Friday, June 18, 2004

five-and-a-footnote variations on a theme

1. The current issue of the American Sociological Association newsletter has a brief article on the place of weblogs in public sociology. Quoth the authors as they celebrate the "quasi-anarchic structure" of blogs: "the meaning of public sociology can emerge out of a dialogue between sociologists and the weblogs' readership." Of course, this could happen more plausibly if one turned on the comments feature of one's weblog, but the Madison Academic Blogspotters are still reeling from the outcome of one such foray in this direction. Nothing quasi about that anarchy. Anyway:

2. Someone noted to me that as far as the public disciplinary presence weblogs goes, whether one is talking about more straightforwardly public/professional sorts or more eccentric variants, sociology does seem to be lagging behind--in terms of sheer numbers of bloggers, various valiant efforts notwithstanding--the fields of economics, political science, and law. My thought was that each of these three fields, in quite different ways, centers more on cultures of argumentation. In turn, this could influence relative rates of blogging either by selection into the fields or as a consequence of prolonged exposure to the cultures of the fields. My own haphazard survey of sociological colloquia would suggest that large parts of discussions are sometimes given over to agreeing with one another while lamenting that others outside the room do not see things as self-evident as we do. The apotheosis of which are swift-collaborative-sometimes-so-short-as-to-seem-secondnature-and-shorthand dismissals of the supposed stances of foils who are not actually present to articulate their positions themselves (economists! Republicans! radically-reflexive-post-post-post-modernists! evolutionary psychologists!, often just invoking the name alone is enough of a counterargument.) We chortle; we sneer; we even sometimes name-call. However, I do not have much exposure to the causal professional discourse of the other fields, so it may well be sociologists are not in any way unusual in this respect. I have wondered about this, actually.*

3. Regarding my previous posts on public-and-professional sociology, one member of our local sociological community did assert in an e-mail that my posts made plain that I am an "unabashed asswipe," without further elaboration.

4. I will leave it to you, the dot-connecting-capable reader, to determine if there is any connection between the second and third paragraphs of this post.

5. Meanwhile, my good pal from Beauxbaton is all antsy that I have not yet posted her own take on the world of public social science. She has a past in the academy (not sociology, but not distant from sociology), a present out in the wonky world working with both state politicians and citizens, and a future where she will be soon returning to the academy (not sociology, but not too distant from sociology). Her view from the front lines:
Any sociologists who think they should be out there speaking truth to power should come with me to talk to the Wisconsin state legislature. It only takes five minutes to realize that power is very hard-of-hearing if not completely deaf. And if they think they should be speaking truth to the people or with the people or listening to the people, they are welcome to try talking to a [citizens' group] chapter. The people are grumpy, completely self-interested, and totally immovable in their inconsistent opinions. In one breath they complain about the Medicare bill and then talk about what a great job Bush is doing. Maybe I'm just jaded, but there's a reason I'm fleeing back to the ivory tower.
*As an entirely different matter, the law school here does have a faculty listserv that reportedly is actually used by the law faculty to discuss various things. I don't know what would happen if something like it (socfacchat, say) was instituted for the sociology faculty here. I've discussed this with at least one person. One theory was that it would not get used. Another theory was that a discussion of some seemingly teensy matter would somehow transmogrify into this acceleratedly acrimonious Lord-of-the-Cyberflies-like dispute that would eventuate in the wonderfully-wonderfully collegial environment of Wisconsin Sociology collapsing suddenly into fiery ruin, never to recover.

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