Archive

Posts Tagged ‘social sciences’

Book Review: Bellwether by Connie Willis

Book Review: Bellwether by Connie WillisSummary:
Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennet O’Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same company. When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of seemingly bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep.

Review:
This was given to me eons ago because of how much I love To Say Nothing of the Dog (review) by Connie Willis. This book has a similar sense of humor that definitely kept me entertained but the plot and backstory that ties it all together didn’t hit quite the same loved it nerve with me.

I loved seeing a book set in the mountain range area of the country (Colorado to be precise). I feel like this doesn’t happen often enough in books. I also found there was a real nostalgia quality to the book because it was first published in 1996 and set in its own time-period, so the whole thing just screamed 90s nostalgia to me. This played in well to Sandra’s fad studies. It gave the book a good reason to notice and talk about the fads, and this held up well over time. What originally was a “oh look at this silly thing people are doing right now” became “hey remember when West Coast coffee was first a thing?” I also really appreciated that a social science was featured at the core of a scifi book. Not just that but a scientist of a science deemed more important and sciencey (chaos theory) ends up working with her and respecting her research and its methods. Super cool.

While I thought the research study was cool, I wasn’t as huge of a fan of the competition to receive the grant of a lifetime plot. I appreciated Sandra working to save her job, but the big grant loomed overhead from the very beginning like a deus ex machina. Sandra’s disdain for her coworkers wanting to ban smoking from the building as a fad really didn’t translate well over time. This wasn’t a fad; it was a public health policy, and it rubbed me wrong every time Sandra implied it was like the whole are eggs good or bad for you debate. Second-hand smoke is just bad for you, and unlike a coworker eating an egg, it can actually impact your health if you’re around it. I’m sure it was funnier in the 90s but it didn’t work so well now, and it honestly made me dislike Sandra a bit.

Overall, scifi fans looking for a humorous plot with a female lead, an unusual focus on the social sciences with a dash of 1990s nostalgia will enjoy this book.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

Buy It

Counts For:
Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge

Research Data Management Services (Social Sciences Librarian Boot Camp 2012)

After the GIS hands-on session, I attended one final session presented by Katherine McNeill, Social Sciences Data Service and Economics Librarian at MIT.  This was a great session and included a discussion portion for sharing of ideas and challenges with colleagues.

  • There is a tradition of being able to replicate scientific results.
  • The NSF and NIH have data sharing requirements.
  • MIT librarians saw an opportunity to support faculty as data producers not just data consumers.
  • They now have a research data management team that provide: a workshop, website, data storage, and consultations.
  • The individual consultations consist of: initial meetings; advice on documentation, intellectual property, confidentiality, data conversion and file format issues; and facilitate deposit of data in archive or repository
  • Recommends “Conducting a Data Interview” by Witt and Carlson
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to faculty.
  • It can be difficult for specialists to figure out how to make data accessible to undergrads or the everyman.
  • Issues to Consider
  • What is your organizational culture?
  • Assess the needs of your researchers.
  • Relationship to other departments in the university.
  • Relationship between data specialists and subject librarians.
  • Do the issues span disciplines or are they discipline specific?
  • Facilitating compliance without coming across as police.
  • Educate users to expect this service.
  • Determine level of service to be provided.
  • Learning from other institutions.
  • Recommended resources: IASSIST, Digital Curation Centre, ICPSRARL Resources for Data Management Planning
  • In conclusion, build on your expertise.  Be pioneering, thoughtful, proactive.  Let what faculty need be your guide.  Reach out to your colleagues.

Faculty Panel on Research Methods (Social Sciences Librarian Boot Camp 2012)

“Anthropological Methods” Dr. Sarah Pinto, Tufts University

  • anthropology–study of human behavior in its cultural context
  • What do you want to learn?
  • How do you want to learn it?
  • People are complicated.  Worlds are complex.
  • Zora Neale Hurston was not just a writer, she was also an anthropologist.
  • Franz Boaz was the father of anthropology.
  • Anthropology can be done at home.
  • It requires constant reflection on oneself.
  • Work with people. Don’t enact on them.
  • It is not objective in search of fact but interpretive in search of meaning.
  • There are four principles of anthropological fieldwork.
  • #1 participant observation–to learn about what’s going on in people’s lives, you have to spend a lot of time with them.
  • #2 interviewing/conversation
  • #3 fieldnotes–there is tons of interesting writing on anthropological notetaking
  • #4 reflexivity–perspective, co-authorship, politics of the encounter
  • Recommends Tristes Tropiques by Claude Levi-Strauss (memoir, originally in French, translated into English)
  • Recommends In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in Out-of-the Way Place by Anna Tsing
  • Data is inherently messy but when you put it together it gives us the richness we were looking for.

“Exploring Social Psychology” Dr. Keith Maddox, Tufts University

  • social psychology–scientific study of how individuals think, feel, and behave in a social context
  • We tend to want to conform to the norms others have set.
  • We’re different people when we’re with other people than when we’re by ourselves.
  • What makes social psychology scientific is all in the method.
  • Three guiding principles of social psychology
  • #1 reality is a social construction–we perceive our ideas of others more than how they are in fact
  • #2 determinants of behavior–person(ality) x situation = behavior
  • #3 the power of the situation–personality is often overemphasized.  We fail to take into account the situation the person is in.
  • Tools of the trade include: questionnaires, rating scales, statements, movements, body language, self or observer reported
  • Tricks of the trade (overcoming challenges).  When people know they’re being studied, they might alter their behavior.  How to combat this?  Use deception, for instance, mislead people in the instructions to think we’re studying one thing when really we are studying another.  Use of confederates.  Field experiments.
  • Social Psychologists must balance a number of concerns.  Scientific rigor, setting that is psychologically valid, and ethics.

Body Language and Elections (Social Sciences Librarian Boot Camp 2012)

“Analyzing Participation of Voters in US Presidential Elections” Dr. Charles Stewart III, MIT

  • Recommends the book Southern Politics in State and Nation
  • Have elections gotten better since 2000?
  • Ideological claims amount to religious beliefs, not scientific beliefs.
  • Based on 2000 data between 1.5 and 2 million votes were lost to voting machines, 2 million to registration difficulties, and 1 million to voters getting frustrated on site and walking away.
  • All voting data for each state is online except for Massachusetts.
  • EAC–Election Assistance Commission
  • There has been real improvements in voting machines.
  • Recommends DataFerret (although, the website appears to be busted?)
  • We’re doing better at registering and counting votes, but do we feel better?  Although we’ve improved, Americans don’t believe it.
  • Recommends The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System Is Failing and How to Fix It

“Body Language” Dr. Joseph Tecce, Boston College

  • Extremes in body language and/or eye movement are red flags.
  • Negative feeling states always increase blink rate.
  • Positive feeling states always decrease blink rate.
  • Indicators of stress include: eye blinks, gaze aversion.
  • During the 2008 presidential debates, Obama blinked 62 times, and McCain blinked 104 times (per minute?)
  • Although we have no video of as high stress of a situation as a presidential debate of Romney, the current video of him on a panel shows a 16 blink rate.
  • Tecce predicts that Romeny and Obama are going to have a very close election.
  • Blink rate of televised presidential candidates during their debates predict 100% who will win, except in 2000.
  • Thus, we know that blink rate predicts the popular vote.
  • Social cue hypothesis: body language is not just a social cue, it’s an indicator.
  • You cant tell when someone is lying from one indicator, but it’s a good sign to be on alert.

“Forecasting Elections” Munish Puri, Recorded Future

  • Perspective is affected by the four p’s: perch, point of view, period, permanence.
  • When talking or writing about forecasting, it’s important to consider the point of view of the predictor.
  • political risk–how politics impact business
  • Make and falsify predictions by using: probability, impact, and time range.
  • Recommended tools to monitor and watch elections: Electionista, WaPo Modifiable Model, GooglePortal, Yahoo Clues
  • Insight big data can show us: signal, shift, blindspot, outlier, and flashpoints
  • Recommends Evernote and MindManager

 

The Ethical Challenges of Information Usage in the Age of Digital Media (Social Sciences Librarian Boot Camp 2012)

Yesterday (Friday, June 1st), I went to the Social Sciences Librarian Boot Camp hosted by Tufts University’s Tisch Library.  I’ll be posting my notes from the various sessions I attended, with the exception of the GIS session in the afternoon, since that was more hands-on than note-taking oriented.  First up are my notes from the keynote, presented by Dr. Amy Glasmeier..  I fully admit they are a bit sparse since I was also juggling my morning coffee and a strawberry filled croissant. 🙂

  • Libraries can be centers for visualization of data.
  • Scientists right now use Excel spreadsheets to keep track of data. We need better software!
  • Ever increasing world of tailored information.
  • Professional development will be critical.
  • Who will train the trainers?
  • Don’t wait to be asked by the faculty or students for help.  Be proactive.