Weekly log: May 2 – May 8

A note on my absence –

Again it’s been a while since I updated this weekly log thing. There are many reasons for this, of course. The first being my lack of self-discipline and lack of motivation in writing these pieces. Nobody is reading them, and I did not see their immediate effects on my research. Secondly, I am not really working on my research. It’s hard to admit, but I was incapable to neatly deal with my personal stuff, my RA duties on Dr. Tian’s project, my course works, and my TA duties in the past three months. So sorry folks, this graduate student’s life is harder than I imagined.

Up to now I find the best predictor of writing productivity is the availability of alternative sources talk to people. I was the most productive in writing blog posts when I spent the last summer alone in my hometown, with no peers to talk to, and no one to share my grief at a failed relationship. But now I’ve absorbed myself in aimless chatting with friends in bars, hanging outs with the same group of people that I do not really enjoy talking to, for too long. I crave for some serious thinkings.


May 2, 2016 and May 3, 2016

Puzzle: For these two days (and the past week) I’ve been trying to write down my thoughts for Dr. Tian’s interaction project. But I do not know how to do this, because when I starts writing I realise I should go to read literature; then I get lost in the literature, and lose my thread of argument. This is basically the same case with my MPhil research. I have put them aside for too long, that I do not remember what I am supposed to do.

Then I go back to Methods of Discovery, in which Abbott has the following comments –

A good idea will make you feel secure while you do the grunt work that takes up the majority of research time: cleaning quantitative data, spending lonely time in ethnographic settings, slogging through archival documents. When you do these things with a good idea in your head, you know why you are doing them… When you don’t have a guiding idea, you feel desperate; you hope that somehow an ideas will emerge magically from the next page of coefficients, the next in comprehensible document or conversation. Indeed. students often throw themselves into the detail work to hide from their feeling that there isn’t a big idea. Don’t. Work at the idea, and the grunt work will become much more bearable. (p. 221)

I forget that for all the literature I read, what’s most important in them and in my own research is a puzzle and an idea. They are simple, and I do not need to spend so much time thinking about trivial details.

This reminds me of Xiang Biao’s comments in his last anthropological course. He also thinks some anthropological theories are useless. They are too trivial. People read only to borrow the big names and establish their professional profile. (This empirical case is interesting in its own sense, though. How the profession of academic, the profession about procession of knowledge, is operating.)

But my lesson is, keep a sharp mind, and search for puzzles and ideas in my research. Really work on them, despite the fear that they can not be solved. I have experienced the fear in the past eight months.

Also, a puzzle might lead to another puzzle. And by keeping asking questions, we can find what is really at stake. For Abbott. this is the question “what is a good puzzle?” I will only use an empirical example here to explain –

  1. Puzzle one: Why do mainland students hang out with themselves but not local students?
  2. Puzzle two: Is is true that people always interact with those only of their ethnicity? (generalisation and abstraction). If so, why and how?
  3. Puzzle three:  On mechanisms. Is it because people like to make friends with those who are similar with them, or is it because people have more chance to make friends with those who are similar with them? For example, do mainland students actually prefer conversation with other mainland students (homophily), or because they tend to stay in the library as other mainland students do, but local students don’t?

A final word on this project – I decided to give up. First because a lack of time, second because unsupportive response from the other side. I had better work on my MPhil project ASAP.

May 4 – May 5

I don’t remember what happened for those days: academic work or life errands? I spent two mornings and an afternoon preparing for my driver’s road test, but I failed it a second time. On Friday we went to a Japenese Buffet (with CC and Wu Teng). I prepared students’ papers for grading. I did go to gym twice.

What did I read for these days? I don’t remember. Really. Probably not much. Before I decided to quit the interaction project, I must spent some time reading for that. Mostly like culture theory of what people are using culture for… Ann Swilder “Tool Kit Theory’, or pragmatic theory. I got those threads of argument from Vaisey’s AJS paper “Motivation and Justification”, a dual process theory basically saying “let’s consider both!”. Of course, if you use both, that must be better than using only one.

One more word on adding other explanation variable – do sociologists even study “degree of freedom?” If you have an omniscient explanation by adding all variables into your model, then you explained nothing. But then the question comes: What is an explanation? And for that we have to revisit Abbott Methods of Discovery Chapter 2.

TV show fanship I remembered wanted to study, why do people become obsessed with TV shows? This is totally irrational. What are the elements of TV shows that are particular attractive? Can we compare this to literature, politics?

The thought of working on this came from a dinner conversation with my friends on the TV show 欢乐颂. I guess cultural sociology might again offer some answers.

May 6 Friday

  1. How professors think is a book by Harvard sociology Michele Lamont on how panelists work and the evaluation culture in academia. I have the following reading notes in Endnotes-
    1. This book studies peer review and evaluative culture of panelists. Six disciplinaries: Philosophy, economics, political science, English, anthropology, history. It describes how panels work (p. 6).Evaluations are done by panelists, in the mechanics of peer review. Panelists take a pragmatic approach in reviewing, comparing proposals to each other. Different disciplines have different evaluative culture. But there are certain common rules: 1. respecting the sovereignty of other disciplines. 2. deferring the the expertise of colleagues.

      In Michele Lamont’s view, evaluation process is emotional and interactional. (p. 8) But she also thinks social actors making sense of their lives pragmatically, driving by problem-solving concerns. (p. 6)

  2. I chatted with Huang Kun and Zhang Yiming about religion. My question was, (Q1) Why do people feel the need to identify themselves with certain religion? This question is different from another (Q2) Why do people believe in certain religious principles? And it supplements a third question – or the other way around – (Q3) What do people mean when they say “I believe” in a religion? Part of these thoughts are write down in the puzzle thread of MPhil writing in Ulysses.

May 7 Saturday

These days I get up really late, usually finished breakfast at 10-ish am. Then others who are diligent will have three working hours ahead of me! On Saturday I started work only at 10:30 am. I wrote down my thoughts for the MPhil thesis. Read one chapter of Political Epistemics.

May 8 Sunday

Morning: Read one chapter of Political Epistemics. Afternoon: Finished reading, took a nap (2 hrs). Night: A friend visiting. I’ve been much less productive these days.

Started a book forum on Glaeser’s book. See “Book Forum one” in this blog.

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3 thoughts on “Weekly log: May 2 – May 8

  1. Mysterious X

    Just here to show there is actually someone subscribe this blog and check out whenever something new posted (to see if our romance fiction have any updates).
    Somehow reading these weekly logs reminds me of experiences reading Wittgenstein’s biography. I’m certainly not someone really into philosophy or sociology, yet I still found a lot of fun reading those technical parts. You always learn something solid from work of an outstanding one (or our outstanding peer).
    If it becomes a burden to keep these logs maybe you should try writing them down briefly. They can still work as a reminder and readers also catch up with what’s going on with your research. We are always desperate to read anything new on this blog!

    1. Yuqli Post author

      Thanks Mr. Mysterious for your kind words. Your encourage really cheers me up. Yes, things have been tough recently and I haven’t organised my life well to fulfil all my duties. I should consider your suggestion to note things down briefly, instead of letting them go completely.
      Also, I am honoured you have similar experience reading my blog and Wittgenstein’s biography. The fact is, I was indeed drifting to a direction of profound existential crisis and metaphysical discussions. I don’t have any training in philosophy, but the questions I ask are philosophical. This might be because I am inherently skeptical about the methodology (or even more serious, explanation programs) of sociology, after all these years of training in science. I should write a blog article on this point, really. It’s a very interesting, but also very hard point.

    2. Yuqli Post author

      Also, I did get a copy of Tractates Logico-Philosophicus the other day, but I doubt I will have time to read it. It’s not that I am that busy, but I feel any time spent reading that could have been spent reading/writing sociology. I feel any time management problem is in fact life priority – and motivation- problem.


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