Archive for the 'General update' Category

More coming soon…

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

I’m shocked by how long it’s been since I’ve posted on here. I’ve put up a few posts over at Crooked Timber since I stopped posting here, but not many. I’m posting this to say that I’ll soon be back! I have collected some very intriguing data on Internet uses by US young adults and am excited to share them here and elsewhere.

In the meantime, I do post with some regularity on Twitter.

Merry Christmas from the long tail

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

I had to watch the video below to solve a puzzle for a game. The timing was rather appropriate so I thought I’d repost it here. The part about what happens to Santa is a bit harsh and may be inappropriate for children under a certain age (oh, I don’t know, 102?).

Research Confidential

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Research Confidential coverMy edited methods book Research Confidential is out! I had asked for feedback about the title and cover illustration on Crooked Timber and here at Eszter’s Blog and accordingly have acknowledged the readers of both blogs in the Preface (see snapshot below) including an explicit shout-out to CT reader Vivian for inspiring the subtitle of the book: Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have.

Today’s Inside Higher Ed has a Q&A with me about some questions related to the book such as why I opted for asking relatively junior scholars for contributions rather than going with more experienced senior researchers. Recently, the Chronicle also featured a Q&A with me about the chapter I co-authored with Chris Karr describing diary-data collection using text-messages.

Many thanks to the contributors of the volume for agreeing to respond to my somewhat unorthodox request to write about the behind-the-scenes dirty details of their research projects. If you’d like to read these, various online stores (e.g., Amazon, B&N, Michigan Press) are selling the volume.

RCpreface2

Sunday picture

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

Old postcards

My paternal grandmother, who was born in 1908 and died in 1988, used to have this collection of three postcards (?) up on her wall. I recently saw it at my parents’ place and requested that I take it with me so I could put it up in my home. It reminds me of my grandmother whom I loved dearly (and whom, as you can probably tell from the above dates, I knew for all too brief a part of my life). On the back, my grandmother wrote: Graz 1926-27. There is also some hard-to-read handwriting on the front that you can see on the image. Only recently did I stop to look at the pictures individually. For me, their entire meaning comes from my memories associated with them as a whole.

Popularity of Facebook and MySpace changes, but SES differences in use persist

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Two years ago, as part of a collection of articles researching social network site uses, I published a piece (blog post here) about the different predictors of Facebook and MySpace use among a diverse group of first-year college students. Some of the reactions to that paper suggested that the the differences by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status identified in the data were only temporary and would soon change.

Change in Facebook and MySpace use by race/ethnicity among a group of college students, 2007-2009I now have some new data to consider possible changes over the past two years. I haven’t written this up in any formal way yet (nor do I have more elaborate statistical analyses to share right now), but I do have some figures suggesting that the differences I identified two years ago persist today.

Note that this is a new cohort of first-year students (i.e., not the same students resurveyed two years later) at the same universitywhere I conducted the study in 2007. (See details about the data collection and sample descriptives at the end of this post.)

Change in Facebook and MySpace use by parental education among a group of college students, 2007-2009There are two main findings here. (Click on the images for larger versions or see the table below.) First, there is a general increase in use of Facebook and a general decline in use of MySpace across the board. In 2007, 79% of the study participants were using Facebook while in 2009, 87% of the sample reports doing so. In contrast, while in 2007, 55% of the group reported using MySpace, in 2009, only 36% do so.

Second, we continue to see ethnic and racial differences as well as different usage by parental education (a proxy for socioeconomic status). Students of Hispanic origin are more likely to use MySpace than others and less likely to use Facebook than others. Asian American students are the least likely to be on MySpace. Regarding parental education, the relatively small number (7%) of students in the sample whose parents have less than a high school education are much more likely to be on MySpace and much less likely to be on Facebook than others. Students from families where at least one parent has a college degree are much less likely to be MySpace users than others.

In my 2007 paper, I talked a bit about what may be going on here, but getting deep into that is difficult through data of this sort. danah boyd does much more in-depth work in this realm – granted, on high school students not college students – and has shared reflections both two years ago and just last week on what may be going on.

I welcome suggestions on how to represent this information better (from the table below) on figures as I’m not too happy with my current attempts.

Change in Facebook and MySpace use among a group of college students, 2007-2009

Descriptive statistics about the two samples are below. In both years, we collected data among students enrolled in the one required course at the University of Illinois, Chicago: the First-Year Writing Program. We administered a paper-pencil survey so as not to bias against those who spend less time online or those who are less comfortable with filling out surveys on the Web. The response rate in 2007 was 82%, in 2009 it was 80.5%. The sample here includes first-year students ages 18-24 who took the survey.

Descriptive statistics about UIC '07 and '09 samples

Many thanks go to the fabulous research assistants in the Web Use Project group who were instrumental in the collection of all these data.

Many excluded from opportunity to get tickets for Michael Jackson memorial services

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

The assumption about universal Internet access among Americans likely left some of the most enthusiastic Michael Jackson fans without the opportunity to enter the lottery for tickets to the memorial services being held today in Los Angeles. Registering for the lottery could only be done online and many millions of Americans don’t have Internet access in their homes. Worse yet, because registration was confined to the dates of July 3rd and July 4th, most public access points would have been inaccessible due to holiday closings at public libraries and other locations. Adding insult to injury, these constraints of online access are very much unequally distributed among the population leaving certain types of people – for example, African Americans – much less likely to have had the opportunity to enter the drawing.

Talking about the digital divide – or the differences between the technological haves and have-nots – is passé conjuring up seemingly outdated debates of the 1990s. Nonetheless, the fact remains that a big portion of Americans continues to live without Internet access at home or often without any Internet use anywhere. According to the
latest figures (2007) from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, over 38% of American households report no home Internet use. Broken down by race and ethnicity, close to 55% of African American households and over 56% of Hispanic households do not report home Internet usage. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has more
recent figures
confirming that large numbers of Americans continue to be disconnected with Blacks and Hispanics less likely to be online than Whites and Asian Americans.

Having the chance to win a ticket to the Michael Jackson memorial services required Internet access at several levels. First, one had to access a Web site on July 3rd or July 4th to sign up for the drawing. Second, entering the lottery required an email address. Third, in order to find out about winning, one would have to check email on Sunday, July 5th to see about winner notification.

So how come we’ve seen no buzz over this topic? Buzz these days seems to come from online discussions and by definition, the people being excluded in this process are not online. They don’t run searches on Google, they don’t use Twitter, they don’t blog and consequently what’s on their minds does not show up in data about trending topics online. This is just one example of how the voices of those not online and the positions they represent are systematically excluded from conversation and public discussions. Millions of Americans are not online and this is just one example of the many opportunities from which they are systematically excluded on a daily basis due to this constraint.

Of course, there is no basic right associated with a chance to attend the Michael Jackson memorial services, but the rhetoric suggesting that anyone could enter the contest is problematic and perpetuates assumptions about how universal Internet use is in this country.

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.

You and Elijah are now friends

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

In case the various existing modern-version Haggadahs out there are not modern enough for you, try this. Thanks to Carl Elkin for CC-licensing this, see his page for the rest of the story.

Facebook Haggadah

You know about Inside Higher Ed, right?

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

One of the most consistent email/news habits of my everydays is that I go through the Daily Update message from Inside Higher Ed, the free Web publication about higher education. I have been doing this for a few years now so I tend to assume that even if not everyone in academia reads IHE as religiously as I do, certainly everybody knows about it. Not true though, it turns out, based on several experiences, and thus this blog post. Although I’ve often linked to articles in it, they just did a major redesign of the site with some added features so I thought it was a good time to mention it again.

IHE is sort of like the Chronicle of Higher Education (which most people in academia do know about), but it’s fully free and much more user friendly. I used to read the Chronicle in graduate school and then even signed up for a paid subscription when I became a faculty member. However, as tends to be the case, I almost never visit Web sites that don’t let me set my own username. Moreover, back then, the Chronicle insisted on sending out a hard-copy of the publication. Worse, it was always in a plastic bag so recycling wasn’t a simple movement from mailbox to recycling bin, rather, it required dealing with the plastic packaging. Finally, and especially relevant to bloggers, it was complicated to link to articles in the Chronicle, because many required subscription and login, although it wasn’t always clear which ones. The Chronicle may have improved some of its services since, but it doesn’t really matter to me anymore, because in the meantime I’ve completely switched over to IHE. (This is not to say that I don’t read articles in the Chronicle anymore. I do if someone points me to one, but I don’t check its contents regularly.)

If you haven’t yet, go check out Inside Higher Ed. I’ve found their daily emails especially helpful in staying in touch with what’s going on in higher education. New features include advice columns as well as easier ways of sharing individual articles through various online services.

For those curious, I have no particular affiliation with IHE other than having published a piece on email communication there once a few years ago. I’ve met editor and co-founder Scott Jaschik a few times at conferences, he’s full of great ideas and very open to feedback about the publication.

Images galore

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Almost a week after the elections, I continue to be obsessed with related news reading up on people involved with the campaign and the transition team as well as the myriad of interesting opinion pieces. I’ve also found some interesting visuals. Here are links to a few in case you haven’t seen them yet:

Budapest and Zürich meetups?

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Castle CollageAre there any readers of E-Blog in either Budapest or Zürich who would be interested in meeting up in person? I’m on the road and it’s one of the rare occasions when I’m not simply in-and-out of a town. Budapest options are this weekend or Monday. Zürich options concern next week. Drop me a note if you’re interested and we can figure out specifics. (Email info on my Web site or send a note to my last name @gmail.com.) For those interested in Budapest, you can see some of my photos of the castle district here.

Which one?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

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


It looks like Delicious links are back, I guess I’ll start using the service regularly again

Monday, September 29th, 2008

As noted a while back, with the upgrade of the social bookmarking site Delicious came the end of its important feature: automatic posting of links to one’s blog. (This feature didn’t break for everyone, apparently, but it did for me. And although Delicious promises a 24-hour turnaround in response to customer support queries, I didn’t hear back from them for a week about this issue only to be told that it’s an optional feature that they don’t support anyway.)

More than I would have predicted, my use of the service plummeted in the weeks following the change in service. Over the past month, I’ve bookmarked less than a couple of dozen links, which regular users know is much lower than my usual bookmarking tendencies. Then suddenly, I realized yesterday that the links were back. I wonder if this will continue, presumably it will. I guess I’ll start bookmarking pages again. And one of these days perhaps I’ll find the time to create a list of missed links manually.

So onward and upward with pointers.

Batch of links

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

The social bookmarking site Delicious (formerly known as del.icio.us) has finally gotten a nice upgrade. Unfortunately, upgrades often lead to things breaking. Thus has been the case with the post-to-blog feature that automatically posted links I bookmarked during the day to this blog. Bummer as I *really* liked that feature. I’m hoping Delicious customer service can help.

In the meantime, I thought I’d post – although this time manually, which is proving pretty tedious – the links I’ve bookmarked over the past week. Enjoy, and as always, if you see a site out there that you think I might like, please send it along.

Gender differences in sharing creative content online

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

This ArsTechnica write-up of some recent research of mine has received numerous votes on the recommendation site Digg in the last few hours. I wonder if it will make the front page of Digg, although as a Twitter contact of mine noted, since it’s not a top-10 list (nor, if I might add, does it cover Google or Apple), that may be unlikely.

The post reports on a study in which we found that male college students are more likely than their female counterparts to share creative content online even though both men and women in the sample are equally likely to create such content. However, when controlling for online skill, the gender differences in posting go away.

Gina Walejko and I published the paper “The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age” this Spring in the journal Information, Communication and Society. We examine the extent to which college students share creative content online and whether we can identify any systematic differences by user background. In particular, we looked at whether students create and share the following types of material: poetry/fiction, artistic photography, music, and video (both completely own and remixed in the case of the latter two), including both private and public sharing.

Administering a paper-pencil survey on a diverse group of over a thousand first-year college students at the University of Illinois, Chicago in 2007, we found that men are significantly more likely to share their creative output online than women. This was especially true for video (with 40% of men sharing such content compared to 15% of women), but holds for the other types of material as well.

Curious to see what explains these differences in sharing, we looked at whether various measures of Internet experience account for the divergences. We controlled for years of use, frequency of Internet use, number of Internet access locations, and online skill. Of these four, skill was a significant predictor of sharing activity. In fact, once skill is in the model, gender is no longer a significant predictor of posting one’s material.

There may be additional issues going on for which, I’m afraid, we have no data. For example, women may be more concerned about privacy issues or the critiques their content may receive. I’m working with another student on doing some qualitative follow-up work on this aspect of the question.

There are some more details in a press release Northwestern put out about the study or feel free to send me a note for a copy of the full paper.

Videos on the tubes of the internets

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Time Sink!

If you have some time to kill or need to introduce someone to Internet memes then take a look at this timeline. [Link no longer works.] Zoom in for some of the less visible videos. Any of your favorites missing?
UPDATE: Well, that didn’t last long. A commenter notes that the page is no longer accessible. Here is a screenshot. Use of Dipity for this was interesting since showing all this on a time line adds something to the list.

The importance of Web sites for academics

Monday, June 9th, 2008

A propos the discussion of CVs for academics going on the job market, I’ve been meaning to post about the importance of having some Web presence, especially a homepage one maintains with information about one’s work.

I’ve been continually surprised over the years about how many academics fail to take advantage of the Web as a medium for disseminating their work. This seems especially important in the case of those actively seeking a job in the near future.

Whenever I go to a conference, I’m on the lookout for students doing interesting work. Recently, I saw a few impressive presentations and wanted to follow up by learning more about these students. I know we’ll be hiring next year and I wanted to share information about these potential candidates with my colleagues. I looked them up online so I’d have more to go on. Nothing. This is an opportunity missed.

What should a basic homepage include? It should have information that a CV would contain, but the nice thing about a Web site is that it can easily include additional information. In the least, abstracts of published papers would be helpful. Of course, most helpful is to have full copies of these papers. While copyright issues may arise, preprints are almost always okay to post.

Although I don’t encourage students to post too many details about papers not yet accepted for publication, it is possible to mention one’s areas of interests and expertise and that will give visitors a better sense of one’s work than no information whatsoever.

This is a very cute GMail how-to video

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

More here on what went into creating it. I love the care with details like the cursor and the stars.

Explaining Google’s popularity

Monday, February 25th, 2008

I should be prepping for class, but I want to add an alternative perspective to a question raised about Google’s popularity. The Freakonomics blog features an interesting Q&A with Hal Varian today, I recommend heading over to check out how Google’s chief economist answers some questions submitted by readers last week.

The Official Google Blog takes one of the questions and posts an expanded response to it. The question:

How can we explain the fairly entrenched position of Google, even though the differences in search algorithms are now only recognizable at the margins?

Varian addresses three possible explanations: supply-side economies of scale, lock-in, and network effects. He dismisses all of these (see the post for details) and then goes on to say that it’s about Google’s superior quality in search that makes it as popular as it is.

I don’t buy it, especially the dismissal of the lock-in factor. While I realize that it seems as though another search engine is just a simple click away (and sure, technically it is), I have observed too many Internet users in my research to know that in reality it is not that simple at all. First, there is the lock-in that comes from having Google as the default search engine in some browsers (e.g., Firefox). Of course, related issues apply to other search engines as well. Why does Yahoo! still enjoy a sizeable market share in search at least in the U.S. one might ask? It is probably related to the fact that more people seem to have a personalized version of Yahoo! as their start page in their browsers than any other customized starting page. Or maybe it is because Yahoo! also offers sufficiently good search results.

This then leads us to another issue: the assumption that users carefully consider or realize that there are differences in what search engines return in response to their queries. There is room for much more research here (some of it one of my students may pursue soon), but based on what we know so far, some people tend to have a tremendous amount of trust in results presented by Google. One could say this is due to Google’s superior quality, but research has found that even when results are manipulated and the less relevant ones are offered up on top, some users will click on them presumably because they believe them to be the most relevant. (I’d really like to see that study replicated on users of other search engines to see how this compares across services. Also, additional tweaks to that study design could help us learn more about these issues.)

We still have a lot to learn about the extent to which users actually consider the quality of search engines when using them. Presumably as long as they find (or think they have found!) what they are looking for they will be satisfied. However, again, research (e.g., here, with more in the works) suggests that some users are very bad about assessing the quality of the material that shows up on pages linked from search engine results, which then puts into question their ability to evaluate search engine results quality.

I am not suggesting that Google is not a good search engine nor am I even suggesting that it is not necessarily the best search engine (although how one defines quality in this domain is tricky). I would love to see some really careful studies on this actually. What I am suggesting is that equating market share in searches should not be confused with quality of search results. I know that there are some very talented folks at Google working on search quality some of whom I know and with whom I have had very interesting and helpful conversations. I’m grateful for the work that they do. Nontheless, that’s a different issues. My point here is that I would not dismiss lock-in factors and others in explaining the service’s popularity based on what my research has taught me about how people use search engines.

I have to add one more note here as it is related and it is something I have been trying to insert into discussions of this sort for years. It may be helpful to remember that most search engine market share data look at proportion of searches not proportion of searchers. Since power users are more likely to be Google users (various data sets I work with supply evidence for this), I suspect that if we were to look at market share based on user figures Google’s share would be smaller than it seems based on figures about proportion of searches. I’ve been commenting on this for years, but the statistics that continue to be discussed concern searches not searchers. Of course, both figures may be relevant, but which one is more relevant depends on the particular questions asked. When discussing quality, it seems that proportion of users would be just as important to consider (if not more) than proportion of searches since presumably all users would want to use the highest quality search engine. Point being, if Google is so superior and that explains its popularity then why doesn’t it have a much larger market share especially regarding proportion of users?

UPDATE: Before trying to explain Google’s popularity today with why people turned to it in the earlier part of this decade, I think it’s worth noting that the Web of 2008 is very different from the Web of 2001/02 when people started migrating over to Google in masses. Explaining that trend doesn’t necessarily say much about why people may stick with it today and what, if anything, would inspired them to try a new service now.

UPDATE 2: Perhaps worth noting here is that I think of “lock-in” not in the completely restrictive sense of the term. Of course, I know that there is no technical lock-out from other options, my point was that given how people use the Internet for information seeking, something similar is going on nonetheless

Grab the nearest book

Monday, February 11th, 2008

As far as I know, no one has tagged me with this blog meme, but I’m still going to participate as it looks fun.

Instructions:
1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
2. Open to p. 123.
3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Nearest book as I sit at my coffee table at home: The Chocolate Connoisseur by Chloé Doutre-Roussel. Page 123 is in the middle of Chapter 6 on The Cream of the Crop under the Reading the Ingredients List subheading. Here we go:

There are several grades of chocolate, and these figures show the European Union and US regulations for standard (S) as well as fine (F) chocolate.

* Dark chocolate (S) must contain at least 35% dry cocoa solids (but 15% for “sweet chocolate” in the US), while dark chocolate (F) must contain at least 43%.
* Milk chocolate (S) must contain at least 25% dry cocoa solids (but 20% in the UK, and 10% in the US), while fine milk chocolate must contain at least 30%.

The fun continues in the 4th sentence so allow me to add that: “Bars such as Cadbury Dairy Milk, Galaxy or Hershey must be labelled ‘family milk chocolate’ in the EU, as they don’t contain enough chocolate to count as chocolate under these rules!”

So yes, it’s worth noting that chocolate is not immune to policy considerations. It may sound silly, but it’s obviously a huge industry and what gets to be labelled chocolate does have regulations attached to it, ones that vary from one country to the next. There are also lobbying efforst involved. I don’t follow this area closely, but when a related news story pops up, I do find it intriguing to check out.

Since I wasn’t tagged for this meme, I guess I don’t have to tag anyone else either although I invite people to grab the nearest book and post the specified three sentences here or on their own blogs.