Category Archives: Meta

The Virtues of Theories

Return to Virtue Printable

Last week I attended a lecture by Stephen Walt on Why simplistic hypothesis testing is bad for International Relations.1 The lecture took place at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg (VA) were I am currently residing as a visiting scholar. Walt’s talk was based on an article that he co-authored with John Mearsheimer for the EJIR special issue on The End of IR Theory, 2013. While Walt made some convincing arguments about the steady increase of non-theory driven big data analysis and how they change IR as a discipline, I was rather nauseated by his unreflected conception of theorizing as virtue.

Continue reading The Virtues of Theories

Links: Good Abstracts, News from the Blogs, Misunderstood Data

Abstract "check list" from the LSE's Impact blog
Abstracts “check list” from the LSE’s Impact blog

Tips & tricks for academics

How to write a good abstract, with some interesting advice on how to manage search keywords. This is part of a bigger series of “how-to” guides by the LSE Impact Blog.

New blogs & new affiliations

“Democracy & Democratization” is a brand new blog by our colleagues at the WZB. So far, all posts have been in German, but I guess it’s going to be bilingual!?

– Dan Nexon will leave the Duck of Minerva (to focus on his new role as ISQ editor), which makes me wonder a bit about the new ideas he had floated earlier…?

– Even bigger news: The Monkey Cage has struck a deal with the Washington Post. Interestingly, the blog will be placed completely outside of the Post’s paywall for the first year. After that readers with US government or education IP addresses will be exempt. And us poor Europeans? Well, if you land on the page after clicking a Facebook or Twitter link, you’ll still be fine.

– Some reflections on that: (1) That’s quite a leaky paywall, isn’t it? I’m curious to see how they will handle advertising. (2) The only ones who are truly screwed are people like me, who are relying on RSS/feed readers. It’s a pity that this great technology is being abandoned in favor of “walled gardens”. (R.I.P. Google Reader!)

Interpreting & Representing Data

– Jay Ulfelder did a post last week on how a data set on the media treatment of mass protest has been misinterpreted, despite the authors’ best efforts to include all relevant caveats:

So now we get a version that ignores both the caveat about GDELT’s coverage not being exhaustive or perfect and the related one about the apparent increase in protest volume over time being at least in part an artifact of “changes in reporting and the digital recording of news stories.” What started out as a simple proof-of-concept exercise —”The areas that are ‘bright’ are those that would generally be expected to be so,” John wrote in his initial post— had been twisted into a definitive visual record of protest activity around the world in the past 35 years.

About “The Gender Gap in IR and Political Science”

This is my first post on and from APSA 2013 in Chicago. It concerns the increasingly intense debate on a gender gap in International Relations and Political Science. This issue has been raised from different angles and at different places, e.g. the discussion on networking over at the Duck . Another object that fueled recent discussions is the article “The Gender Citation Gap in IR” by Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers and Barbara Walter published in the latest issue of IO (see here). Since Maliniak et al. work with citation data, as do I, and are direct colleagues of mine at TRIP, it was their contribution to the panel that attracted my attention in the first place. However, the overall event turned out to me very inspiring and I would like to share the panelists’ main points with you.

Continue reading About “The Gender Gap in IR and Political Science”

The Cultural Impact of Blogs: Awareness, Affinity, Reflection

A map of the traffic to this blog. Darker color = higher share of visitors.
A map of the traffic to this blog. Darker color = higher share of visitors.

FutureChallenges.org and Google’s Internet and Society Collaboratory are running a “blog carnival”, inviting comments on the cultural aspects of Internet-driven globalization. They’ve asked the following questions:

“Do globalized telecommunications and communication across borders and cultures have any impact on intercultural practices? Does the Internet create a bigger space for cultural similarities? Or does it instead have the opposite effect? Does it increase awareness of the cultural differences all over the world?”

A few years ago, I watched a TED Talk and read a book by Clay Shirky, who offered an impressive range of examples of the social “surplus” created by the internet. Being a somewhat early adopter of technology as well as an avid user/consumer of social media, I have made many of these positive experiences. Yet a uniform effect on “culture” seems hard to identify: On the one hand, there are scale effects that lead to huge rewards for those who attract the most attention (“there’s only one Google, or maybe three”). On the other, niche markets and social groups also prosper online (Anderson’s “long tail”). So the internet allows you to focus on your obscure obsession, but also makes sure you know about Justin Bieber.

I’ll leave it to more qualified observers to comment in detail on the internet and culture as a whole. What I want to do instead is look at a tiny set of online communications, namely (micro-)blogging about politics and political science.

Continue reading The Cultural Impact of Blogs: Awareness, Affinity, Reflection

Social Media for Academics

Some in the audience were applying lessons on-the-fly... #wzbhypo
Some in the audience were applying lessons right away…

This morning, I went to a talk (#wzbhypo) by Mareike König and Sascha Förster – who are involved in the European blog portal hypotheses.org – about social media for academics: How can we use Facebook, Twitter and blogs?

The session covered some introductory stuff about social media as well as concrete tips for academics seeking more exposure online. I will focus on those points that were new to me. Obviously, we share the general opinion that more academics should consider blogging, tweeting etc.!

  • Germany is a developing country when it comes to producing content online, but also with regard to using social networks and blogs as a source of information. (Yes, there was a #neuland joke.)
  • König convincingly argued that beginners should consider joining an existing portal like hypotheses.org, scilogs.com or scienceblogs.com, since those will help you find readers. (Yup, it’s really hard to build an audience from scratch!)
  • Instead of using a couple of platforms half-heartedly, focus on one or two! You should consider, however, that Google+ might increasingly matter for Google web search. (Addendum: Did you know that you can ‘claim’ your Google scholar page?)
  • This is not really news, but: Twitter accounts that do little more than post links to their own stuff will have a hard time attracting followers. Human interaction is key. (We’re working on it.)
  • Some data on German-speaking academics on Twitter: There are (at least) two interesting sources of data in that regard. Marc Scheloske has a list of academics and institutions, and Beatrice Lugger collects data on institutions and media covering scientific topics. Both were last updated in 2012. (I’m working on a list of German IR/polisci scholars…)
  • Depending on the topic and the selection committee, you might not get invited to a job interview if you have no professional social media “fingerprint”…
  • On Twitter, links that are positioned in the middle of a tweet apparently achieve more clicks/attention than links at the end. I did not know that but will give it a try!
  • Even if the visitor and commnets count is low, don’t give up: It’s very likely that some people will comment on your contributions once you meet them in person, and reaching the right audience is more important than ‘big’ numbers…

Overall, it was a stimulating session. You can find Mareike König’s slides online (in German). I was glad to see a very interested and mixed crowd at the event. Many thanks to the WZB press people for organizing it, and of course you should all follow @WZB_news, @mareike2405 and @sascha_foerster!

Links: European floods, Middle East, NSA, Game of Thrones

Flood disaster in Central Europe

Central Europe has to bear with a lot of water as the rivers Danube, Elbe, Saale, Inn, Mulde, and several more tributaries are swollen up to the upper limit. The video* above shows dyke watches in Central Germany (in the city of Schönebeck). That’s how pretty much every place around these rivers looks like while the dams are about to burst – and if they have burst, it’s just worse. Railways hat to be closed and thousands of people are evacuated from these masses of waters. While in some places the clearing work has started by now, the worst is yet to come for Northern Germany and Hungary. The Danube river alone affects 10 countries.

This has happened before, of course, but those record surges are unknown of and they happen at the same time in several countries across Europe (for instance, Germany, the Czeach Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary are flood-affected). Some people link the floods to consequences of climate change and sealed surfaces. I am wondering just why the dyke building has not advanced as much as it should have after the 2002 and 2005 floods in Germany. And, what about transnational cooperation in river management / flood control / disaster management? Has anyone come across some piece that is taking up the coordination between e.g. Czech and German officials?

* The video is from a small local newspaper in Saxony-Anhalt and I wanted to promote it here. Continue reading Links: European floods, Middle East, NSA, Game of Thrones

KFG Newsletter looks back at ISA

We completely forgot to link to this, but better late than never: The KFG Newsletter 1/2013 is available available online, including a look back at ISA 2013 written by two contributors to this blog (pages 11-13).

We even managed so sneak a little self-promotion in there:

Blogging – or tweeting for that matter – is still not very common in German and European academic circles, but has made its way in the US-American branch of the profession. At ISA, established and newly active bloggers got together to celebrate the best of their kind and discuss matters of visibility and improvement. Judging from the great experiences at ISA, we are confident that blogging can be a great tool to present research and to engage with a broader audience.

Speaking of conferences: I’m currently enjoying the warmth of Washington D.C. and learning a lot about Latin America. Will report once back in cold and rainy Berlin.

MOOC: publicity bubble or game changing development?

MOOC_poster_mathplourde
Lots of questions regarding MOOC. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

2012 is considered to be the year of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), most related media contributions date back only a few weeks, and the MOOC movement has reached Germany. While first-tier universities in the US have been pushing the MOOC agenda over the last couple of months, German academics have been proven resistant to this new teaching and learning concept so far. But it is here in the end, both the MOOC movement and the related discussions. While the fronts between proponents and critics of the MOOC seem to be hardening, I feel like sitting on the fence not knowing what I should make out of the MOOC idea.

Continue reading MOOC: publicity bubble or game changing development?

Links: The Bad News Edition

Some of us our on our way to the ISA conference today, leaving behind cold, still slightly snowy Berlin for California, while others remain, trying to remember what the sun looks like. So, to go along with the weather, here is a roundup of fairly bad, IR related news:

Live in the EU? You might be one of the 19.07 million people currently without a job according to the latest Eurostats.

Feeling smug because you’ve got a stipend (or you’re not European) so don’t have to worry about being jobless for at least a few more years? Don’t get too comfortable. Despite our earlier hopes, the US Senate has passed an amendment that prohibits the NSF from funding any work that does not promote the “national security or the economic interests of the United States”.

Not everyone thinks this is a bad idea, however. Whether you agree or disagree, it’s certainly a debate we should be having (and one that Joseph Nye weighed in on back in 2009).
Continue reading Links: The Bad News Edition