From the monthly archives:

October 2021

You know me. So I decided to do this thing: I gave Zarathustra a break and spent a week of evenings, and then a weekend, bashing out a complete Seussified adaptation of Over the Garden Wall – now, “Oh, the Garden Wall You’ll Go Over!” If you don’t know, Over the Garden Wall is a thoroughly charming animated series you should know. (And if you don’t know me, I’m the guy who does this sort of thing.)

I hope this gives some people some amusement.

And so forth.

Sunday photoblogging: Béziers

by Chris Bertram on October 31, 2021


It seems like we should have a Meta thread…

by Eszter Hargittai on October 30, 2021

.. or bad idea? I do want to point to this excellent piece by Ethan Zuckerman called “Hey, Facebook, I Made a Metaverse 27 Years Ago, It was terrible then, and it’s terrible now.” Read it for the great history, snark, and writing. In addition to being important and thoughtful commentary on Facebook’s Meta (yeah, yeah, I know), it’s also a fun trip down virtual life memory lane for those of you old enough (I suspect most of you) and geeky enough (presumably some of you) to have been there along the way.

Social media repertoires

by Eszter Hargittai on October 29, 2021

I’d like to blog more about my research, but not sure yet how to go about it (e.g., whether to write more about research already completed or about projects currently in the works or both.. feel free to voice your preference). Today, I’m posting a link to a paper that was just published (and is available open access so no paywall to battle): Birds of a Feather Flock Together Online: Digital Inequality in Social Media Repertoires, which I wrote with my friend Ágnes Horvát.

There is some work (not a ton, but a growing literature) on who adopts various social media platforms (e.g., are men vs women more likely to be on Facebook or on Pinterest, are more highly educated people more likely to be on Twitter or on Reddit), but as far as we can tell, no one has looked at the user base of pairs of such services. (I am always very cautious to claim that we are the first to do something as it’s nearly impossible to have a sense of all work out there, but we could not find anything related. Do let me know if we missed something.)

Why should anyone care who adopts a social network site (SNS) and what’s the point of knowing how user bases overlap across such sites? There are several reasons for the former and then by extension, the latter. I started doing such analyses back in the age of MySpace and Facebook finding socioeconomic differences in who adopted which platform even among a group of college students. More recent work (mine and others’) has continued to show differences in SNS adoption by various sociodemographic factors. This matters at the most basic level, because (a) whose voices are heard on these platforms matters to what content millions of people see and share and engage with; and (b) many studies use specific platforms as their sampling frame and so if a specific platform’s users are non-representative of the population (in most cases that is indeed the case) and the research questions pertain to the whole population (or all Internet users at minimum, which is again often the case) then the data will be biased from the get-go.

By knowing which platforms have similar users, when wanting to diversify samples, researchers can focus on including data from SNSs with lower overlaps in their user base without having to sample from too many of them. Also, for campaigns – these could be health-related, political, commercial – that want to reach diverse constituents, it is again helpful to know which sites have similar users versus reach different groups of people. Our paper shows (with graphs that I am hoping are helpful to interpreting the results) how SNS pairs differ by gender, age, education, and Internet skills.

Thinking the unthinkable

by John Q on October 27, 2021

If the last five years have taught us anything it’s this: the fact that something being unimaginable doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. So, it’s worth considering the prospect that Donald Trump becomes President after the 2024 election whether by getting enough votes to win the Electoral College under the current rules, or by having a Democratic victory overturned. Trump has made it clear that, in such an event, he would wish to secure at least a third term in office and perhaps a life presidency.

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Sunday photoblogging: Symonds Yat

by Chris Bertram on October 24, 2021

We took a day to drive up the Wye Valley, which is close to Bristol, inspired by the scenery in the (highly recommended) Netflix drama Sex Education. This is the view from Symonds Yat Rock.

The view from Symonds Yat Rock

E-mailing for work during the weekend

by Ingrid Robeyns on October 23, 2021

I recall, a few years ago, seeing a FB-friend mention that they think emailing for work during weekends is really bad, and should not be done. At the time, that surprised me – as long as it’s clear that no-one expects anyone to read or respond to emails during the weekends, what’s the problem? But that initial response might be too quick, and I’m increasingly having second thoughts about this – though have not come to a clear position on this matter. So this made me wonder what the smart people here think about emailing for work during the weekend.

Here are a few reasons why emailing during the weekend might be bad. First, the sender might think they are not imposing any expectations on the receiver, but that might not be how the receiver experiences it. In that case, they are infringing on the private time of their co-worker. Second, if the sender has some sort of power over the receiver (being their boss, supervisor, etc.), then this might even be more so. Third, if people regularly email during the weekend, they are effectively signaling/telling that one can’t do this job without working at least part of the weekend, and it might be problematic to convey that message to those who aspire having such a job in the future (e.g. PhDs or postdocs receiving messages from professors during the weekend), since it might put off those who want to have healthy/balanced lives to stay in that sector. Finally, perhaps an argument could be made that it is a collective protection/self-binding strategy to not send emails during the weekend in an attempt to contain the working week to Monday to Friday. But I am not sure that argument works, give that there are so many other work related things we can do and do do during the weekend. [click to continue…]

Twigs and branches

by John Q on October 20, 2021

Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

Covid Concept Home

by Gina Schouten on October 19, 2021

An opinion piece by Tressie McMillan Cottom describes a new “Covid concept home” that was unveiled this summer. The home—with its four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms—is clearly intended for upper middle-class buyers, though it has not yet been priced. The “concept” emerged from a collaboration among three businesswomen in light of an online survey of nearly 7,000 U.S. adults (with household incomes of $50,000+/year). The survey’s purpose was to test “consumer sentiment in light of COVID-19 to understand the design changes consumers want in new homes and communities.”

Those survey results reveal an interesting trend in the expectations of a certain social group about work, school, and home life: “many consumers view the pandemic not as a one-off, but as a harbinger: They will need to work from home in the future.” The Covid concept home is built with this in mind.

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Sunday photoblogging: Saint Guilhem-le-Désert

by Chris Bertram on October 17, 2021


Can Feminists Have it All?

by Miriam Ronzoni on October 11, 2021

Both stories are properly Palaeolithic news by now, but two incidents really struck me, in similar yet complementary ways, about a year ago. I hope CT readers will cut me some COVID-related slack (I know, always the same excuse…) if I go back to them now. One was the controversy around the statue dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green, London; the other was a set of reactions to the striking lack of sexism in The Queen’s Gambit –  the Netflix miniseries, based on Walter Tevis’s novel of the same name, about the career arch of fictional orphan chess prodigy Beth Harmon. [click to continue…]

The financial sector after the pandemic

by John Q on October 10, 2021

In comments at my personal blog, James Wimberley asked about the recent agreement on a 15 per cent global minimum rate of tax. Over the fold, a section from my book-in-progress (still a bit rough in places), Economic Consequences of the Pandemic addressing this and other points

. Comments and criticism appreciated. [click to continue…]

Hierarchy of the Grift

by Maria on October 6, 2021

Recently I was trapped in a room with a beautician trying to upsell me ‘treatments’. She handed me a glossy brochure for a process that involved lying down on a bed with a large inflatable bag secured around the waist, and having carbon dioxide pumped into the bag. This would, I was assured, cause my lower half to become thinner and less lumpy. It would cost several hundred pounds. I nodded, smiled, refused all offers, and left at the earliest appropriate moment, feeling quite grumpy about the utter crap marketed to women to stoke and then assuage our insecurities. There’s no point saying ‘No thanks, that’s bullshit pseudoscience and frankly insulting,’ because that would be rude. The only market signal permitted is ‘No thanks’.

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Monday photoblogging: Béziers cathedral

by Chris Bertram on October 4, 2021

You have to look very hard to discover that this building replaced the structure destroyed when anti-Cathar crusaders massacred up to 20,000 people in 1209, an episode during which the crusader commander Simon de Monfort, faced with the difficulty of distinguishing heretics from Christians, infamously uttered the words “kill them all! God will know his own.”


How big a bubble ?

by John Q on October 4, 2021

We[1] are often urged to “get out of our bubbles” and engage with a wider range of viewpoints. As Chris said here, this mostly turns out to be a waste of time. As I experienced from my side, engagement with the political right consists mainly of responding to a string of talking points and whataboutery, with little if any content. On the rare occasions these discussions have been useful, it’s typically because the other party in the discussion is on the verge of breaking with the right[2]

To restate the case in favour of getting out of the bubble, it’s easy to see examples of people on the left putting forward arguments that don’t stand up under criticism, but haven’t faced such criticism within the limited circles in which they’ve been discussed. But the most effective criticisms of such arguments is likely to come from people with broadly similar political aims and understandings.

As Daniel once observed, opinion at CT runs the gamut from social democrat to democratic socialist, and I have traversed that range in both directions. I get plenty of benefit from arguing with other people in that range and with some a little outside it, such as liberaltarians and (not too dogmatic) Marxists.

Opening up the discussion bubble now.

fn1. At least we on the left, I rarely run across this suggestion in the rightwing media I read.
fn2. TBC, I don’t think the powerful force of my arguments has converted them; rather it’s that people making this kind of shift often have interesting things to say,