fifteen minutes: one way research goes public

A relatively minor project I was part of in 2004, led by Monica Prasad and in collaboration with several UNC and Northwestern graduate students, has been making press waves recently. The article identifies a mode of political reasoning we labeled inferred justification. One of the co-authors, Steve Hoffman, is now at SUNY Buffalo, and the news services folks there put out a press release. picked it up and gave it a spin about the health care reform debate. Now there’s a lot of blogging about it, and interviews from Reuters, Newsweek, and the NYT. I spent an hour this morning on Wisconsin Public Radio, and am being asked to appear on an Ontario public TV show as well.

This is fun and interesting, particularly for a guy like me with an inflated ego. And I am happy to have a platform from which to talk about responsible citizenship with regard to health care. But I’m also interested, as a scholar of the media, in how it was this article, among many other frankly more important ones, that got “legs.”

do you ever wonder…

What music sounds like to other people? I do. I never wonder what the world looks like. But I wonder what they hear when they listen to things. Some ten years (yikes!) after I quit playing the violin seriously I was asked to join a working quartet. At first I played first violin. When it was clear that I was no longer technically up for the task, I moved myself to second. It was interesting to hear inner voices, and take them even more seriously. I eventually quit the quartet, as it wasn’t fun, and I felt too much pressure. They were really good and serious. I was just fooling around. But the experience changed how I listen to music. And now, every time I listen to something, I wonder what it sounds like to other people.

murder by structure and latour

I’ve been making my way through Latour’s Reassembling the Social in preparation for teaching it to my graduate theory class on the advice of scatterbrains. (Note to self: consider reading books before assigning them?) Meanwhile, I’m also working through my large pile of back journals and came across Andrew Papachristos’ “Murder by Structure” in AJS 115:1. Continue reading “murder by structure and latour”

uh oh

I’ve got to be careful how I say this. A future candidate for public office left a message on my home answering machine asking me to call. When I called back the cell phone number given, Candidate could not remember who I was, said “are you a lawyer, I’ve been calling a lot of lawyers.” Uh oh #1 — you are running for office, you leave me a message, but when you answer your phone you don’t know who I am? We arranged a later time for a longer phone conversation. When Candidate called me the second time, Candidate still did not know who I was, except a name on a list. The only information Candidate had is what I told Candidate the first time, that I’m at the University. Uh oh #2, now you have had time to prepare for the call again, and you still don’t know who I am.  I don’t want to sound arrogant, but the last time someone was planning to run for this office, the candidate asked to meet with me because of my particular expertise, bought my lunch, and was hoping to get my particular endorsement as well as assuring me that my policy input would be important. As Candidate is from my party, I’m going to vote for Candidate against the other party as a matter of principle.  But unless Candidate learns FAST, I’m very uneasy about the outcome of an election I care about a lot. I don’t mean learns fast about me, I mean learns fast about how to do basic Internet research and how to handle cold telephone calls without sounding like a total doofus.

spring comes twice to chapel hill

Classes started today. I’m teaching theory and theory – to be specific, graduate theory and undergraduate theory. It’s all very exciting – the sense of new beginnings, interesting new works to teach, and fresh young faces around.

Chapel Hill is very beautiful in spring and fall, and there’s a spring-like feel to the arrival of the students on campus in the fall. They arrive on campus scared, excited, and ready either to engage in intellectual life or to become cynical and lazy. Our job: to encourage door number 1. Watching a previously-sleepy (over the summer) campus come to life as young people fill the campus, corridors, and classrooms – ahhh, spring!