everyday life

Coexist with the Darwin Fish

We drove to Pittsburgh last Saturday. As I drove I wondered about a few things. For example, why is I-90 around Buffalo so bumpy? It’s not even bumpy so much as it’s wavy. You feel like you’re on a boat. Also, why do people from Ontario drive so fast? I only see those plates when they pass me on the left. Finally, what is the deal with bumper stickers? This last question came to me when Joy said she’d like one of those Coexist stickers for her car, or maybe the Darwin fish. (more…)


Professor to Professor on Twitter

Yesterday at Le Moyne we had a discussion about uses of Twitter in academic work. We focused primarily on how it might be used for teaching, but talked a little bit about how it might allow professors and students to be part of a larger research and professional community, beyond the college. I’d say our conversation was skeptically received by most of those in attendance, but then again they were in the room on what was by far the most beautiful Friday afternoon of the semester.

My colleague Lara Deruisseau, a bio prof here at Le Moyne, made a very interesting point about Twitter and community. I had commented about how Twitter might help us overcome the tyranny of small departments at liberal arts colleges by connecting to professionals all over the planet. Lara, however, drew our attention to the fact that, over the last year, several of us have come to know our Le Moyne colleagues from various departments and offices on campus much better because of our Twitter interaction. These web networks have enhanced our local community in important and powerful ways. Our increased collaboration will certainly have (postive) effects on our curricula and pedagogies.

This strikes me as excellent confirmation of claims about the place of computer networks in daily life. I’m reminded specifically of work by Barry Wellman like this essay about computer networks as social networks (notice the date – he was on this early!) or this one about person-to-person communities. In particular, something that is exciting is that networks like Twitter make it possible for communication at the college level to be professor-to-professor rather than department to department, or, more cynically, professor-to-department-chair-dean-chair-department-to-professor. Especially in the context of increased administrative and procedural layers, Twitter might be seen as a place where faculty collaboration/inspiration can happen person to person.

I’m a man, man: Failed sex categorization in daily life

I’m a man who is quite regularly mistaken for a woman. It has been happening for years, it happens every six months or so, and it happened again just last Friday at the dining hall here at Le Moyne as a female colleague and I paid for our lunch. The cashier was a bit occupied and, seeing the two of us approach said, “I’ll be right there ladies.” She noticed and said sorry; we paid and went on our way. My sociologist colleague and I threw around some possible reasons that I’m so regularly confusing: I’m short; my hair is curly to the point it’s a natural perm; I was with a woman and the cashier saw her first. I don’t recall the first time it happened and I’d guess it probably bothered me, but it happens enough now that when somebody does it I often turn into a field sociologist and ask them why they thought I was a woman. Nobody ever gives a very clear answer, and almost everybody is fairly flustered by their called out sex miscategorization. I may never know why this happens, but it makes me think about some fun sociological questions too: How does it affect the interaction? Why do people say sorry? Can I learn anything about gender identity in daily life?


Politely in the way: an awkward door holding ritual

Today I was sitting in a sandwich shop. Yes, it was Subway. I eat there almost as much as Jared. I chose a small table near the door because I was just one person and didn’t think I should take a booth, even though the table was so small it made it hard for me to do the reading I planned on. Perhaps this is why I ended up watching people as they entered more than I read. I’ve always been interested in ‘door opening’ behavior, and today I saw an interaction that got me thinking about obedience to civility norms and how they directly coerce our embodied behavior.

Outside, a male/female couple with a baby carrier approached the door from the right, while a lone man approached from the left. The man got to the door an instant before the female member of the couple, and opened the door from left to right so that she was now effectively behind it. Noticing the woman, the lone man stepped close to the door, standing inside it but not going into the shop. He held the door so the woman and the man could enter before him. He was, however, in the way so that the man and woman had to adjust their path to get around him. He was, at once, being polite and standing in the way. It was a polite, but awkward exchange.

The lone man could have very easily walked through the door he had opened, and the woman could have reached out and held it while waiting to go through. They had both taken straight line paths to door up until their meeting, being very efficient about entering. But, once they were at the door, the paths became less efficient in the service of civility. Not to mention that the lone man lost the spot in the sandwich line to which he had a justifiable claim. He got there first, after all. Now, the cost of his civility was being in the way, and being 2 further spots away from his 11 inch ‘foot-long’ sub.

The sketch below illustrates what I saw. A,B are the couple, and C is the lone man. Straight lines indicate ‘efficient’ paths, and curved lines indicate walking around an obstacle (in this case the door, and the polite, lone man).

Sketch of door holding ritual

Sketch of door holding ritual