All Quiet on the Econ Soc Front

Sorry for the lack of recent posts, faithful readers. Prelim reading has kicked into high gear as the date approaches (about 55 days from now, not that I’m counting or anything). Other recent highlights have included reconnecting with my nerdiness (which I am not at all ashamed of, unlike some people*), which included a trip to Origins and joining a D&D4E game.

To connect, briefly, to economic sociology: A lot of the business history on our prelim list focuses on the rise of the large corporation, and thus on the rise of the railroad industry (see especially Chandler 1977, Dobbin 1994). Reading page after page about struggles over interoperability of lines, gauge-widths, and rate wars led to an entirely satiable desire to play one of many railroad games. Yesterday, as part of our demure celebrations, we played Railroad Tycoon. My Southern Strategy narrowly lost to a Northeastern one engineered (look, a pun!) by my brother. The Railroad business is cutthroat indeed. But now at least I can get back to reading about it.

*I wonder who would win a nerd-off amongst Sociology bloggers. I feel like I would make a strong showing, but it is quite hard to beat this.



  1. I know. I am formidable.

  2. Well, that’s easily enough settled: we just all have to take the nerd test. I’m an 86.

    Although some kind of nerd obstacle course at the ScatterParty would be pretty nifty, too 🙂 .

  3. Hmm. I appear to be nerdier than 96% of test-takers. That’s pretty high, especially given the likely demographic of test-taker. Still, I think we’d need to design some separate metrics – for example, there were questions about programming (which I knew the answers to) but none that actually asked you to program (which I would most likely fail to do, as my knowledge of programming is limited to the Learning Perl O’Reilly book and the jokes I’ve looked up from xkcd).
    In summary, I think nerdlympics (at the ScatterParty or another time and place) would be superior to a simple passive assessment of nerd-awareness. It could include competitions like “dead language knowledge”, “old video game trivia and tournament”, “favorite Monty Python sketch”, etc. We could call it “Performing Nerdiness”. It’d be great.

  4. Haha, yes! “Performing Nerdiness”: I love it! But what would be the prize?

  5. Well, we’re all sociologists, so the best prize would probably be some sort of status symbol, no? Maybe a giant Wizard Hat to wear around ASA proclaiming the wearer to be the nerdiest sociologist of them all?

  6. that would be awesome.

  7. ballytyrone

     /  July 7, 2008

    I embarrassed to say that my nerdiness score is 44 – slightly nerdy. But I think the test was not very diagnostic. Nerdiness is determined in large part by being socially maladroit (which I am – at least slightly) and, even more, by liking nerdy things (I know that’s circular). It is not determined by high levels of education (there are many people with Ph.D.s who are not at all nerdy) or by knowledge of computers/physics/chemistry. Most of the computer programming questions on this test relate to geekiness (competence and enthusiasm for science in general and computers in particular). Sociologists, in my narrow experience, are often (usually?) nerds but they are seldom geeks.

  8. Your emphasis on the the different ideas and definitions of nerdiness is right on. In my AP Physics class in high school (nerd!) we had a two day discussion about the terms nerd, geek and dork which ended up with some working definitions and a brief hierarchy for nerdy (of which I was on top of, though only barely, as I was not in robotics but otherwise was involved in every nerd activity). I don’t remember our exact definitions, but we definitely broke out dork as a separate category (emphasizing lack of social skills) and geek (emphasizing special interest in a particular area, e.g. “computer geek”) from nerd (more general social status). I came across a recent book that similarly tries to nuance the terms: American Nerd: The Story of My People, though I only read the first few pages so I can’t speak to how good it is.

    Would you like to suggest some working definitions?

  9. Allow me to direct you to my nerd flow chart.

  10. Haha, that book is on my reading list 🙂 .