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


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 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


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 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 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: 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.

September 26, 2006

Media Ownership

Here are the websites on media ownership I mentioned in class:

  • Media Reform Information Center

  • Columbia Journalism Review: Who Owns What
  • Additionally, there's a really interesting article by Joshua Gamson and Pearl Latteier from Contexts magazine a few years back called "Do media monsters devour diversity?" (Note: if that link doesn't work, go here, click on "Contexts" and then find the Summer 2004 issue. The article starts on p. 26). Surprisngly, their argument is that, at least in terms of diversity, consolidation of media ownership doesn't hurt - and may in fact help - diversity in television programming. It's not required, but would make great material for a blog entry if anyone wants to take it on...

    September 21, 2006

    Blog Notes

    Sometime this weekend, you should receive an email from me with a grade and some comments on your first blog posting. Like I said in class today, you'll have a chance to edit it again before we grade your first batch of three entries - which is due next Thursday, by the way. The revisions have to be substantial - not just fixing a typo or two though. Just be sure to note in the entry that you updated it (see the entry I wrote about McAdam below for an example).

    In the meantime, if you're still not sure about these things, you can always check out the examples I've written as well as the following excellent entries written by your classmates:

    • Sadia writes about a neighbor's sudden conversion to political campaigning and the questions this raises for her about why people support the candidates they support.

    • James writes about the tension between students and residents in the neighborhood he lives in, Marcy Holmes.

    • Kimberly notes an interesting attempt to redesign suburban homes in a way that will encourage community, but then points out some reasons we should be skeptical of how big an impact these changes might have.

    • Sam discusses the relative lack of attention given to deaths in Iraq compared to the coverage given to celebrity gossip - and the disturbing class and racial biases that seem to exist in this coverage as well.

    Jeff and I will also be updating the Events Calendar in the next few days, so keep an eye on that if you're looking for stuff to write about.

    September 12, 2006

    McAdam Talk: When participation works (and when it doesn't)

    UPDATED - 9-21-2006

    I went to Doug McAdam's talk today in the sociology department workshop and it was excellent: he's an engaging speaker and his work is fascinating. I'd highly encourage everyone to attend tomorrow's talk at 4:00 in room 125, Nolte Center. I also thought I'd write up a quick posting on it to further illustrate what I'm expecting from you. (I didn't see any of you there - but if you were and I missed you and you plan on writing about the talk, please go ahead: there was material for several entries! The talk tomorrow is also about a different study than today's talk.) Note that for this posting I've used the "Extended Entry" box in Movable Type so that you can just click "Continue reading..." below to see the whole entry. This is a good idea for your own posts if they end up being a little bit long. Notice I also added a "Civic Participation" category - a pretty obvious addition since we're reading/discussing Putnam - I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it earlier.

    Continue reading "McAdam Talk: When participation works (and when it doesn't)" »

    Online Audio/Visual Resources

    In addition to attending events and writing about news items and personal experiences, one good resource is television and radio - and so much of this is online and accessible anytime now, it's even easier.

    Here's a list of online audio/visual resources you can use when searching out material to write about. I discovered podcasts myself about a year ago and have since subscribed to several and listen to them on the lightrail & bus on the way to and from campus each day. Consider doing the same - it's a great way to keep up on things by "multitasking" during otherwise boring task. Here's a few specific resources, and more will be added as Jeff and I find them. If you've got any additions of your own, click on the "Comments" link and add it yourself.

    • iTunes Podcasts - if you've got iTunes on your computer (it's free), go to the iTunes Music Store and click on the Podcasts link. Under the News category, you can find loads of good podcasts, from major news outlets like ABC, CBS and CNN to lots of smaller independent podcasts.
    • NPR Podcasts (Link) - On Point, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered...NPR has lots of programs that deal with politics and society. (In fact, they have a page actually called "Politics & Society", though you don't have to limit yourself.)
    • Network podcasts - CBS podcasts, ABC podcasts...all have them now.
    • Frontline (Link) - Frontline puts many of their episodes online for free, video and all. Lots of them would be great material for class blogging.

    This list will grow as we find more. Enjoy!

    September 7, 2006

    Lecture notes & "Display Name" warning

    Just a few quick notes:

    • I really appreciated how well today's class went: the willingness of people to talk and participate, the range of thoughts and ideas shared, etc. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the semester.
    • I've posted the lecture notes from today's class in the Student's Only section of the site. For those of you who just added the class today, I realized I forgot to give out the username and password for this section of the site today. Send me an email and I can give it to you.
    • When you try to change your "Display Name" for the blog (as described in the How to Blog posting), you'll get an error message after you click "Save." Ignore it. It has in fact saved your Display Name change. To verify this, you can log out and log back in, return to the Author Profile and make sure the new name is in place.

    August 31, 2006


    Download a copy of the syllabus right here.

    Example Posts

    I've written some sample postings (here, here, and here) to show what I'm expecting in these postings. The first is a response to a news story, the second to a blog entry, and the third a commentary on the Strib's myVote site. Again, as long as the content of your post relates to politics in some way, the range of acceptable material to blog about is very wide. In addition to simply discussing news items, for example, you could also:

    • Attend a guest lecture on campus and write about it.
    • Attend a political rally, protest or candidate debate and blog about it.
    • Read a journal or magazine article, or even one of the unassigned chapters in one of our books, and write about it.
    • Go vote in the primary or general election and blog about your experience.
    • Attend a meeting of a campus civic or political organization and write about your experiences.
    • If you see a movie or something on television that makes you think about our class material, write about it.
    • If you have an interesting conversation about politics with a friend or a family member, write about it.
    The sky is the limit really. The point is to try to apply the theories and research we discuss in class to real-life situations.

    As these examples also illustrate, the categories I've created are just general guidelines. Some things will fit into several categories, other topics will be kind of a stretch to fit into any of them. That's okay: just pick whatever it fits best. The goal of the categories is just to help keep things organized and make browsing through the entries easier, not to limit what you can or cannot write about. If you can think of a category broad enough to encompass many entries that I haven't thought of, let me know and I'll think about adding it.

    August 29, 2006

    How to Blog

    To login, follow the Login to UThink on the right side of the screen. Enter your x500 id and password.

    1. First, set up a nickname. Once you've logged in, you'll be taken to the Movable Type main menu (Movable Type is the name of the blogging software the U is using). In the top right corner, you'll see "Welcome yourx500." Click on your name and you'll be taken to your Author Profile. In the "Display Name" box, enter what you would like displayed as your name on the blog. Your first name is fine, though if you want to use something else that's fine too: just email me and let me know what it is.

    2. To make your first entry, from the Main Menu page, just click on the "New Entry" link under "Politics and Society." You'll be taken to a page that looks like this:


    In the Title field, enter a title for your entry. Under "Primary Category," click on the drop-down box and find the category that best fits your post. Then, in the "Entry Body" box, write your post. In general, it's a good idea to write your post first in a simple text editor and then just paste it into the box.

    For short entries (two paragraphs or less), just put the whole thing in the "Entry Body" box. For longer entries, break up your entry by putting anything past the second paragraph into the "Extended Entry" box. That way your entry won't take up all the space on the main pages and people will have to click a "Continue reading..." link to see all the post.

    A few notes:

    • To make something bold, highlight the word and then click the "B" icon.

    • To italicize something, just type the word, highlight it and click the "I" icon.

    • To make a weblink, write the text you want to make into a link, highlight it and then click the link icon above (it's a little chain icon). Then, in the window that pops up, type (or paste) in the URL you want to link to.

    • Obviously, for all of these you can just use HTML tags as well if you know them.