Some of my lessons from 2007 ASA

1) Talks where you spend 1/2 the time talking about the literature review almost never work, and often make people’s eyes glaze over. I am middling at speaking myself, but telling the audience something interesting is more important than reminding them that you’re well-read in your field.

2) I found the sessions less inspiring than I have in past years. I don’t know what this is about – it could be that when the conference is in the city in which you live, you have a different relationship to the conference. It could be that the sessions were less interesting. It could be that I’m at a moment where I’m finding it hard to be inspired by, and to learn from, other people’s work. I hope it’s one of the first two.

3) I really continue to enjoy connecting with friends and colleagues. It seems there are clusters of colleagues, but my favorite kind are the ones that contain people who I care about, and whose work I find interesting. They don’t give as much a crap about status, and they treat me and others not as potential antagonists, but as potential colleagues and collaborators. There continue to be these folks from my graduate school days, and I feel I’ve hopefully added some along the way.

4) Kieran Healy is smart and nice, and he calmed me down at a key technological juncture that could have been a lot more disastrous than it ended up being.

5) Substantively, there’s a lot of work to do. Networks are getting a bit short shrift as compared to years past, and while there is buzz about performativity and STS, the work isn’t there yet. I know what I mean by it, but I don’t think it’s the same thing that, say, Philip Mirowski means by it. I’m not sure this is such a bad thing, but there’s still a lot of slippery conceptualization of this area at this moment.

6) My own preference is to not worry about the economists-make-markets / economists-discover-markets distinction too much, as I think it’s a rabbit trail. Interesting, potentially radical, but ultimately less helpful than some of the more proximate insights. My own pet is something like price ontology and its contours, but whatever. The forms and processes of formatting markets is really interesting. What are mechanisms for transforming people into market actors, interest into rationality, etc. etc.? How does these processes interact with organizational structures, environments, cognitive schema, regulation? I want to really know more about these kinds of things.

7) More people should pay attention to Ryon Lancaster and Mike Sauder. They are both smart, interesting, have souls, and they’ll be in the top echelon of sociologists in a decade.

8) Organize roundtables once in your career, and then never do it again.

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