic sense of telling someone else something they already know or of speaking with confidence about something that is later revealed to be wrong. In fact, when I told my spouse what I was thinking about, he said: “well, you know, you do that.” As if I didn’t know that. This essay is thus not about my own virtue and others’ vice, but about unpacking the idea of splaining, examining its sources and making distinctions. And then explaining why we don’t stay neutral about it. Continue reading

lifecourse of a paper

Working on a paper and proposal that both involved life-course explanations of social phenomena, I realized that my papers have a life-course of their own. I thought I would share:

  • Birth. This is the first glimmer of a new idea. Unfortunately, nature is cruel and mortality at this stage is very high. Some ideas are truly great, but are lost by the time I leave the department/committee/research meeting in which I had their first glimmer. Others were really stillborn: good in principle, impractical in reality. Others needed to be culled for the good of my brood of other, unfinished papers

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fundraising to digitize ASA journal archives

There are 588 boxes of materials from the ASA’s journals (American Sociological Review, Contemporary Sociology, Contexts, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Psychological Quarterly, Sociological Methodology, Sociological Theory, Sociology of Education, and Teaching Sociology) that have been housed at Penn State that are now slated to be shredded and destroyed unread unless funds can be raised to digitize them first. As concerned scholars say: “These unique documents cover an era of major change in the intellectual, organizational, and social-demographic composition of the discipline of sociology. Sociologists in a variety of fields have recently attested to the significance of the data contained in these records for studying the development of all subfields of the discipline, as well as for research in the areas of science/knowledge, social networks, race/gender/class, higher education, the history of sociology, sociological theory, political sociology, and public sociology.”

After much acrimonious debate at ASA Council about whether on principle the records should ever be released due to tradeoffs between historical value and legal/ethical concerns about privacy & confidentiality (the archive includes draft MSS later revised, confidential reviews, and internal memos), as well as debates about the cost of the archiving, the compromise achieved at ASA was to allow concerned parties to do a fundraising campaign to amass the estimated $120,000 it will cost to digitize the archives. As you doubtless know if you are on ASA mailing lists, this fundraising campaign is underway. You can learn about it and click a donate now button at http://saveourarchivalrecords.org. ASA has about 14,000 members, making the per capita cost about $10/member, although of course many members are students or underemployed. Small contributions are welcome and larger contributors are invited to donate $200 to “adopt a box.”

The ASA has vowed to shred all documents whose digitization has not been paid for by June 15, 2015.

Edit: There was an extensive orgtheory  discussion of this last Februrary, where we debated the confidentiality concerns and the historical value of these archives, but could not find that discussion in a Google search. Please drop a comment if you can locate these substantive debates. http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/a-note-from-alan-sica-about-archive-preservation/

(I couldn’t find it in the scatterplot archives because that isn’t where it is!)

 

 

everything you wanted to know about bad citation practices

Spinach, it turns out, is not an especially good source of iron. As the story goes, people believe it’s a good source of iron because of a misplaced decimal point in a publication in the 1930s, reporting the iron content of spinach as ten times its actual level. But this story is itself apocryphal, as Ole Bjørn Rekdal wonderfully narrates in a cheeky and insightful piece in the most recent Social Studies of Science, Academic Urban Legends.

Rekdal traces the origins of the spinach-decimal-point myth and uses the occasion to catalog bad citation practices, including citing secondary sources for a point made by an original source without verifying the original source, citing an original source instead of a secondary source but relying on the secondary source’s interpretation, and more. Rekdal also traces the urban legend that most academic papers are never cited back to a 1980s study that actually found no such thing. I highly recommend the entire short piece, it’s funny and surprising throughout. For example, Popeye never claimed that spinach made you stronger because it had a lot of iron, and Popeye’s creator apparently had vitamin A in mind instead!

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grad skool rool?

Fabio mentioned he’s planning an update of his Grad Skool Rulz. Several months ago I read a book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. While I wouldn’t recommend the whole book, I do adore the quote that Newport uses for his title, which comes from Steve Martin. As Newport tells it:

“Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear,” Martin said. “What they want to hear is ‘Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script,’… but I always say, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’”

The implication for academia for me is that I think it’s common for aspiring sociologists–especially if in the throes of Bourdieu–want to think about academia as a game and think about advice in terms of figuring out how to play the game. And of course there are political elements to academia, and every accomplishment involves the subjective judgments of others (although this is even more the case for stand-up comedy). My worry is that it’s easy to get distracted by all that and miss the main task, which is: work toward trying to be able and do excellent things.

big data, big cities datathon august 15 — sign up this week

The day before ASA begins, August 15, three graduate students, Laura Nelson, Laura Norén, and my advisee Alex Hanna, are hosting a pre-ASA datathon at the D-Lab in Berkeley. From the website: we are holding a datathon to examine contemporary urban issues – especially around housing – with municipal data from cities including San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Boston, Austin, and Chicago.

The hacking itself begins on the 15th, with presentations and judging at the Hilton on the 16th. They are expecting a good mix of participants from both academia and the private sector, and will have a mix of judges from academia, industry, and government. Head to the website for more details on the schedule and how to sign up.

blog party: elevenses

How did it get to be nearly August? I don’t know where the time flies. But I do know that you are flying to San Francisco in a few weeks, and you will need a drink when you get there. Your servants at scatterplot have selected a superb spot just for you. It’s the special sort of place that has fancy appletinis, $3 bottles of beer, and everything in between. I am very pleased to announce:

The 11th Annual Blog Get-Together

Sunday, Aug 17 at 5:30pm

Trocadero Club

701 Geary Street

All blog writers, commenters, and readers are welcome, as are folks-who-used-to-write-but-don’t-so-much-anymore-you-know-how-it-goes, lurkers, tweeters, and assorted people who simply would like to come. Please recall that well-behaved sociology faculty will generously purchase a beverage or two for a thirsty graduate student. We may be awkward, but we don’t need to be that awkward.

okcupid is the new facebook? more on the politics of algorithmic manipulation

OK Cupid’s excellent blog just posted the results of a set of experiments they conducted on their own users. The post is framed in explicit defense of similar practices at Facebook:

We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook “experimented” with their news feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.

In this post, I want to engage with the above argument in the context of OKC’s own manipulation.
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