One book, another book

by Ingrid Robeyns on October 13, 2007

It’s Saturday noon and my toddler is taking a nap; I am not in the mood for doing academic work and by now too heavily pregnant to do any serious amount of housework. So here are two musing about books.

The first is a real book, with a wonderful 1970s smell. I finally could get hold of a copy of Amartya Sen’s Collective Choice and Social Welfare. I made photocopies of that book when I studied welfare economics in the mid-1990s, and subsequent attempts to buy the book always failed. It hasn’t been reprinted for yeeeeeeears, and the only second hand version that I once found was a few hundred dollars – too much for my budget. But purely by accident, I had another look earlier this week on the Amazon second hand market, and found one, for 50 dollars. A first edition, with the errata-page included. It arrived from California today – less than 5 days after I ordered it. It’s a first edition, previously owned by someone called David Owen Butcher. Thank you David, you made my day.

The other book is Facebook. It seems that the virus finally caught me. Last week a friend showed me the ‘inside’ of facebook, and tried to lure my into joining. I saw the phantom of the timesink in the close distance, so resisted the temptation. Yet “Chris’s post”: suddenly made me think that perhaps facebook can also be useful, and hey, the economist in me woke up, and earlier this week I joined. I even joined the Crooked Timber group (not sure what that implies, though). So, did those of you who joined Facebook in July after “Henry set up the group”:, ever went back to work on your social facebookrelations there?



Ashish George 10.13.07 at 12:06 pm

Welcome to Facebook! I graduated this past May, and I’m actually surprised more of my professors aren’t on Facebook. (The ones that are tend to have very minimalist profiles.)

Do you plan on having a good laugh at your students’ embarassing profile details and photos? If I was a professor, I don’t think I could resist.


harry b 10.13.07 at 12:24 pm

ashish asks a good question. What is the best practice with respect to looking at students’ profiles? Accepting invitations to be friends with them? etc? I’m curious what others have to say.


des von bladet 10.13.07 at 12:34 pm

I’m installed on Facebook (under my legal, rather than Internet, name), but to date I find it mostly useful for sharing holiday photo’s and the scans of our forthcoming child.

The Walled Gardenness of it is otherwise unappealing, and I have yet to find an application on it that is of more than novelty value. (Given that I am not a particular fan of Scrabble.)


Matt 10.13.07 at 1:47 pm

Des, are you saying that des von bladet isn’t your “legal” name? I’m so saddened by this. You’ll always be dvb to me.

Finding a book you’ve long wanted for a good price on amazon is a nice thing, though. There are several books that I check fairly regularly in hopes of that. I’ve managed to get a large number of the Cambridge Companions for about $5 each, all in great shape, and once was extremely happy to find an important anthology on immigration (my main area of research now) that normally sold for about $95 for $15. Trolling through the pages looking for deals is a great way to waste a day.


Kieran Healy 10.13.07 at 1:47 pm

What is the best practice with respect to looking at students’ profiles? Accepting invitations to be friends with them? etc?

It used to be that if you listed the classes you were “taking” (ie, teaching) then just clicking on the link that appeared on your page would take you to a list of others who had provided the same information. But FB outsourced the class-taking to a third-party application, so that mostly went away (because students didn’t add the app). Now you’d have to actively search for student profiles by name, which raises the “Why am I doing this?” the bar a bit.

I doubt I’d accept a friend request from an undergrad. But others would probably vary. Best practice is probably just to have some clear view about what your FB friend threshold is, and then just stick with that.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden 10.13.07 at 1:52 pm

I’m beginning to think that Facebook is optimized to look like a tempting time sink, while actually providing almost nothing of value not always available in more useful form on the wider net.


Kieran Healy 10.13.07 at 2:04 pm

Yeah, after the initial flurry of activity (as you construct your network), you get into this phase where nothing is happening. That’s where they try to convince you do do all kinds of pretty dumb stuff (superpoke! zombie wars! stupid “gifts” that cost real money!) to keep using it. I’m unconvinced. The main advantage is that, unlike the wider web, they have a complete picture of the network.


acb 10.13.07 at 2:06 pm

also, the thing that worries me about facebook is that even if the company itself is no more malevolent than it need be, it is providing a wonderful hunting grounds for malevolence of a particularly worrying kind.

If I write an app which will appeal to everyone who — shall we say — hates repression in Burma, and release it on Facebook, it will, as it spreads across the system, tell me not only who uses it, but who their friends are, and how the social networks run among that friend group; this is information hard to get in any other way if my employers should be interested in such questions.


Jared 10.13.07 at 2:07 pm

Did Facebook just hit the tipping point in Europe? I got back in touch with a bunch of European friends this week.

FWIW, my personal policy is to accept friend requests only from former students, not current.


des von bladet 10.13.07 at 3:33 pm

Matt: I’ll always be DvB to me, too, but not to my mother or the passport inspection officers of any actually existing state.

And I forgot to mention that I am actually a Facebook Friend of my _University_ itself (I get to call it “Open”), which is certainly better than being friends with any of its mere flunkies.


Jacob Christensen 10.13.07 at 4:54 pm

I accidentally added one of my (former) students as a friend. It’s a bit strange to get updated about his whereabouts. Otherwise it turned out that most of the present and former Ph.D.-students at my (still-)department are on FB, but so far I’m the only senior member of the faculty. I blame Chris Bertram for this.

I’m still wondering if it would be invasive to add Brad deLong as a virtual friend.


Brad DeLong 10.13.07 at 9:52 pm

Not at all…



Jacob Christensen 10.13.07 at 10:57 pm

Well, so be it. There are four of you btw.


Bill Gardner 10.14.07 at 12:31 am

Cool. So is there a story about what ‘Des von Bladet’ means?


Dennis 10.14.07 at 1:11 am

What a beautiful book: deep, clear, full of insights, widely relevant, as rigorous as can be. Formal philosophy at its best. And facebook is pretty fun too!


joel hanes 10.14.07 at 7:57 am

Google “rapleaf”.
Then disable your Facebook account.


des von bladet 10.14.07 at 10:19 am

The von Bladet story: not long after I started blogging, I started to concentrate on prinsess stories drawn from Zweden’s mighty Aftonbladet – unquestionably the world’s finest newspaper, since it is both the best-selling paper in Zweden and firmly social-democratic in political orientation. (It remains to this day the only mass-circulation tabloid that I have seen publish an article on queer theory with references to Judith Butler, among others.)

In tribute, I appropriated the common Scandiwegian newspaper suffix -bladet (meaning literally “the sheet”) for my own blog.

Some time later, when I decided that I wanted to marry one or both of the younger Prinsesses von Thurn und Taxis it occurred to me to ennoble myself a little, so I upgraded to “von Bladet”.

Now, of course, I am happily married (one year yesterday!) and resident in the Disunited Lowlands of Benelux, but the name persists, and I mostly persist in believing (despite considerable empirical data to the contrary) that the etymology is basically pretty transparent.


Bill Gardner 10.14.07 at 12:38 pm

when I decided that I wanted to marry one or both of the younger Prinsesses von Thurn und Taxis it occurred to me to ennoble myself a little, so I upgraded to “von Bladet”.

I get it. You are a Pynchon character.


Katherine 10.15.07 at 9:51 am

Joel, I did as you suggested some time ago – and because I had made my Facebook profile extremely private there was naff all about me on Rapleaf bar my email address. So I registered on Rapleaf and made that incredibly private too.

The outfall is though that I am now getting a lot more spam email of the “enlarge your penis” variety, which goes straight into my spam folder anyway, so ho hum. Clearly these spammers have no filter on the gender of the names they are spamming too though.


duus 10.16.07 at 5:50 pm

i just joined the group.

What is the best practice with respect to looking at students’ profiles? Accepting invitations to be friends with them? etc?

haven’t looked at students’ profiles. have decided to accept invites from grad students, but not undergrads. I feel like that’s a good rule.

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