For attendees and members of the general public who are interested in the research basis for the factual claims made by Assoc. Prof. Lorien Lake-Corral and myself in our presentation on discrimination and the KKK in Maine, please feel free to download the powerpoint file attached below, which contains not only our presentation slides but also an appendix on discrimination and a complete set of references.
Interdisciplinary Faculty Panel: What is Research?
Lisa Botshon, Professor of English
Rosie Curtis, Lecturer in Architecture
Sarah Hentges, Associate Professor of American Studies
Peter Milligan, Professor of Biology
Carey Clark, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Moderator
Tuesday, November 3, 12 Noon
University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library
Members of this faculty panel will discuss their answer to the question “What is Research?” from the vantage point of their own discipline, then present examples of their own current research projects. Moderator Carey Clark will encourage movement from multidisciplinary presentation to interdisciplinary discussion.
All members of the public and the UMA community are welcome to attend this faculty panel. Please encourage students considering or engaged in research projects to attend. Light refreshments will be served.
FMI: James Cook, firstname.lastname@example.org, 207-621-3190
Maine friends and colleagues: I’ll be delivering a public lecture this upcoming Wednesday at the University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library. The subject is the Open Maine project, an effort to bring Maine state legislative information into the open information age. I’d love your feedback — and as usual for the UMA Research and Pedagogy series there will be nibbles.
Open Maine: Making Politics Social
A Presentation in the Research and Pedagogy Colloquium Series
James Cook, Assistant Professor of Social Science
Wednesday, April 22, 12 noon
University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library
“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
For most of Maine’s history, the records of its state politics have been officially accessible but practically unavailable. Before the internet age, information about the legislature was kept in side rooms and libraries at the State House in Augusta, making our collective decisions available only to those who had the time and money to stalk about the stacks.
In recent decades, the website of the Maine State Legislature has taken great strides toward making information about the Pine Tree State’s legislature, our legislation and our legislators available to all. Some roadblocks remain, however:
- Maine legislative information isn’t easily shared through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media;
- Maine legislative information isn’t easily mixed and downloaded for analysis by academics, journalists, citizen bloggers or the curious;
- It isn’t easy for us to engage in conversation about legislation and legislators in the same environment where raw information is made available;
- It isn’t easy for us to create, post and share our assessments of our legislators based on transparent and verifiable standards.
This RaP colloquium at the University of Maine at Augusta will present the result of a Presidential Research Grant kick-starting Open Maine, an online civic engagement and education project to make Maine legislative politics shareable, mixable, downloadable, conversable, assessable and transparent. Presentation of the new platform and research outcomes will be followed by discussion and a brainstorm on future development. Students, staff, faculty and members of the public are welcome.
[Update: download a Press Release for this event here]
Dear Members of the Central Maine Community,
I am writing to let you know of an event happening on the University of Maine at Augusta campus this month. On Thursday, February 26, you have a chance to save someone’s life.
Right now, there are millions of people across the United States suffering from a variety of syndromes and cancers of the blood:
- Globoid-Cell Leukodystrophy
- Metachromatic Leukodystrophy
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Severe Combined Immunodeficiency
The names of these diseases are strange, but there’s a stark truth behind them: without a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor, these people will die. With a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor, many of these people will live.
The difference between life and death is you.
There is a way for you to save the life of someone suffering from one of the diseases listed above: join the Be The Match Bone Marrow Registry.
It’s quick, simple and painless: all you need to do is swab your cheek so a lab can figure out your bone marrow type.
It costs you nothing to join the registry if you’re in the age range for the healthiest marrow: 18-44 years of age.
If you are a match to save someone’s life, the Be the Match Foundation will pay all expenses associated with your donation.
The only way to fight these odds and save these individuals’ lives is to convince more members of our community to join the bone marrow registry. Only by signing up for the registry and spreading the word to our networks and circles can we make an impact on the current critical situation for people requiring bone marrow transplants. For these reasons, I urge you to attend the Bone Marrow Drive and join the Be The Match bone marrow registry. If you are outside the optimal age range of 18-44 to join the registry, please help spread the word.
The details for the UMA Bone Marrow Drive are:
- Thursday, February 26, 2014, 10 AM to 2 PM
- University of Maine at Augusta
- Randall Student Center Lobby (next to the bookstore and the cafe)
- Directions from the North: Take Interstate 95 south to exit 112, turn left off exit ramp. Go about .75 miles and turn right at the UMA entrance sign.
- Directions from the South: Take Interstate 95 north to Exit 112 A, turn right off exit ramp. Go about .75 miles and turn right at the UMA entrance sign.
- Event web page: http://wp.me/p5sjUK-29
- For more information on the National Bone Marrow Registry program: http://bethematch.org
All members of the Central Maine community are welcome.
If you have any questions about the Bone Marrow Drive taking place on Thursday, February 26, please feel free to contact me personally at email@example.com or 207-621-3190.
James Cook, Assistant Professor of Social Science
University of Maine at Augusta
On October 15, 2014 the Social Science program at the University of Maine at Augusta hosted a debate between the two candidates on the ballot to become the next mayor of Augusta, Maine. Cosponsored with the Kennebec Journal, the debate asked city councilors William Dowling and David Rollins to address questions driven by available social science data regarding the city of Augusta. I had the enjoyable privilege of moderating, while fellow professor and sociologiest Lorien Lake-Corral fielded and filtered audience questions.
A video of the debate is available below (with audio kicking in about 20 seconds in):
During the debate, reference is made to a series of charts drawing from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. These charts, reproduced below, place the circumstances of the city of Augusta in the context of the other large communities in Maine and the nation itself, describing property crime rates, violent crime rates, median household income, food stamp use, female labor force participation and the sex gap in pay for Augusta and its peer cities.
Finally, budget materials for the city of Augusta in fiscal year 2014-2015, referred to often during the debate, can be found here.
As you evaluate the debate performances of Bill Dowling and Dave Rollins, I encourage you to consider their committments and demurrals with regard to the social challenges Augusta faces. Also think about the budgeting choices the candidates have made as councilors. In that context, how do you think they’ve done?
UMA Convocation Fall 2014
Framing the Theme – “Innovation”
Good afternoon. Last spring, the UMA Faculty Colloquium Committee identified a special theme of innovation to reflect the University’s 50th anniversary. The committee asks that every member of the faculty, staff and student body read and reflect upon a book about innovation, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Look for activities throughout the year celebrating UMA’s 50 years of innovation. As we kick off the year today, I’ve been asked to frame the theme of innovation in a few remarks.
When most of us hear the word “innovation,” we focus on the creation of something new. But there is more to innovation than newness. The word “innovation” comes from the Latin innovare, to renew or to make new. What do we renew? What do we make new? Something that was already there. To innovate is to make something new out of what came before.
To write a “novel” means literally to create a story that is new. But in the introduction to her novel Frankenstein, a novel of ghastly innovation, author Mary Shelley admits stitching together her story from the science, philosophy and mythology of the day before adding her own animating spark. “Everything must have a beginning,” Shelley writes, but “that beginning must be linked to something that went before…. Invention does not consist in creating out of void… the materials must, in the first place, be afforded.[i]” The innovative stories we tell are based on what came before.
Every human being on Earth is a unique innovation, a Frankenstein experiment of sorts, with a genome ripped from our parents and stitched together in a brand new way. Thanks to mutation, even identical twins don’t have exactly the same set of genes. But neither is any human being entirely new. We are variations on the genetic themes set by our parents, and as social scientists know we draw heavily from our environment in fashioning our public selves. The new, innovative you is based on what came before.
The University of Maine at Augusta is itself an innovation. Our history tells us that 50 years ago, there was no college or university in Augusta – and when UMA held its first classes on September 12 1965, it had no campus of its own. Our first classrooms were in Cony High School, set aside for use after school hours; that’s innovative. Our bookstore was fit into a Cony High School coat closet; that’s innovative[ii]. Even these humble beginnings were not completely new, but based on what came before: an existing school, repurposed and reimagined. In its next 50 years, UMA will rely on already existing strengths as it finds innovative new ways to fulfill its purpose.
And what is that purpose? What is a university for? At first glance, it may appear to some that a university is a business selling a product called a diploma to customers called students. Once purchased, the diploma product can be redeemed by the customer for future economic profit. Well, it certainly takes money for a person to live and for a university to run. But is an education just another consumer purchase? Is a university an assembly-line factory? Are faculty here to sell? Are students here to shop?
I think not. We are here because we share a dream. We dream of becoming more than we are. We dream of remaking ourselves, putting parts of our lives that came before together with something new and adding an animating spark. We know this dream of innovation can come true because we see it happen here every day — for some sooner, for some a bit later. The poet Adelaide Anne Procter shares a truth we at UMA know well: if we miss our first shot at remaking ourselves a second chance, a third chance will come. It is never too late. Procter writes:
“Have we not all, amid life’s petty strife,
Some pure ideal of a noble life
That once seemed possible? Did we not hear
The flutter of its wings, and feel it near,
And just within our reach? It was. And yet
We lost it in this daily jar and fret,
And now live idle in a vague regret;
But still our place is kept, and it will wait,
Ready for us to fill it, soon or late.
No star is ever lost we once have seen,
We always may be what we might have been[iii].”
This is the heart of innovation: to draw from what came before, to honor those who inspire your work today, to dream of being more than you are.
[i] Shelley, Mary. 1818. Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor and Jones.
[ii] Brookes, Kenneth. 1977. The Story of the University of Maine at Augusta: The Jewett Years. University of Maine at Augusta publication.
[iii] Procter, Adelaide Anne. 1864. “A Legend of Provence” (excerpt). P. 191 in The Poems of Adelaide A. Procter. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.
Looking for a simple, hands-on, meaningful way to make a difference in your community? Volunteer for the UMA Community Garden!
The University of Maine at Augusta Community Garden is gearing up for its third year of growing fresh organic vegetables for the Augusta Food Bank. In 2013, UMA staff and students delivered nearly 2,000 pounds of produce to the food bank, bringing new life to the old idea that a small group of dedicated people can change their world.
Hunger in Maine is a real problem, and we do our part by donating all food grown in the garden to the Augusta Food Bank. The bank provides supplemental food for over 1,000 individuals in the Augusta area. Many of those who are served by the food bank lack access to fresh, nutritious produce, making this project a sustaining service to the community.
Will you join us in 2014? We are looking for UMA community members of all sorts — current students, alumni, staff, faculty and administrators — who are willing to lend a hand. You don’t have to be an expert to help in the planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. All we need are your hands and a helping spirit.
If you would like find out about upcoming events or just watch the garden grow, visit our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/156445314475791/. If you’re a UMA community member who would like to jump in and become a community gardener, contact Cynthia Dean, faculty garden advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had such a fun time at the 2014 New England Political Science Association conference that I have a hard time identifying my five favorite moments. But if I force myself to choose, here they are.
1. No such thing as a free lunch? As conference organizer hands me tickets to two keynote luncheons, he says “here, take ’em. We won’t ask for them at the door, but you can take ’em anyway.” Two graduate students on the periphery lean in.
2. Prediction! Campaign consultant shares a tip with me on the side: Senate Democrats Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor? “They’re both going down, big time.”
3. Most enjoyable presentation: Abigail Fisher Williamson and Rachael Ann DiPietro of Trinity College on changes in the social movement for undocumented youth after victory reveals complexity.
4. Prediction! Distinguished speaker declares that this time around, Eliot Cutler’s campaign for Governor of Maine looks strong. Counter-Prediction! Scholars at several tables spontaneously interrupt: “No.” Someone’s got to be right.
5. Finishing my own presentation on social media networks among state legislators, letting the nervous anticipation go, and feeling freed to enjoy others’ work.
Attending academic conferences can feel a bit like living in a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. A conference that’s too small can leave you feeling underfed. On the other hand, a conference that’s too large can be overwhelming, intimidating and even alienating. A conference on a highly particular subject may be quite useful if you select just the right one, but may be completely useless if you’re even slightly off the mark. The presentations at an overly general conference may lack those crucial connections that stimulate career-changing “aha!” insights. If you’ve been to enough conferences, you probably know what I mean.
How rare, and therefore how precious, is the conference that hits the Goldilocks sweet spot in between these distasteful extremes. The 2013 Social Media & Society International Conference was that conference for me. Gathering and connecting presentations on the causes, kinds and consequences of online social connection, #SMSociety13 managed to be more than simply the sum of its individual presentations. Researchers across diverse fields of social science, humanities, business and computer science shared distinctive approaches and concerns regarding the same substantive subject, which meant that we all had some basis for understanding but also had something to learn:
Attendance numbered in the sweetly moderate middle between a hundred and two hundred, providing a critical but collegial mass of thinkers who began conversations during one set of presentations and continued them across others. How do we bridge (or barricade) the quantitative-qualitative divide? How do we know who is “really” speaking in an online environment, and how do participants manage the online presentation of self? What are the ways in which online interaction leads to offline action? As we ran into one another again and again in various combinations, these questions carried over into the late night at a pub and over danishes in the morning, with an aggregate from far-flung places becoming a quirky community.
The Social Media & Society International Conference meets again at Ryerson University in Toronto on September 27-28, 2014. Got a paper or panel in mind? Submit through this link: I’d love to see you there. Abstracts are due April 18. Poster proposals are due May 23.
As a sociologist, I come to the study of social media as a real-world instance of a theoretical object, the social network. Entrepreneurs across the country, on the other hand, start with the practical imperative of generating and maintaining business leads and contacts, and seek to learn more about social media as a means to that end.
Connecting us in the middle is the Social Media Breakfast, where academics, businessfolks and professional consultants meet once a month over coffee and a bagel, discussing technique and technology while members take turns presenting on areas of their own expertise. I attend the Social Media Breakfast Central Maine, held on the campus of nearby Thomas College in Waterville.
Last month, I presented to the group on low-cost to no-cost tools to gather and analyze data on communication patterns in social media. This week, Aimee Bermudez of Dream Local is sharing her experience in time-saving devices for content creation:
Together, while we learn and grow in our capabilities to make connections online, we make connections with one another and build community offline. Social media breakfasts happen around the country. Google “social media breakfast” and the name of your nearest city and find a place at the table. The “real” world, the virtual world, the business world and the academic world are all welcome here.