Liberal darling

by Henry Farrell on October 20, 2006

Megan McArdle “tells us”: that the _Economist_ has moved all of its material from behind the paywall (if you’re not a subscriber, you need to watch an ad to get in). It seems to me that this is good news for the _Economist_; I can’t imagine it’ll lose many subscribers, and it may gain some. It’s also good news for people like meself who like to take potshots at its odder articles; we can now be sure that our readers can actually read the original if they click on the link. This “piece”: on the demise of Mark Warner’s and George Felix Allen’s respective president hopes is a case in point. Most of the article is pretty unexceptionable. The peculiar bit is this summation of the current state of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But whatever the reason, [Warner’s] retreat has created a vacuum. He had positioned himself as the centrist alternative to Hillary Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination and the darling of the party’s liberal activists. Southerners, Westerners and moderates are now shopping for a new candidate, perhaps Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico or Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana or former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the vice-presidential nominee in 2004.

So Hillary Clinton is apparently the “darling of the party’s liberal activists.” Now, we don’t have any really decisive evidence on this – the only surveys that I know of which try to figure out what “liberal activists” want are the “Pew survey”: (which focuses on Howard Dean supporters) and the “Blogpac survey”:, which draws from a sample of MoveOn email list subscribers. Neither is definitive – but Pew finds that Clinton polls number 4 or number 3 among former Dean activists depending on which question you look at, while the Blogpac survey finds her to be joint fifth with Joe Biden, and to have higher unfavourable ratings than any other listed candidate. Given that Clinton has specifically tried to position herself _as_ the centrist alternative over the last couple of years, this is about what one would expect. Equally bizarre is the suggestion that centrists might want to gravitate towards John Edwards. This could just be the result of sloppy thinking that telescopes “Southerners, Westerners and moderates” into a unified category, but to the extent that Edwards might appeal to Southerners and Westerners, it’s not because he’s a moderate. It’s because he’s running the most economically populist campaign that a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination has run in recent history. These claims don’t seem biased to me so much as clueless. The bit about Clinton in particular strikes me as the sort of thing one might believe if one listened more to Republicans talking about Democrats than to Democrats themselves. I don’t get the impression that the article’s author actually knows very much about what’s happening within the Democratic party. Not what you expect from a serious magazine.

MacArthur initiative on Digital Media and Learning

by Eszter Hargittai on October 20, 2006

Earlier this year, Brad DeLong suggested that he should get rich and then give a large grant to me to do a study. I’m all for Brad getting rich and I happily await the day including the check he’ll send my way as a result. However, in the meantime, it’s good to know that there are some other sources of potential funding for work on information technologies.

Yesterday, the MacArthur Foundation announced a new initiative in Digital Media and Learning. They have committed $50 million dollars over five years to this. I was fortunate to be one of the recipients of a research grant. My project will be a look at young people’s uses of the Internet with particular focus on their skills and participation. I will also be conducting a training intervention (on participants randomly assigned to the control versus the experimental group) to see if we can create a program that helps people improve their online abilities (in such domains as efficiency in content navigation and evaluating the credibility of information).

Generally speaking, the goal of this initiative is to gain a better understanding of how young people are using digital media in their everyday lives and how various types of learning are taking place outside of the classroom through the use of such media. MacArthur has also launched a blog to discuss related projects.

The press conference was simulcast in Second Life and some participants captured a few screenshots, including ones from Teen Second Life.

As you can imagine, I’m super excited about all this and so will likely be blogging about related issues in the future (hah, not that I haven’t already).

Communitarian spam

by Henry Farrell on October 20, 2006

I doubt very much that I’m the only person in the CT community who has found themselves for some reason unbeknownst to them signed up to the Comnet Communitarian Letter (which I find to be rather trite and platitudinous; but then, I’m not a communitarian nor do I ever want to be). Nor am I the only person who’s found that it’s impossible to get off the mailing list; I know this for a fact as one of my mates was bitching about this very problem to me the other day. There’s an email address at the bottom of the Letter that you’re supposed to write to if you want to get off the listserv, but the way that they’ve configured their software, the only result you get is an error message . This is not an acceptable way to configure an email list that you then sign people up to without their permission. I believe that communitarians are big into collective shaming mechanisms, where you call people out for bad behavior in front of the community, so that they will mend their ways and do better in future. Here goes.