December 22, 2006

Final Papers

Two quick notes:

  • We've finished grading the final papers and your grades have all been tallied up and submitted. You can pick up your final papers at the front desk in 909 Social Sciences. On them, I've written your grade for your final draft as well as your final grade for the course. They will be available in 909 through the first few weeks of the new year.

  • If you need to reach me for any reason, I will be out of town all next week but I'll be available again after January 2. Email's best.

  • Again, I really enjoyed this semester. You were a great group and I really appreciated the careful thought and hard work you put into this class.

December 15, 2006

Reminder

Apparently there's some confusion over this, so just a reminder:

Your final paper is due at noon on Tuesday, the 19th, in 909 Social Sciences.

Just hand it in to the front desk and tell them it's for this class.

December 7, 2006

Paper notes

After speaking with a few of you after class today, I wanted to clarify a few things about the papers. I'll probably add to this list as I get around to reading your papers myself over the weekend I've put up the slides from the in-class feedback in the Students section of the site.


  • Writing Style: In the assignment guidelines, I've used pretty formal, ``scientific" language to describe the assignment. I did this to get you in the right frame of mind: virtually all of our assignments in this class have required that you actively seek out information about the world: in our class survey, in your media journals, in your blog entries, etc. So your assignments this semester have not just been busy work making you regurgitate facts and figures---they constitute data about the world that you yourself gathered. Now, this does not mean that I expect you to, say, stick to third person writing in your paper. I'm totally okay with the whole paper being written from a first person narrative perspective. What's important is that you approach the material in the right way: the goal is not to simply write an op-ed style rant about some political issue, but to find real puzzling questions about how the world works and then try to answer those questions by drawing on empirical evidence. You can do this from a first-person perspective: in fact, look to two of our books this semester (Wolfe & Pinker...probably others as well) for examples of this.

  • The ``Data and Research Question" section: This confusion about writing style seems to be the worst with respect to the ``Data & Research Question" part of your papers. For this section, I like the way I worded it on the peer review sheet from today's class: ``Does the `Data and Research Question' section provide a detailed description---with specific examples---of what the author found this semester and how this lead them to a research question for this paper?' Remember, treat your work from this semester as data about the world and your research question as a question that this data inspired you to ask. Now pretend your friend asked you, ``Why on earth is this question worth asking? What did you find this semester that lead you to this question?" That's what you need to answer. Again, a first-person narrative is just fine! And don't be afraid to give a broad answer. If your topic is media bias, for example, your justification for why this matters can incorporate the discussions & readings we've had about the relationship between the media and democracy, theories about why the media represents the world the way it does, etc.

  • On Choosing Sides: You may feel more confused at the end of this project than you did going in. Remember when I said this paper wasn't like an op-ed piece? Well, here's one big reason why: you don't have to come down firmly on one side of any issue. You may not have an answer to your question. This is fine! The key is to explain why you feel this way in light of the evidence & arguments you've encountered. Similarly, if you do come to some firm conclusion, you need to justify that conclusion!

  • I put up more notes from class today under the Students Only link.

December 6, 2006

Media Journal follow-up

On the grading sheets for your media journal assignments, I referred to the fact that I'd be posting links to some examples of great media journals on the blog. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball on this and am just now getting this post up: I apologize.

In particular, I want to point out a few people who did really great work on parts of the assignment that were difficult for others. For example:

  • Context: This was hard for people. A few of you just didn't do it, and many of you focused too much on a "names and dates" history of the organization, instead of focusing on the sorts of things sociologists think of as "context" (organizational structure, institutional culture, economic & politic environment, etc.). Of course, many of you did a good job on this as well! In particular, Brian and Steve did an excellent job, so check their papers out.

  • Chronicle: The goal of this section was to provide a rich, detailed description of what you read/watched/listened to. (In hindsight, perhaps I should've simply called it "Description"...) The best media journals are those that actually leave you with the feeling that you'd done the observing yourself: pointing out the tiny details as well as describing the big picture. For a few good examples see: Katusa, Sam, Vi, Bobbie-Jean.

November 28, 2006

Articles from class

If you want to read some of the articles you didn't get a chance to see in class today, here they are:

November 16, 2006

A Few Notes

  1. I've uploaded the lecture notes for both today's class and tuesday's class. As usual, follow the Students Only link.
  2. I wanted to mention in class today that since we've got a full week's worth of materials for next week, but only one day in the classroom, that you should start with the #2 - 4 on the assignment sheet: the Pinker-Spelke debate, Summer's statement and the ASA response to Summers. If you're unaware of the controversy over Summers' remarks, you may want to read this short newspaper article as well. A quick summary:
    The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, sparked an uproar at an academic conference Friday when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. Summers also questioned how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at elite universities.

    Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, walked out on Summers' talk, saying later that if she hadn't left, ''I would've either blacked out or thrown up." Five other participants reached by the Globe, including Denice D. Denton, chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, also said they were deeply offended, while four other attendees said they were not.

    After that, read chapter 18 first and then 19. If you can't get to 19 by Tuesday, that's fine. We'll pick up with that after break.

  3. Just a reminder that once we get back from break, you'll have less than two weeks until our in-class rough draft peer review. Your rough draft makes up 50% of your final paper grade, so do not procrastinate! If you want feedback on the ideas you have for the final paper, ask for it! Soon! If you can't make my office hours, I'm available by appointment - just email me and ask. On Tuesday, I will give out more details on the final paper.

  4. If you're interested in the research on moral intuitions I mentioned in class today, I was talking about Marc Hauser's work. His new book, Moral Minds, is a great read. You can also watch a video of a lecture he gave on the topic here: for slow or fast connections.* You can even take his Moral Sense Test online.

* I got these links from edge.org but since you have to scroll way down the page to find them, I put the direct links here. So yes, in case you were wondering, I am indeed willing to violate internet etiquette just to make your lives easier.

November 14, 2006

Upcoming Talk on Race and Genetics

The Institute for Advanced Studies is sponsoring a workshop on race and pedagogy on November 30 and December 1. In particular, a talk on Friday is relevant to the things we've been discussing:

Teaching Race in the New Genetics: What is at Stake?
Plenary Address by Sandra Soo-Jin Lee
Friday, December 1, 3:45-5:15 p.m.
140 Nolte Center

Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, Senior Research Scholar, Cultural and Social Anthropology and the Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University, is an anthropologist who studies race, ethnicity and culture in science, technology and biomedicine. Her research programme focuses on the social and scientific meanings of race in human genetic variation research and their implications for understandings of human difference. Dr. Lee has conducted a study on the social and ethical issues related to the DNA sampling of human populations and policies around the use of racial taxonomies by publicly funded cell repositories.

November 8, 2006

Negative campaigning

Quite a few of you blogged about negative campaigning over the last few weeks. I read an interesting article in the NY Times today on the subject that's worth a read. The author, Barry Schwartz makes an interesting connection between how people vote and psychological experiments on how people reward custody of children in hypothetical divorce settlements. Seem like a stretch? It's an interesting read -- Check it out.

November 6, 2006

Voting

Just a reminder that tomorrow is election day. If you're unsure of how you want to vote, check out the Star Tribune's MyVote site, enter in your address and get a list of all the races on your ballot and information about each of the candidates.

And, for those of you voting in Minneapolis, there's an Instant Run-off referendum on the ballot, which we talked about last week in class.

October 29, 2006

Pinker on the web

So this week we're diving into our unit on the politics of human nature with Steven Pinker's Blank Slate. Pinker writes with great clarity and wit, so despite the heavy nature of the material, you should find it quite enjoyable. Fortunately, he's also very much a public intellectual and there are audio and video interviews/lectures with Pinker all over the internet. So if you're more of a visual or auditory learner, or if you simply enjoy the readings and want more, here are some good supplementary resources for you:

  • Pinker lectures on The Blank Slate at MIT - Video

  • Pinker discusses The Blank Slate on NPR's OnPoint - Audio

  • Pinker discusses the sociobiology controversy on the radio show The Connection - Audio

  • Pinker on "The Cognitive Niche" at last month's World Conference on the Future of Science in Venice. Unfortunately, I don't have a direct link to the videos, but edge.org has links if you scroll down a bit. The other lectures are interesting and relevant as well, especially Hauser and Dennett.

  • Pinker interviewed by Robert Wright - Video

  • Pinker lectures on Words and Rules at Princeton - Video (This one is the most unrelated to what we're discussing, but if you're interested in language you might enjoy it.)
Next week we'll be discussing political psychology and one of the people we'll read is George Lakoff. Interestingly, Pinker just wrote a highly critical review of Lakoff's new book in The New Republic, which prompted a reply from Lakoff and a reply to the reply by Pinker. This may or may not be of interest to you now, but maybe next week it will be.

October 24, 2006

More resources

As I said today in class, we're devoting an embarassingly short amount of time to wars in the Middle East. If you're interested in more, however, there's tons of good material out there. There's loads of reading you could do, but if you want something a little lighter, here are just a few (highly blog-able!) online multimedia resources for you to start with:


October 19, 2006

Survey Info

As I promised in class, here are a few tips for playing around with your data in Excel:

  1. Auto-Sorting Columns: Once you've got your file open, if you go to the Data menu in your menubar and select Filter > Auto-Filter, you will then get little drop-down menu buttons in the first row of each column. If you click on these little widgets, you get a menu with a bunch of sorting options. In particular, "Sort Ascending" or "Sort Descending" are useful. This makes it much easier to see the distribution of responses to any given question and allows you to jump question to question and sort your data in a convenient way for each question.

  2. Hiding Columns: A lot of times you'll want to compare how people responded to two different questions. This is easy if the two questions are right next to one another (like QParty and QLibConEcon), but can be difficult if you want to compare, say, QParty and QGovtTrust, which are far apart. What you can do, however, is "hide" the columns in between these two. Here's how:
    • You can select an entire column by clicking on Excel's header row for that column - I'm not exactly sure what the name for this row really is, but it'll be something like "H" or "AD" or "BN" etc.

    • Once you've got a column selected, go to the Format menu and select Column > Hide. Now that column is hidden - you didn't delete it, it's still there!

    • To hide multiple columns, simply select multiple columns. For example, if you want to hide BA through BL, click on BA, then (without clicking on anything else!) scroll over to BL, hold down your shift key and then click on BL. All of those columns are now selected. Then go Format > Column > Hide, and you've hidden those columns.

    • To Unhide your hidden columns, the easiest thing to do is just select all the columns (By either selecting Select All from the Edit menu or by typing "control-A" - or "command-A" on a Mac) and then going Format > Columns > Unhide. All of your columns are now visible.

    So if you want to compare QParty and QGovtTrust, just select all the columns in between the two, hide them and then you can look at the two variables you're interested in right next to one another.

  3. If you don't have Excel on your computer, as a U of M student you can actually get a free copy of Microsoft Office - Here's the info on how to do this. Alternatively, you could try the free, open source OpenOffice, which can do all of these things I described above just as well as Excel.

Like I said, Excel is not a data analysis program and if we had endless time and resources, I'd devote several class periods to doing this in a real statistical program. However, I'm not expecting anything like that - plus you've only got ten respondents each, so this should be manageable if not perfect.

Also, a quick reminder that the due date was moved forward one class period to give you more time to work on this, so the report is now due on Tuesday, October 31. (Again, this is also the day your three blog posts for October are due as well, so plan ahead accordingly.)

If you've got any questions about the survey at all, ask them ASAP. If you think your questions may be relevant for others as well, post your question here in the Comments thread for this entry by clicking on Comments below.

October 12, 2006

Commanding Heights

As I mentioned in class, the documentary Commanding Heights is available to watch online at pbs.org. Click on "Storyline," and then go chapter by chapter. (If you choose the "Rich Media" version you get more choices and can choose to watch entire episodes at a time, though I couldn't get it to work properly this morning.)

October 10, 2006

Michael Goldman on the World Bank

Michael Goldman, a prof in our department, wrote a book on the world bank - Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization.

Awhile back, he gave an interview, available online for free, with Chicago Public Radio on the book. It's an hour-long interview and is really, really good. Michael's an engaging speaker and has lots of interesting stuff to say - so if you're interested in the subject, listen to the interview here. This would make great blogging material...

Update: I've put an mp3 of the interview in the Students Only section if that's easier for you than the streamed audio.

Update #2: Wow, less than two hours later and we have our first post: Nich's reflections on a course he took with Michael Goldman.

October 3, 2006

Survey Draft

As I mentioned in class, the draft of our survey is up: http://survey.cla.umn.edu/polisoc. Login with the same name and pw as for the "Student's Only" section of the site. Take a quick run through the survey - in particular, see if there are any questions you'd like to add. If so, let me know on Thursday. I'll be launching the real version of the survey over the weekend though, so don't procrastinate if you'd like to have some influence on the final product.