surveys are hard work

[See updates below]

John Villasenor’s study on free speech attitudes among college students has received some attention.

In one of the questions he asked, only 47% of students favored, “an open learning environment where students are exposed to all types of speech and viewpoints, even if it means allowing speech that is offensive or biased against certain groups of people.” In contrast, 53% favored speech restrictions to, “create a positive learning environment.”

This is a huge swing from last year when Gallup asked the same question. They found that only 22% favored speech restrictions.

This 30-point shift could be because attitudes changed rapidly. Villasenor’s study was immediately after Charlottesville, for example, and students might be more primed to think about Nazi’s marching on their campus.

It could also be because of differences in survey methods. Surveying college students is really hard.

Continue reading “surveys are hard work”

academic hot takes

A post over at orgtheory reminded me of this nice bit by Jeff Goodwin:

Hypothesis number one: For any book to become widely cited today, let alone to influence how people think, it must be reducible to a few general and easily grasped formulations. Many texts are “formulated,” furthermore, not by their authors, but by more or less officially designated readers (call them DRs), including reviewers for academic journals. Books that cannot be formulaically summarized by DRs, accurately or otherwise, are unlikely to generate much discussion, let alone change minds.

The process of “formulation” typically results in simplifications, half-truths, and outright errors, particularly when DRs are ill-disposed toward a particular text. The more complex the text, moreover, the more simplification is essential if the “formulation” that is a prerequisite of broad influence is to occur at all. Ensuing “discussions” and “debates” about a particular text often build upon these simplifications, half-truths, and errors. Before long, scholars can be “influenced” by these “debates,” or even participate in them without having read the text supposedly at issue; one need simply familiarize oneself with the formulaic “summaries” and “discussions” of it that DRs have produced.

Hypothesis number two: No book can claim to be “influential” today until large numbers of people who have not read it (or have not read beyond its introduction) have strong opinions about it. In fact, some of the most frequently cited books are, paradoxically, not very widely (or closely) read at all.

Hypothesis number three: A text that actually had to be carefully read by large numbers of people in order to be “understood” would never become “influential.”

Goodwin, Jeff. 1996. “How to Become a Dominant American Social Scientist: The Case of Theda Skocpol.” Contemporary Sociology  293-295.

hot sociology, 2014 edition

It is somewhat boring that my annual list of the most cited works in sociological journals always puts Bourdieu’s Distinction at the top. That was going to be the case again this year, so I decided to change the sorting algorithm to measure “hotness”.

An article’s hotness is the number of cites it received in sociological journals this year divided by the log of the number of years since publication. This means that a work that was published in 2010 and cited 18 times in 2014, like Putnam and Campbell’s American Grace scores slightly higher than something that was cited 34 times last year but published in 2000, like Putnam’s Bowling Alone. I tried different variations of what to put in the numerator and denominator, but this method 1) had the most pleasing mix of new and old things and 2) knocked Distinction all the way down to #2.

So, the 63 hottest articles in sociology last year were:

Continue reading “hot sociology, 2014 edition”

paula england response

I sent a short note to ASA President Paula England on the letterhead issue. She wrote that I was free to share the information on scatterplot, so here it is:

Thanks for your note.  The policy of the Executive Officer, Sally Hillsman, stretching back a number of years has been that elected officers of ASA may use ASA letterhead when writing on ASA business if they wish.  As you may know, the question of whether Salaita’s treatment abrogated academic freedom and whether ASA should speak out was raised at the end of the Council Meeting in August.  Council could have voted an official ASA position, but there was no time for that, so members informally encouraged me to write as President if I decided it was appropriate.  I drafted a letter, but decided to see if a few other officers agreed.  Not everyone did, so at first my call was to say nothing.  Later, however, the three presidents and secretary decided we did want to speak out. We used ASA letterhead, as we were writing as presidents and secretary of the ASA, but I was careful to word the letter not to imply that this was an official ASA position (that would be appropriate only if Council had voted).  Two elected officers who didn’t agree with our letter decided to write a letter taking a different position, and approached the Executive Officer about whether they too could send it on ASA stationery.  Sally consulted with me, and articulated what the policy had been. Given the past policy, I felt the fair thing to do was grant their request.

Regarding your question about postings under “Advocacy” on Member News and Notes, I’m told by ASA staff that “Advocacy” is just an internal file name (a bit of a residual category), not a title used in the text of News and Notes.

what happened in 1999?

From the ASA permission form sent to authors when a publisher wants to reprint an article that appeared in an ASA journal:

Prior to 1999, ASA policy on revenue sharing with its authors stated that proceeds will be shared equally by the author(s) of the article and the ASA as copyright holder. For articles published prior to 1999, the ASA will collect all fees and will disburse one half of these receipts to authors upon collection from the requestor, unless you agree to donate your share to the ASA. For articles published in 1999 and later, ASA retains all fees received for reprint permission requests. (This applies to journal articles only). 


ritzer on ritzer on ritzer

George Ritzer, Editor in Chief, The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd Edition, in an email to me:

We would like to invite you to contribute to Wiley-Blackwell’s Encyclopedia of Sociology, Second Edition, under the general editorship of George Ritzer… The Author will be entitled to receive access to the electronic (online) version of the encyclopedia for a period of two years…  In addition, the Author will have the right to purchase the entire set of volumes of the current print edition of the Work for personal use at a discount of 25% from the published price, copies of any work published by the publishers and currently in print, provided that all such purchases, including purchases of the Work, are paid for in advance by the Author.

George Ritzer, social theorist:

For example, when you write product reviews for you are enhancing the value of that site and the company; you are working for them and you are not being paid for that work…To put it baldly, the value of these computer-based businesses is based largely on the “work”- those clicks and likes- that you do for them free of charge. In a capitalist world you ought to be paid by all of them, but of course you are not paid. From the perspective of the critics of capitalism, you are being exploited by firms such as Google and Facebook (Fuchs, 2013). In fact, you are being exploited more than the paid workers in the capitalist system. Most of them are being paid relatively little, but you are paid nothing at all. Low paid work often yields great profits, but work that is unpaid leads to an even higher rate of profit.

I asked George Ritzer about this tension. He wrote:

As you know, this is a high compliment- using my ideas.. even if only to critique me. Your point is well-taken, but I am one of the exploited low-paid workers in the quotation (on a per hour basis for the number of hours it takes to edit a 2500-entry encyclopedia…far less than the minimum wage). I am also a prosumer in this case “consuming” the entries and “producing” edits, comments, etc. If there is an exploiter here, it is Wiley-Blackwell, but this is endemic to academic publishing. When we submit articles to journals owned by them (and SAGE, etc) we are the prosumers of those articles (and others), we are paid nothing, and they are profitable companies in large part because of the free work done by authors. There’s a broader critique here.

By my calculation Wiley, an academic publisher, has earned about a billion dollars in profit since the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Sociology came out.

i decided to ride on an available silver space ship

Cal State Northridge sociologist Lewis Yablonsky passed away last month at the age of 89. The LA Times describes him as, “A leading figure in sociology in the 1960s and ’70s … who gained national prominence as a sociologist, criminologist and author.” In 2003, he received the ASA’s “Distinguished Career Award for the Practice of Sociology.”

The Times obituary notes that, “Although Yablonsky was opposed to recreational drug use, he tried marijuana and went on an LSD trip as part of his study” of hippies, detailed in his 1968 book “The Hippie Trip.” The book isn’t available online, but I scanned in the chapter where he describes his LSD trip with his wife Donna who he met while doing research, in “a psychodrama session at Synanon.” Spoilers after the jump.

Continue reading “i decided to ride on an available silver space ship”