description without causation, causation without explanation

Over at SocArXiv, two University of Michigan political scientists just posted a wonderful, short comment on my stylized facts paper. In the original paper, I argue that stylized facts are empirical regularities in search of explanation, that the production of stylized facts should be understood as an important component of social scientific practice, and that stylized facts are capable of doing political work even in the absence of well-established causal explanations. In their comment, Crabtree and Fariss (C&F) offer a nice clarification in the context of experimental social scientific research programs.

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vague questions for fragmented publics

Timothy Carney wrote an article earlier this week decrying what he calls the “rampant abuse of data” by pollsters and the press this election season. He faults North Carolina’s hometown polling company, Public Policy Polling (PPP), among others, for asking “dumb polling questions” such as the popularity of the erstwhile Cincinnati Zoo gorilla Harambe; support for the Emancipation Proclamation; and support for bombing Agrabah, the fictional country in which the Disney film Aladdin is set.

While I agree with Carney that many of the interpretations of these questions are very problematic (and I should note that I have used PPP many times to field polls for my own research), I think he’s wrong that these are dumb questions and that the answers therefore do not constitute “data.” Quite the opposite: asking vague and difficult-to-answer questions is an important technique for assaying culture and, thereby, revealing contours of public opinion that cannot be observed using conventional polling.

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making the united states plural again

The following is a guest post by Charles Kurzman

America may be divided these days, but it is hardly as divided as when the United States of America were plural.

That’s the grammar used in the Declaration of Independence, which characterized “the thirteen united States of America” as “Free and Independent States.” The founders spoke of “these United States,” a phrase that sounds quaint today but was taken literally at the time.

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did bros cause the financial crisis? hegemonic masculinity in the big short

The following is a guest post by Joseph Gamble.

There’s a moment in The Big Short (2015, dir. McKay) where the film cuts to footage of a grandfather and his grandson eating eggs at a diner. Over the footage, we see the text: “The truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry. —Overheard in a Washington, D.C. bar.”

As a literary critic specializing in gender, race, and sexuality in English Renaissance poetry, I was a bit offended that I was watching a movie about a subject I thought everyone hated—the economy—only to learn that it was my work that people would rather avoid. I couldn’t believe that people don’t like poetry![1]

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reminder: blogger party this sunday, now with swag and snacks!

A quick reminder: the annual blogger party is this Sunday! Join us from 4pm-7pm at the Pine Box Bar in Seattle, a scant 10 minute walk from ASA.  Longer description here. This year’s blogger party will feature some free food and exclusive (not really) swag for SocArXiv. So, come for the scintillating intellectual conversation and open access advocacy, stay for the snacks, booze, and buttons!

SocArXiV Buttons.jpg