the rear end – to – shoulder ratio

one of the truly wonderful aspects of my graduate career was my positive relationships with a relatively large number of students, then undergraduates at Columbia, who enrolled in my Evaluation of Evidence course. i’m lucky to have stayed in touch with so many of them, and pleased so many have decided to become educators, themselves.

mark pachucki was among this cohort of students, and now he is continuing his sociological education at Harvard. he’s recently completed, in collaboration with his peers Chris Bail and Lauren Rivera, a short essay for this summer’s Culture mini-conference, hosted by that department. mark and his colleagues were charged with the task of summarizing Harvard’s tradition of research on culture in an essay to accompany the conference.

along with the essay, mark prepared a sociogram of all the dissertation committee members from 1980 to 2007. You can access the pdf here, which I recommend since it is going to be hard to reproduce it on this page with any kind of readability.

here’s the whole graph:

and then, here’s a blown up bit from the center region, chosen basically at random:

mark is insistent on being quite modest about this–both the incredible effort and care he put into this, and also its utility. but after pushing him, here’s what he says about it:

“I don’t think we can go too far beyond the general: “this graph represents networks of professional interaction in grad school” with awareness of the danger of imputing meaning to ties where none might exist, or misconstruing those set of meanings. I will admit it is a nice heuristic reminder of cross-cutting ties, switching between publics, embedded narratives, and identities (in keeping with the running theme here…) At the very least, I can imagine this kind of data representation as a starting point to ask more interesting questions about the set of stories referenced by those ties. Also mobilizing department alumni associations; and helping students (like me) understand professional networks within their disciplines a bit better.”

[Btw, the “running theme” mark is referencing is the publication of HCW’s notes from SocRel10.]

i quite agree with Mark that representations of department history, clientalistic ties, etc. are important for helping students, especially students seeking career mobility of a certain type, to equip themselves with the right kind of information, and to form (more) effective strategies of action. I also think it is useful to think about areas of concentration (whether problem- or method-based, or both) in a similar fashion. I have long tried to encourage some student to produce a similar analysis of the individuals acknowledged in papers. I think this would be an extremely reliable indicator of prestship.*

* We don’t have the right word, here. I mean: prestige, friendship, local influence, fear, respect, authority relations, structural equivalence…you know, our prestships.



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5 responses to “the rear end – to – shoulder ratio

  1. Kieran

    Very cool!

    Andy Andrews is on the graph twice: once as Kenneth Andrews (at about 9 o’clock, near Bobo and Wilson), and once as Kenneth T. Andrews (at about 11 o’clock, just NW of Podolny). The second instance looks like a miscode because it’s yellow (indicating a faculty member) but only connected to Joel Podolny (also a faculty member). Was there another Kenneth T. Andrews who was a faculty member at Harvard and who was on Podolny’s committee when the latter was a grad student? Seems unlikely.

    Podolny’s case also raises the issue of what to do with people who got their Ph.D at Harvard and who also were faculty there — not wholly uncommon. Looking around it seems they are coded twice as different nodes, once for each role. I see Podolny there as both a yellow and blue node, and also Marshall Ganz. I wonder how it would look if these were coded differently, as green nodes for this dual role. The graph would have to be explicitly directed then, I guess. Maybe there aren’t enough cases for the period to make it interesting. But if the data went back to 1970 or so there would be several other doubles, notably Skockpol, Winship, and Breiger. Probably others whom I am forgetting.

  2. Kieran

    Skocpol, duh.

  3. Kieran

    Looking at this some more (and bogarting the comments), I see that the periphery of the graph is taken up with faculty outside the Harvard sociology department (e.g. Stephen Thernstrom, Stephen Marglin, Rakesh Khurana [also a dual-roller]) who served on people’s committees, or people outside the university altogether (e.g. Doug McAdam, Marc Ventresca, Bob Wuthnow, Manny Schegloff). This suggests a a three-layered coding where full outsiders on the periphery could be contrasted with Harvard faculty toward the core and beyond that with “pure” Harvard products like Skocpol right in the middle.

  4. Jenn Lena

    I agree that there’s a coding error or two in here, and that some good use could be made of dealing with the “doubles” issue and the “outsiders” issue. If it were me, which, you know, I’m glad that it isn’t, I might also choose an interesting node or three and build out to all dissertation commitees they’ve served on. And then I’d geo-code that data. And I’d build some kind of performance index…maybe number of publications weighted by impact ranking of that publication site at that time…and finally put to rest some age old questions. OR, I’d write my dissertation proposal and celebrate my NSF grant, which is, I assume, what Mark is doing right now. So Mark: shoot Kieran the data. (tee hee!)

  5. Mark

    Jenn & Kieran – good points all around! I wholly agree that taking better account of dept. alumni who become faculty, and digging further back to the 1970s would provide an altogether different view (…and yes, that was a careless miscoding of Andrews and something to correct ASAP). Also, one of the things that occurs to me while looking at career trajectories is how problematic any kind of classification/categorization project is — whether by performance, journal impact, outsiders, specialization(s)… and the committee/student venue is just one kind of formalized interaction/relation amongst many, right? (My thoughts drift towards Ezra’s work on typecasting & multiple/focused identities and categorical boundaries…)

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