Saturday, April 29, 2006

special weblog contest!

Prompted by a post from Kim guestblogging over at Marginal Utility, JFW is now accepting nominees for the answer to the riddle "How many sociologists does it take to change* a light bulb?" You need not be a sociologist to enter, although studies do indicate that sociologists tend to be funnier than other people.

If I had a copy of the Sociologist's Book of Cartoons, I'd offer that up as a prize. As it is, I'll have to figure something out. (Maybe Sal's new two-hundred-thousand-dollar bicycle that he's all excited about, as I know he'd love to donate that for advancing the amusement of the discipline.)

Mathieu Deflem has already sent his entry! Q: "How many sociologists does it take to change a light bulb?" A: "Our purposes are (1) to describe the state of the light bulb, (2) to explain how the light bulb came to be that way (e.g., 'burned out'), and (3) to provide some insight into how the light bulb might respond to different interventions. As scientists, it is not our purpose to "change" the light bulb. Instead, we should try to inform policymakers so that they can determine the right kind of light bulb actions for a brighter future. I have written a letter to the ASA Council complaining about sociologists who would seek to compromise the scientific status of our discipline by trying to change light bulbs themselves, and I will also complain about a certain sociologist who claims I have entered his 'special weblog contest' when really it is just him making things up yet again."

* or "screw in a light bulb", depending on your preference for how the joke should be worded. [thanks to Kieran for pointing this out]

Update, 12:30am: My pal Kestrel sends her Top Ten list:

10. Two. One to screw in the light bulb, and the other to reassure insecure colleagues that the lightbulb is being screwed in 'sociologically.'

9. One, but it will take three years and two revise-and-rescrews before it gets done.

8. The sociologist can't find the "Change Bulb" menu option in SPSS, and so then just writes a few paragraphs about how the dark is preferable anyway.

7. We won't know until they finish arguing about whether light is socially constructed.

6. Are these Wisconsin sociologists? Because then you know they'll just stand around looking helpless until Michelle does it.

5. There isn't any meaningful difference between a burned-out lightbulb and a new one. SOCIOLOGISTS FOR NADER 2008.

4. If we can just get 300 sociologists to sign up and pay $10, we can have our own "Light and Society" section of the ASA, which will provide an ideal platform for discussion and action regarding that light bulb.

3. One, but the lightbulb has to sign a consent form before the sociologist can touch it.

2. Sociologists can take light bulbs out just fine, but can't screw light bulbs in. Sociologists only know how to spin things to the left.

1. One. Unless it's Jeremy, then: two, maybe three.

Update, next day: Tonya links to this post to make fun of the strange sign-making ways of Wisconsin sociologists. Except she's wrong. The sign she's making fun of is on the 6th floor of social science, which means it was made by... the economists!

28 comments:

Tom Bozzo said...

OK, so I'll claim my non-sociologist entry:

Three!

One to explain what Marx or Vay-buhr would say about the state of lightlessness.

One to argue with the IRB over whether the benefits of light outweigh the dangers of burnt fingertips and electrical shock.

One to screw in the lightbulb.

Kieran said...

None. It's an institutional problem.

kieran said...

By the way, I think these work better if the question is "How many x does it take to change a lightbulb?" Then you can do change jokes.

alan said...

Typical quantitative methodologists, always trying to reduce a problem to numbers.

Tom partly beat me to my other answer: First, I will explain changing the light bulb from a structural-functionalist perspective. Then I will explain changing the light bulb from a conflict perspective. Last I will explain changing the light bulb from a symbolic interactionist perspective.

jeremy said...

Right! I didn't even think of that. I've changed the post accordingly. Being ever the fan of pluralism, the sociologists can either change the lightbulb or screw it in. Whether these imply the same number of sociologists is left as an exercise to the reader.

Anonymous said...

Normally only one, but it takes a majority of voting ASA members if you want to change it to the W.E.B. Du Bois lightbulb.

teppo said...

The very suggestion of a light bulb is a Western hegemonic account requiring emic validation. That is, the light bulb represents a recursive and socially embedded focal artefact, which cannot be decontextualized. In fact, its very "existence" points out the localness and relativity of boundary objects. The light bulb hence is nothing more than a cultural rhetorical device, scarcely agnostic, and thus surely constructed. The light bulb then only exists in text and word, and receives is 'realness' in text and word, only.

captain crab said...

As a non-sociologist, all I have to say is:

Damn, sociologists ARE funny!

Jessica said...

i got excited this morning when i read this post! though i am not clever enough to come up with a sociological lightbulb joke that has yet to be mentioned, i thought i would share some general lightbulbs jokes that may help anyone else come up with something fitting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightbulb_joke

Anonymous said...

None. They like to work in the dark.

Absolut said...

No sociologists would ever find out a light bulb needed changing since this issue does "not deal with a sociological question that would be of interest to enough" sociologists to bother publishing.

Anonymous said...

Can we, should we, change the lightbulb when the context of light-bulb changing hasn't been fully deracialized?

Anonymous said...

How many sociologists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? You'd think two. But it would have to be a pretty big lightbulb. And I think lightbulbs are vacuum-sealed, so I'm not sure how they would breathe.

Anonymous said...

HA!

Anonymous said...

How many sociologists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
5,000

2,500 to discuss the proper epistemological approach to unscrewing the lightbulb.

1,000 to make fun of economists for making unrealistic assumptions in their efforts to screw in the lightbulb.

1,000 to try to find an answer in the GSS and NLSY

500 to deconstruct the silly positvists' belief that the light bulb exists in some objective reality.

0 sociologists ever end up screwing in the lightbulb.

Anonymous said...

Once again, JFW confounds us all by his versatility as he switch-hits on his really fun blog.. Cantabrigia is enriched!

brady said...

Allow a theory geek to weigh in:

That's an empirical question, but I should point out that phrasing the question as one of "screwing" the bulb into the socket fails to cover the possibility that the bulb may be a flourescent, given that flourescent tubes are snapped into place. To take the "changing" perspective thus admits a wider range of light-bulb-related phenomena into our research agenda re: the number of sociologists it takes.

Kieran said...

On the sinage thing, the Wisconsin social science building has nothing on the RSSS's Coombs Building in Canberra.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm here, I want to hear more about the bicycle.

jeremy said...

The bicycle is all carbon. I presume you know enough chemistry to understand that this means the bicycle was once alive.

carly said...

re: signage:

I'd like to point out that those signs are not only on the 6th floor, but are actually on, I think, most floors in the building. So, really, they could have been written by anyone. I'm going to say it was the History of Science folks. For no good reason, other than that I took a very boring class from that department as an undergrad.

jeremy said...

Carly: You are in Madison and I'm not, and I'm not sure Tonya's post said explicitly where the sign was, but would it make sense anywhere other than on the glass door separating the front and back halves of the sixth floor? It's got all those arrows on it.

carly said...

OK, well, not that sign specifically, but signs similar to that one, also headed with "Lost in Social Science?" Of course, a sign informing you that you are on the 6th floor is unlikely to be found anywhere other than the 6th floor.

jeremy said...

I don't see what's so confusing about social science except for its having two eighth floors.

the jeff said...

sociologists engage in manual labor?

Anonymous said...

one, but they have to document and deposit the steps they took sufficient to reproduce the outcome at the time of publication. ;-)

--sr

shakha said...

I am deeply offended that you changed this post to "srew in". This is just another example of male hegemony. In order to have light (knowledge) you have to be an active object that "screws in"?!? The provider of electricity (female) is just something there, passively waiting to be screwed? Really! When will you learn? My songs of protest will no doubt eventually reach your heteronormative masculinist ears in Cambridge. Viva la revolution!

jonny Yates said...

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
How many Feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Trick question, Feminists can't change anything!