Butting Heads (and iPhones): Economists Robert Gordon and Joel Mokyr Duke it Out in the Wall Street Journal

Photo Credit: WSJ.comNorthwestern Professors of Economics Robert Gordon and Joel Mokyr just can’t seem to get along.

In this past weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, the two voice some distinctly adverse ideas about technological innovation in the twenty-first century – on the one hand, its success, and on the other, its stagnation.

Professor Mokyr, author of The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy and co-author of The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times is an economic historian who’s altogether positive about the economic direction of the world-at-large. But this isn’t just blind optimism; in fact, it’s due in large part to the rapid rate of technological innovation. Mokyr notes that “new tools have led to economic breakthroughs,” and that since the field of technology is vast and unremitting, we’re hardly in danger of economic collapse.


“The divergent views are more than academic. For many Americans, the recession left behind the scars of lost jobs, lower wages and depressed home prices. The question is whether tough times are here for good. The answer depends on who you ask.”


But Professor Gordon, a macroeconomist and author of the forthcoming book Beyond the Rainbow: The American Standard of Living Since the Civil War (Princeton), and of the best-selling textbook, Macroeconomics, is hugely skeptical of such theories. He asks us to compare useful and revolutionary objects, like the flushing toilet, to the newest iPad; the former, already invented, is indispensable. Everything created thereafter is simply excess – the cherry on top, if you will. And, as new developments become only incrementally more advanced than their predecessors, technological progress will slowly grind to an anticlimactic halt.

The op-ed also gives some interesting background on both Gordon and Mokyr and tries to posit the origins of their respective beliefs, whether positive or negative. Despite their conflicts, the two can concede to one point: that the twenty-first century is unarguably the best time to be born, and the revelation is certainly an encouraging one.

Place Your Bets: Tim Chartier Develops FIFA Foe Fun to Predict World Cup Outcomes

Tim ChartierTim Chartier, author of Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing has turned some mathematical tricks to help better predict the outcome of this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Along with the help of fellow Davidson professor Michael Mossinghoff and Whittier professor Mark Kozek, Chartier developed FIFA Foe Fun, a program that enables us ordinary, algorithmically untalented folk to generate a slew of possible match outcomes. The tool weighs factors like penalty shoot-outs and the number of years of matches considered, all with the click of a couple buttons. Chartier used a similar strategy in his March Mathness project, which allowed students and basketball fans alike to create mathematically-produced brackets – many of which were overwhelmingly successful in their predictions.

Although the system usually places the most highly considered teams, like Brazil, Germany, and Argentina at the top, the gadget is still worth a look. Tinker around a bit, and let us know in the comments section how your results pan out over the course of the competition.

In the meantime, check out the video below to hear Chartier briefly spell out the logic of the formula.

Happy calculating!

Could India save Twitter? Misiek Piskorski discusses the future of social media with Yahoo! Finance

Harvard Business professor Misiek Piskorski is making the media rounds in New York to promote the publication of A Social Strategy: How We Profit from Social Media. Here, with Yahoo! Finance, he discusses why Twitter needs to make a big play in India if it wants to stay relevant and competitive with other social media platforms like Facebook and Alibaba.

And here he discusses social media and the growth of Uber on Bloomberg TV:

 

bookjacket A Social Strategy: How We Profit from Social Media
Mikolaj Jan Piskorski

Hardcover | 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691153391
288 pp. | 6 x 9 | 2 halftones. 13 line illus. 9 tables.eBook | ISBN: 9781400850020 |

Reviews
Table of Contents

Sample the book:
Preface[PDF] pdf-icon
Chapter 1[PDF] pdf-icon

Congratulations to Joseph Masco, author of The Nuclear Borderlands and Winner of the 2014 J.I. Staley Prize

MascoCongratulations to Dr. Joseph Masco, who has been awarded the 2014  J.I. Staley Prize from the School of Advanced Research for his book, The Nuclear Project: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico

The J.I. Staley Prize is presented to a living author for a book that “exemplifies outstanding scholarship and writing in anthropology. The award recognizes innovative works that go beyond traditional frontiers and dominant schools of thought in anthropology and add new dimensions to our understanding of the human species. It honors books that cross subdisciplinary boundaries within anthropology and reach out in new and expanded interdisciplinary directions.”

The prize, which carries a cash award of $10,000, is presented at an award ceremony hosted by the School for Advanced Research during the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association.

Dr. Masco is a Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, teaching courses on a wide range of subjects, from national security and culture to political ecology and technology. He received a B.A. in the Comparative History of Ideas from the University of Washington (1986), and holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego (1991, 1999).

June, summer, and Princeton University Press in the movies

Friends of Princeton University Press,

With June here, and summer finally upon us, our thoughts go to pleasant things—vacations, beaches, baseball, and the summer movie season.

ivory tower
Hodges_ImitationGame_Poster
305233id1d_Interstellar_Teaser_Intl_27x40_1Sheet.indd

Princeton University Press has a special movie connection this summer–and beyond.

For starters, the soon-to-be-released documentary Ivory Tower, about the financial crisis in higher education, features prominently one of our authors, Andrew Delbanco, whose widely admired 2012 book, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, has been at the center of the debates over the future of higher education. Those who saw Page One, the acclaimed documentary about The New York Times and the challenges besetting newspapers, will be familiar with the work of Andrew Rossi, who made the film, Ivory Tower. Journalist Peter Coy reviews it in the current issue of Bloomberg Business Week, and mentions Andy Delbanco and our book.

Another PUP book forms the basis of the November 2014 release, The Imitation Game, the story of Alan Turing, the cryptologist who cracked the Enigma code during World War II and was later tortured for his homosexuality. The movie is based on our 2012 biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma. The Imitation Game sports an all-star cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, and Charles Dance. We will be re-releasing Hodges’ biography under the title, The Imitation Game, in September. A related PUP book is Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic: The Princeton Thesis, edited in 2012 by Andrew Appel of the Princeton School of Engineering.  Our poster for The Imitation Game generated huge interest last week at Book Expo in New York.

Speaking of all-star casts, the third movie with a connection to a forthcoming PUP book is Interstellar, also to be released in November, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine. The premise of Interstellar is based on the work of PUP author and Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who is credited as a consultant and executive producer of the film. His forthcoming book, with Stanford’s Roger Blandford, is Modern Classical Physics. Kip Thorne has another PUP connection, serving as he does on the Executive Committee of the Einstein Papers Project.

See you at the movies,

Peter J Dougherty
Director

Congratulations to Rasmus Kleis Nielsen for winning the 2014 Doris Graber Book Award for the Political Communication Section of the American Political Science Association

05-20 NielsenRasmus Kleis Nielsen’s book, Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns, is the 2014 winner of The Doris Graber Book Award for the Political Communication Section of the American Political Science Association. The Doris Graber Book Award is an annual prize given to the best book published on political communication in the last ten years, in order to foster the “study of political communications within the discipline of political science including research on mass media, telecommunications policy, new media technologies, and the process of communicating and understanding.”

In his book, Nielsen examines how American political operatives use “personalized political communication” to engage with the electorate, and delves into the myriad forms of political participation with their specific implications. Ground Wars demonstrates a challenge to popular imaginings of the political campaign as a tightly-controlled and highly monitored operation, and carefully traces the infiltration of specialized tactics into romanticized notions of grassroots-style volunteerism.

The chair of the committee commented that the committee voted for Nielsen’s book unanimously, “…finding it to be innovative, engaging and of very high quality relative to the terrific pool of nominee books.”

Nielsen will be officially honored at the annual APSA meeting in Chicago in August, 2014.

What is the reality behind the race for scientific talent? Watch this EPI event with Michael Teitelbaum to find out

Also, in a related review of Michael Teitelbaum’s book Falling Behind? from Spectrum Magazine, published by the IEEE, they had this fun little quiz:

Okay, here are your choices: 1957, 1982, and 2014. Match each year to when the following statements were made:

a. “It is pretty generally realized that our country faces a serious scientific and engineering manpower shortage. We have at present about half the engineers which we need, and each year we are graduating only about half our annual needs.”

b. “Science, technology, engineering and math form the foundation of the global economy. Yet, … if educational trends continue, fewer qualified candidates will be available to support growth in these areas.”

c. “We appear to be raising a generation of Americans, many of whom lack the understanding and the skills necessary to participate fully in the technological world in which they live and work.”

To see the answers and to read their review, please visit http://spectrum.ieee.org/riskfactor/at-work/tech-careers/exposing-the-roots-of-the-perpetual-stem-crisis-

To learn more about the boom and bust cycles of STEM education, please read Falling Behind?

Untranslatable Tuesdays – Media

media

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share a series of playful graphics by our design team which illustrate some of the most interesting terms from the Dictionary. For week six in the “Untranslatable Tuesdays” series we present Media/Medium (of communication):

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the recognition of a family resemblance between the various “implements of intercommunication” meant that they could be compared and contrasted in profitable new ways. . . . The term “mass media” found its niche in scholarly articles by such influential American midcentury thinkers as Hadley Cantril, Harold Lasswell, and Paul Lazarsfeld. But European philosophers resisted this tendency. . . . For Sartre, Adorno, and their contemporaries, “mass media” was less an untranslatable than an untouchable sullied by intellectual and institutional associations with American cultural imperialism. . . . This resistance was soon exhausted. . . . Cognates like “multimedia,” “remediation,” and “mediality” proliferate globally. This reflects less the dominance of English than the collective urgency of an intellectual project. (Ben Kafka)

 

The Atlantic.com – “The Machine Zone: This Is Where You Go When You Just Can’t Stop Looking at Pictures on Facebook”

What an anthropologist’s examination of Vegas slot machines reveals about the hours we spend on social networks

Alexis C. Madrigal | Jul 31 2013, 12:37 PM ET

TheAtlantic.com -- “The Machine Zone: This Is Where You Go When You Just Can’t Stop Looking at Pictures on Facebook” The Machine Zone (Sarah Rich)

“People love Facebook. They really love it,” Biz Stone wrote earlier this month. “My mother-in-law looks hypnotized when she decides to put in some Facebook time.”She is not the only one. ComScore estimates Facebook eats up 11 percent of all the time spent online in the United States. Its users have been known to spend an average of 400 minutes a month on the site.

I know the hypnosis, as I’m sure you do, too. You start clicking through photos of your friends of friends and next thing you know an hour has gone by. It’s oddly soothing, but unsatisfying. Once the spell is broken, I feel like I’ve just wasted a bunch of time. But while it’s happening, I’m caught inside the machine, a human animated GIF: I. Just. Cannot. Stop.

Or maybe it’ll come on when I’m scrolling through tweets at night before bed. I’m not even clicking the links or responding to people. I’m just scrolling down, or worse, pulling down with my thumb, reloading, reloading.

Or sometimes, I get caught in the melancholy of Tumblr’s infinite scroll.

Are these experiences, as Stone would have it, love? The tech world generally measures how much you like a service by how much time you spend on it. So a lot of time equals love.

My own intuition is that this is not love. It’s something much more technologically specific that MIT anthropologist Natasha Schüll calls “the machine zone.”

To view the entire article, refer to TheAtlantic.com:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/07/the-machine-zone-this-is-where-you-go-when-you-just-cant-stop-looking-at-pictures-on-facebook/278185/


Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by Natasha Dow SchüllAddiction By Design
Machine Gambling in Las Vegas

Natasha Dow Schüll

Recent decades have seen a dramatic shift away from social forms of gambling played around roulette wheels and card tables to solitary gambling at electronic terminals. Addiction by Design takes readers into the intriguing world of machine gambling, an increasingly popular and absorbing form of play that blurs the line between human and machine, compulsion and control, risk and reward.

Drawing on fifteen years of field research in Las Vegas, anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll shows how the mechanical rhythm of electronic gambling pulls players into a trancelike state they call the “machine zone,” in which daily worries, social demands, and even bodily awareness fade away. Once in the zone, gambling addicts play not to win but simply to keep playing, for as long as possible–even at the cost of physical and economic exhaustion. In continuous machine play, gamblers seek to lose themselves while the gambling industry seeks profit. Schüll describes the strategic calculations behind game algorithms and machine ergonomics, casino architecture and “ambience management,” player tracking and cash access systems–all designed to meet the market’s desire for maximum “time on device.” Her account moves from casino floors into gamblers’ everyday lives, from gambling industry conventions and Gamblers Anonymous meetings to regulatory debates over whether addiction to gambling machines stems from the consumer, the product, or the interplay between the two.

Addiction by Design is a compelling inquiry into the intensifying traffic between people and machines of chance, offering clues to some of the broader anxieties and predicaments of contemporary life.

Natasha Dow Schüll is associate professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Review:

Addiction by Design is a nonfiction page-turner. A richly detailed account of the particulars of video gaming addiction, worth reading for the excellence of the ethnographic narrative alone, it is also an empirically rigorous examination of users, designers, and objects that deepens practical and philosophical questions about the capacities of players interacting with machines designed to entrance them.”–Laura Norén, PublicBooks

“Natasha Dow Schüll, an anthropologist at MIT, has written a timely book. Ms Schüll has spent two decades studying the boom in casino gambling: the layout of its properties, the addicts and problem gamblers who account for roughly half its revenue in some places, and the engineering that goes into its most sophisticated products. Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas reads like a combination of Scientific American’s number puzzles and the ‘blue Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous.”–Christopher Caldwell, Financial Times

“Schüll adds greatly to the scholarly literature on problem gambling with this well-written book. . . . Applying an anthropological perspective, the author focuses especially on the Las Vegas gambling industry, seeing many of today’s avid machine gamblers as less preoccupied with winning than with maintaining themselves in the game, playing for as long as possible, and entering into a trance-like state of being, totally enmeshed psychologically into gaming and totally removed from the ordinary obligations of everyday life. . . . The book offers a most compelling and vivid picture of this world.”–Choice

“A stunning portrayal of technology and the inner life. Searing, sobering, compelling: this is important, first-rate, accessible scholarship that should galvanize public conversation.”Sherry Turkle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other


Higher Education in the Digital Age by William G. BowenIf you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in other internet-related topics, such as online learning. Online learning is often crowned as the ultimate solution to cut costs in the education system. Will our ever-increasing migration away from the physical world and into the virtual world ultimately help us, or cost us in more ways than one?

Higher Education in Digital Age by William G. Bowen explores how online learning could help control the exploding cost of higher education. In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Want to score an internship with Princeton University Press? Our interns offer some advice on maximizing your chances.

Two students interning with Princeton University Press have agreed to answer a few questions about their experiences as interns during the summer 2013 term. Are you interested in becoming an intern with Princeton University Press? Read on for tips and tricks to maximize your success – Brought to you by our Editorial Intern, Anna, and our Social Networking Intern, Holly.

Anna Olkovsky (Smith College)

Title: Editorial Intern
Department: Editorial
College Major: American Studies
Year: Senior

Holly Jennings (Rider University)

Title: Social Networking Intern
Department: Publicity
College Major: Public Relations
Year: Senior

1.) What does your list of duties for the Princeton University Press include?

Anna: “I help the Editorial Assistants in any way I can. Some of my regular assignments include: sending copies of our books to authors, professors, and other scholars in the field; contacting museums and organizations to start the process of getting the rights to use one of their images; and helping with administrative tasks such as photocopying, scanning, and fetching books from the University Library.”

Holly: “I assist the Publicity Director and Assistant Publicity Director/ePublicity Manager. Some of my regular assignments include: Utilizing HTML, CSS, and other variations of code to create content, researching online blogs for specific topics to obtain information for marketing and publicity, adding events to the Princeton University Press facebook site and individual book sites, setting up Facebook pages for each PUP title, watching author interviews/reviews and selecting excerpts to be placed on the blog, posting articles and creating features on the blog, attending departmental meetings to get an overall view of the function of the publicity department, and conducting research related to various books for marketing purposes.”

2.) Are there any special qualifications, skills, or training that you have brought with you to the internship?

Anna: “I have previously completed two other internships, so I am comfortable in an office setting and have had some experience with copyediting, proofreading, and writing blog posts. I have worked as a Writing Tutor at my college for two years now, which has taught me how important it is for academic work to be well-structured, clear, and legible to a general audience. Also, although it hasn’t impacted my work in this internship directly so far, I have always found in interviews that employers are interested in my fluency in another language, so I am proud of the work I have done to achieve that.”

Holly: “I’ve interned with Princeton University Press twice – once as a general Publicity Intern, and now twice as a Social Media Intern. I’ve also interned with Princeton AlumniCorps. Both internships have given me invaluable lessons that have been added to my skill set. I have been doing web design and HTML since I was fairly young – I’ve been self-taught since about 6th grade. My best friend and I used to build HTML/CSS layouts for Xanga, which is an online journal community. Having the skill set to build websites and become familiar with different types of coding is vital to the Social Media Intern position because this is a position heavily based around creativity and putting your own unique touch on things.”

3.) What aspect(s) do you enjoy most about your internship with the Princeton University Press?

Anna: “My favorite part of my internship is the Project Review meeting I get to attend every Thursday. During this meeting, editors who have been in touch with authors and agents about potential books give the rest of the Editorial Department a summary of the project, and then other editors weigh in with their comments about the project. Since a lot of the work I do on a daily basis is pretty administrative, it’s great to be able to see The Press’ work from a more top-down perspective. Plus, most of the new book topics sound fascinating to me!”

Holly: “The aspects I enjoy most about my internship is the freedom to make what you do all your own. In my department, I’m given a lot of freedom to show off my creativity. I’m allowed to create my own projects and am autonomous in making a lot of decisions. This is excellent for building up my portfolio. Since I’ve interned here a few times, I have a endless collection of examples of my own work that I can show to future employers at interviews. All samples of work that I have created at The Press can apply to various job functions – whether they fall under social media, marketing, advertising, public relations, or other occupational areas.”

4.) In what ways do you think this internship will help you in future job endeavors?

Anna: “I applied for this internship because I became interested in academic publishing as a potential career, and wanted to get some hands-on experience to see if I really liked the work and field. This internship has only cemented my desire to work as an editor at an academic press, and it has been a great experience to finally figure out a potential career path and have some sort of clarity about what I’m doing after college. And I’m sure that when I apply to future jobs in publishing, this internship will stand out for the Press’ well-known leadership in the field of academic publishing.”

Holly: “Building off of the previous question, I think being responsible for my own projects has taught me a lot about responsibility and self initiation. It’s easy to mess around when you have little guidelines on exactly how your work should be done. In a Social Media Intern position, you’re your own boss, in a sense – it is real sense of accomplishment knowing that your work comes from your own successes. Future employers want to hire people that know how to step up to the plate and be leaders.”

5.) What job skill(s) learned at the Press do you feel are most vital to your overall career success?

Anna: “There are some more technical skills I have practiced here, such as using the particular software we use to ship orders from our warehouse, but I have also learned a lot about how different departments within the Press work together to support the ultimate goals of publishing great work. Sitting in on meetings with not only the Editorial department, but also with Publicity and Permissions, has given me a good sense of what kinds of work are necessary to get a book published and sold.”

Holly: “The job skills I’ve learned at the Press that I feel are most vital to my overall career success would definitely be the social media postings. I’ve become very savvy with what types of language you should use in Facebook and blog posts. When you learn how to communicate to your company’s specific key publics in a way that resonates with them, you obtain a priceless skill that is transferable to any type of business you may venture into.”

6.) Would you recommend this internship to others?

Anna: “Definitely! It has been a great experience so far, and I have learned a lot about the field of academic publishing. Plus, everyone in the office is really nice, and there’s usually free food in the kitchen.”

Holly: “I would absolutely recommend this internship to others. The Princeton University Press is a very friendly environment. I always feel comfortable asking any of my coworkers for help. There are an unlimited number of projects that greatly benefit your resume for future employers.”

7.) Is there any advice you can give to those applying for internships, looking for jobs in your field, or ways to maximize one’s chance of getting an internship with the Princeton University Press?

Anna: “One piece of advice is definitely to start early when you’re applying for summer internships. The people I know who started looking in December or January ended up having more options, and had their plans figured out earlier, than those who didn’t start applying until March or April. And also, don’t be worried if you don’t have previous experience that’s completely relevant to the publishing world; during my interview, I was able to talk about how my different experiences with research and tutoring have taught me the importance of good written organization. You probably have more relevant skills and experiences than you think you do, and it’s important to emphasize those in your resume and interview.”

Holly: “If there is any advice I can give to those looking to be chosen for an internship at PUP, I would have to say that building your resume is paramount. Play up your strengths, and try to keep job descriptions to the point while highlighting the important duties and accomplishments that apply to the department you are looking to work for. For me, I made it a point to play up my previous employment in retail on my resume. Although one might not think retail relates directly to social media, the interactions with customers and fellow coworkers have taught me a lot about communicating with others, whether it be in person or through the internet. Another strength on my resume is my GPA. I work hard to maintain a very high GPA, because although a GPA may not be everything to employers, it does help you appear to be a promising employee with a steadfast work ethic.”


Apply for one of the internships listed above or any of PUP’s other opportunities:

 

Happy Birthday, Tesla!! Enter to win a copy of Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age

Celebrate with us by entering our giveaway to win a copy of Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age by W. Bernard Carlson.

“Carlson sheds light on the man and plenty of his inventions. . . . [An] electric portrait.”

–Publishers Weekly

“Superb. . . . Carlson brings to life Tesla’s extravagant self-promotion, as well as his eccentricity and innate talents, revealing him as a celebrity-inventor of the ‘second industrial revolution’ to rival Thomas Alva Edison.”

–W. Patrick McCray, Nature

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A very Kafkaesque 130th birthday anniversary!

In case you haven’t looked at today’s Google Doodle yet, July 3rd marks the 130th birthday anniversary of novelist Franz Kafka. Kafka is the subject of a major three-part biography by Reiner Stach and translated by Shelley Frisch, the first two of which are just out this month from our fair Press (KAFKA: The Years of Insight and KAFKA: The Decisive Years, for those not already in the know).

In the commercial publishing world,  Peter Mendelsund came up with some stellar cover overhauls for many of Kafka’s works for Schocken Books, a division of Random House, including “The Trial,” “Amerika,” and “The Castle.” Here’s a fun birthday video they released for the anniversary, as part of what graphic artist Neil Gower aptly calls the “Tour de Franz“:

The birthday coverage has also been picked up by Michael Cavna of Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs blog, Mashable, PC Magazine, the Guardian, and the Toronto Star, among others. Over at the Christian Science Monitor, Katherine Jacobsen identifies a great quote from British poet W. H. Auden on the brilliant German-language writer:

Kafka is important because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, so in that spirit, happy birthday, Dr. Kafka!