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It’s almost like I don’t exist… August 22, 2010

Posted by Sarah in personal.
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I know, because I blog here oh-so-often. But that’s not what this post is actually about.

Every semester, the UMass sociology department sends out a list of graduate students and their contact information. And for my first six years of grad school, there were always names on at list that you looked at and wondered, “Who the heck is that?” They were the students who’d been around a long time, whose funding had run out, who were off somewhere else, who may or may not have actually still been working on their degrees.

They were the ghosts.

And while I was at the ASA meetings last week, it occurred to me: I am a ghost. I have been a ghost for five years now, and half a ghost for a year before that. This first hit me when I got to my hotel room late at night after a moderate flight delay and then waiting nearly an hour for my luggage to come up from the belly of the plane. I was sharing with two other grad students, compliments of putting out a request for roommates on the grad student mailing list. They were names I had seen on e-mails that I deleted almost immediately. I had never met either one of them. They mentioned things like “the revolution” and other departmental events and I had no idea what they were talking about.

Throughout the conference I met several other current “young” UMass graduate students, all of whom were introduced to me by friends who were on campus at the same time that I was. Some of those friends are ghosts now, too, feeling more or less the same disconnection from Amherst that I do.

I guess I really am the itinerant sociologist.


What’s going on… March 23, 2010

Posted by Sarah in progress.
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I was apparently at least PARTIALLY successful at teasing out the three different versions of things that I was working on, because I learned late last week that my paper entitled “The Little Dutch Boy Has Run Out of Fingers: Reconceptualizing the Public/Private Distinction in the Age of Information Technology” has been accepted for the 2010 American Sociological Association Annual Meetings.

Still outstanding: an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant application and my submission for Internet Research 11.0 about which I expect a decision sometime in May (since I know reviews aren’t due until the 21st of April).

I’m also now blogging about general introductory sociological topics at The Social Lens, which is quite fun.

This is making my brain hurt… December 15, 2009

Posted by Sarah in progress.
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I am currently writing two things: an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant proposal, and a paper for the 2010 ASA meetings.

Unfortunately, these documents have a reasonable amount in common.  So much so that I’m having a hard time keeping them separated in my head.

I have been making a LOT of lists.  And I still can’t keep them straight.

An odd realization… December 9, 2009

Posted by Sarah in reflections.
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I’m reading Alan F. Westin’s Privacy and Freedom right now.  It’s more politically-minded than what I really need, but the first chapter is an examination of notions of public and private in “primitive” cultures and the end will discuss the impacts of new technologies on privacy.  So it’s certainly not a total waste of time.

Early in the book, while discussing the social factors influencing the individual’s perceptions of privacy, he notes that

“…individuals have conflicting roles to play in any society; to play these different roles with different persons, the individual must present a different ‘self’ at various times” (13).

He’s describing research from Robert F. Murphy, in a 1964 article entitled “Social Distance and the Veil” (American Anthropologist v. 64, pp. 1257-74).

When I first read that passage, I made a note to myself:

Has he never heard of Goffman?  Seriously?

But today, my brain actually engaged and I realized, no.  Maybe he hadn’t.  Because Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was only published in the mid-1950s (the earliest date I find for it in the Library of Congress catalog is 1956; the earliest American publication is 1959).

I think it’s telling that I really can’t imagine a world of social analysis in which Goffman doesn’t exist.

Conference postmortem October 19, 2009

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I intended to blog my notes from the sessions, I really did. But… I have been too busy. I also think the backchannel had an impact. Previously I’ve blogged sessions as a way to process them… this year I processed more via Twitter, and, I’ll be honest, being more social in between sessions.

I had a great time, though. And now I’m being bitten by the fact that I assigned a 3-essay midterm to my 30-person class right before I left. Only 45(ish) more essays to grade!

IR10 in Milwaukee October 8, 2009

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I’m here, I’ll blog session notes and twitter @sarah_m_ford.  If anybody’s looking for a banquet ticket for Saturday night, let me know because I’m trying to sell mine!

Other Privacy-related studies July 20, 2009

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In the past week or so, two surveys related to privacy online have come through my Inbox.

From the University of Bath:

We are running a study to understand how everyday situations (both offline and online) that may pose privacy concerns are appraised. We hope to discover the types of judgments most prevalent in privacy infringements. This survey takes at most 20 minutes to complete and your responses are anonymous. I would be grateful if you would consider participating and forwarding to others who could assist us.


There was another one about facebook and privacy but I’ve deleted the e-mail and my bookmark is not working.  Perhaps it’s closed already.

October needs to come, and fast! April 17, 2009

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I will be presenting a paper entitled “LiveJournal:Critical.  Learning from the Layoffs” at Internet Research 10.0 in Milwaukee in October; in it, I am looking at LJ users’ reactions to the layoff news and specifically examining why many of them stated that they would not consider Facebook as an alternative to LiveJournal.

And at the same time, I’m noticing LJ use declining.  My own, to be sure… my personal blogging took a hit when I started my observational data collection.  It was like the “blogging” part of my brain was completely taken up by having to track 27 blogs every day.  But I’m also twittering more, and doing more, yes, on Facebook.  I’m not the only one to have noticed this, though – a non-academic friend commented to me that her LJ friends have been posting less, too.  I’m not sure what’s going on there… but let’s let October come before my paper is obsolete before its time!

Data Coding Stimulus Package March 5, 2009

Posted by Sarah in progress.
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ZERO CODING DEBT!Ahem. See how there’s NO NUMBER next to the folder named “Un-Coded Blog Entries”? That’s right… after MONTHS of being behind on coding these data, I am CAUGHT UP as of this morning.  There were a couple of particularly pesky ones that languished there while I pondered and thought about how to code them.

The next folder down, the “Partially-Coded Blog Entries” are ones that I have coded but I don’t think I’m completely happy with the codes that I’ve chosen.  I’m paying down that debt as well, and trying really hard to pay it down faster than I create it.

PhD by Correspondence February 19, 2009

Posted by Sarah in personal, progress.
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One of the major challenges for me as I write this dissertation is that I’m for all intents and purposes doing my dissertation “by correspondence”.  (And yes, I have actually taken correspondence courses… before the Internet.)  this means that I don’t have regular meetings with my committee, or a working group to share writing with, or any kind of regular interaction around my research.  When we first moved here, I tried to start up what I called the “Itinerant Sociologists Club” but that idea fizzled basically immediately.  I occasionally chat with folks in whatever department I happen to be teaching in during any given semester, but I haven’t formed any long-lasting intellectual friendships.  Some of this is my fault, and some of it is just… adjunct hell + PhD by correspondence.

Since the first of the year, though, I have a new system.  I am writing regular “status updates” that are getting circulated to my advisor as well as some interested friends.  This serves two purposes – it gets me feedback on the things I’m thinking about AND it’s writing that will eventually make it into the dissertation itself.

My first update laid out some of the early correlations from the survey.  There are some interesting patterns emerging, but I haven’t worked out exactly what it means yet.  I did make a whole lot of extra-shiny graphs in Numbers, though!

For the next one, I’m comparing the demographics of my survey “sample” to other studies of bloggers.  The two best comparison cases so far are the Pew report on bloggers from 2006 and the October 2008 State of the Blogosphere report.  Tomorrow I’ll be looking at a couple of earlier SotB reports as well.