Thursday, December 16, 2010

Senior Seminar Class 2010 Pre-Celebrates Thesis Finishings

Corks popped to celebrate the end of the thesis journey for the sociology senior seminar class of 2010 on Tuesday 14 December.  It was one day before manuscripts were due -- making these smiles all the more amazing.  Not a drop of "one-day-to-go anxiety" in the house!
L to R Kerri Thorp, Dawn Liu, Charli Prete, Lili Mano, Dan Ryan, Meredith Wensel,
Melody Sage, Erika Honan.  Back: Sarah Martin, Kali Berg, Ariunaa Thomas
After champagne, (no real pain for this crowd), crostini, pizza, and salad it was time to blow out a symbolic candle on a cake that featured a very real Hayward fault running right through the middle. Consensus was reached that this crack in the cake was symbolic of absolutely nothing.  The titles and abstracts of theses submitted so far appear below.  Congrats to members of the class of 2011 (and especially to those who are December grads : Kerri! and Melody!).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ASA Moves Annual Meeting from Chicago to Who Knows Where

This just in from ASA.  Note that the theme of this year's annual meeting is "Conflict: Multiple Dimensions and Arenas."  A change in location might make it easier for some of you to attend.

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Interesting Web Book "App"

What reminds you of what?  When one reads -- or hears about -- a book, one almost unconsciously make connections -- this book is a little bit like that book.  When you tell someone you are interested in some topic s/he will often say, "well, then you should have a look at ...." 

Now there is a web resource,, that implements this as a combination of a personal library catalog and a social network.  It allows you, virtually, to surf your own library and connect from books you know to books that are related to it.

When I played around with it looking for books on the sociology of information I got a bookshelf that nearly mirrored my collection in this area, but with a few titles I was unfamiliar with thrown in:

Holiday Book List


See also:


Putnam, Robert & David Campbell. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.

"In recent controversy over the national motto, In God we trust, Putnam and Campbell see a symptom of profound change in the national character. Using data drawn from two large surveys, the authors plumb these changes. The data show that the tempestuous sixties shook faith in religion and that the seventies and eighties incubated a strong resurgence of devotion. But the two most recent decades add another twist, as young Americans have abandoned the pews in record numbers. Still, despite recent erosion of religious commitment, Americans remain a distinctively devout people" (Amazon).

Tina Seelig, What I Wish I Knew When I Was Twenty: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World. Harper Collins 2009.

Jacket blurb: "Tina Seelig is one of the most creative and inspiring teachers at Stanford. Her book ought to be required reading." — Robert Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule.

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life by Nicholas Phillipson (Yale 2010, 32.50)

"How the man of feeling became the god of finance." (New Yorker)

Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory by Patrick Wilcken (Penguin 2010, 29.95)

"Antihumanist, polymath, and autodidact." (New Yorker)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacod de Zoet: A Novel by David Mitchell (Random House 2010, $26)

"A formidable historical novel" (New Yorker).
"Mitchell’s historical novel about a young Dutchman in Edo-era Japan is an achingly romantic story of forbidden love and something of an adventurous rescue tale" (NYT).

Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet by Ian F. McNeely and Lisa Wolverton (Norton 2009, $25.95)

"Jumping through the computer screen" (NYRB)

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books 2009, $26 (paper coming 1/11).

A small book about a small but powerful idea: organizational (and individual) performance can be markedly improved with the mundane device called a "check list." Much of the case material is from medicine (millions of dollars and hundreds of lives saved by consistent following of five steps when doing central line insertions), but the book also takes you into the cockpit of jetliners. Hardback available for as low as $12 and the paperback comes out in January.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Random House 2007, $26).

This book is a few years old but I think it's better than the "sequel" that came out last year. The subtitle tells you what its about — lots of excellent, research based insights into how to make your ideas good ones. A short read with good idea-density. Cheaper than list on Amazon and as low as $10 used/paper.

40: A Doonesbury Retrospectiveby by G.B. Trudeau (Andrews McMeel 2010, $100.00).

A review byGarry Wills in the November 25, 2010 NYRB : "Outstripping the News".

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. By Isabel Wilkerson. (Random House 2010, $30.)

"This consummate account of the exodus of blacks from the South between 1915 and 1970 explores parallels with earlier European immigration" (NYT).

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (Crown 2010, $26.)

"Skloot untangles the ethical issues in the case of a woman who unknowingly donated cancer cells that have been the basis for a vast amount of research" (NYT).
The moral conundrums posed by wikileaks might make this book about bad acts for good causes a timely read. AMERICAN SUBVERSIVE. By David Goodwillie. (Scribner, $25.) "A bombing unites a blogger and a beautiful eco-terrorist in this literary thriller, an exploration of what motivates radicalism in an age of disillusion" (NYT).

James T. Fisher, On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York. (Cornell U. Press, 2010)

"For anyone who has ever been moved by Marlon Brando delivering the immortal line, 'I coulda been a contender,' this book is a must. Through state-of-the-art research, James T. Fisher recreates the tough, corrupt universe of the waterfront, a huge commercial and criminal bounty where careers were built, noses broken, dissenters murdered, riches gained and lostand it all became the basis for one of the most cherished American movies of all time. On the Irish Waterfront is a major act of historical restoration and a fascinating yarn told by a skilled literary maestro." T. J. English, New York Times bestselling author of Paddy Whacked, The Westies, and Havana Nocturne.

William Issel, For Both Cross and Flag: Catholic Action, Anti-Catholicism, and National Security Politics in World War II San Francisco (Temple U. Press, 2010).

"Issel's splendid book… is a sad and tragic tale…. [that] illustrates the wisdom of the Greek tragedian Aeschylus, who said, 'In war the first casualty is truth.'"
—Charles Fracchia, The Institute for Historical Study Newsletter
Issel recounts the civil right abuses suffered by Sylvester Andriano, an Italian American Catholic civil leader whose religious and political activism in San Francisco provoked an Anti-Catholic campaign against him. … Issel presents a cast of characters that includes archbishops, radicals, the Kremlin, J. Edgar Hoover, and more to examine the significant role faith-based political activism played in the political culture that violated Andriano's constitutional rights. … interesting implications for contemporary events and issues relating to urban politics, ethnic groups, and religion in a time of war" (Amazon).
Kindle edition:

A New Human by Morwood and Van Oosterzee (Left Coast, 2009)

"In October 2004, a team of Australian and Indonesian anthropologists led by Mike Morwood and Raden Pandji Soejono stunned the world with their announcement of the discovery of the first example of a new species of human, Homo floresiensis, which they nicknamed the "Hobbit." This was no creation of Tolkien's fantasy, however, but a tool-using, fire-making, cooperatively hunting person. The more Morwood and his colleagues revealed about the find, the more astonishing it became: standing only three feet tall with brains a little larger than a can of cola, the Hobbits forced anthropologists and everyone to reconsider what it means to be human." (Amazon)

The Hobbit Trap: How New Species Are Invented by Maciej Henneberg, Robert B Eckhardt, John Schofield, and Phillip Vallentine Tobias (Left Coast, 2010)

"When scientists found the remains of a tiny hominid on an Indonesian in 2004, they claimed they found a totally new species of human ancestor (homo floresiensis), and called it a Hobbit. Film crews rolled in and the little creature took the world by storm, but a group of prominent scientists, including Maciej Henneberg and Robert Eckhardt, smelled a rat" ( Amazon).

The Bone Readers: Science and Politics in Human Origins Research by Claudio Tuniz, Richard Gillespie, and Cheryl Jones (Left Coast)

Deals with the political and academic fights over human origins research more generally. Just won a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Book Award.
“This excellent book not only clearly presents the science behind research on human origins, but also the personalities and the politics.” –Professor Chris Stringer FRS, The Natural History Museum, London

Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America by Jonathan Rauch (Holt Paperbacks 2004)

"Marriage, when it's right (and usually when it's wrong), is a subject that stirs strong feelings. Gay marriage inspires its own set of passions, with opponents decrying it as a step that will undermine the very fabric of society while supporters posit it as an inevitable next stage in step-by-step acceptance of homosexuality by mainstream America. Appearing as the issue heats ups following President George W. Bush's call for a constitutional amendment that would block the gathering tide of gay nuptials, this polemic by Atlantic Monthly/National Journal writer Jonathan Rauch deftly walks a fine line, both personalizing the subject (Rauch is a gay man with a longtime lover and a lifelong wistful attitude about marriage) and addressing it with an intellectual poise informed by historical and philosophical perspectives" (Amazon)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Mommy Penalty" Varies by Profession

Economix: M.B.A.’s Have Biggest ‘Mommy Penalty,’ Doctors the Smallest
Published: December 6, 2010

Among highly educated women who take time off from their careers to raise their children, women with M.B.A.’s suffer the largest percentage “mommy penalty,” while those with medical degrees suffer the lowest proportionate loss, with female Ph.D.’s and lawyers falling somewhere in between.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Social Science Palooza

From the opinion page of the New York Times a hymn to the social sciences by DAVID BROOKS December 6, 2010. Although Brooks is pigeon-holed as "the conservative commentator," his ideas cover a wide spectrum and he stands out as a champion of the use of all manner of social science to inform policy debates. This piece is worth quoting in full. The journalist he mentions at the start writes for the Ideas column in the Boston Globe. See, for example, this 2008 column, "Surprising insights from the social sciences: Bullying, choosing a double major, and a mystery in the bathtub."

Friday, December 3, 2010

PhD Studies in New Zealand : Digital Media, Culture+Context and Industrial Design


The Design Research Innovation Lab at Victoria University of Wellington's (NZ) School of Design is pleased to announce we are currently accepting applications for students interested in pursuing a PhD in Design. The application deadline is 1 March 2011.

Call for Candidates
Victoria University of Wellington's Design Research Innovation Lab invites applications for PhD candidates. Prospective candidates with exceptional creative and analytical skills seeking to study design from philosophical, cultural and practice-led perspectives are encouraged to apply. Potential candidates will be expected to make a substantial contribution to design knowledge, extending current understanding within the discipline and discourse of design research.

The DRIL PhD programme emphasises the advancement of interdisciplinary knowledge and supports practice-led research through its emphasis on creativity as a process of investigation, culminating in an original design composition and a substantial written exegesis critically analysing the methodology, process, and documentation of the final creative composition.

The program has three areas of concentration: Digital Media, Culture+Context and Industrial Design. Our current areas of research focus and expertise include:
  • Design-Led Futures for Science, Technology & Energy
  • Digital Image Cultures & Digital Media Design
  • Historical & Cultural Studies of Design
  • Interaction Design & Emotion
DRIL is a dynamic research group driven by the interests and expertise of outstanding research faculty as well as the research projects of participating PhD students. The DRIL programme fosters a vibrant and collaborative interdisciplinary research environment that cultivates respect for different perspectives and emphasises a willingness to explore new and challenging ways of thinking, doing and making. While particular research strands are identified above, innovative collaborations are encouraged and new researchers will be supported through the development of research partnerships both within the University and externally with industry and public organisations. To support a variety of research interests and activities, students have access to excellent facility resources including multimedia computers and software, an electronics lab, woodworking and metal workshops, laser cutters, CNC routers and 3D rapid-prototyping facilities.

Through the Design Research and Innovation Lab students also have the opportunity to actively participate in professional academic life. Our diverse faculty provide collegial mentorship in research activities from reading groups and proposal writing workshops to preparing conference presentations, exhibitions and publications. DRIL also supports the School's research-led teaching efforts, and postgraduate students have the opportunity to deliver design-related courses as part of our Bachelor and Master of Design Innovation programmes. Scholarships and doctoral assistantships are available to exceptional students on a competitive basis, and further funding opportunities may be available through faculty research projects.

We hope that you are inspired to learn more about our programme and faculty ( and we look forward to hearing from you.

For details on how to apply, please visit:

For information on scholarships, please visit:

For further information, please contact

Dr Anne Galloway                               
Chair, Research Sub-Committee          
School of Design                               
Victoria University of Wellington              
PO Box 600                                     
Wellington 6140, New Zealand                   
(T) +64 04 463 6230                            

Dr Leon Gurevitch
Postgraduate Research Coordinator
School of Design                               
Victoria University of Wellington              
PO Box 600                                     
Wellington 6140, New Zealand
(T) +64 04 463 6207    

Documents required for PhD application

  1. A portfolio of creative work demonstrating the breadth of the applicant?s prior experience in design or related creative discipline.
  2. A statement of research interests.
  3. An example of academic writing.
  4. Two referees' reports provided on the correct VUW template, sent by the referee only from a verifiable institutional email address, or as a signed hard copy.
  5. Verified transcripts and certificates for each national and/or international degree earned and, if from an EU country, the Diploma Supplement. (International students must also include grade conversion tables.)

Interesting New Tool from Google for Cleaning Data


Announcing Google Refine 2.0, a power tool for data wranglers

Google acquired Metaweb last July and has release a version of their Freebase Gridworks, an open source software project for cleaning and enhancing entire data sets as Google Refine.

Google Refine is a tool for working with messy data sets, including cleaning up inconsistencies, transforming them from one format into another, and extending them with new data from external web services or other databases. 

The product is used, among other places, in the the data journalism and open government data communities (see. for example, Chicago Tribune, ProPublica and To learn more about what you can do with Google Refine 2.0, watch the following screencasts:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oral History Workshop in February

For those of you with a qualitative or ethnographic bent, this is a great opportunity to top up your skills.