Scatterplot has a new logo! About time, since we’ve had the last one since December, 2016. Here’s the story behind our new banner and a brief history of scatterplot banners back to our launch in 2007.Continue reading “scatterplot gets a new banner”
The following is a guest post by Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra.
Topic models are fast emerging as a workhorse of computational social science. Since their introduction in the late 1990s as part of a larger family of classification and indexing algorithms, they have grown into one of the most common and convenient means for automated text analysis. Not too long ago, using topic methods confronted scholars unfamiliar with programming with steep learning curves: even the simplest implementations required some familiarity with coding in addition to a good deal of patience. Today, by contrast, topic modeling is available as part of point-and-click desktop applications (e.g. Context) and can be installed in widely used statistical analysis packages (e.g. Stata). The relative ease, scalability, and intelligibility of topic models explains, perhaps, their quick adoption across sociology, political science, and the digital humanities. Indeed, to say that topic models are the OLS of text analysis wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration.Continue reading “doing things with bags-of-words”
From 2016-2019 I had two positions that have taught me a lot about academic leadership and organizations. I led the process of redeveloping UNC’s General Education curriculum, “IDEAs in Action,” which was approved in April 2019; and I sat on the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) elected Council. These two blog posts are intended to explain some of the things I’ve learned from both of these experiences.
This post will deal with what I’ve learned from three years serving on the ASA council. The previous post dealt with my role leading UNC’s general education curriculum redesign.
[Content notice: discussion of rape, genocide]
Last spring, Nicholas Christakis published his latest book, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society. The title already sets the stage for some old-fashioned biological determinism.1 For anyone familiar with evolutionary psychology, it is 520 pages of mostly the same claims, logic, and citations as any other recent evopsych writing aimed at a general public readership. He’s a fan of Steven Pinker’s theses in Enlightenment Now and Blank Slate, and Pinker’s endorsement is prominent on the front cover of Blueprint. For those unfamiliar, the field is riven with “just-so stories,” or simplistic, largely unverifiable assertions about our evolutionary past that justify modern stereotypes and inequalities. The New Yorker summarizes and historicizes this pattern well. When it makes normative claims, evopsych tends to engage in the same is/ought fallacy that structural functionalism did: whatever we observe people doing must serve some necessary function—or else it wouldn’t have evolved—and so whatever is, ought to be. Social reformers beware: you’re meddling with forces beyond your comprehension and fighting against human nature.Continue reading “blueprint for what?”
Earlier this week, I was asked to help organize an event for graduate students seeking advice on the “responsible use of twitter for grad students.” Of course, my first instinct was to crowdsource advice from #SocTwitter itself. In this post, I gather together some of the advice suggested by others, including a list of already published or posted resources and guides.
From 2016-2019 I had two positions that have taught me a lot about academic leadership and organizations. I led the process of redeveloping UNC’s General Education curriculum, “IDEAs in Action,” which was approved in April 2019; and I sat on the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) elected Council. These two blog posts are intended to explain some of the things I’ve learned from both of these experiences .
This first post will deal with what I’ve learned from three years chairing the curriculum redesign process.
One of the benefits of sabbatical is finally dusting off to-do tasks that have withered on the list from neglect. For me, today one such task was (finally!) looking at this Advising Expectations and Guidelines from @dandanar and updating it for my students (grad advisees + undergraduates working on research). I don’t think anything in this document will surprise my current students, but I’m hoping laying it out on paper (and making it available online) will help smooth the process of establishing new advising relationships in the future. My primary goal with this document was to encourage students to ask for assistance from faculty–especially on reading work-in-progress. But it is also meant to facilitate that ask so it is as easy as possible for me to say yes.
I’m posting the work-in-progress document here to start the conversation. Faculty: Do you have such a document? Why or why not? What do you include in yours? Students: Are these helpful? Why or why not?
Actor-network theory (ANT) is one of the most interesting and controversial recent-ish movements at the intersection of science and technology studies (STS) and social theory. (By recent-ish, I mean that it’s too new to be included in some “contemporary” social theory syllabi which stop in the 1970s or 1980s and also that the earliest writers in the movement are still active). ANT is probably most famous for its claims about the agency of non-humans actors, which is an example of its assertion of several radical forms of “symmetry”. On a few occasions, I’ve been asked for suggestions about to understand actor-network theory, or what to assign when teaching it. The following is a list of some of the pieces that have been most useful to me, and which together serve as a pretty good overview of the approach along with some pieces I think teach particularly well. There are other existing exhaustive resources and some nice overviews with extensive bibliographies (some of which are mentioned below). My goal here is not to duplicate those resources, but just to idiosyncratically note which pieces have “clicked” for me and might perhaps work for you as you try to read up on ANT or look for readings to assign in a course or add to a prelim list.
Continue reading “learning and teaching actor-network theory”