129 Wallace

by Eszter Hargittai on June 28, 2006

No thanks to Jim Gibbon for siphoning off a few hours of my time today with that Gapminder pointer. Nonetheless, I wanted to send him a shoutout and welcome him to blogging seeing that he comes from a bit of Crooked Timber lineage. Kieran and I shared an office for a couple of years while in graduate school at Princeton. And it is in this same office that Jim now spends a good chunk of his graduate student days (granted, right now he’s doing summer research in Germany). Welcome to blogging, Jim!

To try to decipher what it is about 129 Wallace Hall that leads to all this blogging, you can check out a light switch, a chair component, a scooter, part of the wall, parts of the building and its door for clues on this collage – all the product of an afternoon when I didn’t feel like working on my dissertation. Those were the days… You think you have no time in grad school, but then you become faculty and all that blogging, taking pictures and surfing the Net… oh, never mind.

Data ain’t just for geeks anymore

by Eszter Hargittai on June 28, 2006

Via Jim Gibbon I’ve discovered Gapminder. Wow! It’s a wonderful visualization tool for data. The focus is on world development statistics from the UN. The tool is incredibly user-friendly and let’s you play around with what variables you want to see, what you want highlighted in color, whether you want to log the data, what year you want to display, and whether you want to animate the time progression (oh, and how quickly).

I’ve made an example available on YouTube. (I used Gapminder to create the visualization and Hypercam to capture it.)

Here is some context for that particular graph. My first interests in research on Internet and social inequality concerned the unequal global diffusion of the medium. I wrote my senior thesis in college on this topic and then pursued it further – and thankfully in a more sophisticated manner – in graduate school. So this is a topic that has been of interest to me for a while and it’s great to be able to play with some visual representations of the data.

So what you have on the video graph is a look at Internet diffusion by income (logged) from 1990-2004. I picked color coding by income category, which is somewhat superfluous given that the horizontal access already has that information, but I thought it added a little something. (For example, to summarize the puzzle of my 1999 paper – the first to run more than bivariate analyses on these data -, it focused on explaining why all the red dots are so widely dispersed on the graph despite all representing rich long-term democratic countries.)

Thanks to the tool’s flexibility, you can change it so that the color coding signifies geographical region and could then tell immediately that what continent you are on – an argument some people in the literature tried to make – has little to do with the level of Internet diffusion.

Gapminder example

Imagine the possibilities of all this in, say, classroom presentations. Jim links to a great presentation using this tool. (Although I disagree with the presenter’s conclusion at the end about the leveling of differences regarding Internet diffusion.)

I recommend checking out the tool on your own for maximum appreciation of its capabilities.

UPDATE: There is more! Conrad – Jim’s source on this – tells me that the tool on the Trendalyzer site has even more option. Moreover, you can download a beta version of the software that even lets you import your own data.

Liberty at Low Prices

by Kieran Healy on June 28, 2006

Say what you like about the free-marketeers, they certainly know how to ignore market forces, eschew profit and embrace subsidization when it suits them. I just got the 2006 “Liberty Fund”:http://www.libertyfund.org/ catalog in the post, and as usual I am having a hard time not buying a lot of their absurdly under-priced offerings. You can get the “complete Sraffa/Dobb edition of Ricardo”:http://www.libertyfund.org/details.asp?displayID=1876 (eleven volumes!) for about a hundred bucks, or $12 for individual volumes. (The true measure of value is in there _somewhere_.) For similar prices, there’s more “Gordon Tullock”:http://www.libertyfund.org/details.asp?displayID=1877 or “James Buchanan”:http://www.libertyfund.org/details.asp?displayID=1598 than any sane person would ever want to read. You can also get the whole “Glasgow Edition of Smith”:http://www.libertyfund.org/details.asp?displayID=1654 for seventy five dollars. Or sixteen hundred pages of “Armen Alchian”:http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/General/ALCHIAN.HTM for fifteen dollars. They’re also strong on Enlightenment types, with “Hume’s History of England”:http://www.libertyfund.org/details.asp?displayID=1659 on the cheap, and you can find any amount of reactionary commentary on the French Revolution, too.

On the other hand, you can get a lot of this stuff (the Ricardo, for instance) “for free and in PDF format”:http://oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/AuthorsAll.php at their Online Library of Liberty.

Kamikazes

by Steven Poole on June 28, 2006

Recently I was explaining to a French friend the arguments we have in English over whether to call people “suicide bombers”, or “suicide murderers”, or “martyrdom bombers”, or even (for Fox fans) “homicide bombers”. “What do you call them in French?” I asked. She smiled somewhat apologetically and said: “Oh, we just call them kamikazes.” I was intrigued by the analogy, and recently Freeman Dyson has argued for it explicitly in the New York Review of Books.
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Grain vs grape

by Steven Poole on June 28, 2006

I’d like to thank Chris and Kieran for inviting me to guest blog here for a while. Since I’m under no obligation to conform to the self-imposed strictures of my own blog, I thought I’d begin by relating my dismay this afternoon upon noticing the headline “Beer better for you than wine: official”. Since I live in Paris, where good wine is cheap and beer is hideously expensive, I was horrified. Luckily, the article in question goes on to prove its own nugatory level of reliability, for the man telling us that beer is healthier than wine is, um, a “beer specialist”, no less than the “Anheuser-Busch endowed Professor of Brewing Science at the University of California”. Phew, that’s ok. It’s more like a PR agency for fossil-fuel companies telling us that carbon dioxide is good for you. Of course, I have nothing against beer, and will indeed be taking out a large bank loan in order to toast England’s victory on Saturday with a small glass of Amstel. Now, will some kindly scientist please tell me once and for all whether the vast quantity of coffee I drink is, on the whole, good or bad?

SWIFT and Europe

by Henry on June 28, 2006

I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop on this for the last few days, and it finally has. Privacy International has “filed complaints”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/27/world/27cnd-secure.html?ex=1309060800&en=5a89c5108098a0c0&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss with umpteen European and non-European data regulators that SWIFT has illicitly shared European citizens’ financial data with US authorities. This could have some very interesting consequences. Now bear in mind as you read the below analysis that I am not a lawyer. I have, however, spent a lot of time over the last six years working on and writing about privacy issues in the EU-US relationship, so I do have a good grasp of the political issues involved.
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