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Posts Tagged ‘Orgtheory’

For the past three years, Kieran at Orgtheory has posted ASA bingo cards in advance of the annual meeting. For the past three years, however, there has been a problem. No, I don’t mean the complaints of some that the bingo cards could be too cynical. I can be fairly cynical about conferences myself. The problem with an ASA bingo card is that the ASA experience is inherently unlike the game of bingo.

Bingo is played in a room full of [smoke and] other people, each with randomized cards listening to eliminate enough numbers to win. Without doing something radical like emailing Kieran to ask, I assume that John Siracusa’s bingo cards for Apple keynote presentations provided the inspiration for the original ASA bingo card. The first of these, in 2006, included a standard card in addition to twenty randomized versions allowing different chances to win. (Incidentally, none of them were winners.) The beauty of Siracusa’s keynote bingo was that individuals in the audience could conceivably follow along, checking off events until somebody won and shouted “bingo!” in the middle of Steve Jobs’ introduction of some new product. (As far as I know, this has never actually happened, which is unfortunate.)

Which brings me to the solution. What we need is not an ASA bingo, but rather an ASA scavenger hunt. In a scavenger hunt, everybody is free to seek the items on the list in any location and order they choose, making this format perfect for a large conference like ASA. I will post the scavenger hunt form in advance of ASA next week, but if you have suggestions for inclusions in the meantime (especially if those inclusions go beyond the things included in the previous bingo cards that I linked to in the first paragraph) please send them to socslac@gmail.com.

The other problem with the ASA bingo cards is that there has never, to my knowledge, been a winner. I hope that the scavenger hunt format will make winning more likely, but I will also encourage submissions with a prize. The winner of the first-annual ASA scavenger hunt will receive $50 in cash. Official rules will be posted with my scavenger hunt form next week. Tell your friends.

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If you, like me, suffer from Major Procrastination Disorder, you will likely try anything to increase your productivity. Recent posts at Orgtheory and Slate aim to help with this goal. At Orgtheory, Katherine Chen talks about the challenges of handling both structured and unstructured time, focusing primarily on the use of deadlines (both external and self-imposed). Two of these suggestions, understanding prioritization and breaking large projects into small tasks, might be aided by the topic of Farhad Manjoo’s article at Slate. Manjoo reviews an app called WorkFlowy, which is essentially an electronic way to make lists. If your lists look anything like mine (and, apparently, Manjoo’s), you end up with a piece of paper covered with writing in all directions, some of which is crossed out, circled, or highlighted. Manjoo recognizes that most note-taking applications don’t deal well with this sort of approach, but argues that WorkFlowy is different:

[T]his app is the easiest, best-designed, and most-flexible note-taker I’ve ever come across, and it solves many of the problems I’ve had with other software. In the weeks I’ve been using it, this new program has become my go-to place for storing and keeping track of everything—not just to-dos and grocery lists, but my ideas for articles, all the notes I gather while reporting, all the tasks I need to do for those articles, and even all of the stuff I’m gathering for a book I’m working on.

Now if I could just motivate myself to try it… Maybe I need to set a deadline.

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I recently purchased copies of Fabio’s Grad Skool Rulz for myself and some students who are planning to go to grad school next year (and yes, I paid for the “copies” that I gave to students). The question I always have about packaged collections of things that originated on the internet is whether it is worthwhile to purchase something that is essentially available for free. In this case, I think that the ability to send the entire package as a PDF that a student can save somewhere is probably a better way of delivering information than saying “there’s a series of blog posts about grad school – look them up!” Since none of the undergrads that I know regularly read sites like Scatterplot, OrgTheory, or Crooked Timber, this is also a way to introduce them to the world of academic blogging that they will surely become familiar with when they are procrastinating during grad school.

Overall, I think that Fabio does a nice job of discussing things that grad students should know. I went to grad school in a supportive environment where these issues could be openly discussed with advisors, but not everybody is so lucky. For prospective students, this makes choosing a graduate program incredibly important. For those who are already enrolled, the Rulz should help navigate potentially uncertain waters.

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A while back I talked about the fact that there are very different publication currents at the school where I was a grad student and the school where I currently work.  I stated:

When coming out of graduate school I had a strong desire to do important research but I wondered if the desire for high-profile publications would fade.  What I’ve found is that the desire hasn’t faded but the expectations of my institution create a situation in which I appear to be swimming against the current, wondering how long I can last before I am swept downstream.

When writing this, I was thinking about my own experiences and those of others at liberal arts schools, but this feeling is not confined to the SLACers of the world.  In response to these feelings, I talked about joining an old-fashioned (and long-running) reading group.  Historiann, however, presents blogging as another alternative in her blog post summarizing her talk summarizing her feminist blogging (how meta!).  She writes:

From the perspective of an intellectual metropole like Austin, I can certainly see why some might think of academic blogging as a waste of time that competes with the time available to meet concrete career benchmarks.  But most of us don’t end up in major university towns or big cities with seminars and symposia in our fields and armies of Ph.D. students–most of us leave graduate school and spend our careers in places in which we may feel intellectually isolated.  So blogs can be spaces that become virtual communities where we can combat isolation and have conversations about our common interests.  If your goal in blogging is to alienate friends and allies, then blogs may be potentially dangerous to one’s career.

I suspect that not all blogs work equally well for this task.  A pseudonymous blog in which the author never talks about his specific work (and doesn’t allow comments) is probably much less effective at building academic communities than a blog focused on a person’s particular research interests.  Similarly, an individual’s blog may be less effective at building community than a topic-centered group blog such as Orgtheory.  I suspect that if I had ended up in the middle of nowhere the purpose of this blog may have quickly changed from providing “sociological perspectives on life and the liberal arts” to providing “discussions on the sociology of lima beans for the intellectually isolated.”

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The combination of a recent paper submission and a post by Tina at Scatterplot have caused me to wonder about the age-old question of “blind” peer review.  The question, of course, is whether peer reviews can truly be blind in the days of online conference information (sometimes including papers) and internet search engines.  This question came up at Orgtheory a while back, with the definitive follow-up poll suggesting that most people do look up the authors of papers they are reviewing, either before or after the review.  Obviously, older individuals may be less likely to respond to Orgtheory polls and similarly less likely to look up authors in this way, but it is still likely that a blind review will not be blind to all reviewers.

Given that blind peer review is blind for a reason, it seems that we have a problem.  Sure, a few high-profile scholars might be recognizable by their writing style, theoretical perspectives, or citations, but the vast majority of sociologists do not have that problem.  I wonder, for example, how being an unrecognized name from an unrecognized school will affect me when my reviewers attempt to take the blinders off of the peer review process.

Given these issues, it seems that we have a few options.  One is to give up on the illusion of blind reviews and sign both submissions and reviews.  Another option is to take the blinding process further by removing titles as well, since titles are likely the easiest way to search for a paper that has been presented at a conference.  Other options include preventing our conference presentations from being archived online and throwing out the whole presentation and publication model and moving to communes organized by John Galt.  I’m not sure which of these would be most effective.

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Usually, when people make bingo cards for events they are focused on things that may happen during the course of the event.  Looking at the card for this year’s ASA conference, however, it appears that one would have to go out of the way not to score a bingo.  Many of these spaces are akin to “Steve Jobs wears black mock turtleneck.” Hell, I’m not even there yet and I’ve already done a few of them.

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Fabio has posted another of his Grad Skool Rulz over at Orgtheory, regarding the mythical end of graduate school:

Before moving on, I should note that staying too long can have dire consequences. Students can become unmarketable, dissertations are out of date, departments may cut funding. Students who have spent too much time in graduate school will be seen as folks who can’t get stuff done, which makes it hard to get a job. If you knew some was in grad school for 12 years with one modest publication, wouldn’t you be a little suspicious? It behooves you to figure out the norm in your field and stick to it.

He also distinguishes between “short clock” and “long clock” disciplines, with sociology somewhere in the middle.  This also seems to vary by program, as some students in sociology unfortunately find themselves somewhere that they are “allowed to drift indefiinitely. If you don’t finish your dissertation, no one will remind you. If you dedicate all your time to teaching, no one will care. Even if you do finish your dissertation, people will sit on it for semesters and nothing will happen. To blunt, the graduate school system is not designed to help you graduate in a reasonable amount of time. It’s designed to waste your time.”

The key is to figure out how your program fits into all of this and take the necessary steps to get out.  Trust me, it’s better out here.

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People who are concerned with publishing sometimes talk about the rejection rates of various journals, whether using them as a justification for rejection (“It is okay not to get accepted by ASR since they only accept 5%* of submissions”) or cause for celebration (“My paper got accepted by ASR, so I must be in the top 5%* of sociologists!”).  At some schools with low teaching loads, faculty members are able to work on lots of projects at the same time which increases the likelihood that they will get a “hit” in one of the top journals.  Of course, working at a school that has a more demanding teaching load means that one cannot work on as many projects at once so the total number of submissions and, thus, the likelihood of getting a “hit” is lower.

Rather than throwing paper after paper at ASA, AJS, and Social Forces to see if one will stick, however, faculty members may increase the likelihood of being published in one of these journals by tying their work to previous research that has been valued by those who publish in these venues.  If you find yourself in this position, you may want to frame your work in a way that connects to one or more of the following: stratification, networks, organizations, social movements, and HLM methods.  Here is a map of the citation network for ASR, AJS, and Social Forces over the past ten years, via Orgtheory:

SocCoreCites

*Not the actual rejection rate for ASR.

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