Tag Archives: Academia

Thinking about causality with both numbers and reason

When you move from area studies to a social science, there are bound to be some changes of pace. Perhaps the most interesting problem to arise for me is how to understand causality and how to weigh the discipline’s emphasis on quantitative analysis with my considerably more developed skills in qualitative research and reasoning.

A professor of mine, Victor Menaldo, was kind enough to share with me his research note on two modes of causality after he read a book excerpt by another of our colleagues, Prof. James Caporaso. I found the discussions sufficiently interesting to write a note of my own, and Victor has posted all three on his blog, Pláwlotic.

If you’re interested in causality (and you should be!), I would love to hear comments. The post is largely my research note, but for the full story, the order should be Caporaso->Menaldo->Webster.

Rational choice arguments should carry a standard disclaimer

If every work that discusses reality under the rubric of rational self-interested actors carried this disclaimer, we all would be saved a lot of grief:

Since human nature is profoundly complex and individuals rarely act out of unmixed motives, the assumption of rational self-interest that I have been using to develop this theory is obviously much too simple to do justice to reality. But the caricature assumption that I have been using has not only simplified a forbiddingly complex reality but also introduced an element of impartiality: the same motivation was assumed in all regimes. The results are probably also robust enough to hold under richer and more realistic behavioral assumptions. [1]

Of course, the real debate comes into play when you consider whether this is a good idea to describe reality. I’m not throwing my featherweight either way at this stage, but this is a nice statement of the reason rational choice assumptions are used.

[1] Olson, Mancur. “Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development.” The American Political Science Review 87, no. 3 (1993): 567-576.

Internet and society resources at University of Washington

As a new graduate student at the University of Washington, I’ve been hunting around for the various projects, professors, centers, departments, etc., that deal with internet and society issues. I’m going to make a list of links here and update them from time to time. If you find this post and I’m missing something, drop me a line at gwebster [/a/] uw [/dot/] edu or leave a comment.

This may change in the future, but I’m keeping it alphabetical for now.

Last Updated 9 October 2010

  • Change – “ICTD at the University of Washington” affiliated faculty: Beth Kolko, HCDE; Chris Coward, iSchool; Gaetano Boriello, CSE; Ricardo Gomez, iSchool; Richard Anderson, CSE. – Holds regular events and has student, grad student, faculty, and other associates.
  • Information and Society Center – Information School. Projects on information literacy, etc.
  • Prof. Philip N. Howard – Department of Communication
  • Project on Information Technology and Political Islam – UW Department of Communication. Prof. Philip N. Howard. Associated with the World Information Access Project.
  • Technology and Social Change Group – “The Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School explores the design, use, and effects of information and communication technologies in communities facing social and economic challenges.”
  • World Information Access Project – Directed by Prof. Philip N. Howard.

Beijing Universities Top U.S. Doctorate Feeder List

Beijing University (aka Peking University) and Qinghua University (Tsinghua) top Science magazine’s list of top undergraduate schools for students obtaining U.S. Ph.D.s.

A new study has found that the most likely undergraduate alma mater for those who earned a Ph.D. in 2006 from a U.S. university was … Tsinghua University. Peking University, its neighbor in the Chinese capital, ranks second. Between 2004 and 2006, those two schools overtook the University of California, Berkeley, as the most fertile training ground for U.S. Ph.D.s (see graph). South Korea’s Seoul National University occupies fourth place behind Berkeley, followed by Cornell University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Via China’s Scientific & Academic Integrity Watch. The text of the article, without a pay wall, is at MITBBS.