The Coffeehouse Mob

by Henry Farrell on August 16, 2006

I’ve just finished reading Brian Cowan’s _The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the English Coffee House_ (“Powells”:, Amazon) which I really enjoyed a lot (thanks to Rick Perlstein for the recommendation). Its structure is a little unwieldy – the first part is an essay in the history of consumption, the second a semi-related exercise in intellectual and social history – but it really lays out a very strong historical case for something that I’ve suspected and presumed was true, but haven’t seen treated systematically. The typical academic view of the coffeehouse has claimed it as the herald and avatar of a far reaching civil society of intelligent discourse. London coffeehouses have been depicted as the empirical manifestation of Jurgen Habermas’s “public sphere,” a space in which individuals could come together to discuss art and politics, free from both economic pressures and the oversight of the state. They’ve been portrayed as sites of rational and civilized argument. Cowan provides compelling evidence that this view is, to be blunt, romanticized bosh.
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Irish Pub in a Box

by Kieran Healy on August 16, 2006

Soon after I moved to the United States in the autumn of 1995, I went to visit a friend in Boston. We went to a pub in Cambridge called — possibly — Grafton Street. It was an early example of the Irish Pub in a Box, sold as a unit and built to look like a slightly heightened version of the real thing back home. On the way I asked whether was like an Irish pub really, or just a poor imitation. “Well,” my friend said, “it’s not too loud, the tables are clean, and you can find the bathrooms. So not like an Irish pub at all.”

“Via Alan Schussman,”: I see that a similar thing has arrived in Tucson, just down the road from my office. (Or, if it’s good, just up the road from my old office.) The “website”: says the pub will “echo the pathos of rural Ireland to a tee,” which does not augur well. [click to continue…]

Speed of speech and its implications

by Eszter Hargittai on August 16, 2006

The NYTimes decided to report on the extent to which Hungarians are better than Americans at recalling store prices. Given that most blogging I do about Hungary seems to result in a discussion of the Hungarian language and given that the authors explain the findings based on language differences, I thought I’d take this opportunity to address the issue head on.

Let’s start with the findings:

Hungarians are far better than Americans at recalling long prices; on average, they can recall 19 to 24 syllables with decent accuracy, while Americans can recall only 13. The authors suggested that this was because Hungarians speak 41 percent faster, both out loud and when repeating sounds to themselves “subvocally.”

The NYTimes piece ends right there. That’s not fair, the author left out the most interesting part: how do we know how fast Hungarians speak in comparison to Americans?

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Data sources

by Eszter Hargittai on August 16, 2006

Behind the hustle and bustle of the book exhibit at the recent annual meetings of the American Sociological Association was an exhibit of various data sources. That area of the room is usually very quiet. As a break from everything else, I decided to take a little tour. The posters and flyers are actually quite informative despite being abandoned and looking somewhat pathetic from afar. It seems to me that this is an underappreciated part of the meetings and could be especially helpful for graduate students. Of course, it should hold value to many others as well.

In addition to data sources, there are pointers to various tools and also reports that may be of interest. Much of the material on these Web sites is presented in a way that it should be accessible and interesting to many non-specialists, too. The teaching potential of some of these sources is considerable as well.

Below the fold I list some of the resources I saw.

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Since Daniel has identified me as abandoning the “Anti-this war now” viewpoint, and since I’m increasingly in agreement with Jim Henley’s Anti-Most Wars Most of the Time position, I thought I’d try to restate my version of ATWN as it applies to Iraq. I haven’t managed to work it all out, so as with Daniel I’d be grateful for suggestions.

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