crimes of disambiguation

(What happens if you enter “Howard Becker” into Wikipedia. Incidentally, P. vs. S. led to a recurrent confusion among grad students when I was at Wisconsin, as the origin story of Wisconsin Sociology’s rise to greatness involves a story about the nowadays lesser-known and half-century-dead Howard Becker. Somebody should add it to his Wikipedia entry, although make sure you edit the right one.)

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

5 thoughts on “crimes of disambiguation”

  1. As they say in Wikipedia, WP:SOFIXIT.

    I went ahead and fixed the disambiguation text at least which was nonsense. Getting the articles moved takes a little more but should be done without too much work.


  2. Similarly, one wonders if a generation of Cornell undergraduates left their sociology classes thinking, “gosh, that Robin Williams fellow isn’t nearly as funny as I thought he’d be.”


  3. Sorry for the slow response to the prompt, it has been a busy week.

    The short version of the story Jeremy references: Howard P (the one who is deceased) was at Wisconsin and was, per legend, a very disturbed individual who fomented conflict. He died, relatively suddenly I think. Shortly after his demise, Bill Sewell* became chair. At an early department meeting, people were yelling at each other. The story is that Bill stopped the meeting and said to everyone: “I want you to go back to your offices and think about this: Howard Becker is dead and we don’t have to do this any more.” This was the beginning of the climate of civility and respect that is deliberately cultivated and cherished in the Wisconsin Department. It is our origin myth.** I don’t know how to edit Wikipedia and don’t propose to learn. But I share the story here with you.

    *(another disambiguation, this is William H. Sewell [senior], the father of William H. Sewell, Jr.,_Jr.%5D



    1. >Howard P (the one who is deceased) was at Wisconsin
      >and was, per legend, a very disturbed individual who
      >fomented conflict.

      Sounds like this is an apple falling close to the tree kind of thing. From the H P Becker wikipedia entry:
      “Becker was the son of Charles Becker, a notoriously corrupt New York police officer who went to the electric chair for murder in July 1915 …”

      All the more reason to be careful about “disambiguation” given that I’ve never heard anything about H S Becker being personally unpleasant, unprofessional, or otherwise showing bad character.


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