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Cars in Cuba

by Eszter Hargittai on December 18, 2014

In light of changing relations between Cuba and the U.S., I thought I’d post photos of cars I took in Cuba when I was there just over two years ago. The scene was even more amazing than one might expect. Some of the US cars from the ‘50s were in fabulous condition, the result of lots of hard work, no doubt. Others were less glossy, but no less impressive (and certainly functional). Also, having grown up in Budapest in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I got a kick out of seeing Ladas on the street, and even the occasional Polski Fiat.

If cars are not your thing, I also have a collection of slogans and signs, the Museo de la Revolucion, as well as a group of building photos such as this:

And then there is the beach.


Expand your perspective

by Eszter Hargittai on September 21, 2014

The very insightful Ethan Zuckerman recently gave a convocation speech at his alma mater, Williams College. While his specific angle was not about this, I read it as a nice call for the importance of international students on campus, and of studying abroad (among other things).

One of the things I’ve learned in my research is that it’s much easier to pay attention to people than to places. If there’s someone you care about who’s from Haiti, if you’ve had the chance to travel there and meet people from Haiti, you’ll watch the news differently. You’ll have a connection to that place, a context for a story you hear. The events will be more real to you because Haiti is more real to you through the people you know there.

It is important though that international student recruitment not be restricted to international students who can pay full tuition. Personally, I remain extremely grateful to Smith College for its generous support of international student financial aid. When I was applying to US colleges from Hungary in the early 90s, it was the only school that came even close to offering enough aid to allow me to study in the US.

By the way, if you haven’t read Ethan’s book Rewire, you should. It’s a quick and very pleasant read with lots of interesting material and important insights on just how not connected we are in meaningful ways despite infrastructural connections.

In search of a Father’s Day card

by Eszter Hargittai on June 15, 2014

I have never given my Dad a Father’s Day card until this year. I’m pretty sure the holiday didn’t exist when I was growing up in Hungary, certainly not in popular consciousness. But since I sent my Mom three really cute Mother’s Day cards this year, I thought I’d look for something for my Dad as well. I’m especially proud about having sent my Mom a card on time for once, by the way. Mother’s Day is a week earlier in Europe than in the US, which has gotten me in trouble more than once.

For my Mom, I was able to find some cute cards that were just cute, period. One was more gendered than I would have preferred with its focus on cooking, but given that my Mom is in fact a superb cook (having even published a cook book in addition to her lengthy list of scientific publications), it worked as one of three.

I fired up Etsy to look for something sweet for my Dad. The dog holding a wrench fixing the car made me laugh out loud. The card with all the sports paraphernalia resulted in the same reaction. Then there was the fishing theme and the lawn mower. Oh, and golf. None of these even come close to describing my experiences with my Dad in any way. The extent to which these cards in no way reflect anything I know of my father was at first amusing, but eventually disturbing. Is it really that hard to come up with something cute or funny, or gosh, perhaps even both that doesn’t play into such stereotypes? I can’t be the only person with a father for whom fixing a car or going fishing are not standard activities.

Thanks to some Etsy sellers’ flexibility in what they sell, I did get to ask a card maker to create something that was more about the bond than the activity. Happy Father’s Day to all caring and loving fathers, whether your preferred activity with your child is playing ball, baking a treat or solving the Rubik’s cube.

Step away from that white background

by Eszter Hargittai on May 10, 2014

As you probably know, several of us at CT are big photography enthusiasts. While we seem to be more interested in taking photos of nature and architecture, next time we want to shoot a family portrait or an item, we’ll have to be careful with our approach. The US Patent Office recently granted Amazon a patent for taking photos against a white background. For real. So is their plan to start trolling portrait studios and Ebay/Etsy sellers to see whom they can sue?

I am no lawyer, but the language seems rather vague. For example, “a top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white”. So what level of off-white should a photographer strive for to avoid litigation?

Tree photoblogging #1

by Eszter Hargittai on May 3, 2014

I took this about a year ago. Where? (It’s not some obscure location.. whatever that means.)

Row of Trees

PS. I know the file name says “FallTrees”. I took it in April ‘13 in the Northern Hemisphere, go figure.

Janet Vertesi decided that she didn’t want companies and marketers to know that she was pregnant. How hard is that nowadays in the US with so little data privacy protection for consumers? It turns out it’s quite complicated. Not only does it result in lots of inconveniences such as seeming rude to family and friends or having to concoct complicated ways of purchasing things, but it may even make you look like a criminal. Reading about her experiences is thought provoking. She certainly does a good job challenging the idea that not being tracked is as simple as opting out through some simple clicks of a button. While those who think about these issues are well aware of that, many people are not as some of her examples show.

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.
[click to continue…]

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).