(This post is a slightly-tweaked version of a talk I gave as a respondant to Gabriella Coleman’s recent talk at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m grateful to DCC for inviting me, and to Biella Coleman for provoking these ideas.)
There is something both over and under-determined about the word “hacker.” On the one hand, “hacker” has come to encompass a broad sweep of practices far beyond those most narrowly associated with an entity like Anonymous, a collective that leverages computing technology to engage in pranks and protests, memes and civil disobedience. Hacking also encompasses (with varying degrees of earnestness) DIY home repair, highly-commercialized software maintenance and non-code-based trickery and mischief on any number of platforms, from newspaper comment forums to Amazon reviews. Even in this brief cataloging, hacking bears the weight of a diverse range of references. On the other hand, and perhaps a key cause of the aforementioned definitional blurriness, hacking defies concrete conceptual confinement, a vague, residual category of practices, mostly those practices that actively resist the very stability required for classification.
A number of internet and media studies scholars have made important contributions that both draw from and clarify this ambiguity, recuperating the political capacity of hacker praxis (not unlike Heller-Roazen’s work on pirates), reorienting previously dominant stereotypes of hackers as loaner, criminals and/or perverts. Starting from the premise that hacker communities can do important political work, I’m interested in using community as a lens for imagining what hackers have done and might do in terms of activist projects. In particular, I want to set up a comparison between the political actions of hackers and that of in-person direct action. Hacking is (or can be) deeply political. But in what ways is it activist?
Once again we faced an embarrassment of riches in selecting postdoctoral researchers. It is exciting to see the diversity and quality of research coming up and gives us great optimism as we think about the future of research about social dimensions of technology.
We are delighted to introduce two new Postdocs who will join us in July 2016.
Dan Greene, University of Maryland
Dan Greene is currently a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Maryland, a University Flagship Fellow, and a researcher in the Ethics & Values in Design Lab. A former social worker, Dan’s research focuses on the technologies and institutions that teach us how, why, and where to work in the information economy. His dissertation draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork to explore the reproduction of the digital divide and how urban institutions like startups, charter schools, and public libraries make the problem of poverty a problem of technology and remake themselves in the process. As a post-doctoral researcher, Dan will be researching the automation of human resources management, particularly the development of technologies for hiring and firing. His work has been published in TripleC, Surveillance & Society, and the International Journal of Communication, and can be found at dmgreene.net
Dylan Mulvin, McGill University
Dylan Mulvin joins the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research from McGill University, where he is completing a PhD in Communication Studies. He researches the history of technology and the cultural politics of media. His dissertation considers the media practices of engineers, scientists, and bureaucrats in the crafting of measurement standards. His work on the history of video, television, and standards, has appeared in Television & New Media, The Journal of Visual Culture, and The International Journal of Communication. He is co-editor, with Jonathan Sterne, of a special section of the IJOC on temperature and media studies. At MSRNE Dylan will begin a history of the Year 2000 Problem, better known as the Y2K bug (no, he did not lose a bet). This history attempts to recuperate the Y2K bug as a major repair event, an often overlooked milestone in public computer pedagogy, and one of the greatest recent efforts to train individuals, community groups, and policy makers in the management of precarious technological systems.
Well, it was another exciting season of reviewing a rich batch of applications for our 2016 PhD Internship Program. We love reading about all the great work out there but really, really, really hate that we have just a few seats for our intern program. Please spread the word about this program and throw your hat into the ring next year! We’ll put the call out for interns again in mid-October, 2016.
For this year, we are pleased to announce that the following emerging scholars will join us as our 2016 Microsoft Research SMC PhD intern cohort:
At Microsoft Research, New England
Ming Yin is a computer science Ph.D. student at Harvard University, supervised by Professor Yiling Chen. Her research interests lie in the emerging area of human computation and crowdsourcing, and her goal is to better understand crowdsourcing as both a new form of production and an exciting opportunity for online experimentation. Her work is published in top venues like AAAI, IJCAI and WWW, and she has received Best Paper Honorable Mention at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’16). Before graduate school, Ming obtained a bachelor degree from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
Stefanie Duguay is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Digital Media Research Centre at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and holds an M.Sc. in Social Science of the Internet from the Oxford Internet Institute. She has also worked professionally as a Strategic Advisor in Digital Services for the Canadian federal government. Her research focuses on the everyday identity performances and interactions of people with diverse sexual and gender identities on social media. Her doctoral thesis examines the way that same-sex attracted women’s identities are constructed, shaped, and received across platforms, such as Instagram, Vine, and Tinder, with attention to the influence of both user and platform dynamics. Stefanie is the recipient of a QUT Postgraduate Research Award and her work has been published in New Media & Society, the International Journal of Communication, Disability & Society, and the Canadian Review of Sociology. She will be working with Mary L. Gray, Nancy Baym, and Tarleton Gillespie to examine the off label uses and user-led economies of mobile apps.
Caroline Jack is a Ph.D. Candidate in Communication at Cornell University and an Exchange Scholar in Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT. She also holds an M.B.A. and an M.A. from Saint Louis University. Caroline’s scholarly work focuses on: the public communication of economics and capitalism in the American past and present; social imaginaries of the American economy; and understandings of the economic self in networked culture. Her research on the public communication of science and economics in the United States during the Cold War era has been published in Enterprise & Society and The Appendix. Caroline will be working with Mary L. Gray, investigating social imaginaries of self, market, place and property that emerge in and around peer economy platforms.
Shannon McGregor (M.A. University of Florida) is a third-year doctoral student (soon to be doctoral candidate!) in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas – Austin. Her research interests center on political communication, social media, gender, and public opinion. She has presented her work at International Communication Association (ICA), the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), and the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR). Her work has been published in the Journal of Communication, International Journal of Communication, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, and Journal of Media Ethics. Twitter @shannimcg
At Microsoft Research, New York City
Aaron Plasek works at the intersection of the historyof science, new media, and computation, and is writing a history of machine learning that examines the ways in which algorithms have been deployed in (ethical) arguments. He is currently a doctoral student in History at Columbia University and an MA candidate in the Draper Interdisciplinary Masters Program at NYU, and holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and undergraduate degrees from Drake University in physics, astronomy, and writing.
Contributors focus on a range of topics—some obvious, some delightfully unexpected—from the legacy of Matthew Shepard, to how heterosexuality is reproduced at the 4-H Club, to a look at sexual encounters at a truck stop, to a queer reading of TheWizard of Oz.
A few months ago, I asked how we might reconsider Ph.D. education in light of digital media, social media, and the changing landscape of scholarly publishing.
No matter what your Ph.D. aspirations are, all Ph.D.s are sort-of about publishing and dissemination of research and also reading research, and these activities are being transformed by digital media. I received a many helpful suggestions, and as a result I’d like to offer you a guided tour of my favorites.
I hope this list could be useful as a voyage of exploration for anyone who wants to get a Ph.D. in the social sciences or humanities, broadly defined. It’s also suitable for a professionalization seminar for first-year doctoral students (that’s what I did with it).
The point of this list is not that getting a Ph.D. is totally different now–you’ll notice many of the readings are not new. However, in this list I’ve juxtaposed older advice with much more recent reflection on the state of the academy. Old Ms. Mentor columns are listed near manifestos about the digital humanities, reflections on new scholarly publishing models, cat memes, and Web portals like PhDisabled.
Finally, note also that the point of this list is not where to get a Ph.D. about social media. It’s: how to get a Ph.D. in any topic within the contemporary context of digital media. That is: your more senior professors probably didn’t exchange information on job wikis, struggle with Homeland Security restrictions, and haven’t installed Typinator, so they’re less likely to give you advice about these things.
Essential Software and Online Resources:
- Alerting services:
- Journal Table of Contents (ToC) alerting services (e.g., JournalTOCs or a publisher-provided service) for a few key journals in your field
- News summary services (Google Alerts) if your research area includes developments that are likely to be reported on in the mainstream press.
- If your research area has prominent researchers (or research organizations) with blogs, go click the “Subscribe by E-Mail” button on the blog (or use a service like FeedBurner or Blogtrottr). Some research communities might use a shared Facebook page (or some other platform) for this purpose.
- Subscribe to e-mail lists that are important in your field. That might include discussion lists, but also announcement lists from entities ranging from your local institution to an international scholarly association. Don’t forget more general professional development lists for all PhD students (and faculty) in any field, like Tomorrow’s Professor
- Basic scholarly reference sources:
- Article Indices (yes, okay, Google Scholar, but also know your domain-specific article indices from commercial database providers like EBSCO or from your scholarly association — see your local academic reference librarian)
- Web of Science Citation Indices (e.g,. the SSCI) — you don’t just need to find references, you also need to be able to perform a reverse-citation lookup to see who is citing a reference you are interested in; this lets you trace ideas and findings through the research literature
- Scholarly encyclopedias relevant to your field (here’s one for my field)
- Book review repositories — if your research depends on books, you should know how and where your field publishes book reviews (for older, famous books JSTOR advanced search with “reviews” checked works well)
- Desktop/personal software:
- Buy the official style guide for your discipline or sub-discipline. In the humanities and social sciences, probably something like the Publication Manual of the APA, Turabian Style/Chicago Manual of Style, or the MLA Style Manual. Or buy all of them (COMIC: When You Spend Too Long Reading a Style Manual). Although it is not technically a style manual, many academics also find the AP Stylebook helpful because of the treatment of common wording and grammar problems.
- William Strunk, Jr. & E. B. White. (2000). The Elements of Style. New York: Longman. (Any edition is fine except for the 1920 or 2011+ “Original Edition” that does not include E. B. White. It must have E. B. White.)
The Key 14 Topics:
A Weekly Reading List
“How should I do doctoral research?” is a question where there is no single answer that will apply to everyone. This is a list of 14 weeks of comics, blog posts, papers, contracts, and Web sites that are often quite short, first-person accounts by people advocating a particular position or relating a personal experience. Some are polemical, sarcastic, and intentionally provocative. Some readings obviously disagree with other readings. The list is offered in the hope of generating some knowledge as well as some intellectual frisson, and not because I agree with every particular claim. I’ve added links when things are available on the Web.
- What are We Doing Here? (Norms of the Academy)
- COMIC: The Illustrated Guide to a PhD
- READING: Turner, Stephen. “Scientific Norms/Counternorms.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ritzer, George (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Blackwell Reference Online.
- FOR MORE DEPTH: Weber, M., (1946 ). Science as a Vocation. In: From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. Trans. H. H. Gerth & C. W. Mills. New York: Oxford University Press. (pp. 129–56)
- The Advisor/Advisee Relationship
- COMIC: Just Call me “Dr.”
- READING: Mutual Expectations Regarding Research Advising. (.docx) In: B. M. Shore, The Graduate Advisor Handbook: A Student-Centered Approach. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Appendix 2)
- READING: The Professor is In (blog): Top 5 Traits of the Worst Advisors
- ACTIVITY: The Mentee Expectations Worksheet. From: Rackham Graduate School, (2015). How to Get the Mentoring You Want: A Guide for Graduate Students. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. (p. 36)
- OPTIONAL, IF NEEDED: The Professor is In (blog): How to Fire a Professor (from your committee), How to Write an E-Mail (to a potential research advisor)
- FOR MORE DEPTH: Read more from How to Get the Mentoring You Want and The Graduate Advisor Handbook (above).
- COMIC: When I’m asked to explain using “Less Jargon.”
- READING: Academic Language (PDF file #1) and: Building a Professional Identity, Socializing at Conferences, Publication and Credit, Recognizing Difference (PDF file #2) From: Agre, Phil. (2005). Networking on the Network: A Guide to Professional Skills for Ph.D. Students. Los Angeles: UCLA.
- READING: The Secretaries Hate Me. (Yes, I’m recommending just the one Q & the one A.) In: Toth, Emily. (2009). Ms. Mentor’s New and Ever More Impeccable Advice for Women and Men in Academia. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
- FOR MORE DEPTH: Read satirical novels about academia. Recommended: Straight Man, Changing Places: A Tale of Two Campuses, Moo, Bellwether.
- Impostor Syndrome
- COMIC: I still have no idea…
- READING: Risk. In: Becker, Howard S. & Richards, Pamela. (2007). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (excerpt — just the letter in Ch. 6: Risk, pp. 111-120) [Note: Two former students independently told me this letter was one of the most valuable readings they were assigned in their entire Ph.D. career. –Ed.]
- Selecting a Research Topic
- COMIC: The statement of purpose
- READING: So What? Who Cares? In: Graff, Gerald & Birkenstein, Cathy. (2009). They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. (2nd ed.) New York: W. W. Norton & Company. (ch. 7)
- READING: Networking and Your Dissertation In: Agre, Phil. (2005). Networking on the Network: A Guide to Professional Skills for Ph.D. Students. Los Angeles: UCLA.
- FOR MORE DEPTH: The Thesis Topic, Finding It. In: Peters, Robert L. (20). Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning an M.A. or a Ph.D. (rev. ed.) New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (ch. 16)
- Interdisciplinarity, Multidisciplinarity, and Specialization
- COMIC: Interdisciplinary
- READING: On Interdisciplinarity From: Sterne, Jonathan. Super Bon (blog). (note the question: “Is Interdisciplinarity the opposite of ‘bad’?”)
- READING: Sandvig, C. (2009). How Technical is Technology Research? In: E. Hargittai (ed.), Research Confidential: Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have, pp. 141-163. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- FOR MORE DEPTH: Snow, Charles Percy (2001) . The Two Cultures. London: Cambridge University Press.
- Literature Reviews
- COMIC: When You Find a New and Interesting Theorist
- READING: Terrorized by the Literature. In: Becker, Howard S. & Richards, Pamela. (2007). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Ch. 9)
- READING: Edwards, Paul N. (2015). How to Read a Book. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan. (Note: This isn’t the Adler & Van Doren book of the same title.)
- READING: The Difference Between Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources. In: Booth, Wayne C., Colomb, Gregory G., & Williams, Joseph M. (2008). The Craft of Research. (3rd ed.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (pp. 68-70)
- Tone and Voice
- COMIC: Deciphering Academese
- READING: Persona and Authority, On “Classier” Writing, “Finished” Products, and Removing “Bullshit” Qualifications. In: Becker, Howard S. & Richards, Pamela. (2007). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (various excerpts.)
- FOR MORE DEPTH: Peruse: Swales, John M. (2004). Research Genres. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Writing and Rewriting
- COMIC: “Final.doc”, Academic Writing is Argumentative (sorry this comic is paywalled, can’t find link.)
- READING: Addicted to Rewriting In: Becker, Howard S. & Richards, Pamela. (2007). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (pp. 91-94)
- READING: Making Prose Speak. In: Germano, William. From Dissertation to Book. (2nd ed.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (ch. 8, excerpts)
- FOR MORE DEPTH: Re-read Strunk and White (above).
- COMIC: Evidence
- READING: Which Article Should You Write? Bem, Daryl J. (2002). Writing the Empirical Journal Article. In: Darley, J. M., Zanna, M. P., & Roediger III, H. L. (eds). The Compleat Academic: A Career Guide. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (excerpt.)
- READING: Logic In: Becker, Howard S. (1998). Tricks of the Trade: How to Think About Research While You’re Doing It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (excerpt — pp. 151-158)
- READING: Making Claims and Assembling Reasons and Evidence In: Booth, Wayne C., Colomb, Gregory G., & Williams, Joseph M. (2008). The Craft of Research. (3rd ed.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (ch. 8-9 excerpts)
- COMIC: Visas
- READING: Who’s Classier? From the Ms. Mentor advice column in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- READING: Adjusting to American Universities. From the Tomorrow’s Professor listserv.
- READING: Minority Faculty in [Mainstream White] Academia and Women in Academia In: DeNeef, A. Leigh & Goodwin, Craufurd D. (2007). The Academic’s Handbook. (3rd ed.) Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (ch. 5-6 excerpts)
- RESOURCE: See also PhDisabled.
- Publication and Peer Review
- COMICS: When You Get Published, Your Manuscript on Peer Review
- READING: Sterne, J. (2014, February). How to Peer Review Something You Hate. Newsletter of the International Communication Association. Washington, DC: ICA.
- READING: The University of Cambridge HPS extremely short guide explaining How to Publish an Article (excerpts)
- READING: Lagoze, Carl, Edwards, Paul, Sandvig, Christian, & Plantin, Jean-Christophe. (2015). Should I Stay or Should I Go? Alternative Infrastructures in Scholarly Publishing. International Journal of Communication 9.
- The Future
- COMIC: The Job Market
- READING: Realities on the Ground, Beware the Route of Nostalgia, The New Media, and A Time of Opportunity In: Smith, S. (2015). Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Thanks to all who contributed. More suggestions? Please comment!