A lovely hush has come over the blog, and my email inbox, this Thanksgiving holiday, as all you Americans take a break from your internet duties to (hopefully) remember what we are all working so hard for. Though up north our Thanksgiving is a distant memory (mmm…homemade biscuits…), it is nice to realize why the volume has gone down so suddenly.
While you’re still calmly reflecting on all that you have, and before you start the frenzy of preparations for the next big holiday, why don’t you head over to mom’s fabulous blog to get some great ideas for gifts that are more about bringing joy than developing brand loyalty. After all, there are only 33 more crafting days until Christmas.
It’s a treat to begin the morning with a really good cup of tea and an article in the Chronicle about a friend’s research!
Hello everyone. I’m new at this. My first thoughts are about how “out” to be. Now that I do a lot of public sociology, I have a public personna to consider. How much can I say to the web about the interesting things I’ve observed without delegitmating myself and my work? Much of what I spend a lot of time thinking about is race relations in the US, due to my teaching and public work, and I hope to write about this as I think I have had thoughts and experiences different from a lot of White people’s. But I worry about saying something in public that will seem condescending or insulting to the people I am writing about. I have to think about just how public this forum us. I was up most of the night preparing much-overdue reports for the commission I’m on. Somehow a couple of dozen of us have to agree on a report, and we have not had much time to work on it. Many of us said, “why don’t we just send email drafts around?” Turns out some people are very worried about drafts circulating. Partly we are subject to open records laws. Partly there are concerns that anything that is emailed can get forwarded to who knows who and that people would start criticizing the report before we even get it written. There are people who have already written editorials against what they expect us to say. So getting the work done is that much harder. This relates to a second point. While the political culture in my home town (which for now I’ll call Universityville) Continue reading “public sociology”
The term “gnotobiotic” stems from the Greek words “gnosis” (“known”) and “bios” (“life”). Somewhat paradoxically, a gnotobiotic animal is, at least originally, one with no known life. That is, a gnotobiotic animal is born and reared in a sterile environment, so that it is germ free (or GF, in the parlance of the articles I’ve been reading of late). Gnotobiotic animals can be colonized, then, with defined microbiota and used in research that examines the role of specific microbes (e.g., by comparing physiologic processes in gnotobiotic and colonized animals).
Why is this interesting to a sociologist (beyond the opportunity for wordplay with the Rumsfeldian title of the previous post?). Well, it’s interesting to this sociologist because research using gnotobiotic animals is part of recent scientific endeavors, like the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which focus on the relationship between humans and our microbiota, the microorganisms that live on and in human beings. While many aspects of the HMP are fascinating, I am most riveted by the proposition that it will support an understanding of the human as a “superorganism”: Continue reading “our gnotobios, our selves”
From Jon Elster, Ulysses Unbound, p. 72:
It is a conceptual truth that one cannot consciously decide to adopt a belief simply on the grounds that having it would be useful.
Not to get all personal here on sociology’s brand-new team blog, but can I just say: clearly Jon Elster has not dated some of the people I have dated. ‘Cause then he would have had conversations suggesting some deep empirical limitations to his conceptual truth. ‘Cause then he’d have ascertained that while, say, a person did not really, really believe in astrology, that, for immediate practical purposes they indeed did/would give all indications of believing in astrology, including reading charts and drawing conclusions about others on the basis thereof. (Various other things could be substituted for astrology here, depending on what conversation and with whom.) I guess “useful” in the quote isn’t really it so much as “adopting a belief on the grounds that having it would make life more interesting, meaningful or fun.” Continue reading “the believing trick”
A friend who works in the private sector somewhere on the Great Plains sent me a story from a national business newsletter in which someone at her company was interviewed. She asked me to identify which of several quotes from this co-worker bothered other people at the company. I presumed this challenge would be easy enough but looked the article over several times and didn’t see what she was talking about. So I asked and the answer was this part where her co-worker was quoted using the phrase “throw a hissy fit.” This was bothersome because people felt it gave them impression of their corporation as a backwoods rube-run enterprise. It didn’t even faze me. I’m trying to figure out if “hissy fit” is an uninterrogated part of my rural habitus. I mean, of course I recognize it as a colloquialism, but is it really a rural colloquism? Is that I would now say “throw a snit” instead of “throw a hissy fit” an unconscious version of when I started saying “soda” instead of “pop”?
BTW, non-sequitur personal Thanksgiving update: Continue reading “little hiss can’t be wrong”