Tag Archives: sociology

But he ate the banana with such authenticity

From the NYTimesMag’s interview with Marc Andreessen, one of the founders of Netscape:

After hearing a story about Foursquare’s co-founder, Dennis Crowley, walking into a press event in athletic wear and eating a banana, I developed a theory that bubbles might be predicted by fashion: when tech founders can’t be bothered to appear businesslike, the power has shifted too much in their favor.

Believe it or not, this goes deep into the interior mentality of the engineer, which is very truth-oriented. When you’re dealing with machines or anything that you build, it either works or it doesn’t, no matter how good of a salesman you are. So engineers not only don’t care about the surface appearance, but they view attempts to kind of be fake on the surface as fundamentally dishonest.

I got a B+ in “Intro to Sociology,” and even I know that to appear in a business setting wearing sweats and polishing off lunch is as much of a performance, and as deeply concerned with “surface appearance,” as is showing up in a $5000 suit.  Actually, sorry, a little bit more concerned with surface appearance.

Bonus points for the suggestion that success in the Internet industry has nothing to do with salesmanship.


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Were they hot or not?

I got a strange e-mail from the sociology department last week asking if I was between 64 and 71 and interested in spending an hour and a half rating the attractiveness of high school yearbook photos from 1957. (“No” and “intriguing, but no.”) The e-mail went on to explain:

For this research project, the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study is interested in comparing life course data of the 1957 graduates with their level of attractiveness as evaluated by peers in their age group. More specifically, we are investigating the relationship between attractiveness and educational attainment, perceptions of performance, and labor market outcomes.

The Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) is a long-term study of 10,317 men and women who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. The WLS provides an opportunity to study the life course trajectories of 1957 high school graduates and their families. WLS data cover a wide range of topics, including education, military service, physical and mental health, labor market experiences, socioeconomic status, finances, family characteristics, aging, and retirement. The WLS is one of the country’s most comprehensive and well known longitudinal studies.

They’re not kidding: here’s the list of books and papers based on WLS data, and here’s a 113-page overview (.pdf) of the state of their cohort in 2004.

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If you only read one book of academic sociology this year…

I know, I know, big if.

But why not consider my pal David Grazian‘s new book On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife? You can read this with your serious sociological frowny face on, or you can just enjoy gaping at Grazian’s research subjects (a rainbow coalition of party-hungry Penn undergrads) as they detail their tactics and rituals for navigating Philadelphia nightclubs, and their fables about what happens there. Big slabs of unwitting self-revelation to be found, as here:

I ordered a martini in order to look cool, and I ordered it dry because I wanted to look like I knew what I was talking about. “Vodka, or gin?” she wanted to know. I chose gin. She inquired, “What kind?” I chose Bombay. She replied “Bombay, or Bombay Sapphire?” I asked her if I said Bombay Sapphire, because if I didn’t, I probably meant Bombay. She asked, “With olives?” I wanted to wring her neck! This b****! This stupid b**** is treating me like a f***ing idiot! I know what a f***ing martini is! I said “Yes.” What she assumed is that I know nothing about alcohol. What she did not know is that I have my bartending license and knew perfectly well that unless specified, martinis come with gin, not vodka. I also knew that I should take this question as a condescending insult, unless I was just being analytical, and she was the one who did not know what she was talking about … f***ing idiot.”

The emotional turn after “With olives?” is really something special. I’d like to see Al Pacino read this aloud.

Another high point: Grazian obtains and reprints the “LaBan Memo,” a four-page protocol prepping the employees of Barclay Prime for the arrival of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s supposedly anonymous food critic, Craig LaBan. Something to think about the next time you don’t like a restaurant as much as the newspaper did. Trust the unhustlable Chowhound instead.

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