Last weekend I upgraded my wordpress installation to use Markdown on Save Improved, a plugin that saves two versions of each post, one that is written in markdown formatted text and another that is HTML. The latter is used by wordpress to serve pages to the viewer, and the former is used by the author to write posts. The advantage is having the markdown preprocessed before being served to viewers, thus cutting down on the total resources used by the server.
We were talking in class yesterday about how each of us became interested in social science, specifically sociology. What kind of articles did we admire or remember? A few people mentioned some qualitative articles they had read and the rest of the class nodded along with the professor. Yes, qualitative articles are what we remember most, those quantitative articles are just a mess of numbers that never go far enough to analyze what is behind the numbers.
I’m giving a guest lecture to a STEM class in about two weeks. I plan to talk about my research into citizen science. One of the questions I want to get the students thinking about is what makes someone into a scientist. Is it education, knowledge, skill, social influence, professional certification, or something else? But starting with one question always leads to another. So my mind began to wander back to when I was a volunteer at the Science Museum of Minnestoa in the 1990s.
I participated in a panel with some fellow third-year grad students in CCI this afternoon. We talked about our experiences with comprehensive exams, mostly to students who haven’t finished them or are preparing for them right now. I was struck by how different the experience is for each person. There are differences based on fields (CCI has students in journalism, communication, advertising, and information science), based on the personalities of the committee members, the pedagogical styles of the committee chairs, and the subject field of the dissertation, and more.
The big story was winning the best conference paper award for my presentation, co-authored with my adviser Suzie Allard, on libraries and citizen science. The basic argument of the paper was that libraries are poised to assist the general public with citizen science projects. A citizen science project is a scientific research project where professional scientists recruit non-scientist to assist with data gathering or analysis. E-bird is a popular and widespread example in the United States.
One of the research projects I began last spring is starting to show some initial results. I wanted to study the reception of some key technologies by information science professionals over the past 40 years. I was interested to see if there were any differences in professional attitudes toward different technologies. I decided on two cases to look at in depth: first was the development of OPACs, online public access catalogs, during the 1970s and 1980s; second was the World Wide Web, during the 1990s.
Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space by Neil Smith is a seminal work in marxist geography first published in 1984. He and David Harvey were two of the great interpreters of Marx and geography during the 1980s and are still active today. Nature and space are, according to Smith, produced through social interactions and altered, over time, by the development of capitalism. The developmental story is the standard one found in Marx, starting with the use of nature to fulfill human needs, the gradual accumulation of surplus value from nature, and the eventual arrival of capitalism, which extends accumulation into a worldwide phenomenon.
I’ve been brainstorming some concerns about libraries and citizen science for a current writing project. On the face of it citizen science and libraries seem to be made for each other. Libraries want to provide access to as many patrons as possible, citizen scientists have research questions that may need the help of skilled information professionals. Perfection, right. But there are some flies in the ointment, as there always are. Reginald Smith wrote a blog post about the enclosure of libraries in August 2011.
Venkatesh Rao, the blogger at ribbonfarm has written a three-part series “Entrepreneurs are the new labor” for Forbes. His basic argument is that entrepreneurs are becoming a new labor class. Twenty years ago technology entrepreurs, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, were the Robber Barons of the current technology wave, riding the development of personal computres to massive individual fortunes. Today the entrepreurs in Silicon Valley are building upon the shoulders of these giants, many of their companies are small bore endeavors creating the latest social-this-social-that app for consumer smartphones.
Reading The Power Elite is a joy. Mills writes with clarity, verve, and emotion. He clearly feels that something is out of kilter in American society and that social science can help to understand the problem. Alan Wolfe wrote an afterword in 2000 to praise Mills for his ability as a social scientist, but takes issue with his ability as a social critic. The first ten chapters of the book describe mid 20c American society very well, the final five chapters shift to social criticism.