Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chia, Holt, Strategy Without Design. Heidegger, H. Dreyfus on Heidegger, ... Wayfinding, Skillful Coping,...

I have been reading a book by Chia and Holt, Strategy Without Design, The Silent Efficiency of Indirect Action. I was led to it by S. Dreyfus of Berkeley's Industrial Engineering Dept. who works on intuition and expert knowledge, who has written on what he calls System 0 (vs. Kahneman's System 1 and 2 in his Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow), about when people have deep intuitive knowledge of what to do. (There is also a fine article by Kahneman (dubious about expertise) and Klein (studies experts' intuitive capacities) in the American Psychologist where they define better where they agree and disagree, Sept 2009.) In any case, in googling around I found the link below, where Chia/Holt talk about what's wrong with knowledge in business schools. Reading the abstract is enough. 

Chia/Holt are part of a movement that is concerned with process, influenced by Heidegger (through an interpretation by Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley's Philosophy Dept). Dreyfus's interpretation is I think appropriate, and in maybe 1972 I attended his class on Heidegger (Stanley Fish was also attending) when he was expounding this, well before he had spread the word more widely through publication.

Like all such books, Chia and Holt go too far, but still I find it useful. On the other hand, I have been thinking in these terms for 40+ years, influenced not only by Heidegger, but by Albert Hirschman, Harold Garfinkel, and others. My first book, Advice and Planning (1981), has a 100-page essay on advice, one that I could only write after hearing Dreyfus's lectures (I already had a rough draft that did not work, but during one of D's lectures I realized what I needed and so could now write the essay properly, which I did when I was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in 1973-74.). The idea was to think of knowledge for policy and the advisor (or expert or professor) as coming from involved experience rather than abstract application of something we know to a situation.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Robert Langlands on his early career

Langlands is a distinguished mathematician, professor at the Institute of Advanced Study. Here is he giving some background on his career, preliminary to discussing some of main mathematical concerns for a video for an Oxford conference. My quotations here, from that essay, are selective.

That topic became mathematics not out of a strong preference for that subject, but because it pretty much required no preparation, only native ability.

then I went on to Yale, a fortunate choice: the quality was high, although somewhat specialized; I had no obligations as any kind of teaching assistant, so that my time was my own; and, in contrast with, say, Princeton or Harvard, there were no fellow students with superior preparation eager to intimidate me. The few courses or seminars I had were helpful and instructive, so that I had a great deal of time on my own to spend in the library.

None the less, more by good luck than by good management, both [thesis work on semi-groups and a paper on Eisenstein series, written while a graduate student] were important in my career. The first came to the attention of Edward Nelson, who, then an assistant professor at Princeton, found enough merit in the first that I was offered, sight unseen and with no documentation, a position as instructor at Princeton. I had wanted to stay at Yale, and a number of the faculty would have been content to offer me a similar position, but fortunately the resident probabilist had taken a dislike to me, and he blocked the appointment. So I went to Princeton, where, asked to speak in a small analysis seminar, I spoke on the Eisenstein series paper. Bochner was favorably impressed, largely by the circumstance that I had already been thinking about a topic with no relation to my thesis

he [Bochner] had also encouraged, one could even say forced, me to give a graduate-course on class field theory. I knew nothing about it and was scared stiff, but could not refuse. I learned a great deal. So did a few students. It is impossible to overestimate the debt I owe to Bochner

I had — in the shape of the department chairman, also a probabilist — another stroke of luck. Fancying himself as a Hercules whose task was to cleanse the department of the deadwood accumulated under the influence, in particular, of Bochner, he took it upon himself to drive a number of us out. The story is complicated, but the upshot was that I returned to Yale, where I was very happy, but I could not resist the offer of an appointment to the Institute, an offer that at the time would not, because of a gentleman’s agreement between the two institutions, have been possible if I had remained at the University. This offer I owe, I am certain, principally to Harish-Chandra

So these early years were free of anxiety, but not of discouragement. Mathematics, if one is at all ambitious, is difficult. I was free to give it up, free to ignore any constraining demands, from deans or chairmen, free for example not to apply for grants, to write or publish only what I cared to write or publish and only when I felt it appropriate, willing to continue in modest circumstances in out-of-the-way places, but not willing to abandon the goals I had set for myself, or that, say, Bochner had encouraged me to set.

It was only when completely discouraged by my attempts to find the elusive non-abelian class field theory or the elusive automorphic L-functions that I began to think that the time had come to abandon mathematical research. Largely as a consequence of a chance acquaintance with a Turkish visitor to Princeton, the economist Orhan T¨urkay, unfortunately recently deceased, that I decided, as a first, mildly adventurous, step to spend a year or more in Turkey with my family.

I had recovered from my discouragement and had a great many mathematical ideas to deal with, so that it was just as well that I and my family were not dealing with too difficult an adaptation. There were difficulties, but they were overcome

Nevertheless, I wanted to express clearly my sentiment that thanks to circumstances of time and place I was never constrained by my profession as a mathematician, never forced to any kind of submission. I could always, without great reserves of moral courage, do as I wanted.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Scholarly Monographs, Journal Articles, and Disseminating Your Work

In general, scholarly monographs are valued as gatekeepers in some disciplines: literature, anthropology, sociology, political science, art history, ... But in most disciplines what counts are articles in the main peer-reviewed journals or contributions to selective conferences (e.g. computer science). Most high prestige departments where the monograph is traditional still demand one. But a rich vein of scholarly articles that are cumulative will often be more than enough. What matters is what the high-ranking scholars in your field think of your work.

There are not enough scholarly books published each year, or articles in the main peer-reviewed journals, to allow most scholars to have the requisite CV. Many universities have more relaxed requirements, with less concern about the prestige of the journal or the publisher. But the top-ranked departments are still quite conventional, as far as I can tell. They want faculty who publish in just those hard-to-publish venues.

But there is another crucial avenue--disseminating your work at meetings, conferences, and through drafts and preprints shared with the high ranking scholars in your field. If your work is strong, their judgments are likely to prevail.

Career Trajectories for Academics: Adjuncts, Teaching Faculty, Professors of Practice, ...

For the most part, I have been concerned with conventional scholarly careers. But nowadays universities are hiring a wider range of faculty.

Adjunct faculty usually teach one or two or three courses, typically are chosen because of their practical and professional experience, and bring that experience to the university (where the ordinary faculty have comparatively little experience). They are rarely expected to have scholarly research careers. (Many adjuncts are hired as temporary teachers of more conventional stuff, and here I have little to say.)

Teaching faculty may well have long term contract appointments, may move up the ranks as teaching faculty, but usually do not achieve tenure. They are often as qualified as regular faculty.They are expected to teach a larger number of courses than the regular tenure-track faculty, but are not expected to have scholarly research careers. On the other hand, if they do publish (perhaps at a slower rate than their tenure-track colleagues, although given the rate of some of those colleagues the teaching faculty might well do much better than the slows), they gain further cachet and that is likely to influence how they are evaluated.

Professors of practice are typically quite senior, with deep and distinguished experience sets, and they bring their career knowledge to the university. They may well be respected for that experience set, but given the status consciousness of regular faculty, they are not likely to be seen as being as prestigious as regular faculty even if their external reputations are sterling (although again, some fraction of the regular faculty has stopped publishing or slowed down substantially quite early in their careers).

In each of these roles, publication and dissemination of your ideas and work will increase your status. Adjuncts have professional experience that might well enable them to criticize and contribute to the conventional scholarly literature. Teaching faculty might well have research programs. Professors of practice may well have articles or a book in which they can convey their wisdom and experience, much as I suggest for adjuncts. All may be invited to help journalists, give public presentations and speeches, and generally become more prominent. They may serve on national or international committees. And in many universities, they might well receive external research grants or participate in grants by others of their colleagues.

What's crucial to keep in mind is that just because someone is regular faculty, tenured, and even a full professor does not mean they are still highly productive scholars. There's lots of room for those on the periphery to prove their worth.