Monthly Archives: March 2005


Alors que je parlais de blogue comme «carré de sable» (au sens de SandBox sur un Wiki), ça commence déjà à ressembler plus à une estrade… Toujours est-il que jouer seul dans un carré de sable, c’est pas très fort, comme principe.

Yes, as could be expected, this blog already turns into a soapbox. Too bad?
The whole principle isn’t that distinct from what’s happening to television these days, with the dominance of “reality shows.” Everyone has an axe to grind and a blog or “reality show” is an opportunity to do things publicly. Echoes of exhibitionism?

Ça reste intéressant, comme principe.


More on Alan Dundes (Berkeley Release)

03.31-2005 – Alan Dundes, professor of folklore and anthropology, dies
With more information on his career and impact.
Personally, I wasn’t directly affected by his work but the discipline of folkloristics would sure have been much different without him.

Les étudiants africains et le mouvement de grève au Québec

Les étudiants africains dans le doute
Le mouvement de grève des étudiants québécois trouve sa place dans une publication camerounaise… Intéressant, comme concept.
Et dommage pour les étudiants africains, victimes, comme les autres d’une situation de tension sociale.

D’ailleurs, puisque les blogues sont souvent bourrés d’opinion… Comme beaucoup d’autres, je suis en faveur des étudiants grévistes. Pas que j’aie l’impression que la grève soit le meilleur moyen d’obtenir un changement politique important. Mais les étudiants ont le droit de s’indigner du fait qu’ils se sont fait flouer.
En fait, j’ai grand espoir en ces étudiants. Pas nécessairement parce qu’ils risquent de faire bouger le gouvernement. Mais parce qu’ils sont réveillés, «conscientisés». Et solidaires. Rien de plus important, pour moi. En tant qu’étudiant québécois (vivant à l’étranger), «j’ai jamais été aussi fier d’être Québécois». Bon, c’est peut-être un peu exagéré et j’ai pas toutes les données en main. Mais je vois les choses d’un bon œil.

Pour les Africains, eh bien, c’est bien entendu une situation difficile. L’Université de Bamako et d’autres ont longtemps été en grève, ce qui a nui à beaucoup de Maliens. Mais, bon, [voix personnage=”Caliméro”]la vie est injuste[/voix]…

Tout vient à point…

Excellent principe. Ça aide, pour attendre. Par exemple, des réponses à des demandes d’emploi, de bourse, etc.
Ça va venir!

Pour les Francophones qui lisent ce blogue (on sait jamais, il peut y en avoir), excusez-moi d’y mettre tant de choses en anglais. Je
travaille et écrit en anglais ces temps-ci alors ça marche mieux comme ça.

“Social Butterfly Effect”: More Than a Silly Pun?

Was talking about the social effects of multilinked nodes with a friend last night. Followed it up today in a private email. Had to blog it.

Simply put, someone who has links with many people is likely to get some wheels moving, socially. Especially if that person’s network is sparse (people in it don’t know each other directly) and not too multiplex (not having many nodes with multiple links between them, like two people doing many things together). Simple enough.
The spark/trigger action on the wheel-moving/domino effect is not oriented (the person doesn’t have an agenda). If there are many such individuals connecting so many links (commonly known as “social butterflies” as they go from one flower to the next), the effect is pseudo-chaotic. To play on a silly pun, let’s call it the “social butterfly effect.” As things go, it’s quite likely that somebody else has had the exact same idea for the phrase (too lazy to google the phrase, though). It’s certainly a well-known effect. And there’s probably a less cheesy name for it somewhere in sociology textbooks. Too lazy to look it up.

Now, as it turns out, I see myself as that kind of social butterfly who does have an effect on some wheels starting to turn. But it’s really not presumptuous on my part. I’m not saying that I’m such a cool guy because I know so many people or that I have such an influence on people. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite of charisma and attraction. I’m the kind of guy who’s relatively insignificant to enough people that what I do or say may just activate the right process at the right moment. And nobody in their right mind would credit me with having done anything in the process. Yeah! Power!

The example I used in communication with my friend was coffee. More on that later. But it does depend on not having a specific agenda. And an incredibly large number of “failures” or errors (in the sense of “trial and error”).
If I mention homeroasting coffee beans to 200 people, chances are that at least 195 of them will be utterly disinterested with the notion, three might be mildly interested, one might think about taking up the “hobby,” and one might get an idea for something completely unrelated to homeroasting but nonetheless incredibly cool. If I did that transmission by “reaching out and touching” all of these people, that’d be an abysmally depressing success rate. (Especially if the measure is new converts to homeroasting.) But if I do it with minimal effort like by mentioning it in passing during a public discussion (say, in class, on a mailing-listl, or, well, on a “buh-lawg”), my effort to success ratio is quite good. The first thing to notice is that the most important effect here isn’t to have turned one person to homeroasting. It might be cool to interact with this person based on our newly shared interest. We might even start exchanging tips and samples. Maybe it’ll develop into some type of genuine friendship. Which might in turn lead to a new network.
All great. But what I appreciate the most here is there might be one person who heard about homeroasting and started to let her mind wonder about coffee prices, World System Theory, the effects of Globalisation, and student strikes. She might end up as a “mover and shaker” character in a grassroots movement to link students internationally. Who knows? I’m not one to spoon-feed conceptual links to people…

So, I see my role (whether or not I’m good at it) as a social butterfly getting things moving by being just “a guy in the crowd.” Fair enough.

The problem with that role is that because it’s based on lack of recognition, it runs counter to a few things which are socially important. The two social measures I think about most directly are “Intellectual Property” and job prospects. The first is definitional, in a way: I want many of my ideas to be “stolen” by those who receive them. Academia is based on that type of generalized exchange where we give it all to everyone else and we receive everything from everybody else. Those who are trying to restrict IP too much are hindering “innovation.” Which might in fact be the effect the want to achieve. In the social “tug o’ war” giving us balance, they have their own rope to pull on.

Job prospects are more problematic for me, personally. At least, I see them as more problematic. I happen to think that my own prospects aren’t too bad but, sadly, academic appointments (as opposed to academic work) are based on recognition and exclusive expertise. I make a point of not being recognized too often and I derive great joy from helping someone achieve a pleasurable state without being credited. Being a pawn is cool. [Just realized that “peon” had another denotation. “Pion” means pawn in French] But academic hiring committees don’t really like pawns. As for expertise, I do have some but it’s disparate enough that it doesn’t play so well in the mono-disciplinary thing. Too bad!
Some of it is a huge cult of personality in Academia. And the whole (ugh!) “Publish or Perish” game. But it’ll all change. It has to. Hopefully, it’ll change soon enough to edge me in.

In Memoriam Alan Dundes

Always sad that a great one would pass away.
He apparently collapsed while teaching. There’s something strong about this. Lasting legacy.

Présentation / Whoami?

To introduce myself…

Right now (30/03/05 17:06:37), I’m a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University Bloomington’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and I’m a visiting lecturer at Indiana University South Bend’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology for the academic year 2004–2005 (which is coming to an end very soon). I got this position from the Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship program from IUB’s University Graduate
A great program. Each of us teaches one or two semesters at one of the “regional” campuses (any of IU campuses besides Bloomington). Our status is that of full-time faculty but we have a lower teaching load than our colleagues because part of our time is devoted to our dissertation. IUB gives us an amount as fellowship and the regional campus (IUSB in my case) gives us a small salary. Not huge amounts of money altogether, but we’re not in there for the money.
We’re there for the experience. In a very real, direct, and efficient way. We get to participate in every aspect of faculty life, from collegial relationships to faculty meetings. “You can’t pay for that kind of experience!” We also get a faculty mentor at the host institution with whom we’re able to discuss pedagogical issues. Our mentors also help quite a bit in adapting to new teaching conditions.
My own experience at IUSB has been ideal/optimal/great. It’s a very interesting campus. Extremely motivating as a teaching environment because people care about actual learning. And despite the emphasis on teaching, faculty members do get a chance to publish, sometimes more than their colleagues at “Research I” universities (like IUB).

Donc, je suis prof. J’enseigne quoi? Anthropologie culturelle, anthropologie linguistique, études africaines. Du moins, cette année. J’ai aussi enseigné en anthropologie symbolique et anthropologie de la
religion. Mes intérêts me portent aussi vers la musique, l’esthétique et la sémiotique aussi bien que vers l’études des systèmes sociaux décentralisés (réseaux sociaux, communautés d’expérience, etc.). Évidemment, l’aspect linguistique implique les productions verbales, la performance, la littérature orale, etc.
Bon, c’est bien d’être prof et tout ça, mais je suis aussi un être humain. Des tas d’intérêts. Oh, bien sûr, les trucs usuels. La bouffe, les voyages, la musique, la littérature, le cinéma, l’informatique…
Mais ça prend des aspects un peu plus spécifiques, que j’élaborerai plus tard. Après tout, un des avantages d’être sur Blogger (plutôt que sur un site professionnel/académique), c’est de pouvoir parler de mes autres passions.

Yes, I’m a passionate guy. Not in the Spanish Romantic Lover with a rose between his teeth. Although, that could work too.
But more of a passion for life, people, meaning, thoughts, and passion itself.

Ça signifie parfois que j’en fais un peu trop. Déjà, ce blogue semble s’orienter dans cette tendance. Mais bon…

My interests, passions, tastes, ideas are oftentimes very “disparate” (again, hence the blog title) and come out in an apparently incoherent manner. But I like to make links between different things. In new ways, if possible. So what’s common between homebrewing beer and iTunes playlists?
This is left as an exercise to the reader.
Yeah, singular.