Archive for June, 2009

Miscellaneous links

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Since delicious has decided not to play nice with my blog again (that is, post automatic updates), here it goes manually.

Reading Twitter in Tehran (Washington Post) op-ed piece by Berkmanites John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Rob Faris “Why Twitter Won’t Bring Revolution to Iran”

Postlets “real estate marketing for Web 2.0″

Iowa teen is the latest texting champion (MSNBC)

Pixar grants girl’s dying wish with home viewing of ‘Up’ (OCRegister) – “Company sent DVD so Huntington Beach girl, 10, could watch it”

Internet and Broadband Adoption over time Pew graphic

Academic Earth “video lectures from the world’s top scholars”

How to lose your job in 140 characters or less (The Brand Builder blog)

Unemployed workers are finding more jobs through social networking sites (CNN Money)

U.S. State Department Speaks to Twitter over Iran (Reuters)

An interrupting culture – The Economist’s and its readers take on my post about seminar cultures

States thwart license plate SNAFUs

xkcd rocks

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I don’t always get xkcd although often enough I think it’s quite funny and on occasion I think it’s just brilliant. Here’s one I’m surprised my students haven’t put on a T-shirt for me yet. And you might recall our CT discussion of this one. Today, Randall Munroe has added another to my collection of favorites, check it out. (I even forgive him for a slight misspelling at the end. I won’t get into specifics, because it would be a spoiler. See the first comment below for more. UPDATE an hour later: the typo has been fixed.)

Clueless? Rude? Neither? Both?

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I had posted the following on Crooked Timber last week, but forgot to cross-post it here so it’s a bit late.

Between the topic of Michèle Lamont’s posts, the discussion that followed John Holbo’s note on manners and now John Quiggin’s query about seminar questions, it’s a good opportunity to describe an incident I experienced years ago. I was surprised economists didn’t get more of a mention in the thread following John H’s post earlier given what I’ve seen in their colloquia. I have close-to no experiences in philosophy exchanges (and yet I dare call myself a Timberite…), but I’ve attended quite a few talks among economists so I’m used to their style of Q&A. As some have noted, it often starts a few slides in – or in some famous cases the speaker doesn’t get to proceed past the title slide for most of the time allotted – and being rather aggressive seems standard. If that’s the local norm, they are likely used to it and it doesn’t raise any eyebrows. However, what if you put such an economist in a room full of sociologists? Is it okay for him to import his style or should he take a moment to familiarize himself with the local norms?

What struck me as rather curious was the way an economist behaved during a job talk I attended in a sociology department a few years ago. The economist engaged in the usual norms for his own department’s culture: interrupting at pretty much every slide. He didn’t take any cues from the rest of the group as to how people behave in the community he was visiting. That is, sociologists don’t tend to interrupt a speaker, certainly not a slide or two in, and certainly not for questions that are more than mere points of clarification. Add to that the fact that this was a job talk, which in some places may elicit even more aggressive behavior, but in the culture of this particular department meant that people would be at least as, if not more, courteous as usual. (Do not confuse courteous with lack of very serious and difficult questions, of course.) The audience was listening intently and the room was quiet for the most part except for the economist’s questions and the sighs of frustrations that started to emerge as the visitor continued to interrupt the speaker.

It’s fine if one doesn’t know the culture of another discipline. However, in such a situation, one might want to be a bit conscious of one’s environment and try to pick up some signals about how others are behaving. Did this economist think that he was the only one smart or engaged enough to have questions? After the third or fourth interruption, all of which came from him, it is a bit surprising that he did not pick up on the fact that his approach was not in line with local norms. Perhaps he did, but just didn’t care.

I was clearly not the only one bothered by the economist’s style. The uneasiness in the room was palpable. In the end, a senior sociologist stepped in. She turned to the economist and explicitly stated that this is simply not how we do things and asked that he hold his questions until the speaker had finished his talk. You could tell that everyone (presumably other than the economist) in the room was quite relieved to have had her do this.

The dog ate my computer and other contemporary student excuses

Friday, June 5th, 2009

At IHE, Scott Jaschik has a piece about a site that sells corrupted files to students as a way to get a few extra hours or days to finish an assignment. The idea is that the student submits a corrupted file, it takes the instructor a while to figure this out, in the meantime the student finishes the assignment.

Although I’ve never had students send me corrupted files, I’ve certainly had them supposedly send me attachments that weren’t there in reality. Of course, most people have, at one time or another, forgotten to attach a file to an email so it’s hard to assume it’s always intentional, but one wonders.

The piece made me reflect on what other excuses are emerging in the new digital environment that weren’t in vogue earlier. I’ve had students claim to have lost their Internet connection at home making it difficult to meet a deadline. While on the one hand, I tend to be skeptical of this, ISPs are sufficiently bad that it’s not completely implausible. What’s your favorite digital-era bogus excuse?

As a tribute to old excuses that presumably some still use, here’s a link to the “The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome and the Potential Downfall Of American Society” [or pdf] by Mike Adams in case there are people who haven’t seen it yet.