"So Charlie, why are you doing this given your stack of grading and journal deadlines?" you might be wondering. Well get off my back! You're not my real mom!
I have an abiding interest in the culture of professional philosophy. A lot of that culture is moving online, which is handy for folks like me who know enough about coding to get themselves into trouble and just enough to get themselves out of it (most of the time). LR boasts on his blog that it's the "world's most popular philosophy blog since 2003". (Maybe that's true? IDK if he's got the stats for Daily Nous. But of course "since 2003" might describe the blog's birth year and not how long it's been most popular.) It's influential in our profession; I have no doubt that many people read it. I also know that at least some people have VERY STRONG OPINIONS about LR and BL himself.
Given how popular it is, it's worth getting the big picture of the blog. If we wanted to describe the last year of blogging in a nutshell, we might say that LR is a lot like Slate or National Review: lots of good and important news interspersed with a lot of editorializing. How do we come to this conclusion? There is a lot of news about the profession and academia in general shared; there is also quite a bit of news about stifling academic freedom and rights to free speech; and more info on the PGR and job search advice. But along with all that are opinions expressed about Weinberg, Manne, Jenkins, Ichikawa, and the Twitter Red Guard. (I will note that there are no tags for Christa Peterson or Nathan Oseroff-Spicer, both of whom get mentions in the content of posts. BL tags tenured faculty at institutions with PhD programs, but not grad students. I, for one, can appreciate that. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it seems a bit more punching sideways than down, at least with respect to tags on LR.)
Leiter's Year in Review doesn't reflect his overall blogging patterns for the year (not that it has to). If I had to speculate, the posts picked are the most sensational ones and not the ones that reflect the blogging practices. You might get a more representative view of the blog by following the "Phil in the News" tag and then skimming some entries at random.
Finally, maybe you're interesting in our three areas of investigation for the whole year? Here ya go.
You can use Web of Knowledge to get a handle on the most important papers in a field you're just starting to dabble in (or discover important papers that might have slipped under your radar). From the last post we saw how to search Web of Knowledge. After you land on the page returning the citations for your query, sort by "Times Cited." (Sorting options are above your returned citations.) You'll see a little arrow next to "Times Cited" -- down means most-to-least cited (selecting "Times Cited" again reorders from least-to-most). Voila! You have a list of citations from most to least cited. Of course, there are limitations:
1. This does not include books. The citations from your query are only what's logged in Web of Science. Admittedly, this is more journals than you can shake a stick at (and most of which you've probably never heard of), but just know that books aren't included.
2. Any journals that aren't logged in Web of Science aren't included. My hunch is that journals that aren't logged are super obscure and likely aren't the best place to get up to speed on essential papers within your subfield.
I told my friend Joe Vukov about using Web of Knowledge to figure out which journals are publishing in which areas. (E.g. which journal has been publishing the greatest volume of work on the epistemology of disagreement or on Stoic ethics.) He said it was a great idea to share with grad students, so I'm providing a more fine-grained account of the steps to discover who's publishing in what topics. If you happen to be reading this a year (or more) after I've written it, then the number of returns you get may be different from mine. So take the numbers here as indicating a snapshot of research volume on 4E cognition at a particular moment in time.
The instructions here suppose that you're following along at home. I suppose I could have used screenshots but I have two monitors it's kind of a pain in the tuckus to get all and only what I want, hence the egocentric directions.
Does your school have a subscription? I found mine by calling up the library, and they told me to look 'databases' tab on the library webpage. Lo and behold, there it was. Create a login and username for yourself.
I prefer to use the advanced search since it has more tools at your disposal but I got started by playing with the basic search function. In a nutshell: you put in your search parameters, and the site finds every citation fitting those parameters since 1965. Not up to speed on your Boolean operators? They have a tutorial. (You find it by going to 'advanced search.' You'll see a few links telling you where to go.) I go a little overboard with the parentheses only because I can never remember what operators take priority and I'm too lazy to look it up every time.
I wanted to find out where folks have been publishing on 4E cognition in the last 3 years. So I used the following search term:
TS=("extended mind*" OR "extended cognition" OR "enactive mind*" OR "enactive cognition" OR "enactivism" OR "embodied mind*" OR "embodied cognition" OR "embedded mind*" OR "situated mind*" OR "embedded cognition" OR "situated cognition")
'TS' is topic; the asterisks capture any string with at least the part before the asterisks -- so the initial string plus anything else attached to it. E.g. 'mind*' will catch both 'mind' and 'minds'.
This returned 3,828 results. If you select, under the left-hand menu at "Web of Science Categories", you'll see that it covers psych and philosophy, but also literature, religion, management, sports science, and a bunch of other things. I only want the psych (the 1st, 2nd, and 5th in the list for me) and phil (3rd in the list) results, so I'll pick those and hit "refine". Now we're down to 2,035 citations. I also only want stuff published in the last 3 years, so I'll select what years I want under "Publication Years" in the left panel. This gets me 624 citation.
First, can we appreciate that 624 items have been published on 4E cognition between January 2017 and December 2019 in philosophy and psychology alone? Holy shit.
Ok, back to the task: go to "Analyze Results" (towards the top right) and you'll get a treemap of citations by topic. (I changed 'number of results' to 25 because I wanted the as many top results as possible, and 25 is the limit.) Here's what that looks like.
What the hell? I refined for 'philosophy' and 'psychology' but 'sports sciences' still made it into the analysis! I can't find anything on it on the website, but I'm assuming that if a citation is tagged as both A and B, then refining for tag A means that tag B comes along too. So tags are excluded as long as they're never conjoined with the filtered-for tags but also if they're specifically excluded (which is another option when refining). That's all fine. It doesn't affect what we're doing here: we want to know which journals are publishing 4E work and that doesn't depend on whether Web of Science's categories are mutually exclusive or how the filters work at this level. It may be important if you want to do other analyses.
Now to get journal titles, select "Source Titles" in the left-hand menu, and you'll get the following visualization.
This tells me the top three journals publishing the greatest volume of 4E papers are Frontiers, PCS, and Synthese. Also, I had no idea that the Italian Journal of Cognitive Sciences has published more papers on 4E cognition than Cognitive Science. That'll teach me to pay attention to only English-language journals. (In case you're curious, it publishes papers in both English and Italian.)
Keep in mind some limitations:
1. It doesn't tell me if the work is critical (or not)
2. There's no information about special issues, which could inflate the numbers
3. The numbers aren't relative to the total volume of work the journal publishes
Nonetheless, the visualization gives me a good sense for editors who are less likely to give 4E papers a desk reject because they don't fit with the journal's recent trends. Neato, right?
Now, suppose you want to expand your search for journals publishing 4E stuff since the 1960s. One thing to remember is that every time you refine your search, Web of Science counts it as a new search. So if you go to "Search History" you should be able to find your previous searches. I want to see historically who's been the greatest publisher of 4E work, so I select my search that refined for category but not year. Here's what that looks like:
I think there are some neat observations here. Frontiers and PCS are still the top 2. Phil Psych moves from 5th to 3rd. Synthese goes from 3rd to 10th -- suggesting they got into the 4E game more recently. Same thing for Adaptive Behavior. And Analysis doesn't make the top 25, despite publishing Clark and Chalmer's 1998 paper "The Extended Mind"!
One thing to keep in mind is that some journals in the list are generalist ones (Synthese, Cognitive Science) and others are specialists (Philosophical Psychology, PCS) so you'd expect specialists to have more 4E papers than generalist ones. Another thing to keep in mind here is when the journal was founded. Older journals have a leg up on newer ones in several ways, but Frontiers is pretty darned new (definitely newer than Synthese) soooo.....
But enough of my weird interest in the shifting sands that is the culture of professional philosophy. We've got here an easy way to learn who's publishing what. Any questions or comments, please feel free to write!
Some stuff just for funsies...
In case you're wondering, there's no correlation between tweet length and favorites:
Also, the average length of DN tweets have gotten longer in the last 4 years, with a decided uptick in April 2018. I thought that this might have been the result of Twitter increasing the cap on tweet length from 140 to 280 but that happened in November 2017. (Apologies for the crammed x-axis labels. Click on the figure to zoom in.)
What about number of likes versus number of retweets?
Ok that's weird. What if we zoom in on those values that are fewer than 500?
So that initial weirdness indicates something kinda neat: if a tweet garners loads of "likes", it's not going to be retweeted. If it gets tons of retweets, it's not going to get many "likes." But maybe there's something to the year in which the tweet was produced?
Nope nothing there either. So, weirdly, DN tweets, are either heavily liked or heavily retweeted but not both.
Another quick post. Here's a plot of the top 10 partnerings by year. (Recall that R returns all values in cases of ties... hence why there are 13 accounts listed in the 2016 graph. Oh and if anyone knows how to order the x-axis in ggplot2 while employing facets, I would be eternally grateful for pointers. I tried everything I could think of and Google and nothing worked.)
Some interesting things to see here. First, DN is partners in 2019 more frequently with philosophers of sex and gender (@Docstockk, @christapeterso, @rachelvmckinnon) -- or at least folks vocal in the debate online -- than in previous years. Second, among the top 10, with the exception of @sciam and @michaelshermer in 2018, there's no clear preference for one over another. I.e. within the top 10 accounts with whom DN partners, there's no one that is head and shoulders parterned with more than another. Third, no account is in the top 10 from year to year. The DN account doesn't consistently partner with one account over multiple years.
One last plot: let's look at all partnerings for DN over the same stretch of time. Names of accounts are not included because they're unreadable. But it's still pretty neat to see the shape of each plot:
Broken out by year, there's not the kind of long tail that we saw in the 1st post (except in 2018). But what is clear is that the DN account, over the last 4 years, engages with more accounts (2016 had 89 partners, 2017 had 162, 2018 had 221, and 2019 has 189 -- though keep in mind that the 2016 counts only go back to March because of query limits on Twitter's API). But there's still a subset of accounts each year that get partnered with more frequently than others, even though the most-partnered accounts change from year to year.
So there you are. We've looked at the folks the DN account responds to or mentions most over the last 4-ish years.
This is going to be pretty short. I was curious if there was any correlation between the proportion of partnerings for accounts in the DN top 25 (see previous post) and the number of followers that they have. My hunch was that more followers mean more popular and thus more likely to get mentioned or tweeted at by the DN account. Again, a rich-get-richer kind of a thing. Here's the full top 25 (which actually comes to 32, since R includes multiple values in cases of ties).
It's a bit tough to read but you can see in the top left corner @sciam with loads of followers and lots of the proportion of partnerings and everyone else clustered on the left. Let's get rid of @sciam to see if that clears things up.
Ok the labels obscure things a bit. Once more without them.
Aaaaaaand one more adding a regression line...
The message is clear: there's little-to-no correlation between the ratio of partnerings and number of followers. My hunch was off the mark.
True confession: prior to grad school, I’d never heard of Leonard Cohen. Shocking as it might be, I’d made it 23 years without ever knowing who he was or what he did. One day, at some grad school get together thingy at the library, I was chatting with another 1st year philosophy grad student. He mentioned something about Leonard Cohen and I said, “who’s Leonard Cohen?” and I swear to all that’s holy I could hear the record scratch as he said, “you don’t know who Leonard Cohen is?” Every grad student in earshot looked on in horror.
Now, some might try to recover from this social fumble. “Oh, LEONARD COHEN. Sorry I must have misheard you. Love the early stuff. Listened to it all the time back in the day.” If you think this is me, then clearly we haven't met. My new attitude, adopted on the spot in the foyer of the library, was: FUCK. LEONARD. COHEN. Fun fact: to this day, I haven’t wavered one iota. Any time Leonard Cohen is mentioned, I roll my eyes heaven-ward, give a great groan, and try to bring up some obscure band in an eternal and fruitless game of cultural one-ups-man-ship. BTW if you’re not listening to Yndi Halda, in particular their debut masterpiece Enjoy Eternal Bliss, are you even living?
Another true confession: I didn’t talk to a lot of super famous people in grad school. I was married my 2nd year in, and had my 1st kid my 3rd year. I didn’t have any support from the university, so I adjuncted my ass off (nearly 4 dozen classes under my belt by the time I landed a TT position, thank you very much). That’s all to say that many of my friends and colleagues can recount stories with famous philosophers, using their first name to refer to them. (“Oh yeah I loved class with Jason. It was amazing when Sally was on campus to give a talk and they co-taught a seminar on society and justice. CHANGED MY LIFE.”) I changed a shit-ton of diapers and learned how to repair my 1990 Volvo station wagon in between grading rounds of intro papers. To former students: I’m sorry for any grease I got on your papers.
I mention this because professional philosophy feels like a club where there are insiders and outsiders. Insiders get to refer to famous people by first name and tell silly stories about them. Outsiders smile politely. Social media — and the Interwebs in general — is, I think, one way that the playing field might get leveled. Hey you might not have been accepted to Rutgers or NYU but shit you can take a crack at things on Leiter’s blog and maybe get some recognition! I didn’t do this but I imagine others might.
Two possibilities. (1) the Interwebs & social media are the great equalizer. Anyone who wants a shot to get to know a Big Shot can. (2) the Interwebs & social media follow something like a Matthew Effect.
So which is it? Who gets talked about in philosophy social media? I was going to look at Leiter’s Twitter, but it’s set to private. I have no desire to friend-request him for the sole purpose of seeing who he @’s at.
@DailyNousEditor, however, is a public account. I emailed Dr. Justin Weinberg (I can call you “Justin” now, right? We’re buddies. Oh the many silly things we’ve talked about and done…*). I wanted to run the idea past him of analyzing and blogging about the @DailyNousEditor account — hereafter referred to as ‘DN’. He kindly agreed and expressed interest in the results. I’m making this a multi-part post: the first is just looking at the folks with whom the DN account engages most frequently.
I’m pretty sure that Justin is responsible for most or all the tweeting at the DN account. But rather than “Justin does this” or “Justin does that” I’m going to talk about what the DN account does and with whom it engages. Also, I’ll talk about accounts rather than people. The reason isn’t super philosophical. It just sounds less dickish to my ears to put things that way. Same content, less assholery. With that, let’s forge ahead.
Small technical note: for this analysis, I used R 3.5.3 and the packages rtweet, tidyverse, tidytext, and ggrepel. The code (ugly as it is) will eventually go up on my Github: github.com/cslassiter. There’s nothing special about R 3.5.3; I just haven’t gotten around to updating to the latest version.
DN has 15.7K followers (15,724 to be precise, as of today). Not as many as Nate Silver (3.7M) but way more than me (52). DN follows 415 accounts. There are 251 accounts in center of the Venn diagram of DN followers and following.
So far, so good but not really all that interesting. At whom, exactly, does DN tweet most often?
Do to this, we grab all the info we can for DN’s most recent 3,200 tweets (as of Sept 3, 2019 at 12:24 pm PDT). That’s what the Twitter API limits searches to. This takes us back to March 1, 2016. There are 90 variables, but I’m interested in:
1. When the tweet was created
2. To whom the tweet was a reply (if anyone)
3. Anyone mentioned in the tweet (if anyone)
4. Number of retweets
5. Number of “favorites”
I’m collapsing (2) and (3) into a single value, “partners”. This captures both who is directly addressed as well as who is talked about.
First let’s look at the structure of partnerings. (Oh, BTW I scaled the values to be relative to the total number of times someone was a partner. So the values on the left are the proportion of parternings to total partnerings.)
This looks something like a Matthew Effect at work, but it's far from certain. The few who have lots of partnering may be benefiting from a "rich get richer" kinda thing.
It's clear by the long leftward tail and sharp uptick on the right that a few accounts grab most of the partnerings while many others only grab a few. One account garners 3.0085023% of partnerings while 258 accounts get .006540222%. Now let's zoom in on the top 25 partners.
A few interesting things here. First, of the top 25 partners for the DN account, most are partnered with less than 1% of the time. So while DN might partner with many accounts, none of them take up the lion’s share. So who are the lucky winners?
@sciam, followed by @michaelshermer, and then @alixabeth.
If you’re wondering what’s up with the first two, it’s that the DN account took Scientific American to task for this article by Michael Shermer...which, admittedly, is kind of a shit article.
Populating the top 25 slots are academic groups/organizations (@kottke, @academicssay), philosophy groups/organizations/popularizers (@apaphilosophy, @HiPhiNation, @philosophybites, @epicciuto), folks who do comics for Daily Nous (@chaospet, @petemandik, @rachelkatler, @TanyaKostochka), and philosophers, both better and less-well-known (at least “less-well-known” to this philosopher of mind and epistemologist in the Inland Northwest USA — but then again see rant from above). They seem to fall into a few broad categories:
Phil of sex/gender
Academic famous (>5k followers)
Other (<5k followers)
I don't know what pulls together the "Other" category. It’s a little odd that they make the top 25 despite not being as popular on academic Twitter as others.
That's all for today. More analyses on this dataset forthcoming, most immediately breaking out the top partners by year.
*We haven’t done any but I don’t make fun of your social life, DO I?