I just spotted New Philosopher for the first time, in an airport newsagents. I’ve occasionally bought or subscribed to Philosopher’s Magazine and Philosophy Now in the past. That makes three popular magazines about philosophy aimed at a general audience. Why such an abundance of philosophy magazines and yet no comparable sociology publications? Is it because the public appetite couldn’t support a sociology magazine? Or is it because sociologists haven’t tried since New Society folded? Is it time for Discover Society to launch a print edition? Or something else entirely?
Some thoughts after yesterday’s public sociology day in Manchester:
- The meaning of ‘public sociology’ is not always self-evident and the enthusiasm of the impulse expressed through the term can cloud its meaning yet further. We need to be clear about what we are doing and why.
- This clarity can help us negotiate the ambivalent spaces for public sociology created within institutions that speak the language of ‘impact’, ‘public engagement’, ‘knowledge exchange’, ‘enterprise’ and ‘outreach’. There are opportunities for public sociology here but also dangers.
- The competitive individualism of the academy risks being reproduced in a discourse of ‘public sociology’ dominated by white, male professorial public sociologists. We need to celebrate the practice of public sociology, rather than the academic brands of the most prominent public sociologists. [thanks to the res-sisters and Lambros Fatsis for making this point so clearly, in slightly different ways]
- Our prevailing systems of scholarly communication risk canalising the impulse towards ‘public sociology’ into abstract reflection upon what should ultimately be a practical activity. Sustaining employment in the academy necessitates ‘outputs’ of a certain restricted kind but we must avoid letting these define what we take public sociology to be.
- We can take these limitations of existing systems as an inspiration to build new systems. How do we create platforms for public sociology that facilitate and encourage it as a collective endeavour, rather than the lone pursuit of isolated individuals within an accelerated academy?
I’ve just started working my way through this series of books produced by UCL’s massive Why We Post project. The past work of the project team is fantastic and I’m hopeful this will prove to be an important series of books, breaking new anthropological ground in our understanding of how and why people use social media. Not all of the books are released yet but these are the ones currently available:
- How the World Changed Social Media
- Social Media in an English Village
- Social Media in Southeast Turkey
- Social Media in Northern Chile
- Social Media in Industrial China
- Social Media in Rural China
- Social Media in Southeast Italy
They’re also freely available in PDF! This is a wonderful innovation from UCL’s Press and one we’ll hopefully see more of in the future.
An interesting opportunity, though personally the language of ‘assistant’ and one year would put me off a little bit:
*Apologies for crossposting*
Since its launch in August 2014, the Twitter account for Sociology has become a popular and important means of promoting the journal to a wide academic and non-academic audience. Social media are also proving to be a practical way to link the work of the journal to topical news and debates in the media. Sociology is therefore creating the new voluntary role of Social Media Assistant and seeks applicants with an interest in contributing to the current and ongoing development of the journal’s presence on Twitter and other social media platforms.
The role will commence on Monday 3rd October and run for a one-year fixed-term period in the first instance.
For details about the role and the link to the online application form, please see the full call for applications on the BSA site. The deadline for applications is 5pm GMT Friday 22 July.
If you have any queries about the role, please contact Sociology Editor, Kath Woodward: Kath.Woodward@open.ac.uk
An interesting post by Fabio Rojas on the different ways in which the label ‘computational sociology’ has been used:
- Statistics – for the baby boomer generation of social scientists, “computing in socioal science” meant applied statistics. Remember, it requires a lot of knowledge and skill to store data and estimate models on computes with limited computing power.
- Agent based models – in the 1980s and 1990s, “computational” meant running simulations.
- Big data/CS techniques – currently, the term seems to refer to either (a) large data generated by online behavior and/or (b) using computer science techniques (e.g., topic models or sentiment analysis) to study social science data
My concern is that ‘computational sociology’ of the final sort risks leading to a computational social science that is not recognisably sociological: though this raises the obvious question of why this is a bad thing and what it means for something to be ‘recognisably sociological’.
BSA Sociologists outside Academia, in collaboration with Sage Publishing Ltd and the Sociological Imagination
Practical Sociology: Agenda for Action
A half-day workshop
British Psychological Society meeting rooms, Tabernacle St
London EC2A 4UE
Monday 17 October 2016, 12.30 – 4.30pm
How come – at least in the UK –you don’t come across people with ‘sociologist’ in their job title working in industry, business, the civil service, or pretty much anywhere outside academia or independent research organisations?
Sociologists seem to all reside in universities, unlike psychologists and economists, who have colonised many kinds of workplaces.
Most sociologists believe our subject is essential for understanding the world around us, or to resolve contemporary problems, from gender violence to climate change. We have the concepts (like ‘cultural capital’, ‘intersectionality) and the theories (social mobility, moral panic). But where are the practical sociologists?
So what would it take to establish a ‘practical sociology’ in the UK and elsewhere, with sociologists employed to use sociology concepts and models to address problems in industry, business, government, education or health? This half-day workshop aims to establish an agenda for practical sociology.
The workshop will explore pressing questions about how a practical sociology may apply its expertise, skills and knowledge to problems at work or in the community.
- What has prevented the emergence of practical sociology in the UK?
- What are the core knowledge and models that are needed to solve the problems that organisations, businesses and the public sector face?
- What kinds of skills would be needed to work as a practical sociologist?
- How would a practical sociology career pan out?
This workshop will be of interest to sociologists and others who are keen to see the application of sociological concepts, models and theories in practical settings in the public, private and third sectors. Please come along and help us set an agenda for developing practical sociology.
BSA Members £5; Non-members £8; BSA Concessionary members and full-time students £3.
Tea and coffee will be provided: please bring your lunch.
This section of The Black Box Society, by Frank Pasquale, expresses why it’s so crucial that practitioners of digital social science cultivate reflexivity. This issue cuts across methodology, research ethics and politics: it’s not simply a narrowly technical issue. From pg 41:
Continuing unease about black box scoring reflects long-standing anxiety about misapplications of natural science methods to the social realm. A civil engineer might use data from a thousand bridges to estimate which one might next collapse; now financial engineers scrutinize millions of transactions to predict consumer defaults. But unlikely he engineer, whose studies do nothing to the bridges she examines, a credit scoring system increases the chances of a consumer defaulting once it labels him a risk and prices a loan accordingly.
This looks like an important read (HT Org Theory) for anyone interested in the intersections of digital sociology and public sociology:
I informally examine how the idea of public sociology has been aected by the rise of social media. New social media platforms disintermediate communication, make people more visible, and encourage public life to be measured. ey tend to move the discipline from a situation where some people self-consciously do “public sociology” to one where most sociologists unselfconsciously do sociology in public. I discuss the character of such “latently public” work, the opportunities and diculties it creates for individuals, and its tendency to be associated with academic elds that believe in what they are doing.
Great introductory video to this fascinating project undertaken by digital anthropologists at UCL:
A delightfully cynical view about citizen science in Shadow Work, by Craig Lambert, loc 1521-1536. I don’t think I agree with him but I struggle to articulate why exactly. This is a challenge that proponents of citizen science need to be able to answer:
NONETHELESS, IF THE work is interesting, some organizations can attract support from unpaid shadow-working assistants. The burgeoning field of citizen science is a prime example. The Galaxy Zoo project is a joint venture of astronomers at Johns Hopkins University in the United States and Portsmouth and Oxford universities in England. It enlists lay astronomers in classifying galaxies from telescope images based on shape. In its first year, more than 150,000 participants contributed more than fifty million classifications, at times sending in 60,000 per hour. David Baker, a biochemistry professor at the University of Washington, developed an online game called FoldIt that welcomes citizen participants to contribute hypothetical ways of folding protein molecules; these shadow workers have resolved some problems that have baffled supercomputers. Launched in 2008, the Great Sunflower Project lets citizen field-workers log and share data points about pollinators such as bees and wasps, according to a report by Katherine Xue in Harvard Magazine. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains a platform called eBird, where amateur bird-watchers can help ornithologists track bird populations and migration patterns around the world. Thousands of shadow-working field assistants are grabbing their binoculars and heading out.
Are you curious about Digital Sociology? Consider, or already conducting, a postgraduate study on the subject? Want to explore the relations between Data, Society and the Self? Want to meet digital sociologists? Come and enjoy two days of roundtables, masterclasses, a research workshop and a keynote, with experts from MMU and further afield.The workshop is aimed at postgraduate students but is open to all.
26-27 May 2016, The Shed, Manchester Metropolitan University
Organised by Tom Brock, Adi Kuntsman and Esperanza Miyake, Digital Transformations Research Network, MMU
Keynote: Prof. Patricia Clough, CUNY
Dr. Tom Brock, Department of Sociology, MMU
Dr. EJ Gonzales-Polledo, Department of Methodology, LSE
Dr. Adi Kuntsman, Department of Languages, Information and Communications, MMU
Dr. Esperanza Miyake, Department of Languages, Information and Communications, MMU
Follow us on Twitter: #SocDataSelf
In recent years, we’ve seen the proliferation of calls to reorientate sociological thought around new concerns, methodologies and approaches that can ground the discipline in changing times. This symposium brings together advocates of prominent approaches with the hope of a dialogue concerning these calls. What do they have in common? How do they differ? Are their proliferation a sign of the discipline’s weakness or of its vitality? Do we need to throw our energies into one, embrace the multitude or somehow synthesise them into a broader project of disciplinary renewal?
Glamorgan Council Chamber, Glamorgan Building, Cardiff University
2pm to 4pm, May 11th 2016
Mark Carrigan – Why Public Sociology is Becoming Digital Sociology (and vice versa)
Des Fitzgerald – Lively sociology and the sociology of life
William Housley – Disruptive Technologies and Socio-Digital Transformation
Emilie Whitaker – Title TBC
If you’d like to attend please e-mail email@example.com. We’re planning a special section of The Sociologcial Review’s website further exploring these themes. Please indicate if this is something you would be interested in contributing to.
What a fascinating CfP:
CALL FOR PAPERS
Autobiography 2.0: Family, Relationality and Online Life Writing
An edited collection by May Friedman (Ryerson University) and Silvia Schultermandl (University of Graz)
We are looking for original chapters which discuss representations of family and kinship in online media such as Twitter, PostSecret, Facebook, Storify and Instagram and the ways in which these digital autobiographies innovate our understandings of life writing genres. Our collection seeks to bring together research on the self-in-relation from both a narratological angle and from the perspective of gender studies, queer theory, postcolonial and transnational studies. We are interested in discussing new and shifting understandings of how we define life writing practices differently in an age of online expressions in various verbal and visual forms, and through the lens of family, broadly defined. Building on our two prior collections, chapters should explore a transnational sensibility (Friedman and Schultermandl, 2011) which honors the ambiguity of borders, families, and identities and views “a lack of fixity as simultaneously inevitable and rich in possibility.” These ideas can be applied to negotiations of identity, relationality and kinship though quick media usage (Friedman und Schultermandl, 2016).
Possible contributions may include, but are not limited to discussions which pursue the following questions:
– How is relationality mediated differently in an online context and how does this impact our ideas about family and kinship?
– What issues of privacy and property are connected to the online presence of digital memoirs?
– Which different reading practices do we need to bring to the multi-layered online text of autobiographies 2.0?
– How does reading online autobiographies create kinship ties among readers?
– How are traditional modalities of identity (race, gender, ability, class, etc.) destabilized by online life writing?
We invite 500-word chapter abstracts of critical scholarly, creative, and autoethnographic essays. Deadline is June 1, 2016. Please send inquires and /or abstracts to May Friedman (firstname.lastname@example.org) <mailto:> AND Silvia Schultermandl (email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>).
For more information on our prior projects:
Growing up Transnational: Identity and Kinship in a Global Era
Click and Kin: Transnational Identity and Quick Media
A really fascinating reflection by Rob Kitchin on ten forms of academic writing beyond scholarly papers and books: fiction, blog posts, newspaper op eds, email correspondence, policy papers, policy consultation, a television documentary script, powerpoint slides, academic papers, and grant application. What makes this so interesting is that all of these were deployed in relation to the same topic, feeding into each other in the process.
I find it hard to express quite how drawn I am to this conception offered by Robert Frodeman in Sustainable Knowledge, loc 665:
There is another model possible. It is where the interdisciplinarian goes feral, largely abandoning his or her disciplinary roots. It’s an entrepreneurial approach where one circulates among a changing roster of partners –not too quickly, for experience and trust must be built up –with only occasional visits back to one’s reference community to check in on new insights and to recruit fellow travelers.
He’s contrasting this to a model of interdisciplinarity in which these nascent experts collectively construct the trappings of a new discipline for themselves.
I’m struck by how readily social media affords such feral behaviour. The same medium and long term constraints operate, mediated through the mechanisms of career progression, but the short term ones have loosened profoundly as all manner of new opportunities have opened up.