of laptops and learning: causal mechanisms and heterogeneity


The following is a guest post by Jeff Lockhart.

Recently, Cindi May argued in Scientific American that “Students are Better Off without a Laptop in the Classroom.” As with the numerous articles in this vein that preceded it, May’s article was picked up by many academics on social media as proof that they were right to ban laptops in their classrooms. Others have responded that students have always found ways to distract themselves, that banning laptops is infantilizing and that it’s harmful to students with disabilities, among other objections. Although these are important concerns, I want to focus here on a few frustrating trends in the research and reporting on classroom laptop use.

Continue reading “of laptops and learning: causal mechanisms and heterogeneity”

sunday morning sociology, war on college edition

Pew reports on a big shift in Republicans’ views towards colleges. More coverage here.

A weekly link round-up of sociological work – work by sociologists, referencing sociologists, or just of interest to sociologists. This scatterplot feature is co-produced with Mike Bader.

Continue reading “sunday morning sociology, war on college edition”

hobby lobby’s parallel universe of antiquity studies

An artist’s sketch of the Museum of the Bible, currently under construction. Source.

The following is a guest post by Fiona Greenland.

Last week’s news that Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby faced civil forfeiture for illegally importing Iraqi antiquities came as no surprise to cultural property experts. The company had been under scrutiny since 2015, when news of the investigation broke. And even before the investigation, scholars, including Roberta Mazza, an ancient historian at the University of Manchester, identified inconsistencies in the provenance histories, or ownership records, of antiquities obtained for Hobby Lobby-backed Museum of the Bible. Equally unsurprising in the wake of the forfeiture announcement were the muddled claims about Hobby Lobby funding ISIS. The forfeited antiquities at the heart of the civil complaint were shipped in late 2010 and early 2011 – prior to the period when ISIS is known to have been associated with archaeological looting in Syria and Iraq. Joel Baden and Candida Moss, two theologians who have closely studied the MoB and Hobby Lobby, rejected the connection in their New York Times editorial on July 6. But the HL-ISIS meme persists, with the frustrating result that the everyday illegal practices of the global antiquities market are overshadowed by ISIS drama.

A lot has been written about Hobby Lobby’s dodgy antiquities deal, and I will defer to the legal experts for analysis of the civil complaint (check out Rick St. Hilaire’s blog). There is good reason to care about this story. The illicit removal of artifacts from archaeological sites destroys information about the objects’ context and history, can damage the artifacts, and is linked with other forms of criminal activity. This is true not just in the Middle East but all over the world. Equally worrisome is the possibility that when a big firm like Hobby Lobby spends big money on antiquities, looters are encouraged to keep digging and dealers are emboldened to sell objects that shouldn’t be on the market in the first place. Those are real problems and yet what I want to focus on here is the rest of the iceberg. Hobby Lobby’s buying power is setting ancient historical studies on a new axis.

Continue reading “hobby lobby’s parallel universe of antiquity studies”

asa blog party: episode xiv, revenge of the blogs

With ASA just a month away, sociologists are setting their sites on Montreal. Apart from scrambling to finish our papers, and struggling to figure out which panels we are supposed to attend, the most important part of prepping for ASA is picking the best parties to attend! In furtherance of that last goal, we at the scatterplot party planning committee are delighted to announce the fourteenth annual blog party, the can’t miss event of the blogger social season. Details:

The 14th Annual Blog Get-Together

Sunday, Aug 13th from 4pm to 7pm

Le Vieux Dublin

636, rue Cathcart, Montreal, about one kilometer from the Palais des Congrès.

Come join us! As Tina put it, “All blog writers, commenters, and readers are welcome, as are folks-who-used-to-write-but-don’t-so-much-anymore-you-know-how-it-goes, lurkers, tweeters, and assorted people who simply would like to come. Please recall that well-behaved sociology faculty will generously purchase a beverage or two for a thirsty graduate student. We may be awkward, but we don’t need to be that awkward.”

sunday morning sociology, panda power edition

When I first saw this image of a new Chinese Panda-shaped solar power plant circulate on Twitter, I was sure it was fake. It’s not. It’s real, it’s adorable, it fights climate change, and it’s somehow weirdly intimidating. Source.

A weekly link round-up of sociological work – work by sociologists, referencing sociologists, or just of interest to sociologists. This scatterplot feature is co-produced with Mike Bader.

Continue reading “sunday morning sociology, panda power edition”

of checkerboards and matthew effects: sakoda, schelling and models of segregation

An origami checkerboard. Source.

Thomas Schelling was a famous economist. He won a Nobel Prize, published agenda setting books, and influence Cold War policy. He also wrote one of my favorite papers, on radically time-inconsistent preferences (specifically, the curious case of asking your friends not to give you a cigarette when you later ask for one, and related phenomena). One the things Schelling is most famous for is a simple agent-based model of residential segregation known as the “Schelling Model.” The model was first published in a 1971 article in the second issue of The Journal of Mathematical Sociology, and was discussed at length in Schelling’s very widely-read Micromotives and Macrobehavior. Many readers of this blog have likely come across the model; the original article now has over 3600 citations on Google Scholar and the book has over 6600.

James Sakoda was a relatively unknown computational sociologist. His main lasting fame seems to be among origami enthusiasts, e.g as the author of Modern Origami. But, as detailed by a fantastic (and lengthy) new article by Rainer Hegselmann, Sakoda may well have the better claim to having first invented checkerbaord models of discrimination. In his 1949 dissertation, Sakoda lays out a class of checkerboard models. And in a 1971 article in the first issue of The Journal of Mathematical Sociology, Sakoda published “The checkerboard model of social interaction.” As Hegselmann shows, Schelling’s model is very nearly a special case of Sakoda’s more general treatment published one issue earlier. Yet Sakoda’s articles boasts just a bit more than 200 citations, and no one speaks of a “Sakoda model.” What happened?

Continue reading “of checkerboards and matthew effects: sakoda, schelling and models of segregation”