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!

kicked out!

I was happily writing this AM, only to receive a knock on my door that I was to vacate my office immediately! No, I didn’t get fired. So wipe that gleeful smile off your face, haters! Sociology is moving! I never thought this would happen. The promised moved kept getting put off and put off, to the point where I was doubtful it would ever happen. So I didn’t really bother to pack. Well, now I’m suffer the consequences. Too quickly, I disassembled my computer, put my personal things in a suitcase which lives in my office, and wandered out. Something will be lost in the move, no doubt. I cut an odd figure, walking through campus with a suitcase trailing, a tie around my neck (wearing a t-shirt and jeans, mind you), a sickly plant I have been nursing in one hand, and a deflated bike tire in the other. You never realize the odd things you have in your office until you’re forced to move. We’re moving off campus to a building that used to be part of Union Theological Seminary, Knox Hall. I’m excited about our new offices (many, mine included, look out onto the seminary courtyard–a welcome sight when one lives in the city). The building is old and beautiful, but was remodeled just before the financial crisis set in. What I’m less than excited about is being officeless. I am an office worker. And the idea of not having an office for a week while I am supposed to be finishing up my book (I think it will be done in about two weeks!) is terrifying. Good thing I took time out to blog. We’ll see if I can learn to work from home.

gender and athletes

I find this story fascinating. It’s about a gender test being demanded of an athlete, South Africa’s Caster Semenya, who is competing at the world games. The world track and field federation calls this test, “extremely complex, difficult,” involving a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, an internal medicine specialist and an expert on gender. I’m curious what constitutes such an expert. The spokesman for the track and field federation is quoted as saying,

If there’s a problem and it turns out that there’s been a fraud … that someone has changed sex, then obviously it would be much easier to strip results. However, if it’s a natural thing and the athlete has always thought she’s a woman or been a woman, it’s not exactly cheating.

Where I suddenly paused was the phrase, “the athlete has always thought she’s a woman…” Continue reading “gender and athletes”

i am, apparently, ahead of my time

Some of you who share my fondness for all things zombie may be excited to know that your interests are no longer- technically speaking- purely a hobby. Instead, it’s now possible to regard the study of zombies as an intellectual contribution. Am I kidding? Not at all, because I recently became aware of a new book titled, “Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress.” What does that have to do with zombies? Seemingly nothing, until you notice that chapter four is titled, “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.” Seriously.
Continue reading “i am, apparently, ahead of my time”

self evidence

I saw the famous quote from Schopenhauer on a mug:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Then I come home and see this as the first sentence of an article on Slate:

The National Enquirer is reporting what everyone already knew—that John Edwards is in fact the father of Rielle Hunter’s child—and a North Carolina TV station says he may admit paternity.

the sociologists stage a raffle

I’m an officer in the medical sociology section of ASA, which means I went to the conference session devoted to their business meeting. A tradition of this session is the book raffle. You pay $5 and are entered in a drawing where a series of winners get to select 3 books from those obtained from various publishers and other sources as prizes. Fifteen winners or so are announced. So far, so good.

Here’s the curious thing: Continue reading “the sociologists stage a raffle”