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Read 2019: Political Communication, Post-Discipline, Write a lot

Posted on Jan 19, 2020 by Chung-hong Chan


Although it is not a part of my objectives this year, I’ve read a lot recently. Surprisingly, I’ve read a lot of academic books. Regarding academic books, there are two things I can never understand about the academic book world. One: I never understand why academic journals publish book reviews. Two: I never understand why some academic books are so damn expensive. Book from big publishers are crazily expensive: Routledge’s books are just awfully expensive and I have a lot of reasons to avoid them. I am a cheapskate and I don’t think I would spend $80 for a 300-page academic book on my Kindle. Imagine these books are for university students! Not a supposingly middle-class postdoc! Well, one can read it at the library but it is still not welcoming.

I did a reflection recently and I found that I have read not enough during my study. There are still many gaps to be filled in my knowledge: I can’t talk theory with my boss (who is a distinguished media theorist), I don’t know how to do theory building, I don’t think I am prolific enough to fulfill my objectives.

When choosing which book to read, I have found a shortcut, which is very similar to the way music critics finding music. A music critic may tell you to listen to artists from 4AD, from Subpop, from Mute. A record label usually curates their music. I think I can apply the same rule to find books. My anchor point is Polity. For one, my boss has published a book with them, they should be good. For two, their books are relatively cheap, usually less than $25 apiece. Other anchor points are university presses. For example, many books from the Oxford Studies in Digital Politics look good. Reading these books one after another is still an expensive hobby, but I think it is quite glorious to tell my friends that I am broke because I read academic books. Instead of, say, smoking crack.

Here are some of the books I have read in the last few weeks and my three-sentence summary for each of them. So that I won’t waste you a lot of time like those book reviews in academic journals.

Political Communication: A New Introduction for Crisis Times

What makes political communication more complicated is not only new technology such as social media. Rapid globalization and uncontrollable neoliberalism are contributory too. Emerging issues such as populism and disinformation are probably a product of the three.

Communication, a post-discipline

The previous editor in chief of the Journal of Communication tells you how kaputt and fragmented the field is. Instead of agreeing on what Communication as a field or even as a concept is all about, why not embrace the field as a post-discipline? Like the area studies people or criminologists do.

How to write a lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2nd Edition)

Make writing as mundane and as predictable as your teaching, such that you do it regularly with a schedule and with some objectives to track your progress. In essence, sit your ass down and write a little every single day. Don’t wait until you have a large block of time and then binge write, like during your summer break, your sabbatical, or two days before the ICA deadline.

Transparent and reproducible social science research: How to do open science

Thus far the only text about doing open science for social science research and it does a good job at explaining the nitty-gritty details. However, I would want to know more about how to deal with institutional and legal challenges of sharing research data (e.g. copyright issues).

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