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Archive for the 'Book of the Week' Category

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

How I learned to love data visualization (again)

Better Presentations

This week, our featured book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks, by Jonathan Schwabish. Today, we are happy to feature a presentation by Schwabish himself on how he came to embrace the value of data visualization.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Better Presentations!

Jon Schwabish – How I learned to love data visualization (again) from VISUALIZED on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Five Ways Researchers Can Improve Their Presentations

Better Presentations

“It’s crucial, so I’ll say it once more: A presentation is a fundamentally different form of communication than what you write down and publish in a journal, report, or blog post.” — Jonathan Schwabish

This week, our featured book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks, by Jonathan Schwabish. To kick off our feature, we are happy to crosspost an article in which Schwabish lays out five steps that researchers can take to give better presentations. This post was originally published on the Urban Institute’s blog, Urban Wire, on November 17, 2016.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Better Presentations!

Five Ways Researchers Can Improve Their Presentations
By Jonathan Schwabish

Too many researchers prepare presentations by simply converting a report into slides. Text becomes bullet points; tables and figures get copied and pasted. But presenting is a fundamentally different form of communication than writing. When we treat our presentation and paper identically, we miss this important distinction and the opportunity to share our work as effectively as possible.

In my new book, Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks, I explain how to create, design, and deliver an effective presentation. Here are five tips from the book for giving better presentations. (more…)

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Book Giveaway! Better Presentations, by Jonathan Schwabish

Better Presentations

“Many smart people often become selfish idiots when they give a presentation. Jon’s much-needed book is a must read for just about anyone asked to share some slides.” — Seth Godin, author of Really Bad Powerpoint

This week, our featured book is Better Presentations
A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks
, by Jonathan Schwabish. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Richard Plunz on Housing in New York City

A History of Housing, Richard Plunz

We conclude our week-long feature on New York City books with A History of Housing in New York City, by Richard Plunz, who recently appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the book.

In the interview, Plunz discussed the unique historical situation that New York City confronts today with a combination of a housing shortage and an affordability crisis. As Plunz explains, the efforts of Mayors Bloomberg and DeBlasio have largely been frustrated for a variety of political and economic reasons. With new little land in the City to build upon, solutions to the problem are somewhat elusive.

Plunz also talked about the future of public housing and ways in which neighborhood can become more integrated. Needless to say, the city’s most famous real-estate figure was also discussed and Plunz expressed skepticism that the president-elect would pay much attention to housing for those not in the upper classes.

Finally, Plunz considers his favorite part of the book, which was Bronx in the 1920s. It was during this period that many immigrants moved out of the Lower East Side and built great housing in the Bronx and created a vibrant community of associations and neighborhoods.

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

The Prehistory of Brooklyn Bridge Park

A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park

We are continuing our focus on New York City books with A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park: How a Community Reclaimed and Transformed New York City’s Waterfront, Nancy Webster and David Shirley.

In the introduction, Webster and Shirley examine the prehistory to the park and how the area, which was once a bustling pier fell into disuse. By the 1970s, the piers had become abandoned and it was at this point that the Brooklyn community stepped in to imagine the space as a possible park on the water.

At the end of the introduction, we’ve included some images from how the park looks today.

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

A 19th Century Populist Revolt Against NYC’s Elite — An Excerpt from “In Pursuit of Privilege”

In Pursuit of Privilege, Clifton Hood

“The draft riots were carried out by desperate people who had serious grievances against the established order yet who lacked access to political and social channels for seeking redress for their grievances. Resorting to force because they had few alternatives, the rioters conducted reprisals against members of social groups and institutions whom they blamed for their suffering.”—Clifton Hood, In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis

One of the most violent challenges to New York City’s elite was during the Draft Riots in 1863. Clifton Hood writes about the riots in his new book In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis. In the passage below, Hood describes how white working-class frustrations led to violence against African Americans and the elite:

Irish immigrants lived in appalling poverty and endured ethnic and religious discrimination from the Protestant majority. In the six months since President Lincoln had made the abolition of slavery an official war aim by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, speeches by Fernando Wood and other Peace Democrats had stoked Irish fears that the freed slaves would compete for jobs and drive down wages. And now, with the passage of a conscription law designed to rectify the manpower shortages caused by the wartime slaughter, the federal government proposed to tear working-class men from their families and send them to the butcher’s yard, all, it seemed, to elevate African Americans above white workers.Worse yet was a provision of the conscription law permitting anyone who had been drafted to secure an exemption by paying a $300 waiver fee, a stipulation that put the burden of combat on the poor.

The draft riots were carried out by desperate people who had serious grievances against the established order yet who lacked access to political and social channels for seeking redress for their grievances. Resorting to force because they had few alternatives, the rioters conducted reprisals against members of social groups and institutions whom they blamed for their suffering. Mobs assaulted sites associated with the Republican Party, such as the offices of the New York Tribune and the home of its editor, Horace Greeley, and symbols of police and military authority, like police stations and draft offices. Yet their prime targets were African Americans. A large crowd attacked the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue, clubbing to death a nine-year-old girl who was discovered hiding under a bed. African American men were beaten and sometimes killed and mutilated. The bodies of African American men were hung from trees and lampposts. Their homes were destroyed. By the time that five regiments dispatched from the Gettysburg battlefield could restore calm, at least 105 people died and another 2,000 were injured.

To read more:

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Book(s) Giveaway! 3 New Books on New York City!

This week we are very excited to be featuring three new titles in New York City history: In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis, by Clifton Hood; A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park: How a Community Reclaimed and Transformed New York City’s Waterfront, by Nancy Webster and David Shirley; and the revised edition of A History of Housing in New York City, by Richard Plunz with a foreword by Kenneth T. Jackson.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of each book to one lucky winner! To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, November 18 at 1:00 pm.

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Introducing “The Antiegalitarian Mutation”

The Antiegalitarian Mutation

“Can democracy fail to resist the increase in inequality and poverty without becoming distorted? And for how long will democracy be able to withstand the pressure of all the political movements that call for the exclusion, rather than the inclusion, of entire segments of the world population without transmuting into something other than itself? And finally, why is it in the name of pre-political entities, such as ethnicity, the ancestral bond with a territory, or blind allegiance to a specific interpretation of a sacred text, that exclusion is desired?” — Nadia Urbinati

This week, our featured book is The Antiegalitarian Mutation: The Failure of Institutional Politics in Liberal Democracies, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione, translated by Martin Thom. Today, we are happy to present a short essay introducing Urbinati’s project.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Antiegalitarian Mutation!

Over a span of a hundred years, two vastly different U.S. presidents chose Osawatomie, a small settlement located at the confluence of two rivers in southern Kansas, as an emblem of their country’s bond of solidarity. In Osawatomie, whose name is a compound of two Native American tribes, the Osage and the Pottawatomie, both presidents spoke of the common good as a higher value than the preferences of the isolated individual. In a speech that is often quoted as an example of presidential eloquence, on August 31, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president, for the first time explicitly warned the United States against its libertarian temptations: only a strong government, he argued, would be able to regulate the economy and guarantee social justice. It was again in Osawatomie that, on December 6, 2011, Barack Obama, a Democratic president, voiced his most passionate denunciation of rising economic inequality. “This is the defining issue of our time,” Obama thundered, to rapturous applause. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.” (more…)

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Public Reason, Public Schooling, and Walls

The Antiegalitarian Mutation

“Those who raise anti-immigration walls, like the one California has built on the Mexican border, think that they will be able to preserve their privileges large and small if, and for so long as, only they enjoy them. They bring out one of the most flagrant contradictions that afflict our affluent democratic societies: that which sees, on the one hand, a refined culture that shares universalistic and cosmopolitan values and that nonetheless remains the appanage of a minority, often a snobbish one; but that sees, on the other hand, a widely diffused popular culture that, though intoxicated by global consumerism, is terrified by globalization and objectively weak in front of the challenges arising through the opening of borders to cheap labor.” — Nadia Urbinati

This week, our featured book is The Antiegalitarian Mutation: The Failure of Institutional Politics in Liberal Democracies, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione, translated by Martin Thom. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the first chapter, in which Urbinati and Zampaglione discuss public reason and public education, the significance of anti-immigration walls, and the “new nationalisms” that arise with the unchecked growth of a financial and economic global power.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Antiegalitarian Mutation!

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Mother Teresa’s Miracles

The Miracle Myth

“How should one go about justifying belief in miracles? As the Vatican approaches this question, one must look for evidence that, first, some event has occurred for which there is no scientific explanation; and second, that the event occurred as a result of prayer to the deceased candidate for sainthood. Philosophers have a name for the inference involved in this kind of search. We call it an inference to the best explanation.” — Larry Shapiro

This week, our featured book is The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified, by Larry Shapiro.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Miracle Myth.

Mother Teresa’s Miracles
By Larry Shapiro

Nothing against Mother Teresa, whose elevation to sainthood seems as deserving as any, but I think a condition for sainthood – the performance of at least two miracles – is about as silly as they come. To understand why, let’s begin with a crucial distinction – a distinction between the existence of a miracle and the justification for believing in a miracle. Some event may have occurred and yet believing so could still be unjustified. Perhaps it rained on this date in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Still, we are not justified in believing that it did. Why not? We lack any evidence for the occurrence. No archaeologist has discovered a scrap of papyrus on which was scrawled “Today, September XX, 16 a.d. in Jerusalem it rained.” Nor is there a record of testimony to the event. There’s simply no reason to think that it did rain in Jerusalem on this day 2000 years ago.

With respect to miracles, this distinction between an event’s occurring and justification for believing that the event has occurred plays out like this. Perhaps Mother Teresa did perform two miraculous healings. However, we may still ask whether anyone is justified in believing so. More specifically, we should wonder whether the investigators whom the Vatican assigned to research the case for Mother Teresa’s canonization were justified in their eventual belief that she had performed the miracles attributed to her. Obviously, if they were not justified, then their conclusions should be disregarded. (more…)

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Book Giveaway! The Antiegalitarian Mutation, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione

The Antiegalitarian Mutation

“Nadia Urbinati is one of the most original thinkers of representative democracy in our time. In this set of wide-ranging and stimulating conversations, she uses theory and insights drawn from across the history of political thought to illuminate the profound challenges to political equality that we are witnessing in both Europe and the Americas today.” — Jan-Werner Müller, author of Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe

This week, our featured book is The Antiegalitarian Mutation: The Failure of Institutional Politics in Liberal Democracies, by Nadia Urbinati and Arturo Zampaglione, translated by Martin Thom. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Introducing “The Miracle Myth”

The Miracle Myth

“[M]ore people believe in heaven than in hell not because they have reasons to believe in one and not the other but because they want it to be true that there’s a heaven and don’t want it to be true that there’s a hell. In other words, the people who believe in heaven but not hell have abandoned reason and instead hang their belief on nothing more than hope—hope that because the idea of heaven is so nice, it must exist, and hope that because the idea of hell is so horrible, it must not exist.” — Larry Shapiro

This week, our featured book is The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified, by Larry Shapiro.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Miracle Myth.

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Book Giveaway! The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified

The Miracle Myth

“Shapiro does more than hammer some more nails in the coffin of miracles that David Hume fashioned. He marshals much of what we have learned about inference to the best explanation and Bayes’s theorem in the 270 years since Hume’s inquiry. Yet he does it with Hume’s lightness of touch, a wealth of relevant examples of contemporary credulousness, and no equations. It is a book to enjoy and then pass on to friends given to wishful thinking.” — Alex Rosenberg, author of The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Illusions

This week, our featured book is The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and the Supernatural Is Unjustified, by Larry Shapiro. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Rolling the Dice

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship

“To paraphrase Virgil, both fortune and misfortune tend to favor the bold. In other words, the surest route to avoiding misfortune is certainly not by starting one’s own business. Those who are motivated primarily by a fear of discomfort, uncertainty, and the like will find a safer way to earn a living. Of course, in many instances, such people will fare better economically over the long run than the perennial risk-taker. Nonetheless, those looking for the safe route are not likely to become entrepreneurs, successful or otherwise.” — Joe Carlen

This week, our featured book is A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World, by Joe Carlen. For today’s post, Carlen discusses the traits that are most commonly shared by successful entrepreneurs throughout history.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship!

Rolling the Dice
By Joe Carlen

During a recent radio interview about A Brief History of Entrepreneurship, the host asked me about those traits that are most commonly found among successful entrepreneurs. Having recently written a book that traces entrepreneurship from the dawn of civilization to the nascent space tourism industry, three initial answers sprung to mind. In this piece, I will review each of them, and discuss my personal choice for the single most important trait shared by successful entrepreneurs.

Ingenuity? Certainly, some of history’s greatest entrepreneurs, especially those of recent centuries, were distinguished by their ingenuity. Yet, many more, equally successful, were not especially innovative, at least in the technological sense. Moreover, some of the most creative ones – like Samuel Crompton, the brilliant industrial innovator who failed to adequately protect his intellectual property – never attained significant financial success. Meanwhile, even some of today’s largest technology companies were not founded on particularly original ideas. Rather, some are enterprises that grew out of tweaking existing concepts and promoting them far more aggressively and effectively than the original innovators ever did. (more…)

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Introducing “A Brief History of Entrepreneurship”

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship

“Throughout history, the entrepreneur’s ceaseless quest to discover and/or develop new markets has been pursued through a variety of means, all of which have had an enormous impact on society…. So while this book does not posit a moral argument for or against entrepreneurship, it does argue that it has been a “prime mover,” an instigator of seminal transformations that have altered the course of history.” — Joe Carlen

This week, our featured book is A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World, by Joe Carlen. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Carlen’s Introduction, in which he traces the term “entrepreneur” back to its invention, and explains what made him investigate the history of economic invention.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship!

In 1985, Peter Drucker, the late management expert, defined entrepreneurship as “the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth,” among the most specific and meaningful definitions of the term. More literally, the words “entrepreneurship” and “enterprise” both derive from the Old French word for “an undertaking,” entrependre. Yet even in French, the related word entrepreneur did not take on its current meaning until the economist Jean-Baptiste Say so imbued it in 1800.

In the English language, until the mid-nineteenth century, when the French term entrepreneur began to enjoy common usage outside France, the term undertaker (a literal translation of the French word) was sometimes used in its stead. More frequently, however, the more evocative term “adventurer” was preferred. In this vein, the American economist William Baumol once defined the entrepreneur as “the individual willing to embark on adventure in pursuit of economic goals.” These individuals and the often unintended impact of their adventures on the course of world history are the focus of this book. (more…)

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Flying Money and Capitalist Monks

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship

“Living in the land where paper had been invented several centuries earlier, these Chinese entrepreneurs began using paper bills of credit representing and exchangeable for a certain sum of guan. Upon selling their shipments of tea in the city, usually the dynasty capital Chang’an, they would receive paper IOUs…. The lightness of paper money, especially in comparison with copper coinage, inspired the name fei-qian, ‘flying money.’” — Joe Carlen

This week, our featured book is A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World, by Joe Carlen. To start the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from “Flying Money and Capitalist Monks,” Carlen’s chapter on entrepreneurship in Tang and Song China.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of A Brief History of Entrepreneurship!

Monday, October 31st, 2016

Book Giveaway! A Brief History of Entrepreneurship, by Joe Carlen

A Brief History of Entrepreneurship

“Joe Carlen delves in primary and secondary sources, including texts on modern management, and presents them in readable and attractive prose. A Brief History of Entrepreneurship is a light and enjoyable read.” — Ali Kahn, Abram Hutzler Professor of Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University

This week, our featured book is A Brief History of Entrepreneurship: The Pioneers, Profiteers, and Racketeers Who Shaped Our World, by Joe Carlen. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Intelligence Agency Logic

Data Love

“Intelligence agencies want to secure and enhance their effectiveness just as much as any other functional social system; whatever is technologically possible will be used. For this reason, ever since 9/11 intelligence agencies had been dreaming of the “full take” of all data from all citizens. What had failed to materialize until then, because of financial and technological shortcomings, became a real option with the increasing digitization of society. The consensus was that those who did not use the new possibilities for data collection and evaluation were refusing to work properly, which in this realm of work might almost be regarded as treason.” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, by Roberto Simanowski, translated by Brigitte Pichon, Dorian Rudnytsky, and John Cayley. Today, for the final post of the feature, we have a short excerpt from the book’s first chapter, Intelligence Agency Logic, in which Simanowski uses the case of Edward Snowden to examine popular and political reactions to government surveillance.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Data Love!

Intelligence Agency Logic
By Roberto Simanowski

In the summer of 2013 the twenty-nine-year-old IT specialist Edward Snowden flew into a foreign country carrying with him secret documents produced by his employer, the National Security Agency of the United States (NSA). From the transit zone of the Moscow airport and with the help of the Guardian and the Washington Post, he informed the world about the extent of the surveillance of telephone and Internet communications undertaken by American intelligence agencies. In doing this, the whistleblower Snowden became much more successful than Thomas Drake, a former department head at the NSA who, with the same motives, had criticized the excessive surveillance practices of the NSA first through official channels and then in 2010 by divulging information to a journalist from the Baltimore Sun, for which he was later accused of espionage. Snowden’s disclosures triggered an international sensation lasting many months, creating what historians at the time characterized as the last great epiphany to be experienced by media society.

This is how a report on the events of the NSA scandal of 2013 might begin in some distant future. The report would evaluate the event from a respectful historical distance and without the excitement or disappointment of earlier historians. From the distant future, this moment of revelation would prove to have been the last outcry before the realization that there were no alternatives to certain unstoppable technological, political, and social developments. The report from the future would reconstruct the case with historical objectivity, beginning by explaining how world leaders reacted.

The United States declares Snowden’s passport invalid and issues a warrant of arrest for the breach of secrecy and theft. The Brazilian president protests at the United Nations over spying on Brazilian citizens (including herself ). She cancels her planned meeting with the president of the United States and by creating an investigative committee again proves her capacity to act after the traumatic experience of the “#vemprarua” upheavals in her own country. Ecuador— its embassy in London housing the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange—offers asylum to Snowden, thereby forgoing U.S. customs benefits. Germany denies Snowden’s request for asylum on the technicality that one cannot file an application from a foreign country. Russia grants asylum to Snowden for one year, provoking a further cooling of its relations with the United States and immediately causing the cancellation of a planned summit meeting between Obama and Putin. (more…)

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies

Data Love

“[Data Love] does not reduce arguments over big data mining to the enemy-logic of ‘citizen vs. state’ but discusses data love as an expression of an undoubtedly fundamental but — bizarrely —insufficiently noted reorganization of society—a ‘quiet’ revolution initiated by software developers and implemented by way of algorithms; a revolution that, on the one hand, is subject to the drives of technological potential while, on the other, is reacting to the end of social utopias within a model of society dominated by consumerism.” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, by Roberto Simanowski, translated by Brigitte Pichon, Dorian Rudnytsky, and John Cayley. Today, we are happy to present a Q&A with Simanowski, in which he outlines his book project and the importance of questions about our love affair with data.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Data Love!

Why is data love the most troubling love affair of our time?

The love of big data has affected us all and is, without a doubt, the most entrancing and troubling love story of the twenty-first century. For better or worse and for many reasons, we happily choose to participate in the big data universe. We don’t worry much about data protection if we get something for less or even for free; we easily trade privacy for the narcissistic thrill of Facebook’s sharing culture. We can hardly wait for our fridge to talk to the supermarket and our calendar to converse with our car or house. That the conversation among “smart things”—that GPS, check-ins, or whatever sort of self-tracking device we use —are a data miner’s dream doesn’t deter us, we want it anyway and are convinced we can no longer live without it. (more…)

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Introducing “Data Love”

Data Love

“[D]ata love must be discussed as something that is more than just fuel for the economy of the information age. It is a complex subject with farreaching moral, political, and philosophical consequences—without doubt the most delicate and troubling love story of the twenty-first century.” — Roberto Simanowski

This week, our featured book is Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies, by Roberto Simanowski, translated by Brigitte Pichon, Dorian Rudnytsky, and John Cayley. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from Data Love that includes the preface, the epilogue, and the postface.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Data Love!