on exactitude in social science

…In that Empire, the Art of Machine Learning attained such Perfection that the data of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the data of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Datasets no longer satisfied, and the Machine Learning Faculty built a Dataset of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Machine Learning as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Dataset was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Data, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Statistics.

—Jorge Luis Borges, Obras Completas v7, translated from the 20th century by @asociologist

imagining sociology’s theorists as contestants on a home design show

A while back, I made a joke on Facebook about panopticons and open floor plans, and a friend commented that she’d love to see a version of the television show House Swap featuring Goffman and Parsons. That gem of an idea (thanks Carolyn Chernoff) then became this Twitter post, imagining various sociological theorists as contestants on a home design competition show (I was bingeing Ellen’s Design Challenge at the time).

I ended up sharing the thread with my Intro Soc students, and I thought I’d share it here, too. It’s a clever way to help students compare key points from each theorist, and it could also work as inspiration for a creative class assignment. You could have your students apply the same concept and imagine various theorists as contestants on food competition shows or quiz shows or as popular athletes or musicians.

Here’s the setup: Imagine that some of Sociology’s theorists are contestants on a home design competition show. Each theorist has been asked to choose a chair to complete a particular room. 


Host: Welcome to Soc Theory Design Challenge! First up, we have Talcott Parsons. Tell us about your design.

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the science of gay gene science

The following is a guest post by Jeff Lockhart.

It is that time of year again: Science has a new study by Ganna et al. on the “gay gene,” and major outlets like the New York Times have picked it up. While many are just encountering this area of research for the first time, numerous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of sexual orientation have been published since the invention of GWAS in the early 2000s. Like others in the genre, Ganna et al. uncritically cite and perpetuate research with deep theoretical, methodological, and ethical flaws, like the Wang & Kosinski “gayface” paper. But rather than frustration, I’m taking my cue from XKCD: this is an opportunity to introduce others to an exciting area of Science and Technology Studies.

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