Symposium Magazine

by Andrew Gelman on July 8, 2013 · 6 comments

in Academia,Media

Symposium is a new online magazine subtitled “Where academia meets public life.” You can think of it as a sort of Slate magazine without Mickey Kaus, or as the Atlantic without the stylish writing.

Here are the articles in the first issue, which has just been posted:

Why Write the History of Capitalism?
Louis Hyman
A new generation of scholars is rewriting the story of capitalism by shaking off the old assumptions of both the Left and Right.

Sorry, Wrong Number
Andrew Gelman
How do bad numbers get into circulation in our political discourse, and how do they stay there, even after being refuted?

Historians and the Problem of Miracles
Scott K. Taylor
Historians, like most academics, are a secular lot. Is this a bias that prevents a deeper understanding of religious history?

The Rebirth of Viewing Pleasure
Jill Dolan
By taking a fresh look at popular culture, students are breathing new life into feminist theories of a generation ago.

Game Theory is Useful, Except When it is Not
Ariel D. Procaccia
Despite its booming popularity, a clear understanding of game theory requires that we understand the limits of its utility.

Gospel’s Many Ancestors
Chuck McCutcheon
A Yale professor documents the ancient origins of religious singing — and causes a debate over the roots of gospel.

Memoirs Take a Daring Turn in South Africa
M. Neelika Jayawardane
Personal accounts of the apartheid and post-apartheid years take on a therapeutic role that is both painful and necessary.

The War on Social Science
Rick K. Wilson
Congress is heading into dangerous territory as it decides what basic scientific research should be.

Is the popularity of game theory really booming? I had no idea. My impression is that game theory peaked in the late 1950s. Two classics from that area are Solar Lottery and Luce and Raiffa’s Games and Decisions. The latter is charming in its retro attitude that all that remained were some minor technical problems that were on the edge of being solved. And then there’s my own paper from 2008 (most of which was from 1986), “Game theory as ideology: some comments on Robert Axelrod’s ‘The Evolution of Cooperation.’”

P.S. After reading my article in this month’s Symposium, I’m afraid David Brooks is going to say something like, “I must say you certainly live down to your reputation.” What does that mean, I wonder? Do I have a reputation as a mean guy? I think I’m pretty nice. In any case, I’m completely serious in that article. As a statistician, I don’t like seeing wrong numbers quoted by respected sources, and I really don’t like it when people refuse to correct their errors. I don’t think this is about my reputation at all, it’s just something I feel strongly about. I have no desire to make enemies with Brooks or anyone else. I think we’re all on the same “side” of trying to figure out the world, we just have different immediate priorities, and none of us has time to look into everything at once. I understand that.

P.P.S. Just to be clear, I was just kidding about Slate and the Atlantic. Symposium is explicitly a different sort of publication in that it is all about academic researchers communicating with the general public. The writing in Symposium might well be as stylish as that in the Atlantic (and perhaps even as contrarian, at times, as what appears in Slate) but it is coming from a different, more openly academic, perspective. Which I think makes it a useful addition to public discourse.

{ 6 comments }

Wonks Anonymous July 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I thought Kaus left Slate a long time ago.

Andrew Gelman July 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Yeah, I was just being silly.

Jim July 9, 2013 at 12:15 am

Iā€™m afraid David Brooks is going to say something like, ā€œI must say you certainly live down to your reputation.ā€ What does that mean, I wonder?

Given that youre the one putting those words in his mouth, I’m very confused as to how you can be uncertain about what they mean.

Andrew Gelman July 9, 2013 at 8:30 am

Jim:

I’m not putting words into anyone’s mouth.

Rick K. Wilson July 9, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Gee, I feel left out. My article in Symposium was omitted from your round up. It’s “The War on Social Science” and deals with attacks by Congress on the National Science Foundation. Perhaps the writing wasn’t stylish enough. However, the cause is well worth it.

Andrew Gelman July 9, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Hi, Rick. I don’t know how I missed that one! I added the link in above.

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