Archive for the 'Academia' Category

Technology and Social Behavior Speaker Series ’05-’06

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

We have finalized our list of speakers for next year’s Technology and Social Behavior Colloquium Series at Northwestern. Bruno Latour will be our first visitor followed by other great researchers engaged in fascinating projects representing numerous academic disciplines (in order of their visits): Jeremy Bailenson from Stanford, Anne Holohan from Univ. Trento, Bob Kraut from CMU, David Mindell from MIT, Linda Jackson from Michigan State, Sarah Igo from UPenn and Batya Friedman from Univ. Washington.

You can sign up on our announcement list to receive reminders about these events.

New book on Digital Government

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005

Princeton University Press has a new book out by Darrell West on Digital Government. I’ll let my quote on the book jacket convey my take on it:

book jacket blurb

Click on the image to see the other book jacket quotes.

See you at ICA in NYC

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

This weekend are the annual meetings of the International Communication Association.

I will be participating in these sessions:

  • Gender Differences in Actual and Perceived Online Skills at a session on “The Gendered Digital Divide and Its Social Implications” organized by Ulla Bunz, Rutgers, Friday 8:30am.
  • New Dimensions of the Digital Divide: Differences in Young Adults’ Use of the Internet at a regular session on “Digitial Divide and Social Evolution of Communication Technology, Part 2”, Friday 5:15pm
  • The Online Skill Divide: How Search Engine Use Influences What Material People Access on the Web at a special session on “Gatekeeping the Internet II: Issues in Search Engine Usage” organized by Elizabeth Van Couvering, LSE, Sunday 8:30am
  • Mapping the Political Blogosphere: An Analysis of Large-Scale Online Political Discussions at the poster session (our paper as part of the Political Communication division’s interactive presentations) on Sunday at 11:15am

Nice article about my Mom

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

The Hungarian Népszabadság, one of the – if not the – most popular Hungarian dailies published a piece about my Mom today. The article includes a nice picture of her in a Japanese classroom where she visited a few weeks ago. The author describes her work and the difficulty women face in the sciences. In addition to pursuing her scientific research interests with great enthusiasm and success, my Mom has also interviewed numerous famous female scientists across the globe – including four female Nobel laureates – about their experiences. One day I would like to find the time to collaborate with her on a paper adding some sociological background to the analysis.

Isolated social networkers

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

[This on CT. Worth checking out for comments.]

Some physicists have come out with a paper on the Eurovision song contest. Of course, we at CT like to be ahead of the curve and thanks to Kieran’s ingenuity reported similar findings over a year ago. So much for this being “new research”.

There has been much excitement about and focus on social networks in the past few years ranging from social networking sites to several high-profile books on the topic.

Interestingly, much of the buzz about recent work covers research by physicists. It’s curious how physicists have expanded their research agenda to cover social phenomena. I thought their realm was the physical world. Of course, since social phenomena are extremely complex to study, as a social scientist, I certainly welcome the extra efforts put into this field of inquiry.

What is less welcomed is watching people reinvent the wheel. Sure, partly it’s an ego thing. But more importantly, it’s unfortunate if the overall goal is scientific progress. Much of the recent work in this area by physicists has completely ignored decades worth of work by social scientists. If we really do live in such a networked world where information is so easy to access, how have these researchers managed to miss all the existing relevant scholarship? Recently Kieran pointed me to an informative graph published by Lin Freeman in his recent book on The Development of Social Network Analysis:

People whose overall work focuses on social networks are represented by white dots, physicists by black ones, others by grey circles. (Click for a larger version of the image.) As is clear on the image, the worlds exist in isolation from each other. It would be interesting to see year-of-publication attached to the nodes to see the progression of work.

I have been meaning to write about all of this for a while, but John Scott from the Univ. Essex addressed these issues quite well in some notes he sent to INSNA‘s SOCNET mailing list a few months ago so I will just reproduce those here. (I do so with permission.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Cyber-Disciplinarity Conference at Dartmouth

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

I spent last weekend at Dartmouth participating and giving a talk at the Cyber-Disciplinary Conference hosted by the Center for the Humanities. Panelists explored topics on how digital technologies are influencing the political process, concerns about privacy and surveillance and how the humanities can contribute to the study of culture in a digital age.

Kudos to Mark Williams for organizing and hosting a great meeting! In addition to bringing together a diverse group of interesting people, Mark also did an exceptional job with the various logistics of the conference. The panels were well spaced out and there was always plenty of time for discussion. We also had several occasions to socialize and continue conversations in more informal settings.

You can see a list of participants here. I have also posted some photos.

AUT boycott follow-up

Monday, May 16th, 2005

From the APSA:

“The American Political Science Association, through action by its Council and its Committee on Professional Ethics, Rights, and Freedoms, supports the views expressed in the May 3, 2005 statement by the AAUP against academic boycotts. We join in condemning the resolutions of the AUT that damage academic freedom and we call for their repeal.”

I am waiting for the American Sociological Association to follow with a similar statement. According to Jeff Weintraub, the ASA Council has taken the matter under consideration, but no outcome so far.

Oppose the Blacklist of Israeli Academics

Monday, May 9th, 2005

Jeff Weintraub has posted a petition calling on all academic and scholarly associations to join the AAUP in condemning the boycott of Israeli universities and academics. The American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association are singled out as associations that should endorse the AAUP’s statement. You can add your signature to the petition here.

Lansing, Michigan

Thursday, April 21st, 2005

I am happy to report that the Lansing, Michigan airport has free wireless.

I just finished a visit at the Quello Center at Michigan State. It was a great visit, the Center seems to be thriving. Also of note is that its Director Steven Wildman and Executive Director Johannes Bauer have assumed the editorship of the Journal of Media Economics with Stephen Lacy also of Michigan State.

Village Voice on academic bloggers

Friday, April 15th, 2005

I exchanged a few emails with Geeta Dayal a couple of weeks ago about academic blogging. She now has a piece out on the subject in the Village Voice. There is an additional document with some links to an assortment of academic blogs. U. of C. blogger Sean Carroll is quoted in the article right before my comments. We report on similar experiences regarding how we approach our blogging. We both mention how we take considerably more care in what we make public on our blogs compared to what we may mention to someone in passing. This may seem obvious, but reading some blogs I sometimes wonder how much thought goes into some people’s writing. (Then again, you may still be wondering about that even on this blog.) U. of C. blogger Dan Drezner not only gets a listing on The Guide to Blogodemia page, but also this nice comment: “Politics blogosphere-wise, he’s one of the heaviest hitters.” Right on.

The article was helpful in reminding me about the number of science bloggers out there. Although their numbers may be smaller than those among social scientists and legal scholars, they definitely make their mark on the blogosphere as well.

Reminder: blog panel this Friday

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

This is just a reminder that if you’re in DC and free at 8:30am on Friday morning then it would be nice to see you at the following panel tomorrow. There should be plenty of time for general discussion.

Can Blogs Influence Public Policy?
Friday, March 18, 8:30am
Location: Monticello-West Lower Ballroom, Wyndham Washington Hotel (directions)

* Tyler Cowen, George Mason University (Update: unfortunately Tyler Cowen won’t be able to make it.)
* Henry Farrell, George Washington University
* Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University
* Amy Sullivan, The Washington Monthly, Princeton University

* Discussant: Jeff Weintraub, Lehigh University and University of Pennsylvania

Click here for other panels of possible interest.

Sociology & the Internet mini-conference at the Easterns

Saturday, March 12th, 2005

For the Eastern Sociological Society meetings next week, I organized a mini-conference on Sociology & the Internet. The following three panels are part of this mini-conference.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Can Blogs Influence Public Policy?

* Tyler Cowen, George Mason University
* Henry Farrell, George Washington University
* Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University
* Amy Sullivan, The Washington Monthly, Princeton University

Discussant: Jeff Weintraub, Lehigh University and University of Pennsylvania

Friday, March 18, 3005

Information Technology and Public Policy

* Regulating E-Commerce: Domestic Sources of State Power and the Role of State-Private Actor Relations, Henry Farrell, George Washington University

* Sociological Impacts on Web Site Accessibility: Why won’t it help to build a better software tool?, Jonathan Lazar, Towson University

* The Impact of Technology on Work-Life Balance, Leslie Cintron, Washington and Lee University

* Worldwide Data Documentation Standards and the Future of Social Science Research, Grant Blank, American University

Discussant: Timothy Shortell, Brooklyn College

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Digital Inequality

* Does The Digital Divide Explain Racial Differences in School Achievement? Caroline Persell, New York University

* Explaining the Diffusion of Broadband among Internet Users, John Horrigan, Pew Internet and American Life Project

* Media Use and Inequality in Access to Information: Does the Internet Level the Playing Field? Steven Shafer, Princeton University and Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University

* New Dimensions of the Digital Divide: Differences in Young Adults’ Use of the Internet, Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University and Amanda Hinnant, Northwestern University

There is one more Internet-related panel at the meetings:

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Social Interaction via the Internet

* Harnessing Social Interaction: How We Use the Internet to Shape and Control Interpersonal Contact, Mary Chayko, College of Saint Elizabeth

* Ethical Dilemmas in Web-based Qualitative Research: The Case of Online Message Board Communities, Laura West Steck, University of Connecticut and Tamara Smith, University at Albany, State University of New York

* “Rupert Rocks and Ali’s Awful”: Analysis of Viewers’ Favorite Players on Survivor and Big Brother, Beth Montemurro, Penn State University and Colleen Bloom, Rutgers University; Sharon Gerczyk, Penn State University

Smith Princeton engineering student exchange

Thursday, January 6th, 2005

My two alma maters are working together to create new opportunities for women engineering students.

Computers and grandmother mortality rates

Thursday, January 6th, 2005

This on CT.

As Adams (1990) suggests a college “student’s grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam, than at any other time of year”. I’ve been contemplating – but have yet to conduct rigorous data-collection to test this hypothesis – that perhaps the increasing importance of computers on university campuses may benefit the health of college students’ grandmothers. The number of crashes and other computer-related problems (“the dog ate my computer and my roommate’s computer, too”) seems to be surprisingly high when projects are due. Of course, it may just be that computers are crashing all the time, students never have online access, but it is only when assignments are due that we happen to hear about it. In any case, if all this means fewer deaths in college students’ families, that’s probably a nice side-effect of growing IT uses at universities.

Becker-Posner blog up and running

Sunday, December 5th, 2004

This on CT.

A few days ago Henry at CT pointed us to the Becker-Posner blog. I see now that they have posted an introductory entry.

Blogging is a major new social, political, and economic phenomenon. It is a fresh and striking exemplification of Friedrich Hayek’s thesis that knowledge is widely distributed among people and that the challenge to society is to create mechanisms for pooling that knowledge. The powerful mechanism that was the focus of Hayek’s work, as as of economists generally, is the price system (the market). The newest mechanism is the “blogosphere.” There are 4 million blogs. The internet enables the instantaneous pooling (and hence correction, refinement, and amplification) of the ideas and opinions, facts and images, reportage and scholarship, generated by bloggers.

It looks like the blog will have comments, and for now they plan on posting once per week, on Mondays. (According to Technorati the 4 million figure may be a low estimate, the number of blogs tracked is closer to 5 million as of today.)

One issue that keeps coming up regarding academic blogs (that is, blogs by academics) is whether there is any peer review involved. I think the above comment again suggests that there can be valuable post-publication peer review on blogs either through comments or response posts on others’ blogs.

Academic blogging survey

Sunday, November 21st, 2004

This on CT.

As a follow-up to my recent post about academia and blogging, I have compiled a brief informal survey for academic bloggers, broadly defined to include all academics (any rank) who either read and/or write blogs. Please consider filling it out. It should take no more than five minutes. The material will not result in any scientific publications, it is merely meant as an informal exercise to inform some conversations. I am collecting all information anonymously. I will post a summary of the material on CT at a future date.

The academic contributions of blogging?

Friday, November 19th, 2004

This on CT.

I realize this topic has been discussed much already (e.g here, here, here, here, here, here) and elsewhere (e.g. Brian Leiter, but also in the mainstream media: e.g. The Guardian, Chicago Tribune) numerous times already. I am bringing it up because I have been asked to speak to a campus-wide audience about academia in a digital world and I have picked as my topic: “Can blogs revive academic debate?” I only have about fifteen minutes to talk and I want to touch upon several points. What better way to prepare for such a talk than to try out some of the ideas on a blog? There are two main points I want to address and thought I’d discuss here a bit. I welcome your feedback. First, I want to talk about blogs as a great medium for debate of all sorts that does not always seem possible in one’s immediate physical surroundings. Second, I would like to consider how the material posted and discussed on blogs relates to published material and whether there is any potential for such contributions to count toward one’s academic achievements and service. I elaborate on the second point below. There seems to be some amount of disagreement in the blogosphere on this issue and I wanted to bring it up for some more discussion.

One emerging theme seems to be that there are definite benefits to blogging for many academics, but these are often not very tangible. In addition to the general intellectual exchange many of us likely find of value (or hopefully we would not be spending so much time on it) is the feedback we receive on specific research related posts that has the potential to influence our thinking and writing. This has certainly happened to me and I consider it a somewhat tangible benefit although one that only shows up indirectly on my CV. (That is, I may have publications that benefitted from valuable feedback on blog posts.)

A potentially important aspect of blogging by academics concerns whether blogging activity can count in any way toward getting a job or promotion and tenure. Another approach has been to ask whether it may work against those goals. Daniel Drezner, Brian Leiter and Brian Weatherson have specifically dismissed the idea that blogging should be counted as rigorous scholarship although they seem supportive of the idea that it could be considered under one’s academic service. Here, I would like to challenge the position of dismissing blogging as relevant scholarship altogether.

I would like to do this by comparing blog writing to journal publishing, undoubtedly one of the most wide-spread and accepted measures of academic achievement. There are posts on blogs that are certainly much more original and careful in their arguments (and more clearly written) than many articles that get published in academic journals. I think people’s reluctance to consider blog writing as comparable to journal publishing comes from thinking about journals in a somewhat romanticized and unrealistic manner. Sure, the most prestigious journals may not be the best comparison group (although even they publish articles one wonders about), but plenty of work gets published in peer-reviewed journals that would make most people either yawn or hurl the journal straight out the window. So why be so incredibly critical of blog writing when many don’t seem to be nearly as critical of journal publications.

I am not suggesting that blog posts as they exist would likely be published in journals. The format of the medium is too different for that. (After all, you’d have to have the requisite literature review instead of linking to a few relevant pieces, or give much more details about methods and analyses where data are concerned – just to name a few obvious differences.) But one extremely important component of the journal publishing process is very much present on blogs (or can be): the peer review process (this claim is in direct contrast with Brian Leiter’s assertion a while back). Blogs that allow comments make it possible for others to discuss the posted material. In many ways this is much more conducive to intellectual exchange and the advancement of knowledge than publishing articles in journals that no one will ever read. Not only is the original post available to all subsequent readers but so are the reactions of others. Sure, there are all sorts of limitations present. It may be that the most appropriate people are not reading the post and so those who would be able to offer the most helpful and relevant critique are not present in the discussion. But this is often likely true in the journal refereeing process as well. After all, how absurd that one’s chances of a job or promotion and tenure are so gravely dependent on the whimsy of no more than two or three people out there? (This is not an exaggeration. The likelihood of a new candidate on the market getting a good (or any) job in a field like sociology is tremendously increased by a publication in a top sociology journal.)

Again, I am not suggesting that blogs be considered a replacement for journal publications. I am just suggesting that dismissing them completely in the area of academic contributions seems like a mistake. If the journal publishing process was less flawed then perhaps there would be less need to look for alternatives. But since the traditional measures by which we evaluate academic contributions have serious limitations, it may be worth considering the potential role other venues may play in the process. I don’t have the answers. I have no specific recommendations as to how this could be achieved in a tangible manner. But I think it is a discussion worth having.

Just one more point on all this. It may well be that a better comparison and more relevant discussion to have here is whether contributing to public discourse – through articles published in the mainstream media (possibly a better comparison to blog writing than journal publishing) – should have any input in hiring and promotion decisions. It is not clear whether this matters in current practices (or whether it might actually hinder people’s prospects) and that’s another important point to consider in this discussion.

NCA ’04 awards

Monday, November 15th, 2004

My School did quite well at the National Communication Association’s award ceremonies this weekend. My colleague Bob Hariman received two awards, E. Patrick Johnson from Performance Studies received one, and I got a nice plaque about the G.R.Miller Outstanding Dissertation Award. Some of our alums got awards as well, like Cara Finnegan now at UIUC.

Baby pictures on homepages

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

This on CT.

If anyone has the time, I would love to see a systematic study of how many male versus female academics portray themselves on their Web sites with or without babies. I realize the complications, e.g. really hard to sample people’s homepages, really hard to control for whether said person portrayed on a Web site even has a baby, but I’d still be curious to see someone gather data on this.

Here’s my motivation for the question. I recently saw a job talk where the candidate had pictures of his kids on his computer’s desktop. I have never seen a woman give a talk with this kind of background illustration (granted, I had never before seen a man give such a talk either). It made me think that this person could pull it off because as a guy he does not have to be concerned about committee members wondering whether he has a spouse who will need a job as well or whether he will take his work seriously despite the fact that he has children. But I recall plenty of cases of women who are married without children or on the market as mothers worrying considerably about how to downplay such personal information.

My impression is that men tend to put up pictures of their children on their professional Web sites more often, but I do not base this observation on any systematic analysis of the situation. I suspect the reason for this (assuming it really is the case) is that for male professionals to show themselves with a baby counts as a positive quality, or, in the least, will likely not count as a negative. It suggests that he is a concerned and proud father who takes his parental duties seriously (okay, that may be a leap:), he is an enlightened man. In contrast, I suspect women still feel that they have to prove themselves as professional first, parent second (or in the least prove that the latter doesn’t trump the former) thus prompting them not to be quite as forward about personal information on their Web sites. I guess one could argue that if for someone a proud father means an enlightened man then a proud mother should not come with negative repercussions, but it is not clear that the mothers feel that way about it.

Just among the people I know, I can think of at least a few couples where the man’s Web site has relatively prominent family information whereas the woman’s site downplays any such content. Even if it is simply about the parents projecting onto their environment how they may be perceived, that is already something to consider about how mothers versus fathers are made to feel about their family situations in professional settings.

Time to degree

Monday, October 18th, 2004

This on CT.

Kudos to Duke for collecting and making public data about the time to degree and the rates of completion in their PhD programs. I would be curious to see similar data from other campuses. It’s unclear how many schools collect such data systematically and they certainly don’t make them public very often as the details are usually not very glamorous and can seem pretty discouraging. But it’s important information for people to have as they prepare for their graduate school experiences. It can also help students from other campuses as they try to argue for better/longer support for their training.