Archive for the 'Books' Category

Book cover contest submissions

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Following up on my post from a couple of weeks ago about the book cover contest, I thought I’d post a link to the resulting 24 submissions (by now listed in order ranked by people voting on the Worth1000 site). I’m happy with the outcome, there are some really great ideas in there. (The final cover will say “Edited by” since it’s an edited volume.) Fonts, colors, various details can be changed so the idea is not necessarily to look for the perfect design. I like a friend’s reaction to all this: “I’d say my median favorite one is better than 99% of book covers I see in the bookstores.”

Book cover contest (including $$ prize)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I invite you to put on your creative thinking caps and participate in the book cover contest now running over at Worth1000 for my methods edited volume called Research Confidential. The winner receives $150 and the chance to have the design show up as the book cover.

You may recall the thread here and over at Crooked Timber a while back regarding the book’s title. I received many great suggestions. In the end, an idea I got from Jonathan Zittrain won out. The subtitle “Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have” came from a suggestion on the CT thread submitted by reader Vivian. Many thanks to both! (In fact, many thanks to all who participated in those helpful threads and convinced me to abandon my original idea.)

The title is not the only idea for which I owe JZ thanks. I’m following in his footsteps by running a contest for the cover design. His book on The Future of the Internet – And How To Stop It ended up with its cool cover this way.

The contest page gives a brief summary of the book and some ideas I have for a cover design although I’m very eager to see all sorts of other suggestions. The site also lists technical specifications for submissions. The contest runs for a week. If you can think of friends who are good at this sort of thing, please pass the word along. And thanks to my publisher, The University of Michigan Press, for supporting this idea.

Expert knows best

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

A Ripened Melon - Chef's choiceI just had a deliciously sweet cantaloupe. How did I know how to pick it? My favorite* chef, Chef Susan aka Chef Q posted some advice on the topic recently. Not only is she an amazing cook and baker, she is also an excellent photographer so her posts are illustrated with helpful images. I forgive her for all the pounds I gained last year due to her cooking (hey, at least I finally started a regular exercise regime) and thank her not just for all the great meals I’ve had the good fortune to experience, but also the helpful material she shares online.

[*] It’s actually a tie with my Mom, but she’s not officially a chef. Of course, that hasn’t stopped her from publishing a cookbook (see some of her recipes here).

Photo credit: Susan Beach

Understanding success vs failure in new forms of organizing

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Anyone who is familiar with Clay Shirky’s writing won’t be surprised to hear that in his new book Here Comes Everybody, he does a very nice job of discussing how recent technological innovations are allowing for more and more “organizing without organization”. The book is a great mix of engaging descriptions about examples of how people come together in the pursuit of various goals and interests, and a deeper more conceptual examination of how such phenomena are changing in light of recent advances in technology.

I was invited to participate in a discussion of this book over on the TPM Café Book Club and am sorry to come to the conversation so late due to some travel having thus missed out on much interesting back-and-forth. Nonetheless, I wanted to add a bit to the conversation.

The issue I want to raise has to do with questions of inequality like much of the earlier discussion, although I approach this from a somewhat different angle than what’s been presented. While there is no question that new opportunities are allowing more folks to organize and more voices to be heard, they seem to privilege those already in more advantageous positions. I’d like to see more discussion of what circumstances in particular allow those with fewer resources to benefit from these new opportunities.

Let me take a step back as I describe where I am going with this. I will start by approaching it from the point of view of what ends up being a successful organizing (“without organization”, that is:), where success is understood as intended levels of engagement by participants and the extent to which goals are accomplished.

What is it that makes one effort more successful than another? Why does rallying people around one issue result in so much more active participation than getting people excited about another matter? Is it not so much about the topic, rather, about the organizing that yields a different outcome? And if it is the latter then while traditional organization may no longer be necessary, it’s worth thinking about what aspects of new forms of organizing yield more or less successful outcomes.

Success with organizing is related to attention allocation. As Herbert Simon so aptly noted many years ago:

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” (1971)

New tools don’t change the fact that there are only so many hours in the day and so much attention that people have to give to any one type of activity. So who with what topic or goal has more of a chance at attracting attention?

This is where inequality comes in: Those more likely to attract attention to their content and activities are those who are already more privileged in one way or another. For example, those with more skills in understanding the new tools have a better chance of reaching out to and mobilizing enough initial interest to achieve beneficial outcomes than those who lack an understanding of these new opportunities. Alternatively, those with people in their networks who have the necessary skills (and time) will have a better chance at this than those who lack knowledgeable friends and family.

This is precisely the issue at hand concerning the story in Clay’s book regarding the lost/stolen cell phone and what followed in tracking it down. At the Supernova 2008 conference where Clay and I both spoke earlier this week, an attendee told a very similar story of his own, although this concerned a stolen laptop. The point is that Clay is right, such situations are increasingly common. However, like the woman in the book, the man at the conference was also one with considerable resources – not just financial, but also in terms of human and social capital – that likely made him a good candidate for benefiting from new tools.

I don’t mean to suggest that Clay ignored these issues of inequality in the book as he explicitly offers relevant caveats throughout the writing. Nonetheless, I still think the issue is worth highlighting as I think it is a crucial part of the story that is not understood very well and deserves more discussion.

While it is certainly the case that new technologies, tools and services are leveling the playing field, existing societal position and resources still matter. The question is: when do they matter more or less? Under what circumstances do people with less resources still manage to benefit from the new tools in ways that would have been difficult earlier? What are the examples of mobilization that do not involve people with PhDs, ones with noteable techie know-how or one’s with considerable financial resources either themselves or among those in their networks? There are such examples, certainly, but it would be interesting to see systematically what it is that unites them. What commonality is there among such cases that suggests a true leveling of the playing field that goes beyond allocating more opportunities to those who are already considerably privileged? (On a sidenote, these issues are similar to the ones I raised while discussing Yochai Benkler’s book The Wealth of Networks.)

Because the book focuses on examples of successful organizing, it is hard to discern why some attempts at it fail. (To be sure, Clay also discusses failed projects, for example, in the open-source software movement, but his main focus is the overall effect of such sofware on the industry as a whole.) Of course, failures are harder to find, especially lacking any organization of such information. Nonetheless, a deeper exploration of this side of things would help in understanding the extent to which the playing field is truly being leveled across all societal segments thanks to emerging new tools.

Girls and money

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

I bought some Girl Scout Cookies on a street corner yesterday. The box says: “The Girl Scout Cookie Program promotes financial skills such as goal setting, decision-making, customer-service and money management.” Okay, I buy it. I mean, literally, I have bought numerous boxes this season (and the last, and the one before that, etc.).*

But there was an interesting part of the experience this time that I thought was worthy of a note. Two girls were selling the cookies (with two women who were presumably their mothers behind them), but a little boy was next to them handling the money. The boy was clearly younger, probably the little brother of one of the girls. I think it’s great that he’s learning math and dealing with money. He should learn about things of that sort. But wait, wasn’t the purpose of this program to help girls learn such skills?

The incident reminded me of an anecdote in Babcock and Leschever’s book Women Don’t Ask:

Once, when their daughter was three, Linda stopped in a drugstore for something and the child saw a stuffed animal she wanted. “Do you have enough money to buy that for me, Mommy?” she asked. “Do girls have money, or is it just boys that have money?” Linda was horrified. Their family habits had unwittingly communicated to their daughter that men control money, not women. She and her husband now make sure that their daughter sees Linda paying for things frequently; they also bought their daughter a piggy bank so that she can have money of her own.

Again, I’m all for little boys learning about money and arithmetic, but the purpose of this program is that girls learn related skills. Given all the situations in everyday life where men are the default for handling money, it would seem important to emphasize girls’ exposure to it in the context of a Girls Scouts program.

To be sure, the girls were quite active in the selling process (attracting folks to the table, offering samples) so it is not as though they were passive observers. But if anything, this suggests that they were not shy to interact with the customers and thus could have been given the responsibility of handling the money. I only recognized these dynamics after I left the table. If I’d been paying more attention, I would have just handed one of the girls the money. Next time.

[*] No worries, I don’t eat most of these cookies myself, I give them to the students in my lab. I also try to make some healthier snacks available as well, but these cookies tend to be pretty popular.

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.

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.

Is there a fire truck gene?

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Thanks to Tina over at the new Scatterplot, I just found a fantastic blog: outside the (toy) box. Here is an excellent post about gender socialization through toys. Plus the author maintains a helpful list of anti-sexist/anti-consumerist children’s books. Additions to that list here or there are welcomed.

Book title bleg

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

The edited volume on research methods that I mentioned earlier is shaping up nicely and I’ll be shipping it off soon. However, I’m still not sure about the title and subtitle, and was hoping for some input from anyone who’s willing to give it some thought. This is what I’m working with now:

Research Methods from the Trenches:
The Nitty-Gritty of Empirical Social Science Research

However, having “research” in there twice doesn’t seem right. Any thoughts on either the first or the second part?

As a reminder, the chapters in this book provide helpful behind-the-scenes accounts of doing empirical social science research for a wide range of methods such as use of secondary large-scale data sets, interviews, observations, experiments and historical documents. The unique contribution of this collection is that it provides readers with a realistic idea of what to expect when embarking on empirical investigations by offering richly detailed descriptions of the logistics of individual research projects. The volume draws on the experiences of recent successful dissertation writers and young scholars doing cutting edge research in their respective social scientific fields.

If someone comes up with a title I end up using, I’ll happily send the person a copy of the book and will think of some additional gesture of gratitude. (Time to create some E-Blog stuff? Maybe I can think of something more useful.:) Thanks!

No Caption Needed

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

The link in my previous post is thanks to a new blog: No Caption Needed. It is both a book and a blog by my colleague Bob Hariman at Northwestern and his collaborator John Louis Lucaites at Indiana. This undertaking is “dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .” The blog just started recently, but already offers all sorts of interesting images and commentary.

Upcoming book event on Crooked Timber

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

In the near future, Crooked Timber will be hosting another book event. I thought it would be helpful to alert folks ahead of time so people can read the book and thereby participate in the discussions more actively and in a more informed manner.

The book is “Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children” by Greg J. Duncan, Aletha C. Huston, and Thomas S. Weisner.

During the 1990s, growing demands to end chronic welfare dependency culminated in the 1996 federal “welfare-to-work” reforms. But regardless of welfare reform, the United States has always been home to a large population of working poor— people who remain poor even when they work and do not receive welfare. In a concentrated effort to address the problems of the working poor, a coalition of community activists and business leaders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched New Hope, an experimental program that boosted employment among the city’s poor while reducing poverty and improving children’s lives. [The authors] provide a compelling look at how New Hope can serve as a model for national anti-poverty policies. [source]

You can either buy the book directly from its publisher, the Russell Sage Foundation, or get it at Amazon. Chapter 1 [pdf] is available online for free.

In addition to Timberite contributions, we’ll have comments by Nancy Folbre and Kimberly Morgan plus a response by Greg Duncan.

Cool visualizations

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

What do you get when you sort approximately 800,000 published papers into 776 scientific paradigms? If you have an interesting visualization expert working with you on the project then you get this map (or click here for an even larger version). Seed Magazine has more on the details and Brad Paley’s Information Esthetics Web site tells you how you can get your own copy just for paying shipping and handling charges.

This map is just one project of Katy Börner’s cool Places and Space: Mapping Science initiative at Indiana University. Check out that site for more goodies.

Brad also has some other intriguing projects, like this calendar (an alternative to what we usually use). One of my favorites, however, remains his TextArc work for alternative ways of visualizing text. For example, check out his representation of Alice in Wonderland.

UPDATE: I’ve been meaning to blog about Jim Moody’s related work as well so I should’ve remembered to include a link to his visualizations, too: co-citation of physical and bio sciences, dynamic visualization of sociology co-authorship network.

Nature review of Martians

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Following up on my earlier post about the difference in the marketing and subsequent sales of two similar books, here is a bit of an update. The current (Nov 30, 2006) issue of Nature has a review of my father István Hargittai’s book The Martians of Science. Likely as a result, the book is now ranked #87,665 on and #33,109 on Amazon UK. Earlier today it was even higher (#56,649 in the US, #16,279 in the UK), but I didn’t have time to blog until now. This is a much better figure than over one million, which it was at some point recently. Of course, The change could well be due to no more than one or two purchases. I’m not sure why it is always higher on Amazon UK, perhaps Amazon lists fewer books on that site.

* Nature requires subscription. Here is a screenshot of the review.

The power of marketing

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Of two books on similar topics with similar publication dates, one is ranked #116 on Amazon (as of this writing, yesterday it was #350), the other is at #1,036,339 (as of this writing).* The former has an official publication date of October 17, 2006 (exactly a week ago) and has zero reviews on Amazon (as of this writing). The latter has an official publication date of July 27, 2006 and also has zero reviews on Amazon. Given zero reader reviews in both cases and the recent publication of the former manuscript, it would be hard to argue that it is its superior quality that has catapulted it to the top of Amazon’s popularity index. So what else differs?

Kati Marton’s book on The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World was published by Simon & Schuster, a trade press with a powerful marketing machine. My father István Hargittai’s book on The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century was published by Oxford University Press (OUP), an academic press notorious for not putting any marketing weight behind its publications naively assuming that quality will yield popularity.

Kati Marton is a journalist formerly married to the late ABC anchor Peter Jennings, currently married to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Her book has blurbs from the likes of Tom Brokaw and has gotten coverage on ABC’s Web site among many other venues. István Hargittai is a scientist in Budapest married to Magdolna Hargittai another scientist, both members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His book doesn’t have blurbs from the likes of Tom Brokaw (it only does from two scientists, true, both are Nobel laureates) and has not gotten coverage in any major outlets.

Eugene Wigner and Istvan HargittaiBased on their earlier work, both authors are good writers. Both have relevant credentials for writing about this topic. Kati Marton is the daughter of Hungarians and has written about people from that area of the world before. István Hargittai is a Hungarian scientist and knew two of his five subjects (Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller) and has written numerous books about scientists. After OUP commissioned him to write this book in 2003, he spent the next couple of years doing nothing but research and writing on this book and became completely impassioned by the project. It’s worth a read.

I am surprised that Marton’s book has been as popular as it has given the niche topic. It may just be a testament to how easy it is to get a high rank on Amazon, that is, even a relatively low number of sales will get you a reasonable ranking. (Actually, I blogged about this four years ago.) In any case, given a seeming interest in this topic, my father’s book should have a chance as well. But if no one knows about a book, no one can buy it or read it.

A few years ago, Wired Editor Chris Anderson started writing about the long tail, the idea that “the future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.” He explained that a niche market book published in 1988 and soon forgotten got a second chance a decade later when a similar book appeared and resulted in renewed interest toward the first.

Can this case be generalized to two similar books appearing at around the same time? Can such an outcome occur even if one of the books is completely unknown due to the utter lack of marketing on behalf of its publisher and so no one buying the hyperpublicized piece will know about the existence of the other? This blog post is an attempt to make the connection.

It’s also a reality check that traditional positions and organizational arrangements still matter. But I’m happy to be proven wrong. Prove me wrong folks. Can a bit of online discussion lead to my father’s book gaining a bit of traction?

[*] It turns out, on UK Amazon, the discrepencies are not as large: #72,506 vs #227,172 (as of this writing).

UPDATE: If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of my father’s book and would like a discount, you can use this flyer [pdf] and save 20%. It requires going through OUP directly, however. Sorry I didn’t post this earlier, I didn’t have a copy.

Even more on Katrina

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

[Also posted on CT.]

I really appreciate Ted’s offer over at CT to motivate/thank people for donating to relief agencies. I encourage everyone to donate what they can. In case the suggested $100 is too much for some, I thought I’d offer an incentive/thank you for smaller donations. If you give $35 to the Katrina fund of a relief agency then I will send you (restricted to US addresses*, I’m afraid) a copy of my parents’ book Symmetry, a Unifying Concept. It’s a nice book filled with hundreds of wonderful pictures. I will also add a unique thank-you card not available in stores.:)

If you would like both a CD from Ted and the book then why not donate at least $135?

Send me a note at letting me know that you made the donation and when. Be sure to include your mailing address.

Offer ends when I run out of books. I’ll update this post when/if that happens.

*If you live outside the US and make a donation, I can send a book on your behalf to a US address you specify (gift for a friend?).

Paul Starr wins book award

Sunday, July 10th, 2005

I am happy to let people know that the Outstanding Publication: Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s section on Communication and Information Technologies has been awarded to Paul Starr for his book on The Creation of the Media. Paul was one of my advisors in graduate school. He wrote this book throughout the time I spent at Princeton. I learned a lot from following the progress in the project. Here is the note from Lori Kendall who chaired the CITASA awards committee:

Starr is Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, and Stuart Professor of Communications and Public Affairs, at Princeton University. Prof. Starr has received numerous awards for his previous works, including the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his book “The Social Transformation of American Medicine.” “The Creation of the Media” recounts the historical development of the political framework for the communications industries in the United States. Given its phenomenal breadth and depth, its wealth of historical detail, and the excellent attention to both social and technological issues in the development of media, “The Creation of Media” provides an important historical context for scholars of today’s media. Published in New York by Basic Books, 2004. The other members of the committee are Karen Cerulo, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, and Mary Virnoche, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Humboldt State University.

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.

Project Gutenberg

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

It is nice to be reminded of great online resources. Via comes a link to the Australian Project Gutenberg outfit. Project Gutenberg (U.S. link) is a collection of eBooks available online for free. These are books that are now in the public domain and volunteers have prepared them for online availability. Over ten thousand works are on these sites, they’re worth a look!

Hargittai & Hargittai: Candid Science V

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

My father and brother team up to bring us the fifth in the Candid Science series published by Imperial College Press. They present conversations with famous scientists, many of them Nobel laureates.

Earlier volumes in the series:
* Magdolna Hargittai & István Hargittai: Candid Science IV, Conversations with Famous Physicists
* István Hargittai & Magdolna Hargittai: Candid Science III, Conversations with Famous Chemists
* István Hargittai & Magdolna Hargittai: Candid Science II, Conversations with Famous Biomedical Scientists
* István Hargittai & Magdolna Hargittai: Candid Science, More Conversations with Famous Chemists

Would you cut up a book?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

(I promise to get around to that question in this post, albeit in a somewhat roundabout manner.)

Since Kieran has already reserved the right to ask for $50 bills here, I thought I’d ask for something else. Forget bills, they all look the same anyway. I am looking for something more random. I am still in the midst of unpacking some of my things since my move earlier this year and I recently came across my Absolut vodka ad collection. I haven’t looked at it since college when I began (and ended) gathering all the Absolut ads I could find. I have about seventy. By now there are some helpful Web sites for those of us interested in seeing the types of ads the company has featured. I found a few I had not seen before and would really like to have so I thought I’d see if anyone here can help me out.:) These mostly have to do with ads for places where I have lived (e.g. Budapest, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Texas, Geneva, Switzerland) or visited (Paris, Brussels, Jerusalem, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, St.Louis), but also include some others just because I like them aesthetically speaking or because they are funny. I thought I would find listings on eBay, but I’ve only come across a few there and none of them of interest.

But so what’s this about cutting up a book?

There are books out there that feature Absolut ads. So if I was really desperate (which I am not, to be sure) to find some of the above ads then I could simply buy a copy of the book and then cut it up (assuming I wanted to have the pieces individually, which I do, because I want to put some of them up on my walls). But that just does not appeal to me. I cannot imagine cutting up a book. I have absolut(e)ly no problem cutting up newspapers and magazines. It is not as though some books don’t exist in numerous copies. In fact, publishers sometimes find themselves destroying books to save on storage costs, a sad reality when I am sure many schools, libraries and individuals could use additions to their collections. Many books are not a scarce resource and can actually be obtained for less than certain magazines. Thus it is not a question of scarcity. So why the aversion to cutting up books? In this particular example it may be partly that there is something about collecting ads that have appeared as ads and not simply collecting the images. But that is not fully convincing given that I am interested in some of these images purely for decorative purposes and I am not a fanatic collector. Clearly I have been socialized to consider books as something quite sacred if I am not willing to go at them with scissors. (I also won’t use pen to mark books although I will mark them using pencils.)

By the way, as a thank you to those who can contribute to my Absolut ad collection, I will be happy to send the contributor a copy of this neat book filled with great images, for free. (Just don’t tell me whether you decide to cut it up in the end.;) Send me a note for more info.

The Tipping Point – take II

Thursday, June 20th, 2002

Amazon boxI have a feeling someone at Amazon has also read The Tipping Point or at least one of the studies it talks about. I forget which it was (I’ll try to remember to look it up and come back with an update), but I recall Malcolm Gladwell, the author, discussing the ad campaign of a company that managed to significantly increase its sales by adding a little treasure box to its advertisements. (I think it was a mail-order music sales company.) Amazon now has a little treasure box of its own. If you click on it, you get some sale items that are only on sale for sixty minutes. It’s an interesting idea. Unfortunately, that’s about as clever as they got. The recommendations, although seemingly customized based on your prior purchases and interest, have absolutely nothing to do with me whatsoever. I now check them out more for kicks than anything else. In any case, I thought this was an interesting coinkidinky.