Archive for October, 2008

Halloween house

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Unfortunately, I’ll be out of the country on Halloween this year, but seeing this house and yard over the weekend in the northern suburbs of Chicago sort of made up for it. (Click for links to the individual photos.)


Public Spheres, Blogospheres

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Public Spheres Blogospheres Flyer I’m on my way to UC Irvine to participate with some very cool folks in a meeting called Public Spheres, Blogospheres hosted by UCI’s HumaniTech. I’m on a panel about Blogging and the Academy.

I suspect the question of whether or how junior faculty should blog will come up. While it’s a topic I’ve pondered here numerous times and it may make some people yawn at this point, I believe it’s still worthy of discussion with some points that haven’t been considered sufficiently yet. More on that when I get around to organizing my thoughts about it (this conference would be a good opportunity for that, hah). Academics from different fields will be represented at this meeting, which may lead to different takes on the topic. I look forward to the conversations.

My department is hiring!

Monday, October 20th, 2008

My department has several positions and given the interdisciplinary nature of our program (hires from the past 5 years have PhDs representing 6-7 fields), it’s important that we distribute the ad widely so that we reach people from multiple disciplines. Thus the posting on EBlog (i.e., no, we can’t just advertise on a couple of standard academic mailing lists as we’d miss potentially relevant candidates). Although I’m on leave and so not involved with the day-to-day logistics of the search, I’m happy to answer questions about the program. (Related, see my post earlier this year on CVs for the academic job market.)

Tenure-Track & Open Rank Positions in Media, Technology, and Society
@ Northwestern University

The Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University’s School of Communication seeks to hire three tenure-track appointments beginning September 1, 2009. Two positions will be at the level of assistant professor, and one will be open as to rank.

We are looking for candidates who can work in a strong interdisciplinary program and advance a vital area of research. Possible areas of expertise include but are not limited to: media industries, institutions, publics, and policy; digital media; media and social networks; technology, work, and organizations; computer-mediated communication, human-computer interaction, global media, information infrastructures, and history of communication and information technologies.

The Department of Communication Studies supports a popular undergraduate major and graduate programs in Media, Technology, and Society, Interaction and Social Influence, and Rhetoric and Public Culture. Scholarship includes leading work on new media, technology and society, social networks, and the cultural determination of the public sphere. Through special resources for research support and scholarly event programming, the department is able to offer rich opportunities for scholarly development.

Northwestern University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action educator and employer. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. Hiring is contingent on eligibility to work in the United States.

Applications should be sent to Professor Noshir Contractor, Chair, MTS Search Committee, Department of Communication Studies, Northwestern University, 2240 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208-3545. Applications should include a CV, evidence of teaching effectiveness, and three letters of recommendation.

Initial review of applications will begin on October 31, 2008, with continual reviews of subsequently-received applications until all positions are filled or a final review deadline of December 31, 2008 is reached.

The Wikipedia deletion game

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Can anyone help me understand why some people are so vehemently opposed to certain people (or topics) having entries on Wikipedia? Why do people get so worked up about the mere existence of certain entries? Currently, an entry for Joe the Plumber is being debated. Does it really dilute the value of Wikipedia to have entries like that? I remember when some people contested my entry (I wasn’t the one to put it up), it felt like some amateurish tenure review, except with not quite the same consequences. Would anyone care to defend the practice? I’m eager to understand the motivations better.

Is fixing health care enough?

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

The responses over on Crooked Timber to my recent post about Breast Cancer Awareness Month were interesting. One commenter suggested that instead of addressing specific issues or charities, it would be better to “focus our energy on political action for good national health insurance“. I’ve seen this argument made before, specifically about breast cancer awareness. While you certainly won’t get any arguments from me against better health insurance (I hate hate hate hate the system in the US and I’m among the privileged who at least has health insurance), I’m not convinced that that’s the only issue at hand when it comes to achieving adequate levels of awareness and preventive care.

First, should we give up on incremental action in other realms until the overall health care system gets figured out? Second, even if we do achieve major gains on that front, will that really take care of all associated concerns? Unlikely. One way to approach this is to see whether people in countries that have good universal health care are all educated about various illnesses and preventive measures. The answer is likely no, which suggests that there is room for awareness campaigns.

Perhaps people are sick of all the pink. To be sure, I get skeptical about some companies’ approaches. But bad marketing on behalf of some doesn’t mean that there aren’t real issues to consider. Nor is it simply a women’s issue as men have partners, mothers, sisters, daughters and friends who’ll be affected. In fact, having watched some of these situations play out, the person fighting cancer is often stronger than those surrounding her so the emotional toll something like this can take on people is significant in and of itself.

Of course, it’s not enough to know that you should be getting a mammogram if you simply can’t afford it or if it’s too complicated to figure out where/how to get one. But there are charities that address those particular disparities as well. Should we ignore those efforts as we wait for universal health care to kick in? (And again, any guarantees that will address the necessary awareness associated with early detection?)

I was going to propose a trade. You donate some money or effort to the cause and I give you something in return. I started thinking about it too late though so I’ll table that for another time. Nonetheless, here are some pointers to charities that work to prevent and cure breast cancer. Alternatively, if you have no money to give or you don’t believe that’s a good use of resources, take some relevant action. Ask a loved one if she’s gotten a mammogram recently (assuming she’s of relevant age), read up on issues, encourage others to do so as well (including what it is that people need to look out for in terms of detection). A friend of mine was diagnosed when her partner noticed a change in her breasts so it’s important for men to be aware as well. Even among women who have adequate health insurance and are well aware that they should be getting regular testing, many don’t. Is it so bad to want to do something about that?

links for 2008-10-12

Sunday, October 12th, 2008


Saturday, October 11th, 2008

PinkI was talking to my Dad last week and he reminded me that it was seven years ago that day that my Mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Until that recent phone conversation, I’d never made the connection between that event and the fact that October is breast cancer awareness month. As if there hadn’t been enough going on three weeks after 9/11, I now certainly had plenty to keep me up at night. Fast forward seven years and things are going well with my Mom. Although she’s never fully regained all of her energy since the treatments, overall she is back to being herself and has been for years now.

When all this came about, I was very grateful for having spent so many years in the US and how illness (or at least some types by now) is treated here versus many other countries, like Hungary, where my Mom’s diagnosis occurred. In too many cultures and communities, illness of all kinds remains a taboo. Not only is it not okay to tell people about it, often doctors won’t even tell patients their diagnosis. While awareness programs may seem superfluous to some*, it is important to remember that in many communities it is not only not the standard to talk and think about illnesses (and thus, for example, take preventive measures when possible), but it is a topic to be avoided outright due to associated embarrassment.

What struck me as I was talking to friends about my mother’s situation was how many among them had a close family member or friend who’d also had breast cancer. It was very helpful to hear about related experiences. But were it a taboo to discuss issues of this sort, I would have been left on my own to deal with the difficult news. Point being, there is value in talking about things of this sort at various levels: from contributing to prevention efforts to the emotional support that can come of it.

Recently, I received some notices about interesting pink-themed undertakings going on right now. One is a Pink group on the photo-sharing site Flickr that seems to be raising money for breast cancer awareness in various European countries. Another is an innovative idea by sociologist Dan Myers who has decided to wear pink every day for the month of October to raise awareness and collect donations. Support him if you can.

Of course, there are serious critical ways of looking at the pink ribbon campaign. For a couple of years now, I’ve had the book Pink Ribbons, Inc. on my book shelf, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Has anyone read it?

I’ve been thinking about a way to contribute to these efforts myself this year and I have an idea. I’m putting some finishing touches on it. I’ll post about it in a bit.

[*] A few months after my Mom’s diagnosis, I still remember that there was an article in The Daily Princetonian making fun of the ribbon campaign. Like I have done above, a response to that piece tried to explain why these do serve a purpose.

links for 2008-10-10

Friday, October 10th, 2008

links for 2008-10-09

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Which one?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

That bit was hard to miss, but I hadn’t noticed the refusal of the handshake. Ouch.