Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Scrabble

Close Every Tab from the Semester or Die Trying Links

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* Some nice conference acceptance news: My semester of David Foster Wallace will end with a panel on “Infinite Jest at Twenty” with Lee Konstantinou, Carrie Shanafelt, and Kate Hayles at MLA 2017. I’ve put the full panel description in the comments for anyone interested…

David Foster Wallace’s Famous Commencement Speech Almost Didn’t Happen. Guest appearance from my friend from grad school, Meredith Farmer!

* It’s been such a busy week I haven’t had time to crow about Jaimee’s poem appearing on Verse Daily.

* An obituary for my friend and Marquette colleague Diane Long Hoeveler.

* CFPs from Foundation: The Essay Prize (for graduate students and adjuncts) and a special issue on SF theater.

* Call For Papers: The Precariat & The Professor.

* For World’s Newest Scrabble Stars, SHORT Tops SHORTER: Nigerian players dominate tournaments with the surprising strategy of playing short words even when longer ones are possible.

Want to See Hamilton in a City Near You? Buy a Subscription and Wait Two Years. Okay, maybe I will!

How Hamilton Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda Is Building A Brand For The Ages.

* google d&d player’s handbook truth: The Curious Case of the Weapon that Didn’t Exist.

Burlington College Will Close, Citing Longstanding Financial Woes. What Killed Burlington College?

* Ending HBCUs in North Carolina.

Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students. And on the Harry Potter Social Justice Wizard beat: a genderqueer student comes to hogwarts and…

* How Student Debt Reduces Lifetime Wealth.

* More data on learning and laptops — but you’ll never convince me that students benefit more from pen-and-paper notes than from a searchable, permanent archive of their entire academic career Spotlight can access and retrieve instantly.

* Many public universities now rely heavily on parents—particularly those with money, time, and connections—to meet their basic needs.

* Big-Time College Sports Neglect Academics, Deflect Blame.

* Huge, if true: In other words, the rush to embrace entrepreneurship is ideological rather than practical.

* Tenure as earned property.

* Diversity defunded in Tennessee.

UW English Chair Caroline Levine: Enough with Scott Walker and the GOP — I’m leaving.

Texas School District Votes to Build Totally Tasteful $62 Million High School Football Stadium.

A new documentary, Agents of Change, describes the five-month SF State protest and a similar strike at Cornell University through the voices of former students like Tascoe who were involved. The film is a gripping case study of the meticulous organizing, community engagement, and careful planning that went into two of the most effective student strikes in American history. Black Studies Matter.

* I was seriously thisclose to writing a #TeamCap blog post to comicsplain Civil War to the confused, but Mightygodking got there first.

* Milwaukee in the ne — oh for fuck’s sake.

Wisconsin communities dominate “Drunkest Cities” report.

Wisconsin woman has confirmed case of Zika virus.

“Rare detailed personal memory a burden, and ultimately a gift.”

* “This 90-Year-Old Lady Seduced and Killed Nazis as a Teenager.”

“Why do all old statues have such small penises?”

* Probably the most honest thing ever said about this election: 87-Year-Old Billionaire Endorses Trump, Says He Doesn’t Care If It’s A Mistake Since He’ll Be Dead. Meanwhile, this is just totally bananas: Donald Trump masqueraded as publicist to brag about himself.

What Would It Take for Donald Trump to Deport 11 Million and Build a Wall?

A First-Person Account of a Texas Artist’s Deportation.

* From what I can tell, the current Sanders campaign is riven between people who are increasingly upset or bewildered by what we might call the resurgent “burn it down” turn of Sanders outlook and others who are fully immersed in the feedback loop of grievance and paranoia that sees all the political events of the last year as a series of large and small scale conspiracies to deny the rectitude and destiny of Bernie Sanders. I’ve seen many, many campaigns. People put everything into it and losing is brutal and punishing. Folks on the losing side frequently go a little nuts, sometimes a lot nuts. The 2008 denouement really was pretty crazy. But it’s not clear that this time we have any countervailing force – adulthood, institutional buy-in, future careers, over-riding pragmatism to rein things in.

Why Pennsylvania Could Decide The 2016 Election.

http://mobile.twitter.com/AlexJamesFitz/status/732583842175975428

* Almost starting to see a pattern here, Disney: Shane Black reveals Iron Man 3 scrapped a female villain because of toy sales. Why Disney needs a gay princess.

From cooperation to black operation: A Conversation with Stefano Harney and Fred Moten on The Undercommons.

* A brief history of the giraffe.

“When you have a child with a life-threatening illness, you have an irrevocably altered existence,” Barbara Sourkes had told the Levys, and Esther feels that is true. She had always felt in control of her fate, but now she believes this to be a fiction. She finds it difficult to reconcile bitterness over the blight of Andrew’s illness with gratitude for the reprieve. “We are the luckiest of the unluckiest people in the world,” she says. “I truly believe that.”

With playdates replacing free childhood play, it’s upper-class families who set the social norms — and working-class families who pay the price.

Can Graduate Students Unionize? The Government Can’t Decide.

* TSA forever and ever amen.

* After all this time, who can say really who sent whom to Robben Island for 27 years.

* I too like to live dangerously: Uber Says Riders Will Pay the Most When Their Phone Battery Is Dying.

Small Beer Press to Publish 400-Year-Old SF Novel.

* On Kim Stanley Robinson and “solarpunk.”

Nate Moore, 37, is the lone African-American producer in the film division at Marvel Studios. And elsewhere in Marvel news: Agents of SHIELD Star Says Marvel Doesn’t Care Enough About Its Own TV Show.

* DC has, to all reports, done something utterly crazy. Big shakeup in their film division to boot. Can Booster Gold save the DC Cinematic Universe?

Not even $100 million can make Daniel Craig give a fuck about James Bond.

* World-famous ethicist isn’t.

* What terrible luck! The CIA has “mistakenly” destroyed the sole copy of a massive Senate torture report in the custody of the agency’s internal watchdog group, Yahoo News reported Monday.

Americans Don’t Miss Manufacturing — They Miss Unions.

* University title and salary generator.

Behind Some Campus Protests, a Team of Paid Professionals.

* The Sochi hoax.

* Attempt no landings etc: Europa Is Even More Earth-Like Than We Suspected.

* Outrageous slander: The Warriors Still Aren’t the Best Team Ever.

Liberal Think Tank Fires Blogger for Rude Tweets. Bruenighazi.

Against the Crowdfunding Economy.

In other words, Zootopia advances a sublimated theory of power that is strangely conservative, and — perhaps not so strangely — fundamentally allied with the project of economic neoliberalization. After a humiliating stint as a traffic cop, Judy Hopps is assigned to the case of a group of predators who have suddenly gone “savage,” which in this anthropomorphized universe means ripping off their clothes, dropping to all fours, and attacking other animals. It turns out that this crisis of respectability was engineered by the unassuming Bellwether, a champion of rabbits and mice who has dosed the predators with a weaponized narcotic that returns them to a “primitive” state of bestial violence. In order to bolster her own political prospects, Bellwether has engineered an interspecies crisis of what 1990s Clintonites called “super-predators” run amok. This is very close — if we pursue the allegory to its political ends — to alleging that the state has manufactured crises of, say, black masculinity in order to whip up the white public-safety vote and secure its own legitimacy. Now that would be an interesting intervention, if the film took us all the way there. And it really almost does.

What Kinds of Difference Do Superheroes Make?: An Interview with Ramzi Fawaz. Part Two.

NCDOT tries something new to thwart Durham’s Can Opener bridge.

The Most Successful Female Everest Climber of All Time Is a Housekeeper in Hartford, Connecticut.

* The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines.

* Ted Chiang vs. Chinese logograms.

* Fracking comes to England.

An unorthodox anthropologist goes face to face with ISIS. Is the payoff worth the peril?

* CBS All-Access gets a second show. And that’s why The Good Wife had a terrible ending!

Mitch Hurwitz is still confident that another season of Arrested Development will happen.

* I’m feeling pretty on board with Luke Cage, I have to say.

* As with the comic before it, the film version of The Dark Tower will likely detail a different, later iteration of the series’s defining time loop.

“Perfect” Donkey Kong score achieved.

* The only Twitter account you need: @LegoSpaceBot.

No human alive has seen 7 months this hot before. Get with the program, Great Lakes!

What drought? Nestle plans $35 million plant to bottle water in Phoenix.

* Alas, Venezuela: There has never been a country that should have been so rich but ended up this poor.

* Project Earth is leaving beta.

* In the back room of the morgue.

* But it’s not all bad news: Our Solar System Could Remain Habitable Long After Earth Is Destroyed.

Happy graduation day, Marquette!

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Written by gerrycanavan

May 22, 2016 at 8:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Friday Links!

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* Terrible news from UWM: The Center for 21st Century Studies (C21) is facing an unprecedented attack on its very existence.

* CFP for SLSA 2016: “Creativity.”

The shift from a subordinate learner as a grad student to a would-be peer on the job market is one of the most predictable traumas in an academic’s life, inducing professional and emotional distress in almost everyone who encounters it. I think this is true, but I wish we would encourage graduate students not to think of themselves so much as students in the first place.

* Ursula K. Le Guin on the Game of Fibble. Played on a Scrabble board.

Raucous confrontation at SF State over ethnic studies cuts.

* Melissa Click has been fired by the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

Washington State Prof Charged With $8M Research Fraud.

* MFA vs CIA.

Sen. Charles “Bill” Carrico (R-Grayson) said that books such as “Beloved” plant the seeds of evil in the minds of young people. This country’s gone completely mad.

* A 150-Year Timeline of the Flint Water Crisis.

* Nuclear waste dumped illegally in Ky. Poverty across Wisconsin reaches highest level in 30 years. Lead Warnings Issued for Pregnant Women, Kids in Jackson, Mississippi. Iowa Lawmakers Approve Bill That Would Let Kids Have Handguns. America’s airlines are introducing a class below economy. America is pulling apart.

A woman who was arrested at a hospital over the summer for failing to pay court fines died the next day because she was deprived of water at the Charleston County jail, her family’s attorneys said Wednesday.

* We’ve all thought about it: High School Honors Student Was Actually a Creepy Adult Pretending to Be a Kid.

Facebook’s Five New Reaction Buttons: Data, Data, Data, Data, and Data.

This goes with another point: drones are a signal departure from the impersonal destruction that typifies modern technologically advanced warfare, in which the attacker rarely perceives his individual victims. The drone pilot, in contrast, even though he is thousands of miles away, spends many hours closely observing his victim and those near him, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. The stories are about both the killers and the killed.

A presidential run by Michael Bloomberg could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. Counterpoint: A presidential run by Michael Bloomberg could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.

* The Mirror Universe: A Historical Analysis.

How To Tell If You’re In a Flannery O’Connor Story.

* “Unintelligible yelling.”

* “Asteroid Will Pass Agonizingly Close To Earth.”

* In this article Huntington’s disease becomes the core of the case for editing genes, against even blindness on the other side. I wrote about it!

Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals.

“I felt nothing,” she told me, smiling. “He was a dog thief, after all.”

Finally we find that 38% of Florida voters think it’s possible that Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. 10% say he for sure is, and another 28% say that they are just not sure. Cruz is exonerated from being a toddler serial killer by 62% of the Sunshine State populace.

Resolved: Thursday Links Will Take All Our Links

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* Tonight! DC! 6:30! Resolved: Technology Will Take All Our Jobs!

* Help, University Administration Is Terrible! Kids these days.

Statement by PROFS in response to JFC omnibus motion #521, item #39. Foxes in the Henhouse: The Republican Takeover of the University of Wisconsin System. A turning point for the UW Colleges.

* Han’s wife shot first.

Forgetting Lolita: How Nabokov’s Victim Became an American Fantasy.

* Michael Bérubé and Jennifer Ruth: Time for a Teaching-Intensive Tenure Track.

How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes.

Every United Airlines flight was grounded this morning in the US.

More People Work at Fusion Than Are Reading Its Most Popular Post.

The problem is that the IRB system is so fundamentally misconceived that it is virtually a model of how to regulate badly.

French Court Rules It Is Unconstitutional To Cut Off Water To Anybody.

Teen got arrested after cop tried to pick her up, failed. Warrants issued for people who cheered at Senatobia graduation. In the last seven years at least 29 police K-9s have sweltered to death after officers left the dogs inside hot patrol vehicles.

School kitchen manager fired for giving lunches to hungry students.

* Sepp Blatter resigns. Something something joke about George Lucas character names.

The Secret 1949 Radiation Experiment That Contaminated Washington.

How Ridic Are the New Scrabble Words?

* How Ridic Are Call-In Shifts?

Alternative Idea for Resolving Sexual-Assault Cases Emphasizes Closure. “Administrators promised to keep her charges confidential and to protect her from retaliation.” For what it’s worth, I had some general thoughts on Title IX earlier this week that I Storified on the off-chance anyone is interested. I don’t think the outlook is good.

The inside story of how the Clintons built a $2 billion global empire. Is Hillary Clinton in trouble?

* Draft, uh, let’s say Bloomberg.

* The Tampon: A History.

* Google NBA Jam truth.

New Study Confirms Self-Evident Truth: Time Warner Is Literally The Worst.

* Hell is working at the Huffington Post.

* Teach the controversy.

* And the arc of history is long, but Arrested Development season five will air in spring 2016.

Friday Links!

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* I’ll be speaking at this event on June 4th in DC: Resolved: Technology Will Take All Our Jobs.

* SF-flavored art exhibit at the Racine Art Museum.

* I think it’s fair to say Marquette has had a pretty rough year.

* Mass contingency is not compatible with shared governance.

How Austerity Killed the Humanities.

“If Students Are Smart, They’ll Major in What They Love.”

Why Technology Will Never Fix Education.

* Alex Rivera on Hollywood and the War Machine. See also!

Games Without Wages. The video game industry has long relied on the unpaid labor of “modders.” Is it ready to finally pay up?

* Nice work if you can get it: Yale Gives Former President $8 Million Retirement Gift.

Professors Face Long Odds in Court Battles Over Speech Rights.

Everybody Calm Down About Breastfeeding.

The dangerous trick here goes like this: someone fantasizes about a world in which rape frequently occurs and consistently goes unpunished; to explore this emotional fantasy, they set it in a premodern narrative fantasy world where they can displace their own desire onto “history.” The dark impulse or desire isn’t theirs, then; it’s the world’s. It’s history’s. And once a dark personal fantasy becomes “realism,” gazing upon this dark thought or idea isn’t a kind of humiliating or dangerous self-reflection, it’s laudable: it’s an honest engagement with truth.

“Most pro-life women oppose abortion with four exceptions: rape, incest, the life of the mother, and me.”

* I suspect even Notre Dame can’t really explain why it’s suing the federal government over contraception anymore.

The New Mexico Law Review just published an issue dedicated entirely to Breaking Bad.

Canadian Aboriginal Group Rejects $1 Billion Fee for Natural Gas Project.

* Study Links Record Dolphin Die-Off In The Gulf Of Mexico To Deepwater Horizon Spill.

* They paved built an oil rig in paradise.

* The $10 Hedge Fund Supercomputer That’s Sweeping Wall Street.

* Nearly one in four financial services employees say it’s likely their co-workers have acted outside of the law. Dismaying as that statistic may be, it is nearly double the 12 percent who said the same in 2012.

This senior level position is responsible for developing and implementing best practices in fostering the development and launch of companies based on innovations generated from University faculty. Percent Effort: 100.

If I should die, think only this of me: / That there’s some corner of a foreign field / That is forever New Jersey.

We Are Spending Quite a Bit of Money on Jails.

A Dishonest History of the Last War. Jeb Bush Says His Brother Was Misled Into War by Faulty Intelligence. That’s Not What Happened. Bush and Cheney Falsely Presented WMD Intelligence to Public.

Here’s how much of your life the United States has been at war.

* Here’s the widely available supermarket cheese you should avoid if you don’t want to be complicit in prison labor.

America Has Half as Many Hypersegregated Metros as It Did in 1970. Somehow, Milwaukee soldiers on.

Scrabble adds even more garbage words to its dictionary.

U.S. Releases Contents Of Bin Laden’s English-Language “Bookshelf.”

Is there anyone who won’t run for the Republican nomination in 2016?

Why Have So Many People Never Heard Of The MOVE Bombing?

* “We do not think anyone is going to dispute this at all,” he said.

* Uber, but for putting gas in your car.

* I can’t understand why on Earth Marvel wants to emulate the New 52.

* Not the E.T. sequel we need, but the one we deserve.

* Great moments in “our bad”: Norway’s ‘We’re Sorry’ Monument to 91 Dead Witches.

* You say “equality” like it’s a bad thing.

How The Soviet Union Tracked People With “Spy Dust.”

A Professor Tries to Beat Back a News Spoof That Won’t Go Away.

The health insurance regime: still the worst.

Israel knew all along that settlements, home demolitions were illegal.

* Very surprising, given the lawsuit: Emma Sulkowicz allowed to bring mattress into Class Day ceremony.

* These numbers are horrifying.

Irregularities in LaCour (2014). Amazing story.

Does Color Even Exist, Man?

* An oral history of Industrial Light & Magic.

Western canon, meet trigger warning.

9. Should a nuclear apocalypse happen, The Sound of Music will be played on a loop.

* I wish to outlive all my enemies.

* Everything about this pedagogical model is insane.

Study Suggests Intelligent Aliens Will Probably Be The Size Of Bears.

* Does Shakespeare pass the Bechdel Test?

* Monkey Day Care: Growing Up as a Child Research Subject.

“Keep Foreskin and State Separate.”

* And Matt Weiner is sick of your bullshit misinterpretations of his genius. Do you hear that, Limbaugh?

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Written by gerrycanavan

May 22, 2015 at 8:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Self-Promotion Monday! IHE, UC Riverside, @MarquetteU!

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* A slightly edited, slighted expanded version of my academic job market as game essay is up now at IHE. Response has been pretty positive so far…

* The pizza and pop culture group at Marquette will be meeting in Marquette Hall 105 on Thursday, November 13 at 5 PM for discussion of The Hunger Games series. All are welcome! Come on out!

* I’ll be giving a talk at the Science and Technoculture Studies program at UC Riverside at 3:30 on Tuesday, November 18, titled “Lost Stories of E. Octavia Butler.” I don’t have the location yet, unfortunately. If you’re in the area, come on by!

* And registration begins today at Marquette. Check out the English department’s offerings! And then sign up for all of them, especially mine! I’ll be doing a seminar on “video game culture” for the honors program too, just in time for you-know-what.

* All the pretty pictures:

hunger games

culturalpreservation magicandliterature

Saturday Night Links!

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* I’ve had a nice bit of professional good news: I’ve been asked to join Extrapolation as an editor beginning with their Spring 2015 issue.

“Crutzen, who is not a geologist, but one of the modern great scientists, essentially launched a small hand grenade into the world of geological time scales,” Jan Zalasiewicz, chair of the ICS’s anthropocene working group, told the Guardian. “The word began to be used widely, well before geologists ever got involved.”

* That old-time religion: Now that science fiction is respectable, it’s lost almost all of the conceptual craziness and dubious sexual politics that made it both fanboy bait and of genuine interest.

* From AfricaIsACountry: Ebola and neo-imperialism. And from Jacobin: The Political Economy of Ebola.

* The arsenal of, well, let’s say democracy: The U.S. sold $66.3 billion in weapons last year –- more than three-fourths of the entire global arms market.

* Richest 1% of people own nearly half of global wealth, says report.

* Climate change: how to make the big polluters really pay.

Of Collaborators and Careerists.

* Whites are more supportive of voter ID laws when shown photos of black people voting.

* Meritocracy watch: Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong.

* The 21st century university: women’s only colleges and trans identity.

Since the sinking of the Titanic, there has been a widespread belief that the social norm of “women and children first” (WCF) gives women a survival advantage over men in maritime disasters, and that captains and crew members give priority to passengers. We analyze a database of 18 maritime disasters spanning three centuries, covering the fate of over 15,000 individuals of more than 30 nationalities. Our results provide a unique picture of maritime disasters. Women have a distinct survival disadvantage compared with men. Captains and crew survive at a significantly higher rate than passengers.

The Milwaukee police officer who killed Dontre Hamilton in Red Arrow Park is believed to be the first officer in the city fired as a result of a fatal on-duty shooting in at least 45 years.

* “Weird hobby.”

* More back-and-forth on carceral feminism from Amber A’Lee Frost and Freddie deBoer.

* Pieces like this are enough to make you nostalgic for the quietly understated narcissism of “job creators.”

* An oral history of The Wonder Years.

New Scrabble Dictionary Disrepects The Game.

* Stop worrying about mastermind hackers. Start worrying about the IT guy.

* And just for fun: How to die in the 18th century. Watch for for evil, and for the purples…

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Meritocracy, Lottery, Game: Notes on the Academic Job Market

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I’ve been puttering around on Twitter this afternoon thinking through my sense that framing academic job searches as a “lottery” might actually encourage, rather than combat, the cruel optimism involved in the process. The commonplace description of the market as a “lottery” has emerged in response to the framing of academia as a “market” or even as a “meritocracy,” both of which suggest some rationalistic evaluation of a candidate’s value vis-à-vis the other candidates, with the “best” candidate ultimately being selected. The market/meritocracy framing is naturally a source of anxiety for academic job-seekers, to which the lottery framing is experienced as a relief (especially for those who have been through one or more cycles without finding tenure-track employment): not getting a job isn’t “failure,” it’s the arbitrary outcome of a random and capricious system. That the applicants-to-job ratio for the most desirable jobs is now in the many-hundreds-to-one undoubtedly fuels this pervasive sense that all you can do is hope your name is the one that gets pulled out of the hat.

But the lottery framing, despite its comforts and its useful provocations, also has its limits, including some conceptual problems that may cause more harm than good in prospective job seekers. Some of this can be seen from the thought experiment of simply taking the lottery idea seriously. People use the idea of the lottery as a critique of a logic of merit and moral desert — but, perversely, nothing could be more fair than random allocation by lottery. (This contradiction is why many people who call the academic job market a lottery in practice describe something more like an anti-meritocracy: only the worst, least-deserving people get picked.)

In reality, academic jobs aren’t really distributed at random at all, but according to a network of preexisting conditions that are both “earned” and unearned; some of these conditions look a lot like “merit” (that’s great that she got hired, she does such good work!) while other parts of it look a lot like “privilege” (of course he got that job, he’s wealthy, white, and able-bodied from an Ivy). While of course it is impossible to predict the outcomes of any individual person on the market — in no small part because there are now so few jobs that no one, no matter how talented or privileged, is a “sure thing” — it’s nonetheless obvious that some people have skills, advantages, resources, and networks to draw on that others don’t, and that academic job market outcomes reflect these inequities. To the extent that the academic job market is a lottery, then, it’s a cosmic one, as much about the luck of birth and brain chemistry and the quirks of your personal history as anything else.

It just as surely isn’t absolutely irrelevant what you do on in your job letter or application materials, as it would be if the academic job market were a lottery; in fact an entire industry has now sprung up around giving panicked Ph.D. job applicants advice on how to perfect their applications. Again, in a market this bad there are no sure things and no silver bullets, but there are still things in preparing your application (and in building your teaching and research profile more generally) that can be done better or worse. On the other side of the search committee people are making decisions based on what they think will improve their situations in their departments; as an applicant you can make appeals to those people in ways that are more or less likely to be successful.

So as a job market applicant you start with a base of resources and strategies that give you better or worse “chances” than others. This is then all filtered through the genuinely random matrix of whatever departments happen to be hiring in your particular subfield in a given year, repeated each year until the candidate is either hired for a sustainable job or else quits the profession. This kind of truly blind luck now structures the process to such an overwhelming degree as to threaten to swamp resources and strategy altogether (hence, again, the appeal of the lottery framing) — after all, there’s probably no amount of preparation or pedigree as good as having your advisor’s best friend in the world on the search committee, especially in a world with so many qualified applicants where the number of jobs has constricted this tightly. But it’s a mistake to think that because the market is conditioned by luck it’s reducible to luck, or absolutely irrational in some maximum sense. There’s a lot about the way the academic job market functions that is quite rational, including (yes!) some genuinely meritocratic elements along the way.

If the rejected thesis is that the academic job market is meritocracy, and the failed antithesis is that the academic job market is a lottery, my suggestion today was that perhaps the proper synthesis here is conceptualizing the academic job market as a game. Outcomes in games are structured by resources, strategies, and luck; games involve competition between parties with differing capabilities, using different strategies, interacting with a set of rules that may not make sense, much less be desirable, rational, or fair. In RISK you array your given armies from an arbitrary starting position as best as you can, and then you start to roll the dice. In poker you play the hand you draw as best you can, given your strategy and skill level and the odds of success. In many games navigating the ruleset — working the refs — is itself the crucial part of the competition; in other games, cheating is allowed, as long as you do it right (like our corrupt search committee filled with advisor-BFFs).

With the people I was chatting with I passed through a bunch of games on Twitter, including Settlers of Catan, Dungeons and Dragons, Oregon Trail, even beloved-catastrophe-machine-of-my-childhood Fireball Island. But I’d propose tonight that the game the academic job market is most like may be Scrabble. Players in Scrabble have preexisting resources (a vocabulary, which is built out of everything from the socioeconomic profile of your childhood home to deliberate, calculated memorization of the official wordlist), a tile-placement strategy (play the biggest word you can each time vs. limiting your opponent’s options vs. holding out for bingos or bonus tiles, etc. etc.), and blind luck (even the best player in the world can draw IIIEEUU.) The rules in Scrabble are fair, but totally arbitrary, with letter distributions and relative values that make little internal sense, tons of legal words that should be disallowed, and tons of disallowed words that should be legal. For some players Scrabble is a game of pure intellect; for others it’s the art of the bluff.

The game framing has, I think, a couple of advantages over the lottery framing for discussions of the academic job market. First, it’s simply a more accurate representation of how the academic job market works — no small thing. Second, it suggests the genuine importance of starting position and strategy in pursuing academic jobs without tipping us back into meritocracy, because games don’t reflect some transcendent value or essential “merit,” and because no matter how “good” you are or think you are you still need to know the rules and get some good rolls of the dice if you hope to “win.” (TINY UPDATE: I make this point a bit more strongly in the comments, I think: One of the things that I think is most valuable about the “game” frame for the academic job market is that you can do everything right in a game and still lose.) Third, games call our attention back to probability and prediction as they manifest in the academic job market; there are always outliers, upsets, and million-to-one lucky breaks, but all the same we can look realistically at a person’s poker hand and evaluate whether they should raise, see, or fold. Sometimes we find ourselves in gaming positions from which we just can’t win, and there’s no amount of either luck or “merit” that can save us. Likewise, calling the academic job market a lottery totally erases the real costs of entry, because lottery tickets are cheap and there’s another drawing every few days — while re-understanding it as a game reminds us that the process takes a long time, takes a lot of work, is a competition but not a fair one, doesn’t say anything meaningful about your ultimate value as person, and it isn’t worth continuing if it makes you miserable. You might as well go ahead and enter a lottery, why not; you only play a game if you’re going to get something out of the experience.

If I had an overarching piece of meta-advice for job applicants I think it would be to try to analyze the academic job market and your position within it as a player in a game: know the rules, understand your position, figure out how to get the best possible outcome from your current position and then make your next moves accordingly. That could mean staying on the path you’re already on, it could mean doubling down on a risk you think might pay off, it could mean “folding” and finding another line of work entirely. Maybe it means forging new alliances with other players; maybe it means changing the rules, finding loopholes, knocking over the table. For the would-be grad student, it could mean that the only winning move is not to play. But apprehending the academic job market through the lens of games, I hope, might push us back from the conceptual errors of both meritocracy (it’s just about working really hard and being the cream of the crop) and lottery (there’s nothing you can do, it’s all just random) towards a recentering of pragmatism, agency, and strategic thinking. The idea, in any event, seemed to be worth writing up, if only to think about it some more.