Anthropology Questions

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Anthropology Questions

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:54 pm

I don't know if this is just my impression, but it seems like anthropology questions currently leave something to be desired. Questions in most categories do a good job of explaining the important aspects of a given topic, and at least often use early clues that a scholar would know and an outsider would be interested in. I'm definitely no anthropology expert, but I'm not sure questions on it currently do that. Take this Malinowski tossup from Zot Bowl:
14. One of this man’s works includes a chapter called the “Story of Shipwreck,” which discusses the importance of canoes. His autobiography is A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, and he attacked the Oedipus complex in Sex and Repression in Savage Society. He conducted field study in the Mailu Island and the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico, and noted that all organized religions “must have a dogmatic system backed by mythology” in Magic, Science, and Religion. For 10 points, name this founder of functionalism who wrote about the Trobriand Islanders in Argonauts of the Western Pacific.
Answer: Bronisław Malinowski
I don't mean to call out whoever wrote this tossup, since it seems to exemplify the current paradigms of the category. If I were writing a Malinowski tossup, I would probably end up writing something very similar. However, at first glance, it just seems to list titles and tribe names. Do people interested in anthropology really care that Malinowski wrote something called A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term? I don't know, but unless that's a superfamous work or something, it seems like that clue would only reward people who memorize Malinowski titles. Finally...frankly, this tossup is pretty boring. It doesn't discuss many of the ideas Malinowski contributed to anthropological discourse, and it doesn't really encourage people to learn those ideas, either.

I'm not making this topic because I know very much about anthro and want to reform its status in quizbowl. Rather, I'm asking those quizbowlers who do know a few things about anthropology whether these questions are indeed as weak as I suspect, whether there are better ways to write these questions, or whether I'm just totally wrong. However, I strongly suspect that there must be more interesting things to study in anthropology than this question gets at, and I'd like to know if we can determine what those are.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Sat Oct 23, 2010 11:10 pm

I'm not sure if any of your complaints are unique to Anthropology. The example you give is just a classic example of lazy question writing about subjects in which books play an important role. The packet archives abound with Philosophy, Psychology, Economics, and probably even art and literature tossups that share the same flaw.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sat Oct 23, 2010 11:27 pm

Morraine Man wrote:I'm not sure if any of your complaints are unique to Anthropology. The example you give is just a classic example of lazy question writing about subjects in which books play an important role. The packet archives abound with Philosophy, Psychology, Economics, and probably even art and literature tossups that share the same flaw.
They're not unique to anthropology, but I think the problems are exacerbated there. Benedict and Malinowski come up all the time, but I'm not sure I've ever heard a particularly interesting question on them.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by at your pleasure » Sun Oct 24, 2010 1:28 am

For what it's worth, my high school anthropology class spent very little time on "books by anthropologists" and rather more time on anthropological methodology. in that vein, questions on the subfields of biological anthropology and archeology are cool things.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:27 am

Eh, I think the question you cite is just rather barebones (which is fine cause, after all, it's for a novice tourney). I think QB questions have gone into exhaustive detail describing the works of people like Boas, Benedict, and Mal. If you wrote a high-level tu on Ruth Benedict, I anticipate that it would babble on about her arguments and theories for awhile (though, admittedly, it is very hard to encapsulate the arguments of thinkers within a qb question - that's a problem common to philosophy questions and so on)

We've gone over the idea before that people in class aren't exactly studying books like The Natives of Mailu - but your alternative is to write tus on things like magic or potlatch - and those are torturous constructions that usually lead to h eartache. If you've got better ideas for methodology questions, by all means, rock and roll.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by DumbJaques » Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:50 pm

I will combine the sentiments of Bruce and Ryan here to claim that there's nothing unique about anthropology, people just have to take the time to write a really good question. It's not like you couldn't post a philosophy or literature question that looked exactly like this Malinowski one (which, as Ryan says, seems ok for an easier event).

The answer is NOT to try writing about what most people talk about in anthropology class because nobody else really encounters that stuff and it doesn't lend itself to quizbowl clues anyway. Remember that tossup on "spalation" at ACF Nats 2007? No? That's probably for the best.

I spent like an hour reading Clifford Geertz's critique of Chrysanthemum and the Sword when I wrote my question on it for last year's NSC, and if you want to find good clues that's the kind of thing you need to do. Delving into hyper-minutae (especially in a work that frequently describes things with very Japanese names, so you'd need to be even more opaque) will not help people get questions because you just don't remember that nonsense even if you've read it. Similarly, just hurling at titles is not really rewarding that intermittent anthropology enthusiast (just like any other category). You have to look for good clues that one might encounter if you really followed stuff in anthropology - before it reached supersaturation, clues about Derek Freeman were a great example of what I'm talking about. The problem is researching these clues (like all good clues) is in-depth and time-consuming, and requires you to differentiate random minor stuff from better known material. I wouldn't expect to see different results from anything but very good editors, but once again, that's hardly a reality unique to anthropology.

Alternatively, try to find hilarious stories people related while watching crazy stuff happen in the wilderness. There's some pretty awesome stuff in Diary in the Strictest Sense.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:26 pm

This is common to bad questions written by bad writers and doens't really have much to do with anthropology as such.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:08 am

I'm curious about something. How much of the quizbowl anthropology canon actually reflects things covered in anthropology classes? And is there anything that gets a lot of play in coursework that doesn't come up enough in quizbowl? Its hard for me to believe that anthropologists actually read every work by Franz Boas and Margaret Mead and then go home.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:20 am

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:I'm curious about something. How much of the quizbowl anthropology canon actually reflects things covered in anthropology classes? And is there anything that gets a lot of play in coursework that doesn't come up enough in quizbowl? Its hard for me to believe that anthropologists actually read every work by Franz Boas and Margaret Mead and then go home.
I would imagine that like much of the social sciences, quizbowl anthropology lags behind what goes on in actual academic social science departments. There's been a good deal of improvement on this front recently with questions on concepts and stuff, but much of what gets asked about is still very old hat. Which isn't to say that Margaret Mead isn't an important figure in the field; people read her works in classes to get an idea of the intellectual history of anthropology and that's certainly worth knowing about. But there's probably a lot of other interesting newer stuff that just doesn't get asked because there aren't too many anthro people in quizbowl.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:18 pm

I tried to hit on some of the newer anthropological research in some of the questions I wrote for HI 2010 and CO 2010. The apparently ill-received (for good reasons, admittedly) tossup on "magic" at the latter tournament mentioned a bevy of studies and essays that are frequently read by anthropologists who work at the well-trod intersection of magic, science, and religion. I got most of that information from a humanities course called "Reading Cultures" which was taught by an anthropologist of religion who mentioned people like Bruce Kapferer, Stanley Tambiah, Mary Douglas, Harvey Whitehouse, Michael D. Jackson, and so on as being frequently read and cited in her field. We also read some Evans-Pritchard and Malinowski in that class, but mostly as grounding for the debates contemporary thinkers (like Tambiah, Luhrmann, et al) were having.

My impression was that my professor was very well versed in various works by both Evans-Pritchard and Malinowski (including A Diary in the Strictest Sense of the Term). That said, I don't think she would have cited those works as being really fundamental parts of her education. My suspicion is that, like many people who work in the humanities, she might have cited people like Michel Foucault, Herbert Marcuse, Pierre Bourdieu, Rene Girard, and, in her specific case, even some literary theorists like Rene Wellek and Erich Auerbach. Most humanities subjects aren't really studied in isolation: there's frequent overlap between much of philosophy and all the different social sciences.

Keeping all that in mind, I think some of the best tossups I've seen in rewarding what social scientists and philosophers read are the oft-maligned common link questions Andrew Yaphe frequently writes for SCT and ICT. I think writing these questions takes a great deal of secondary knowledge that is not easily obtained outside of the academic dialogue that characterize humanities departments, and I think Andrew is the only person I've seen write such tossups consistently and successfully.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:24 pm

For what it's worth, in my limited interaction with Anthropologists, they tend to chuckle when I tell them that quizbowl anthro is mostly Malinowski and other old timers like him.

But a separate question is whether it is actually a bad thing that quizbowl anthropology is not the same as what you learn in an anthropology class.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:36 pm

I have similar feelings as Shantanu and Bruce about the current state of anthropology. In the few anthro courses that I've taken, we did read a few things by Mead, Evans-Pritchard etc... but mostly for historical reasons or to see how others' research developed from their work. While I would love to see more current anthropologist and sociologists integrated into higher level quizbowl, it's really difficult to do so in a way that doesn't piss people off or lead to figure-it-out bowl (c.f. that tossup on "magic"). Also, Shantanu is very right in pointing out that much of current thought in a lot of sociological field is dominated by thinkers whose work resides outside of "traditional" anthropology (some of whom already come up, some who should more!), which can make it difficult to write tossups with easier answer lines without a ton of research.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:43 pm

Part of the problem comes with the "bottleneck effect" that you get in qb. It's easy to write on older more historically-relevant anthropologists because they have gained widespread acceptance as important figures (it's easy to pinpoint a handful of people more relevant than the others).

It becomes difficult when you start looking at some modern thinkers - a lot of times, you can make a good case that any of about 1000 people are "important" for different reasons. Sometimes, there's just no compelling reason to ask about one of these people rather than another. When you reach that point, you really have little choice but to recoil and ask about none of those people. The chance that even knowledgeable people have encountered the person you choose to ask about is very low (see: every bonus part that starts something like "This random professor at the University of Idaho...").
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Dominator » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:02 pm

Being completely unfamiliar with the college game and anthropology, are there prominent quizbowlers who are very knowledgeable (as in, they have a degree in) anthropology? As a mathematician, I often take issue with math questions for just not being that interesting or not being too relevant or whatever. At the same time, it takes a lot of knowledge about both quizbowl and (in my case) math to find better clues that are still fun, interesting, and accessible. It seems to me that not enough question writers have sufficient knowledge of both areas for the community to really expect a high proportion of stellar questions.

On the other hand, I have been wondering lately what it would be like to have a question set wherein each subject is written by a quizbowler with a (advanced) degree in the subject. Assume the editors are expert editors. Would it be a better quizbowl set?
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Duncan Idaho » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:20 pm

Dominator wrote:Being completely unfamiliar with the college game and anthropology, are there prominent quizbowlers who are very knowledgeable (as in, they have a degree in) anthropology? As a mathematician, I often take issue with math questions for just not being that interesting or not being too relevant or whatever. At the same time, it takes a lot of knowledge about both quizbowl and (in my case) math to find better clues that are still fun, interesting, and accessible. It seems to me that not enough question writers have sufficient knowledge of both areas for the community to really expect a high proportion of stellar questions.

On the other hand, I have been wondering lately what it would be like to have a question set wherein each subject is written by a quizbowler with a (advanced) degree in the subject. Assume the editors are expert editors. Would it be a better quizbowl set?
A possible problem with that idea, which I've been told was also a problem with previous iterations of Harvard International, is that the writers might have different ideas of the tournament's target difficulty, which, for instance, didn't turn out well for HI.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:57 pm

Dominator wrote:On the other hand, I have been wondering lately what it would be like to have a question set wherein each subject is written by a quizbowler with a (advanced) degree in the subject. Assume the editors are expert editors. Would it be a better quizbowl set?
I guess you'd have to define what an expert editor is. You'd need a group of 20 editors if you wanted a PhD in every branch of literature, science, history, RMP, art...etc, and I'm pretty sure such a group of people doesn't exist. Plus, unless they can use Force meld, the set would be crazy.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Dominator » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:32 am

Ben Cole wrote:A possible problem with that idea, which I've been told was also a problem with previous iterations of Harvard International, is that the writers might have different ideas of the tournament's target difficulty, which, for instance, didn't turn out well for HI.
Very true. To make a general inflammatory statement, the problem with people with PhDs is they all have their own ideas and don't like to play by anyone else's rules. Getting a common set of standards would be hard.
The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:I guess you'd have to define what an expert editor is. You'd need a group of 20 editors if you wanted a PhD in every branch of literature, science, history, RMP, art...etc, and I'm pretty sure such a group of people doesn't exist. Plus, unless they can use Force meld, the set would be crazy.
I was thinking of expert editor as "very experienced editor", so someone who could bring things together in a cohesive way.

The heart of the question, though, is whether such a set would be preferrable to questions written by non-experts who nonetheless have a solid knowledge of the canon. I'm not sure people would appreciate clues and answer lines that experts in the field find interesting and relevant. If that is the case, it sorta tells us not to make some of the changes to, say, anthropology, that have been suggested upthread.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by theMoMA » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:41 am

This discussion reflects the common-sense reality that, until true experts in a field start playing quizbowl and caring about how questions in that field are written, the questions will tend to reward knowledge of some mixture of the foundational material in that field and what well-educated people outside of it think is interesting.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:48 am

theMoMA wrote:This discussion reflects the common-sense reality that, until true experts in a field start playing quizbowl and caring about how questions in that field are written
And even if this happens, it's unclear to me that it would be a good idea to let them hijack the process. See, e.g., the music mafia.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by theMoMA » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:12 am

Well, at least at that point we have some idea of what constitutes "reality." Whether we should write questions to reward those who learn things in a certain way (as opposed to people who know more things regardless of how they're learned) is certainly an open question.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:58 am

Morraine Man wrote:
theMoMA wrote:This discussion reflects the common-sense reality that, until true experts in a field start playing quizbowl and caring about how questions in that field are written
And even if this happens, it's unclear to me that it would be a good idea to let them hijack the process. See, e.g., the music mafia.
I think the issue of the music mafia has to do with people who are very good at a particular subject being confused as to how to apply that knowledge to the problem of writing quizbowl questions. I know it's fashionable to bag on them a little bit, but I think to a large extent that discussion has been productive and those people's expert knowledge has been well-integrated into writing methodology. The same thing happened in science starting about 10 years ago.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:35 am

Well, the risk you run is making the questions inaccessible to people who aren't experts in the field. I don't know enough about music to tell you whether the music mafia has caused that to happen to music questions.

But quizbowl isn't a graduate school exam, it's an activity for people who are amateurs. Unless you are some kind of crazy multi-degree type, you're going to be an official expert in at most 20% of the questions.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:51 pm

Morraine Man wrote:Well, the risk you run is making the questions inaccessible to people who aren't experts in the field. I don't know enough about music to tell you whether the music mafia has caused that to happen to music questions.

But quizbowl isn't a graduate school exam, it's an activity for people who are amateurs. Unless you are some kind of crazy multi-degree type, you're going to be an official expert in at most 20% of the questions.
Maybe this is a topic for another thread. All I have to say is: I would not play a quizbowl where the literature was Harry Potter and the science was dinosaurs, and I don't think you would either. I'm not an expert in music (it's probably my outright weakest subject), but I'm able to answer music questions based on general knowledge.

I don't care much about whether someone is an "official expert" or not. I recognize that certain individuals have authoritative expertise in certain areas; I likewise hope that people recognize that there are areas in which I have official expertise too. But on the other hand, I don't really know any people who have "official expertise" in literature, for example (excluding, I guess, Zeke and Andrew Y.). That doesn't prevent a host of people from writing perfectly usable literature questions.

Again, possibly a topic for another thread which I would be happy to contribute to, but from my perspective, quizbowl is based around serious engagement with intellectually relevant material. That manifests itself in different ways depending on what the topic is, but I think in all cases it's based around some sort of recognized notion primary knowledge, whether that constitutes historical facts, contents of books, or scientific concepts.

The trick of good quizbowl writing is to integrate the notion of legitimate expertise into the format of the game, to the extent that this expertise is recognized and acknowledged in the community. When there exists a mismatch between what makes sense in a quizbowl context and what experts think is important, we try to reconcile those ideas without doing excessive violence to either position. That's a general statement of how I think is a good way to go about this, and if we want to talk about specific situations I'm happy to do that too.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Important Bird Area » Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:19 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I would not play a quizbowl where the literature was Harry Potter and the science was dinosaurs, and I don't think you would either.
What's wrong with dinosaurs?
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:35 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:I would not play a quizbowl where the literature was Harry Potter and the science was dinosaurs, and I don't think you would either.
What's wrong with dinosaurs?
I guess once we play Bruce's animal tournament, we'll know.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:47 pm

I'm certainly not advocating a return to the mid 90's. I just want to push back against the "quizbowl should reflect what people in that academic field are doing" impulse.

The reality we must face is this: quizbowlers are, by and large, intellectually curious amateurs who have an interest in many fields of knowledge, rather than super-grad students who engage in formal academic study and research in many fields of knowledge. How do quizbowlers learn things? They do it by reading books, reading magazines, reading websites, attending performances, visiting museums, etc. Not by taking classes, not by being scholars, at least not outside of whatever field they happen to specialize in at school. The things learned by these very different processes might overlap, of course, but won't always. Anthropology may be a good example of a field in which they don't overlap.

It's fine to add a few lead-in clues about literary criticism or the latest study or whatever else is being generated by academia as lead-ins, either as a subsidy to people who actually study it or (my preferred reason) because they are interesting, but at the end of the day that's not what quizbowl should primarily test.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:56 pm

Just to be perfectly clear on my terminology: by an "amateur" at a particular subject, I mean a person who isn't in that academic field.

So, for example, I would be an amateur at history because I'm not an academic historian, have never been a history major, have taken only 1-2 history classes in school, etc. Dallas Simons would be an amateur at geography because as far as I know that's not what he primarily takes classes on. Etc.

I don't mean to use some insulting connotation of amateur.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:22 pm

I guess I don't disagree with this characterization of amateurism but I'm not sure what this has to do with quizbowl. If you think that quizbowl should have some correspondence to "stuff that matters" then you need a method of figuring out what matters. Since quizbowl is an academic game, it makes sense that on some level it's at least loosely related to what is considered important to academia. I realize that as stated that proposition is open to a lot of criticism and I don't want to get into the process in this thread of really fleshing out what I mean by this. But I think the connection is there, it's relevant, and we should respect it in the sense that we should at least take seriously the possibility that knowability-to-quizbowl may not be the only or even the most relevant determinant of what should come up in quizbowl.

That's all I'll say right now on that topic. What I would say specifically with respect to the social sciences is not that we should junk all our Ericsson tossups, but rather that we should be on the lookout for ways to introduce other important thinkers and works through methods like hard bonus parts, clues in leadins, references in tossups, and questions on common-link topics which admit those kinds of clues. I think that whatever the outcome of the debate one side of which I'm presenting above, we can all mostly agree that this is a smart way of doing canon-expansion.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by bmcke » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:26 pm

Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe wrote:Most humanities subjects aren't really studied in isolation: there's frequent overlap between much of philosophy and all the different social sciences.
2/2 Religion and Myth
2/2 Philosophy and Social Science

Would this grouping make some sense?
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:31 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I guess I don't disagree with this characterization of amateurism but I'm not sure what this has to do with quizbowl. If you think that quizbowl should have some correspondence to "stuff that matters" then you need a method of figuring out what matters. Since quizbowl is an academic game, it makes sense that on some level it's at least loosely related to what is considered important to academia. I realize that as stated that proposition is open to a lot of criticism and I don't want to get into the process in this thread of really fleshing out what I mean by this. But I think the connection is there, it's relevant, and we should respect it in the sense that we should at least take seriously the possibility that knowability-to-quizbowl may not be the only or even the most relevant determinant of what should come up in quizbowl.

That's all I'll say right now on that topic. What I would say specifically with respect to the social sciences is not that we should junk all our Ericsson tossups, but rather that we should be on the lookout for ways to introduce other important thinkers and works through methods like hard bonus parts, clues in leadins, references in tossups, and questions on common-link topics which admit those kinds of clues. I think that whatever the outcome of the debate one side of which I'm presenting above, we can all mostly agree that this is a smart way of doing canon-expansion.
I think the difference between Jerry and I is that I am far more skeptical of the idea that something's importance in academia is related to how much it matters, or indeed related to anything at all. Perhaps this is reflective of me being a social science major and Jerry being a science major.

I would also be hesistant to call quizbowl an "academic" game. There's certainly something about the knowledge that quizbowl tests that makes it different from pop culture trivia games, Trash, or Jeopardy!, and I don't have a good word to describe that difference. But I also think there is a difference between what quizbowl tests and what people focus on in the academy.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:26 pm

Well, Bruce, I too am a social science major (at the same school you were, even) and I disagree pretty vehemently. I think your point of view is too colored by a sort of Carlyle-Braudel dichotomy that pervades historiography. But even with respect to history I'm not sure your position makes much sense: I love Josip Jelacic anecdotes as much as the next person, but why does that mean we can't have bonus parts on Peter Turchin?

I also think the comparison between the music canon and the canon for anthropology (or any other social science) is deeply misguided. In fact, if music in quizbowl had the problems of anthropology in quizbowl, I'm reasonably sure almost no one would be complaining. The problem with the music canon is that we're tossing up peripheral composers and works, thus utterly ignoring hundreds of the most important works of classical music; the problem with the social science canon is that we ask about figures and works of historical importance but with greatly diminished contemporary relevance. I'm not sure how this strange and unfortunate state of affairs came to be, but it's more complicated than "oh, this is what amateurs learn" and "oh, this is what experts learn."

I'm a big fan of Arthurian amateurism - I care more about paintings, music, and poetry than the edifices of Neo-Keynesian and financial economics, but I'm not sure what this has to do with anything. Even before I started taking economics classes I wasn't reading tertiary books by relatively forgotten economists beloved by quizbowl; I instead picked up econometrics textbooks and taught myself something. Was I less an amateur because my method of learning more closely mimics that of an expert? Is this knowledge any less worthy of testing in quizbowl? The canons for painting and poetry have been willing to incorporate some degree of "expert" knowledge, and I think that at the very least such amateurs as myself enjoy questions on the essays of Wimsatt and Beardsley or Yvor Winters in much the same way Andrew Yaphe does.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:46 pm

Morraine Man wrote:I would also be hesistant to call quizbowl an "academic" game. There's certainly something about the knowledge that quizbowl tests that makes it different from pop culture trivia games, Trash, or Jeopardy!, and I don't have a good word to describe that difference. But I also think there is a difference between what quizbowl tests and what people focus on in the academy.
I'm not sure why you don't like the word "academic," since it seems to neatly encapsulate the distinction between something like Jeopardy! and mainstream quizbowl. In fact, I would say that is the essence of said distinction.

I guess one could argue as Bruce does that quizbowl is about well-read people asking about stuff that well-read people tend to know about. That definition is unsatisfying to me for several reasons. First of all, it's somewhat circular; on that account, stuff comes up in quizbowl because stuff comes up in quizbowl, which I think is a pretty poor model for an activity of intellectual interest. The fact that quizbowl does have relevance standards and does seek to expand its domain of askability indicates to me that there are outside forces driving much of this activity. Since quizbowl is a game largely played by college students and people who not too long ago were college students, it seems like a pretty parsimonious assumption to say that quizbowl is fairly intimately connected with academia in practice. Sure, that's a contingent fact about the game's history, but that doesn't make it any less relevant. I think that unmooring quizbowl from any connection to academia is a poor idea precisely because it threatens to bring us back to the 90s, and no one wants that (even if the 90s had Nirvana and the economy wasn't terrible).

Let me just clear up what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that we should all start writing questions on the latest random things our professors have mentioned in class. But I'm not clear on how you can really go about establishing relevance (if that's what quizbowl should try to do) without reference to some kind of scholarship. Maybe Bruce is right that this has to do with me being a science-type and him being in the humanities; I certainly remember the bad old days of terrible science questions that bore little relation to anything any scientist had ever seen. I don't think that era really came about in the humanities (at least not disproportionately to the overall state of the game). Anyway, the way that we got questions on actual science content was by pointing out that, hey, this had nothing to do with any science that you might actually learn as a real scientist, and that in turn was linked up to academic standards. I believe that this brought about a very positive change in the game, and did so without really negatively affecting any other areas. So I'd be very loathe to ditch that argument because I've seen the good that it can do, whereas I don't see it giving rise to any problems that can't be tackled with "quizbowl is not ready for tossups on your random professor even if he's moderately well known in the field."
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:56 pm

Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe wrote:The problem with the music canon is that we're tossing up peripheral composers and works, thus utterly ignoring hundreds of the most important works of classical music; the problem with the social science canon is that we ask about figures and works of historical importance but with greatly diminished contemporary relevance.
This mirrors the problem with science over the last few years in which utterly marginal terminology was being favored over relevant core concepts.

By the way, in some respects, I too am a social scientist now (my present affiliation is with the CMU psych department), and let me tell you, there's a lot of stuff that people in psychology talk about all the time which doesn't so much as get a mention in most quizbowl questions. I'm not even saying it's stuff that I find particularly interesting (though some of it is) but things that are just really pretty basic to the field. Psych students might still read Freud for all I know, but it's really a historical curiosity. Not that Freud or Skinner aren't relevant in the history of intellectual development, but there is no shortage of interesting work being done that could serve as material for good questions.

My personal theory about this is that as work in a field becomes increasingly evidence-based and shrugs off the metaphorical language employed by its forebears, it becomes more technical and of less interest to the intelligentsia (although I think this is a mistake). Interpreting dreams is sexy and suggesting tripartite divisions of mind is fun; spending 30 years figuring out where proceduralization and working memory recall happen in the brain is boring.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Cheynem » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:23 pm

There's some interesting points raised here. I agree especially that social science is just aching to get a lot more stuff to come up. Maybe it's because I don't have a "real" department or major, but a lot of the stuff I read frequently in my studies rarely comes up in quizbowl. I'm not saying it should all of a sudden start appearing in ACF Fall packets, but there has to be a place to get stuff in about Laura Mulvey, Paul Lazarsfeld, Bruno Latour, and Stuart Hall, among others. I've read Walter Benjamin, Pierre Bourdieu, and Richard Hofstadter a ton in history/sociology/communication studies courses, way more than some old dudes who keep popping up in the Social Science distribution, and I would guess my experience is not distinctly unique. Again, I'm not saying that OMG MAKE BOURDIEU A HSNCT TOSSUP, but rather that there are places to introduce or further perpetuate these questions in quizbowl to reward actual academic study. And that's okay.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:55 pm

I think what might be lost in this discussion is a realistic assessment of the type of knowledge that quizbowl demands. Noone is denying that the content of qb questions should be firmly moored to some notion of intellectual relevance, and that at least a decent part of that relevance should be determined by reference to academic study.

But, let's be clear about what qb is. Even most great players are not anywhere close to experts in most subjects - it would be downright impossible to be. At best, a lot of good players have rigorous academic knowledge of one or two disciplines. On the rest of the subjects, they get by with rather cursory survey knowlege of important people/works/things. You only have 8 players playing at any given time - on the great majority of any packet's questions, players are using a type of survey knowledge.

So, let's not get our heads in the clouds. If questions were written by super-experts referencing only their own non-qb metrics of relevance, most of the questions would feature us sitting there and staring blankly.

I guess here's my argument - the "artificiality" or "fakeness" that is currently present in qb is by design. It's there and we accept it, because we understand that qb is a very imperfect reflection of academic study. We regognize that it has to be imperfect, because otherwise noone would be any good at this game - we'd all be good at one or two areas, and 14 questions per round would go dead at higher-level tourneys. "What's that, you want to become a good psychology player? Well, go enroll in a graduate program, and we'll see you in three years!...after that period of study, you'll have earned the right to get one question every three-four packets!"
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by magin » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:14 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I think what might be lost in this discussion is a realistic assessment of the type of knowledge that quizbowl demands. Noone is denying that the content of qb questions should be firmly moored to some notion of intellectual relevance, and that at least a decent part of that relevance should be determined by reference to academic study.

But, let's be clear about what qb is. Even most great players are not anywhere close to experts in most subjects - it would be downright impossible to be. At best, a lot of good players have rigorous academic knowledge of one or two disciplines. On the rest of the subjects, they get by with rather cursory survey knowlege of important people/works/things. You only have 8 players playing at any given time - on the great majority of any packet's questions, players are using a type of survey knowledge.

So, let's not get our heads in the clouds. If questions were written by super-experts referencing only their own non-qb metrics of relevance, most of the questions would feature us sitting there and staring blankly.

I guess here's my argument - the "artificiality" or "fakeness" that is currently present in qb is by design. It's there and we accept it, because we understand that qb is a very imperfect reflection of academic study. We regognize that it has to be imperfect, because otherwise noone would be any good at this game - we'd all be good at one or two areas, and 14 questions per round would go dead at higher-level tourneys. "What's that, you want to become a good psychology player? Well, go enroll in a graduate program, and we'll see you in three years!...after that period of study, you'll have earned the right to get one question every three-four packets!"
I don't think that you're quite right, Ryan. It's certainly unrealistic to expect players to have expert knowledge about many subjects, and we shouldn't conflate "rewarding expert knowledge" with "writing questions that only experts can answer," which seems to be your concern. However, I think Shantanu and Jerry are saying that we shouldn't just tossup willy-nilly anything an expert in a field would be able to answer, but to take expert knowledge into account when writing questions, and use clues that reward things that people with more than a cursory knowledge of a field might know. You can reward that kind of knowledge in a tossup on well-known or canonical answers (like choosing some clues rewarding study about Much Ado About Nothing instead of writing on Robert Greene, for instance).

Additionally, there are a fair number of answer lines/clues that haven't really been asked about often or even at all, and it's worthwhile using some of that expert knowledge as a guide to writing those questions. In social science, there are definitely things that people learn in intro classes that haven't really been asked about, and searching for that kind of knowledge is a good way to keep questions fresh and interesting.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:58 pm

magin wrote:Additionally, there are a fair number of answer lines/clues that haven't really been asked about often or even at all, and it's worthwhile using some of that expert knowledge as a guide to writing those questions. In social science, there are definitely things that people learn in intro classes that haven't really been asked about, and searching for that kind of knowledge is a good way to keep questions fresh and interesting.
For instance, I wrote a tossup for ACF Regionals last year on the "production possibilites frontier" (i.e. that thing with guns and butter), which:

a) was the very first thing I learned in my Intro Econ class, and
b) to the best of my knowledge had never come up in quizbowl before. (And yes, it was answered in the room I watched.)

When trying to introduce "real knowledge" into a subject (a movement I am broadly in favor of across all categories), neglected concepts from intro classes are exactly the route to take. No, most teams will not have an econ expert. But having one person who's taken an intro econ class is a much lower bar to reach.
Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe wrote:The problem with the music canon is that we're tossing up peripheral composers and works, thus utterly ignoring hundreds of the most important works of classical music
I don't want to totally derail this thread, so perhaps this might be better responded to in a new thread, but: what sorts of "peripheral composers and works" are you thinking of? I'm skeptical that this is actually the case, excepting perhaps some high-level tournaments where canon-busting peripheral material is to be expected. I do agree that there is a bias against non-named things which is systematically excluding important parts of the canon, but the problem there is more because those works (e.g. non-programmatic instrumental compositions, especially from the Common Practice era) just don't lend themselves to unique, buzzable clues.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:07 am

magin wrote:
No Rules Westbrook wrote:I think what might be lost in this discussion is a realistic assessment of the type of knowledge that quizbowl demands. Noone is denying that the content of qb questions should be firmly moored to some notion of intellectual relevance, and that at least a decent part of that relevance should be determined by reference to academic study.

But, let's be clear about what qb is. Even most great players are not anywhere close to experts in most subjects - it would be downright impossible to be. At best, a lot of good players have rigorous academic knowledge of one or two disciplines. On the rest of the subjects, they get by with rather cursory survey knowlege of important people/works/things. You only have 8 players playing at any given time - on the great majority of any packet's questions, players are using a type of survey knowledge.

So, let's not get our heads in the clouds. If questions were written by super-experts referencing only their own non-qb metrics of relevance, most of the questions would feature us sitting there and staring blankly.

I guess here's my argument - the "artificiality" or "fakeness" that is currently present in qb is by design. It's there and we accept it, because we understand that qb is a very imperfect reflection of academic study. We regognize that it has to be imperfect, because otherwise noone would be any good at this game - we'd all be good at one or two areas, and 14 questions per round would go dead at higher-level tourneys. "What's that, you want to become a good psychology player? Well, go enroll in a graduate program, and we'll see you in three years!...after that period of study, you'll have earned the right to get one question every three-four packets!"
I don't think that you're quite right, Ryan. It's certainly unrealistic to expect players to have expert knowledge about many subjects, and we shouldn't conflate "rewarding expert knowledge" with "writing questions that only experts can answer," which seems to be your concern. However, I think Shantanu and Jerry are saying that we shouldn't just tossup willy-nilly anything an expert in a field would be able to answer, but to take expert knowledge into account when writing questions, and use clues that reward things that people with more than a cursory knowledge of a field might know. You can reward that kind of knowledge in a tossup on well-known or canonical answers (like choosing some clues rewarding study about Much Ado About Nothing instead of writing on Robert Greene, for instance).

Additionally, there are a fair number of answer lines/clues that haven't really been asked about often or even at all, and it's worthwhile using some of that expert knowledge as a guide to writing those questions. In social science, there are definitely things that people learn in intro classes that haven't really been asked about, and searching for that kind of knowledge is a good way to keep questions fresh and interesting.
Hey, I love interesting clues and I am all for harvesting these experts to extract interesting clues. Nobody is arguing against doing that.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Fri Oct 29, 2010 1:35 am

Well, Ryan, if your approach to quizbowl is "I'll write down all the anthropologists who show up in the wikipedia article on 'anthropology' and memorize the titles of their works" or "I'll write down all the anthropologists who show up in past packets and memorize the titles of their works" then yeah, questions about things learned in classes would probably leave you stumped. Since I'm willing to assume very few people are mechanically assiduous enough to apply those methods, I also have a sneaking suspicion that the number of people who have read works by Robert Lowie (or even Malinowski) is pretty small. Hence, if I'm writing for a hard tournament, I might be better off asking about someone I know is frequently cited and read, like Bruno Latour. Perhaps he won't make a good tossup just yet, but with enough research I can work him into a common link or make him a bonus part.

Similarly, it's not really obvious to me that someone interested in economics is more likely to read Alfred Marshall or Keynes than to learn about the Chamley-Judd result. Hence a tossup on "taxation" using clues gleaned from textbooks might be a better idea than tossups on economists that very few people read. This has little to do with expertise and more to do with our expectations about what "amateurs" learn. As an amateur of many fields, I find quizbowl does a pretty poor job of testing my basic knowledge of a number of them. At the very least, much of the basic social science canon strikes me as both arbitrary and uninteresting, and from what I've seen it doesn't play particularly well, either.

Chris, I may have been extreme when I said "peripheral." We do frequently toss up most major composers, but the clue selection leaves much to be desired. I don't think I've ever heard a real clue about Beethoven's Opus 131 or Opus 111, which are unquestionably two of his most famous works. I'm not opposed to the Creatures of Prometheus coming up, but it's neither as famous nor as important as the former pair of works, both of which can be described in perfectly buzzable ways. As far as I know I'm the only one who has written tossups on Schubert's Impromptus or Chopin's Ballades, which are about as popular as piano pieces get. There are other weird things: Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings almost never comes up, though it's definitely his best known song cycle and one of his most important works. I could go on ad infinitum, but what I'm getting at is that we very consistently ignore the core works of the classical music tradition and focus on "named" things, which gives quizbowl music questions the frustrating flavor of the science questions of yore.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by cvdwightw » Fri Oct 29, 2010 5:01 am

I first wanted to note my bemusement that the original tossup sparking this entire debate is a conglomeration of a barebones tossup Daichi wrote as a high schooler with a Luna Brothers bonus that included the exciting 2-point clue, "It's about myth in primitive society."

It shouldn't surprise anyone that I have a lot of problems with supporting the arguments Shantanu is making here, even though (or perhaps because) I am certainly no armchair social scientist.

I think Shantanu is making a giant assumption in his argument and it's one that I don't necessarily find all that correct. Specifically, he makes an argument about how questions on real classroom knowledge are likely to stump people who use some sort of straw man Westbrookian studying style, but then comes back with this:
Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe wrote:This has little to do with expertise and more to do with our expectations about what "amateurs" learn. As an amateur of many fields, I find quizbowl does a pretty poor job of testing my basic knowledge of a number of them.
It's fairly clear to me from his previous posts (and should be pointed out to any non-dinosaur quizbowlers who are lurking out there reading this debate) that Shantanu's definition of "amateur" is mostly or possibly wholly incompatible with "person whose non-quizbowl knowledge in a subject comes from that one random GE class he took two years ago." Most people playing quizbowl do in fact derive a great majority of their non-quizbowl knowledge from stuff they learned in random classes; it's the single biggest argument for keeping some sort of loose tie between what is taught in colleges and what is asked in quizbowl.

I looked at the websites for two current "intro to sociocultural anthropology" courses at UC Irvine. One's assigned reading includes Edward Said and a bunch of people I've never heard of. The other requires reading from Malinowski, Boas, Benedict, Mead, Geertz, and a bunch of people I've never heard of. This doesn't mean that those other people aren't important; I have piss-poor non-quizbowl knowledge of anthropologists. But it also doesn't mean that so-called "amateurs" aren't reading those people just because Shantanu and the "experts" think they're overrated or unimportant. Similarly, in my piss-poor sociology class that I have ranted about and will continue to rant about to anyone who wants to listen, we had readings from Mills, Durkheim, Weber, Marx, and some guy named Elijah Anderson, whose reading excerpt formed the basis for that terrible Sun N Fun tossup on "the ghetto." In my experience, the readings for any given lower-division anthro/sociology class will probably be about as much help in quizbowl as randomly picking the Wikipedia pages of an equivalent number of anthropologists/sociologists.

Shantanu further claims:
Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe wrote:it's not really obvious to me that someone interested in economics is more likely to read Alfred Marshall or Keynes than to learn about the Chamley-Judd result.
It's not intuitively obvious to me that the reverse of this statement is any more correct (Disclaimer: my entire experience with econometrics is limited to helping my brother figure out some statistics program he needed to learn for his econometrics class and knowing the definition of the word "heteroscedasticity"). In fact, it seems fairly obvious to me that someone who has little interest in economics (say, me) is more likely to be exposed to the theories of Keynes than anything in econometrics. At some point, we have to say that Keynes and his theories are things that someone with some "amateur" interest in economics would be likely to have at least stumbled across, while the Chamley-Judd result requires significantly more interest to find and significantly more conceptual foundation to understand.

My understanding is that non-Shantanu people who are "interested" in academic topics do not go out and read textbooks on those topics for fun. Instead they start by reading some reasonably popular book that explains things in a way that non-experts can understand, or watching some PBS or Discovery Channel or History Channel special, or doing something else that is specifically designed to both educate and entertain. And then maybe, if they find some things particularly interesting, they go on and they try to read the technical stuff that gets referenced in the footnotes, or something along those lines. For all I know, whatever this Chamley-Judd result is (I am certainly no amateur economist), it's explained in books on business and finance written for the general public. If it is, then I'm horribly mistaken and wrong about how many "amateur" economists know or care about the Chamley-Judd; however, since all I can find on Amazon is this book by Cristophe Chamley that "promises to be the key reference on rational models of social learning in economics" (whatever that means), and pretty much everything on Google Books is a compilation of journal articles and/or conference proceedings, I'm going to take a wild guess that I'm not.

Then there are so-called amateurs who "accidentally" pick things up from totally unrelated interests, often including pop culture. Should I be somehow "punished" by quizbowl questions on The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind because everything I know about it comes from a science fiction novel I recently read? What about the legions of quizbowlers whose only "real" Japanese history knowledge comes from video games?

I guess that my overall problem with Shantanu's whole argument is that he's asking us to shoehorn his definition of amateur (someone who trains informally) to match the Arthurian description of "not directly involved in the relevant academic field." Semantically, this makes perfect sense, but I don't think that Bruce's concept of "amateur at geography" includes reading about things that are currently of interest to modern "expert" geographers, whoever those people might be; similarly, I doubt that a great many "amateur" chemistry players religiously read JACS to find out the latest hot topics among "expert" chemists. Certainly we need to at some level reward the so-called "experts" in the field and the people like Shantanu who consider themselves amateurs but approach the field like experts do. Certainly we need to enliven the tossups so that they don't read like a boring list of works. But we also need to remember that at some level the social science questions have to be gettable by the "amateurs" on William and Mary B. I think the only points at which Shantanu and I agree are that writing six lines on the minor works of Malinowski is useful to neither experts nor amateurs and creates some kind of knowledge bubble that rewards having played quizbowl for a long time over being interested in the subject at an appreciable level, and that maybe the only way to truly rectify this situation is to increase the number and quality of concept tossups that allow for "expert" knowledge at the beginning and "amateur" knowledge at the end.

As a coda to this, it's a similar distinction that's driving the debate between the "amateur" quizbowl players and the misnamed "professional" quizbowl players. The "amateur" players are fiercely defending their right to show up to tournaments, answer a bunch of questions on things they've heard of, and have fun without putting in any substantial effort to learn whatever the "professional" players think is important - they're not the ones studying the lead-ins mentioning quizbowl's favorite feminist anthropologist du jour so that they can be ready when someone decides it's a great hard part at Nats or CO. By that same token, I'd argue that pretty much everyone commenting in this thread is an "amateur" quizbowl player in one sense of the term (no one is getting paid to play quizbowl), but none of us is really an "amateur" quizbowl player in the sense of the term used by the self-described "amateur" players, since we've all spent many hours doing things for the sole or secondary purpose of getting better at quizbowl. It's this other amateurism dichotomy that we really need to be careful about when discussing the proper place of "expert" knowledge in the game.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Fri Oct 29, 2010 5:38 am

cvdwightw wrote: the only way to truly rectify this situation is to increase the number and quality of concept tossups that allow for "expert" knowledge at the beginning and "amateur" knowledge at the end.
Though I have perhaps overestimated the number of people with a sufficiently deep interest in tax policy to know what the Chamley-Judd result is, the above quote is really all I'm saying. I was merely proposing a theoretical leadin (though I suppose it's now ruined) for a "taxation" tossup which might mention a couple other things and then describe, say, Pigovian taxes, or Keynes' theories of taxation. I think Chris White's tossup on the "production possibility frontier" is an apposite example of what I was trying to get at.

Perhaps it's false that someone with an "amateur" interest in economics might run into Chamley-Judd; I've seen it discussed prominently in most books related to tax policy and public finance and it's been mentioned on a couple blogs I might expect someone with an amateur interest in economics to read. Regardless, my point was that I suspect someone with a minor interest in economics is at least as likely to encounter Chamley-Judd (or some other, perhaps more important result that comes up often in textbooks) as they are to encounter the minor Keynes essays normally read only by economic historians and which are unlikely to be mentioned in any classes. Thus a tossup on, say, "taxation" is frequently preferable to a tossup on "Keynes," but we see the latter type of tossup much more often.

I'm not trying to shoehorn my definition of "amateur" into anything. What I'm saying is that amateurs, and even people generally, learn about things multifariously, and insofar as quizbowl is (or has aspirations to be) an academic game, we should give great thought to making sure those who take an academic path to learning have an advantage.

I'm also entirely unsure how this discussion of "punishing" people for having general knowledge drawn from, for example, popular culture, enters into any of this. As someone who has powered at least a couple of Cao Cao tossups thanks to playing video games in middle school, I'd be loathe to start punishing people for taking their knowledge from certain sources rather than others. I simply think that the pool of clues and answers we currently draw from is, if not too small, then at least directed away from rewarding knowledge that is very much worth having.

Edit: To respond to another point, I don't think figures like Mead, Boaz, Malinowski, Evans-Pritchard, and so on are unimportant, nor do I believe that people don't read them (I myself had to read them for class). My points are twofold: first, though people may read their major works, almost no one reads their minor works and hence early clues drawing on those minor works are often lackluster. Second, they currently come up too often relative to their importance, and we can better utilize the social science distribution by asking about things that come up in classes or in textbooks.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Oct 29, 2010 11:05 am

Yeah, I don't think it makes much sense to write about the Chumley-Judd result, but it makes sense to write tossups on "taxes." I agree that people are not very likely to encounter minor Keynes works just from amateur interest, but the ideas of Keynesian economics form part of the debate about the economy in the US, so it's not like people aren't aware that such a thing as Keynesianism exists.

Anyway, I think this is all getting far too complex for what should really be a much simpler point, which is two-fold:
a) Sometimes the stuff you hear about in quizbowl doesn't really match up all that well with stuff that's actually important in the field. It's not wrong to use that relevance metric as a tool in deciding whether or not you should be writing about something.
b) The fact that Important Answer X is canonical should not preclude the gentle introduction of Other Important Answer Y, through methods appropriate to the quizbowl context.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Sat Oct 30, 2010 1:34 pm

Yeah, Jerry's two points above are ones that noone disagrees with.

If you believe that certain topics should come up more and certain topics less, because of their comparative academic relevance, then it's fine to argue that...and then find ways to include the preferred topics in your writing.

My point here is that the "Chamley-Judd people" in this thread are being unrealistic. If you go and look at what's being studied in any random social science class - sure, you'll find a lot of things that could come up instead of minor Malinowski works. The trouble is just that - there are too many things...and you could argue for the importance of all of them. There are tons and tons of Chamley-Judd results out there!

I'm extremely wary that someone like Shantanu is gonna come on here and start trying to convince us that THEIR Chamley-Judd is really the important one - like, totally way more important than any of the other things. And then, someone else will come on and say "No, THIS THING is important - I totally encountered it in my Intro class!" Great, now we've got a million potentially-important things - and precisely one person knows about each of them, cause they're the one person who attended the class that studied that thing. And then we can debate until the end of time which of those things is truly the most important, and Dwight can propose a twelve-step method that we should employ in order to answer that question. Or, worse yet, a bunch of people choose to blindly believe Shantanu that Chamley-Judd really is the most important - and it keeps coming up, until someone comes on here and yells "Why is Chamley-Judd coming up all the time! It's not that important!" and we have this discussion again.

I think a lot of people just refuse to accept that QB is a game that, by its nature, drastically simplifies and distorts academic study. This doesn't mean that we have to lose sight of the fact that academic study/relevance should always be consulted in developing the game, but the two are not the same thing. Excelling at being an anthropologist and excelling at being a good anthropology player in qb - two very different things.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Sat Oct 30, 2010 2:14 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote: I'm extremely wary that someone like Shantanu is gonna come on here and start trying to convince us that THEIR Chamley-Judd is really the important one - like, totally way more important than any of the other things.
Maybe someone else might do this, but it's not what I'm saying. I'm not really sure why Ryan and Dwight are seizing on a hypothetical leadin I proposed and then vociferating at length about an argument no one in this thread has made. I'm sympathetic to quasi-Burkean arguments about maintaining the status quo, but I haven't even suggested particularly violent change to the way we write social science questions.

I was under the assumption leadins were supposed to be varied and reward expert knowledge to as great a degree as possible. I was also under the assumption we seek to write accessible questions. Based on these criteria, I propose a tossup on "taxes" that begins with, say, Corlett-Hague, and then works its way down to a description of Pigovian taxes is better than any tossup on Keynes I can conceive of. I'm not even opposed to a tossup on Keynes that discusses Essays in Persuasion; I just think that such tossups come up far too often relative to my hypothetical "taxes" tossup. If there's something controversial about any of this, praytell.

Or, to take another example closer to anthropology, we might do as Andrew Yaphe did for ICT last year and write a tossup on "death" that discusses Michel Vovelle and Philippe Aries. I wouldn't propose it as a paragon of accessibility, but I thought that tossup was an incredibly cool question which mentioned things I've frequently seen mentioned in my own reading; I wish more tossups like this would show up at the Nationals level.

Everything I've proposed mirrors closely what others have applied to the science canon to great and beneficial effect in the past couple years. Like Jerry, I think those reforms can be applied fruitfully, if to a lesser degree, to a number of other disciplines, social science and music prime among them.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Matt Weiner » Sat Oct 30, 2010 4:15 pm

So, where in the distribution do we put tossups on Keynes as a thinker, if we accept the premise that all economics tossups are to be on concepts?
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by grapesmoker » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:06 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:So, where in the distribution do we put tossups on Keynes as a thinker, if we accept the premise that all economics tossups are to be on concepts?
I'm pretty sure we certainly haven't agreed on any such thing. But there's no reason why Keynes' non-economic thought can't go into the "miscellaneous" category, which I would like to see take up questions on things of intellectual interest that don't neatly fit into an obvious category.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:21 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:So, where in the distribution do we put tossups on Keynes as a thinker, if we accept the premise that all economics tossups are to be on concepts?
I'm pretty sure we certainly haven't agreed on any such thing. But there's no reason why Keynes' non-economic thought can't go into the "miscellaneous" category, which I would like to see take up questions on things of intellectual interest that don't neatly fit into an obvious category.
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Re: Anthropology Questions

Post by Megalomaniacal Panda on Absinthe » Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:03 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Matt Weiner wrote:So, where in the distribution do we put tossups on Keynes as a thinker, if we accept the premise that all economics tossups are to be on concepts?
I'm pretty sure we certainly haven't agreed on any such thing.
Not only have we not agreed on any such thing, I don't think anyone has even suggested any such thing. For the third (fourth?) time this thread, I will point out that no one, least of all me, is seeking to place binding strictures on what social science editors put in their tournaments. I think a highly beneficial change would be to significantly reduce the frequency of tossups on thinkers like Keynes (or Schumpeter, or Marshall, or John Hicks, or most dead economists we tossup these days), since I can't really imagine someone reading his essays outside of a history class, nor can I imagine someone reading the General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money outside of a class on the history of economic thought.

That said, I heartily agree with Jerry and Andy in thinking quizbowl could be made more interesting by placing such things like Keynes' Essays in Persuasion in the miscellaneous category.
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