Updates, Opportunities, and a Few Thoughts
tl;dr: I will be offline December 23 until ~April 1. See below for more info.
These are heady times, from the macro to the micro, the political to the economic to the personal. And then there’s the tech industry. Since I’ve spent the last few years mostly studying the census, I’ve not been as immersed in the everyday dynamics of the tech industry like I once was. But there’s still something shocking about watching a company that I observed from the ground floor get gutted with cruelty, hubris, and spite. Organizations don’t get stronger by random acts of violence. They don’t become more trustworthy through erratic bullying behavior. And just because someone is skilled in one area doesn’t mean that they have the foggiest clue what they’re doing elsewhere. And being surrounded by goons never helps.
Over the last two weeks, I couldn’t help but think of the various approaches that the Trump Administration took to excise workers and bully civil servants into submission. In both cases, there were loyalty tests. The difference was that Musk could easily fire Twitter employees (and he did). When DeVos tried to obliterate the Department of Education, she was able to make her staff miserable (and she did), but the only way should could dismantle the organization was to not backfill (which she did). Civil servants kept the government working because they had protections. They kept critical infrastructure intact. Imagine the chaos if government workers could be so easily dismissed and demeaned.
Watching the dramas around Twitter unfold, I am reminded of why governmentality matters. Governance matters. Accountability matters. Norms matter. Chaos monkeys harm many people to achieve their goals. Is it worth it?
I am writing a book about the 2020 census, currently titled The Best Count Possible: A Story of Data, Politics, Legitimacy, and the U.S. Census, under contract with the University of Chicago Press. But I’m about to take a leave for ~3ish months in order to get my head back in order.
I will be on sabbatical from December 23rd until approximately April 1.
And when I say sabbatical, I mean sabbatical, the kind that’s meant to trigger reflexivity through an intentional shift in perspective. For this sabbatical, I will be traveling with my family and learning new things, but I won’t be spending much time online. And I will mostly be using the internet to support our traveling and learning efforts. This means that I am planning an email sabbatical. My email system will be shut off so that emails sent to me go poof. As in they will not be there when I get back. My primary collaborators know my plans, but if you are reading this and need anything from me, now would be a good time to holler. When my email shuts down, I will make a snail mail option available. My brother, mother, and manager will all know how to reach me if it’s urgent.
As part of my planned refresh, I am stepping down from both the boards of Data & Society and Crisis Text Line. I still deeply adore both organizations, but it’s been 10 years and it’s time. If you feel compelled to recognize my service, I would be grateful if you would donate to either or both organization. Both are doing such important work and I feel lucky to have been able to nurture each of them.
I wanted to share a few opportunities that might be of interest to different readers (or folks in your networks):
Microsoft Research PhD internships. Many groups across MSR hire summer internships. I’m a part of a team of social scientists that are hiring advanced PhD students for next summer who take a sociotechnical perspective in their work. We are hiring as a group, but I will be a co-mentor of at least one intern. (Deadline: December 2, 2022)
Microsoft Research postdoc. I’m delighted to announce that the team of researchers known as the “Social Media Collective” is hiring a 2-year postdoc focused on sociotechnical issues to start in 2023. I will be a co-mentor. (Deadline: December 9, 2022)
CfP for ASA SKAT Panel. Chuncheng Liu and I are co-organizing a panel for next year’s American Sociology Association meeting on “The Politics of Data and Quantification in the Public Sector” (as part of the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section). Please submit your paper to our panel session! (Deadline: February 22, 2023)
I still swear that I will one day get back to blogging (aka newsletter-ing). But as we all know, sometimes life gets in the way. And that’s where I’m at. I look forward to taking time to reset my own internal priorities. Thanks for still following along in the meantime. <grin>