Rethinking the School to Work Transition: Help!

Hi all. I’m taking a design research/thinking class through Stanford. We’ve been given our design challenge for the class and it’s focused on rethinking the school to work transition. In short, is going to school and getting a job the best (or most viable) solution? What of this transition can be improved? I’m looking for anyone open to being interviewed, particularly recent graduates (undergrad or graduate school) who have just landed a job or are looking for work. If you’re open to an email interview, skype, etc., drop me a line in my inbox. It would be helpful if someone could connect this weekend. 


Data doesn’t spring full formed from nowhere. Data is created, generated, and recorded. And the unifying principle behind all of this data is that it was all created by humans. We create the data, so essentially our data is an extension of ourselves, an extension of our humanity.

From "The Secret Life of Data in 2020"

If I enjoy these internet memes so much, why am I so dismissive of anthropological fads? There are probably three reasons: First, there is the erasure of disciplinary memory. Newer is not necessarily better, and it is good to show a little respect for where we came from. The second is that it is simply hard to keep up. One doesn’t just casually pick up Lacan – there is a whole new vocabulary to master. For this reason it can often feel like empire building (reason #3). By establishing a new anthropological trend one is trying to build up one’s own cultural capital while simultaneously devaluing other forms.

From "LOL Anthropology" by Savage Minds

Reason #3 is key. Fetch, even.

As for the noun form, here’s the bottom line: “hipster” is a broad category that encompasses so many different groups as to be utterly worthless. It seems to me that the most common group of so-called “hipsters” are the stylish, artsy residents of urban places like Williamsburg and Silver Lake. However, these kind of bohemians are more or less a permanent part of the urban ecosystem. Aesthetic styles of bohemians shift (e.g., from grunge to alternative to hipster since the 1990s), but the demographic remains constant….With “hipster” being applied to so many hetereogenous groups (bohemians, rich young people, anyone who has ever worn clothing associated the hipster aesthetic), it is a term so vague as to be useless. We can continue to use the adjectival “hipster” to refer to the aesthetic style, but social scientists would be better off being more specific about the group of people they’re describing (e.g., young, rich, educated, fashion forward, liberals, bohemians, music fans, etc.).

The above is a nice summary of my irritation with the overuse of the term hipster. To tack on to the points about hipster as a noun, I struggle with an analysis of a group that does not use  ’hipster’ as a point of self-reference (Granted not all groups use the labels assigned to them as a point of affirmation or reference but many do).  I have never met anyone that identifies as a hipster and yet, somehow, everyone is a hipster by virtue of doing something ‘hipster-like’ (e.g., skinny jeans, black jeans, reading Pitchfork, etc) in this esoteric world where ‘hipster’ is a way of putting people down who act like jerks/crack jokes you don’t understand/rub you the wrong way.

Perhaps this is my own baggage coming through because I, as well as many of my friends, have been labeled hipsters for our tastes in food, music, or aesthetic preferences and none of us identify as hipster. Shit, none of us identify as hip- most of us are just nerds whose identities are basically variations of us nerding out about stuff we love (I’ll save the points about taste, class, culture, etc for another post). But in this esoteric world of hipstering/hipsterness, nothing externally delineates our earnest passion for the aforementioned categories as genuine interest rather than just being a hipster or an obsession with coolness. I’m obviously being a bit flippant here but my point is that I too agree that talking about a category of hipsters is somewhat suspect because to all intents and purposes calling a person a hipster is the social equivalent of saying they’re an obnoxious, erudite pariah.  It’s a form of othering. I agree with Andrew’s points in the above post that hipster in its noun use is useless as an analytic concept: studying hipsters as a group would be would like a sociology of assholes. To be fair, I think a sociology of assholes would be far more interesting than a sociology of hipsters. 

Tricia Wang, of Ethnography Matters (a fantastic blog about all things ethnography), asked me to participate in the group’s “Summer Reading” series. The series is basically a bunch of interesting researchers, some of whom identify as ethnographers, writing about what books they’re reading this summer and why they’re reading them. The jury’s still out on whether I’m an “interesting researcher”  but the above link is my contribution. 

Add to that list some recent additions (i.e., added after I submitted my post), and you have my summer reading list:

Zizek’s "Welcome to the Desert of the Real"

Salome Voegelin "Listening to Noise and Silence: Toward a Philosophy of Sound Art"

(Critical Theory and Sound!)

According to this experiment, it’s easier to identify sexual orientation in female faces than in male faces. Not sure I totally buy it, but I found the methodology intriguing to say the least.

In April 2002, I participated in a conference on Tibet and the Cold War at Harvard University featuring distinguished scholars of China, India, and Tibet. The conference was a perfect fit with my research on Tibet and the CIA and was fantastic in many ways, until it wasn’t. Around 100 Tibetans attended the two-day conference. These were regular community members of all ages, college students and older people, whole families even, and they outnumbered the “academic” audience… Then on Day Two controversy arose when a member of the audience asked a question of the panelists. The audience member was Adam Yauch and his question was relatively simple. Why, he wanted to know, did the Chinese care so much about Tibet. “I know why Tibet is an emotional issue for Tibetans,” he said, “but why is Tibet such an emotional issue for the Chinese?” Before anyone on the panel could reply, one of the conference organizers—a Harvard professor—stood up and said forcefully that this was an “academicconference” and that “emotional” questions would not be entertained…this incident has bothered me for a long time. Dismissing individuals who turn to us as experts for answers to their questions is not right. We have multiple spaces where academics can and do speak privately amongst ourselves, and these are important spaces. But we need also to speak publicly. We need to create and embrace occasions to speak directly with communities interested in our research. We need to do this even if it feels uncomfortable; we need to do it especially if it feelsuncomfortable…”

[Emphasis Mine]

Via Savage Minds

Anthropology of this Century, a new Anthropology Journal. As far as I can tell, all of the articles are available online. Adam Fish over at Savage Minds, a fantastic group blog about Anthropology, posted an interview with Charles Stafford, the professor behind the new journal.

Of the posted interview questions, I found this question and its subsquent response the most intriguing:

"AF [Adam Fish]: Its a simple one but one of the affordances that internet publishing has over hardcopy publishing is the capacity for fast dialogic commentary and the modeling of a virtual public sphere. As one of the moderators of this blog Savage Minds, I understand the work entailed in moderating commentary but I still find it a necessary component of online writing. Considering this, why don’t you allow comments on the articles?

CS [Charles Stafford]: The question you ask is one that I anticipated. Not only does AOTC not have serious interactivity (e.g. readers’ forums etc.), we don’t even have a letters page! This may seem odd for an online open access journal. But if people want to respond to our articles my advice is that they should stop – think carefully – and then publish a response elsewhere, either on a blog (such as yours), or in an article, or a book. The instant response is in some ways antithetical to scholarship. I’m not a big fan of it, except in the context of research seminars, such as the anthropology seminar we hold on Friday mornings at the LSE. There I can be extremely critical of someone’s ideas but this is followed by us having a drink together, and then lunch, which obviously transforms the whole interaction.”

Emphasis mine.

Futurist John Smart, president and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, recalled an insight of economist Simon Kuznets about evolution of technology effects known as the Kuznets curve: “First-generation tech usually causes ‘net negative’ social effects; second-generation ‘net neutral’ effects; by the third generation of tech—once the tech is smart enough, and we’ve got the interface right, and it begins to reinforce the best behaviors—we finally get to ‘net positive’ effects,” he noted. “We’ll be early into conversational interface and agent technologies by 2020, so kids will begin to be seriously intelligently augmented by the internet. There will be many persistent drawbacks however [so the effect at this point will be net neutral]. The biggest problem from a personal-development perspective will be motivating people to work to be more self-actualized, productive, and civic than their parents were. They’ll be more willing than ever to relax and remain distracted by entertainments amid accelerating technical productivity.

“As machine intelligence advances,” Smart explained, “the first response of humans is to offload their intelligence and motivation to the machines. That’s a dehumanizing, first-generation response. Only the later, third-generation educational systems will correct for this.”

From Pew’s Study "Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives"

In a survey about the future of the internet, technology experts and stakeholders were fairly evenly split as to whether the younger generation’s always-on connection to people and information will turn out to be a net positive or a net negative by 2020. They said many of the young people growing up hyperconnected to each other and the mobile Web and counting on the internet as their external brain will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do well in key respects.

The long-form responses to the questions are worth reading and considering. Or if you are particularly nerdy, get your smartest friends together to drink and talk about the survey questions, responses and implications. Tell them to turn off their smartphones.

I opened the folder on mascaras with a level of excitement I have never personally experienced from applying mascara.

Already, we are being inundated with stories about the how social media will shape the 2012 campaigns (and how Facebook may, or may not, transform the Presidency itself).  Two facts, however, limit the potential role social media will, ultimately, play in the 2012 election:

1.) Young people are heavy users of social media, but are unlikely to vote.

2.) Older folks are likely to vote, but are much less involved in social media.

Thus, the reality is that social media is best at reaching those least likely votes. In its 2008 post-election analysis, Pew found that while 72% of Americans 18-29 year of age were using the Internet for political activities or information gathering (and 49% used social-networking sites for these purposes), only 22% of Americans 65+ years of age engaged in such activities on the Internet (and a mere 2% did so on social media).

More from PJ Rey at Cyborgology Blog

Michael Gallope, a musician (electric organ) and scholar (Ph.D. student) at the NYU Humanities Initiative, developed digrams to present his dissertation research. His work stems from his interest in music and an Adorno-inflected understanding of cultural criticism. 

Diagrams to explain Adorno !?!They’re as cumbersome as one would expect but at least Gallope was trying something new. 

Via The Society Pages

This is work in progress, the focus being on methodology, more precisely on how social media have been researched so far.”

Via John Postill’s "Media/Anthropology" blog

Some very good stuff on this list.