Languages

by Eszter Hargittai on February 17, 2008

The following in the comments thread of Kieran’s recent post reminds me of an issue I’ve wondered about in the past. The comment exchange:

Do people think it’s worth learning R if you already use STATA*?
Probably in the general sense that it’s worth learning new languages or applications so as not to get too rusty.

I’m not sure whether Kieran meant to refer to computer languages here only or foreign languages as well. I remember reading generals requirements in some graduate program (perhaps my own, I don’t recall) that equated speaking a foreign language with being proficient in a programming language. I’d always found that to be curious. While I believe both are helpful and important skills to have, they seem to be sufficiently different not to equate. Foreign languages (and time spent in other countries) allow us to get to know cultures, histories, peoples in a way that is very difficult to do through translation. Knowing a programming language lends itself to other potential benefits.** The two hardly seem interchangeable. I’m just curious to know what other people think about this.

[*] It’s actually Stata not STATA, I’m not sure why so many people spell it with all caps. Same goes for the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It’s Pew, not PEW.

[**] Yes, yes, I can think of ways in which knowing a programming language might also help one get to expand one’s horizons on those other dimensions as well and feel free to offer entertaining scenarios, but my overall question still stands.:)

Sockpuppets on Neoliberal Society Redux

by Henry on February 17, 2008

Or how I can’t resist linking to Lee Siegel complaining on _The Daily Show_ about how the market is making the Internets into teh Stupid.

Sock Puppets on Neoliberal Society

by Kieran Healy on February 17, 2008

Via Wicked Anomie. Imagine Sifl and Olly with less slacking and more social theory.

Here comes the big one

by John Quiggin on February 17, 2008

My column in last week’s Australian Financial Review was about the spreading crisis in financial markets. In the same week, we saw the first indication* that the crisis was spreading to the market for credit derivatives. The possibility of a full-scale financial crisis arising from these markets, which financial market bears have been talking about for years. Whereas the losses from sub-prime loans and related derivatives markets are likely to be in the hundreds of billions, the nominal volume of outstanding contracts in the credit derivatives markets is in the tens of trillions, and interest rate swaps are in hundreds of trillions.

Such amounts cannot possibly be repaid by anybody, so a breakdown in these markets would imply either wholesale bankruptcy or a government rescue involving the abrogation of existing contracts on a scale unprecedented in history. Either way, as noted in the article, large classes of financial assets, and the associated financial markets, may simply disappear. Hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivative contracts may be unwound, reversing the explosion of asset and transaction volumes over the three decades since the Bretton Woods system of financial controls broke down in the 1970s.
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