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In the dark shadow of history

by Eszter Hargittai on February 17, 2014

I was born and raised (for the most part) in Budapest, my parents and other family and friends still live there, but I rarely comment on its politics. I couldn’t stay silent on a particular aspect any longer, however. Please read this piece I wrote, one that is very political, but also very personal. The place is a mess and the world needs to know. And it needs to care.

Wait, so what do you still own?

by Eszter Hargittai on February 6, 2014

Twitter has announced a data grants program, which sounds potentially exciting as it’s nice when academics can gain access to resources (in this case, if I’m reading it correctly, that means data).

Before proceeding to the application form, however, you have to accept their “Data Grant Submission Agreement v1.0”. That’s not something academics often have to do when applying for grants, but I appreciate that Twitter may need to cover some ground in this domain. This is where things get confusing quickly though, at least to this scholar with no legal background. I quote to you what I found the most intriguing (not in a good way):

You or the owner of the Content still own the copyright in the Content, but by submitting Content to Twitter, you are granting Twitter an unconditional, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully paid-up, fully transferable, perpetual and worldwide license to evaluate, use, copy, perform, display, publish, transmit, or create derivative works of the Content, or to authorize third parties to evaluate, use, copy, perform, display, publish, transmit, or create derivative works of the Content in any format and on any platform, either now known or hereinafter invented. Twitter will own any derivative works it (or its authorized third parties) creates from the Content. You hereby waive all copyright, trademark, trade secret, patent and other intellectual property right claims you may have against Twitter for evaluating, using, copying, performing, displaying, publishing, transmitting, or creating derivative works of the Content.

Just to clarify, all applicants have to agree to this, not just the recipients of their grants.
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C’mon Volkswagen

by Eszter Hargittai on February 3, 2014

The VW Super Bowl ad features German engineers. The story goes as such: every time a VW reaches 100,000 miles, one of the engineers in Germany gets “his wings”. I didn’t find the ad particularly interesting until I realized that none of the engineers getting wings were women. In fact, there were barely any women in the video. Most prominent was the one in the elevator getting slapped by a male engineer’s wings.

There were ten male engineers featured who clearly got wings. It looks like 13% of engineers in Germany are female. So even going just by that statistic, one of the 10 featured should have been a woman.

The agency responsible for the ad is San Francisco’s Argonaut. Who are they? It looks like they are a bunch of guys. That’s no excuse for the approach to women in the ad, but perhaps it explains it a bit.

Another perspective on boycotts

by Eszter Hargittai on December 20, 2013

For those following this topic and who may have missed it, a link to the statement released today by the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities on the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. I’m glad to see this statement and I’m proud to see the signature of Northwestern’s president on it.

What I did over my summer “vacation”

by Eszter Hargittai on October 4, 2013

An easy way to annoy an academic, if you’re so inclined, is to ask her what she did for her summer break. Few academics have much of a break over the summer, but they are not very good at communicating this to the public.. or even their students, including those who are on the academic career track. To address this, I decided to write up the various tasks that can keep academics busy during non-teaching months (recognizing that some people also teach in the summer). I was mainly drawing on my own experiences, which had the added benefit of reminding me that even during a summer that didn’t seem particularly productive, I had actually gotten a ton done. And to be clear, the reflection is not meant as a complaint about my job, there are many things about it that I love (I won’t pretend that I love it all, of course). But I do think that academics do themselves and also their students a disservice by not being more forthcoming about how they spend their time outside of the classroom. I will be following up with another piece on what obligations are added to our list once the academic year kicks in so I welcome items that are not on this list either because I forgot that they occur over the summer or because they mainly concern term time.


by Eszter Hargittai on September 22, 2013

This is rather depressing. More info here. And seriously, we really need more conversation and action – whatever that may be – to counter the level of anti-Sikh and anti-Muslim hate going around. (I guess perhaps it is not yet confirmed in this case that it was a hate crime, but it certainly sounds like it.) Know of any organizations with helpful initiatives in this domain? Please share.

Fun with languages

by Eszter Hargittai on September 14, 2013

I’ve been enjoying this Great Language Game and wanted to recommend it to others. You listen to a clip in one of 80 languages and are given choices to decide which one it represents. At first you choose between two, but as you advance in the game, you are given an increasing number of choices making your job of picking the right one potentially harder. I say potentially, because if you’re certain of the language then it won’t make a difference, but if you are not then the guessing definitely gets much harder especially depending on the options. For example, I can certainly tell the difference between Cantonese and Japanese, but I cannot between Cantonese and Mandarin. Obviously, your personal experiences will help in various ways. I’m unlikely to be confused by languages I speak or have studied even for a little while (in my case a healthy variety: Hungarian, German, Russian, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish), but have not the first clue about how to identify languages such as Bangla, Dinka, Tagalog or Tongan, just to name a few on the list that are completely foreign to me. Some others fall in between in my experience (like Slavic and Germanic languages) where I’ve done a reasonably good job guessing even if I couldn’t have been sure.

The game’s author has shared some interesting stats about how people have been doing. I got a 750 my first round and wish I could say I have only improved since, but in fact I have not been able to maintain that throughout my attempts. I’ve found the experience interesting for thinking about what features of languages I look for in trying to identify them.

The diaries of Hannah Senesh

by Eszter Hargittai on August 9, 2013

I saw a special exhibition recently (special in various senses of the word) that I wanted to recommend: Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh showing through September 8th at the Illinois Holocaust and Education Center in Skokie just outside of Chicago. It’s a touching tribute to an amazing young woman who was killed by firing squad in 1944 at age 23 having been captured and tortured while on a mission to help Jews escape from Hungary.

Through diary entries and her letters to her mother and her brother, we learn of a girl and young woman who was wise beyond her years with quite a sense of humor. The exhibition starts out with scenes from 1930s Budapest depicting what seems like just another middle-class family. The fact that the family happens to be Jewish doesn’t come across forcefully at all at first, something quite true of many Hungarian Jewish families, both then and now. But as the years pass and Jews are increasingly treated as “the other”, young Anna (her Hungarian name was Szenes Anna) starts realizing that she may not have the same opportunities as others, whether in school or in love. She decides to emigrate, eventually joining the British Army and becoming part of a parachuting mission.

The exhibition does a nice job of sharing her writing (both diary entries and poetry) as well as showcasing all sorts of artifacts from her life. It is remarkable that her family was able to retain all of these materials.

I couldn’t tell if it would be a traveling exhibition. With the effort that went into compiling the material, I would hope so, but it doesn’t look like it so if you’re in the area or were looking for a reason to visit, do stop by in the next few weeks. Alternatively, several books have been published about her life and with her writing. I haven’t read them so don’t have specific recommendations, but I do recommend reading up on her story.

The research process and academia explained

by Eszter Hargittai on August 2, 2013

Some genuine LOL moments from this compilation of mini videos. Only click through if you don’t mind killing some time as there are enough gems in there to keep you scrolling. Bonus points to the editors for including several turtle clips (seriously folks, it’s not all about cats and dogs).

In response to my post about whether journal article reviewers’ identities should remain confidential (most commenters seem to hold the view that they should), Jeremy Fox mentioned a phenomenon of which I was not aware: people posting on their Web sites – once the paper has been published – reviews their papers had received during the refereeing process. Here is an example. Just to be clear, these tend to concern anonymous reviews so the author is not breaching confidentiality (unless the reviewer offers feedback in a way that outs the person’s identity – see more on that below). If the paper had been rejected from a journal, the file could include the reviews from those other journals as well (see examples here).

This is an interesting idea. As Terry McGlynn notes, there are numerous potential benefits to such practice. It would certainly make the publishing process more transparent (imagine the value to graduate students, but also others). It might lead to a more civil tone for reviewer comments (for more on the unnecessarily harsh and dismissive tone of some referee reports, see this recent piece in the Chronicle). That is, while reviews would continue to be anonymous, it may encourage editors to keep a closer eye on how reviewers are communicating their feedback when it comes to style. After all, would you want to be known as the editor of the journal whose reviewers tend to be jerks? (I guess some may actually take pride in that, but I would like to think people recognize the difference between giving constructive criticism and simply being a prick.) It might also discourage reviewers from using the referee report as a PR machine for their own work and agenda (i.e., you haven’t cited my work from 1999, my work from 2001, my work from 2010, 2011 and 2012 nor have you realized that my work is the only relevant angle on this topic).

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Amusing, perhaps

by Eszter Hargittai on July 28, 2013

I stumbled into this scene a few months ago in the delightful Hungarian town of Szentendre. I found it amusing instantly. But then I wondered: Is it too culturally specific to get why finding these two cars backed up against each other is funny if you didn’t live in a certain part of the world in a particular time period?

I was rather surprised that you can still find Trabants looking like this (or looking like anything) on the road. It turns out it’s even possible on this side of the Atlantic: the International Spy Museum in DC will host the Seventh Annual Parade of Trabants in November. Here’s a video of their 2012 parade. Who knew there were so many of these cars around in the US? (To clarify, in my view, anything larger than one or two in this case justifies saying “so many”.) I think the commentator on that video is wrong about this being the only available car in East Germany though. What about the Wartburg? Don’t know what that is? This video has a hilarious ad for it. As for the rest of that video about the production of the Trabant, you decide.

A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to out myself to a third party (i.e., not the author of the piece) about having been one of the blind reviewers of a paper that has since been published. I was emailing this person about the paper and wanted to signal that in my review I had flagged some issues that this person had recently brought up about the published piece. I was tempted just to attach my review of the paper so as to save myself the trouble of listing the issues over again and to show that I had indeed also had these reactions to the piece already at that stage in the process (issues that had not been addressed in the revised version that was ultimately published).

But then it occurred to me that perhaps the review itself is not okay to share. It was part of a confidential process and the comments were supposed to be meant for the author/s only. Not sure why it then followed that I started wondering about whether I should even out myself as the reviewer, but I started doubting even that idea. I proceeded to post a query about all of this to my Facebook network. While several people thought I had every right to out myself and even share the review, a few were strongly opposed, not just to sharing the review, but also to sharing my identity. I’m still not convinced by that perspective, but ended up honoring the confidentiality of my reviewer identity in that instance (and so no, I did not share the review). I am, however, curious to hear more perspectives on this or more arguments for that particular perspective as I haven’t heard anything particularly convincing yet. In the case of a double-blind review process, must the reviewer’s identity remain confidential if she is up to sharing it? Are there particular factors that would result in a yes or a no to that question? For example, would it matter if the paper has been published somewhere or at that journal in particular? Would something else determine the answer?

A point of clarification or perhaps a caveat. My question concerns academic journal article reviews. I understand that in certain situations all reviewers are explicitly asked to remain confidential. Such is the case when you serve on a reviewer panel at the National Science Foundation. I personally also find that in the case of tenure and promotion cases, it is important to remain confidential permanently, as the power dynamics are too complex. However, I don’t recall such rules when signing up to be a referee for a journal article.

Still a ways to go with online targeted ads

by Eszter Hargittai on July 13, 2013

I don’t mind somewhat customized ads on Facebook and elsewhere, but I’d prefer a middle ground between irrelevant and creepy. The item on the image is one I was viewing on the arts-and-crafts marketplace Etsy the day before.
Suggesting to “Check out this unique find” seems a bit much. It’s not really a unique find since I already found it earlier. If the line wants to be that personalized then how about “This unique item is still available.”? For some reason I’d find that less creepy although still intrusive. The way they have it now seems disingenuous. It is as though the system is pretending that it doesn’t know that I already saw the item. In reality, all this does is remind me that it knows way too many details about my online actions. (I guess for that reminder: Thanks!) I really ought to use a different browser for FB…

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Here is a helpful compilation of extremely disgusting comments that Wimbledon Champion Marion Bartoli received on Twitter. That post does a good job of highlighting some of the ways in which these reactions have been sexist, misogynistic, offensive and plain dumb. Go take a look, seriously, I can’t do the vitriol of the commentary justice.

What I thought I would do, however, is follow up with the Twitter accounts of some of the people quoted, not by contacting anyone, simply by looking them up. I wanted to see whether being featured in such a post had any effect on them, and also to get some context. Not surprisingly, several have deleted the quoted tweets from their accounts. It is almost more surprising that some have not. Some have made their Twitter accounts private and others have altogether deleted them.

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CT-p5213julyHalf a year ago, I invited CT readers to join me in a photo project: a photo a week on a preset theme. Dozens of people were involved at first with about twenty still active half a year later. As with related photo projects, in addition to the photo experiences, the social component has been rewarding as well.

Up front I made a decision that all themes would be adjectives and I’d go through the alphabet, which conveniently maps on to a 52-week calendar if we cycle through it twice. Bubbly, endless, obsolete, twisted and xylographic are some of the themes we’ve tackled over the past six months. It’s been eye-opening to see people’s different interpretations of the themes. It’s been fun to be reminded of the different environments in which people live (we have participants from several countries), what they tend to encounter in their daily lives, what inspires them, what poses more or less of a challenge. As an aside, it’s also led me to improve my vocabulary.

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