Saturday, October 2, 2010

Can I write a paper for academic publication?

I was recently presented this possibility by Phil Fry of the Business and Economics Department at BSU.  He brought it up out of the blue, so it took me a bit by surprise.  I always looked at academic publication as something that would be a forceful process (like my thesis), rather than something I would enjoy doing; but I think he has a point now, so I'm seriously considering topics that might be worthy of that sort of research/work.

I have been meeting with Phil on statistical matters concerning Booklamp for over a year now.  He has helped me refine the S.I.F.T. Engine that I developed with Booklamp - the math and mechanics behind the current internal version of Booklamp's recommendations.  He has helped me with ideas regarding economic modeling of the data I have available, and other more specific statistical curiosities - i.e., quantile regression.

The thought of publishing something left my mind after I finished my masters thesis, which was a brutally stressful process.  When that was over I just said, "finally, I can go to Booklamp and do what I want to do."  Well, it's been a year now and I do feel I have something to add to the broad world of academic knowledge.

Our Director of Research, Matt Jockers, is in town for a regional conference on Irish literature to present a paper.  I went to the block of presentations that he was a part of and it is interesting to hear academic presentation from people that are not economists... the talks were much more "real" than the major abstractions that can be difficult at times to listen to from the field of economics.  The presentations were pretty entertaining, to say the least.

The first presenter talked about literature as a "technology of the settled," making references to the knowledge that settled peoples develop language and this technology differs between different "settlements."  I'm paraphrasing, but that's what I got.  She also mentioned the "profit" of literature, but in an abstract sense - not necessarily in terms of money.  These two ideas, the technology and profit of literature, are inspiring some interesting thoughts from an econ education.  I can certainly come up with some unique substance concerning, "Literature: Technology and Profit."  A topic like this very much reflects the sort of abstract sense of value that I've developed in and after grad school.

If you are thinking, "literature... technology... what?" then I think it is important to realize that literature is very much a technology.  The Internet, for example, is produced entirely using a form of algorithmic literature - no words (think, code), no Internet, period (at least as we know it).  When we think about "literature" though we don't necessarily think code, we think 'books' and 'emotional stimulation', or academic literature brings to mind intellectual stimulation.

The "profit of literature" is something that is probably much more difficult to define.  It is easy to say that we really enjoyed a book, but... "how much did you enjoy the book?" is an entirely different question.  I would argue that, unless you read on a constant basis (a book a day, or so), most of us would have a difficult time answering this question.

Then, as a economist, I want to know how much did the book cost, which is not to be confused with only price.  The cost of a book includes price, but also the time commitment, and possibly other factors.

So... what is the profit of literature?  These irish studies academics seem to have an understanding of it.  I figure I can find something to talk about here.  We will just have to see.

Pick o' the Post: WYLF (What You're Looking For) by Mofro on JJ Grey and Mofro

I really like me some Mofro... love the blues and they do it so well and make it all sound so diverse (to me).  I guess my favorite albums from them are the first two Lochloosa and Blackwater.  I got a bit annoyed when they split the credits between JJ Grey and Mofro, but meh...