Bridgett Davis on writing, research and The Numbers

Fannie_Davis_coverHaving a conversation with Bridgett Davis was an instance of one of my absolute favorite things to do – talking about writing. It’s a rare opportunity to have the time to do so, especially with someone so accomplished who also loves talking about writing (and research!). Bridgett is a multi-faceted writer/creator. She’s a journalist, essayist, novelist and filmmaker. She’s also a professor and a mom and the director of the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program. Her newest book, The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers (Little, Brown, January 2019) adds memoirist to her list of genres. It’s a compelling and touching tribute to her mother and to the business that supported her family for decades. It’s also a fascinating portrait of the significant role The Numbers played in the lives of African Americans in the mid-twentieth century.

This marks the start of Season Two for Indoor Voices. Stay tuned for another year of interesting, well-curated voices from CUNY. We’re grateful to our listeners and for continued support from John Jay College’s Office for the Advancement of Research.

Listen to Episode 17 now!

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Episode 16, Part 2: The Things We All Do

In part two of our exciting season finale, we continue our conversation with Stephanie and Jennifer, but allow the interview to degenerate into guilty TV pleasures and the addicting nature of social media.

Show Notes

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Episode 16, Part 1: The Things We All Do

In our exciting, surprise two-part season finale, we interview Professors Stephanie Margolin (Hunter) and Jennifer Poggiali (Lehman) about their work around academic libraries and bathrooms. While the topic lends itself to fairly easy jokes, it’s fascinating and important, speaking to everything from student success to the human experience.

Jennifer and Stephanie talk about what sparked their research and how libraries and librarians can improve their spaces for their patrons.

Show Notes

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Episode 15: The pursuit of sadness

The Moral Psychology of Sadness book cover

Anna Gotlib is an assistant professor (associate, as of Fall 2018 – congrats!) in the philosophy department at Brooklyn College. The title of her most recent book, The Moral Psychology of Sadness (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), got my attention immediately. With so much crushing propaganda from the happiness industrial complex, this subject seemed like a gentle, honest oasis. (During our conversation, we were reminded of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women to Smile.”) And indeed, Anna and her co-contributors (seven in addition to her editor’s intro and her own full chapter), celebrate the rich opportunities for intellectual exploration within this complex and overlooked emotion. She shares her reasons for choosing the topic and makes a strong case for allowing space – philosophical as well as social – for sadness, especially in American culture where frank discussions of sadness are generally frowned upon. Sadness can foster self-learning, give one’s life fuller meaning and quiet what Buddhists call the chattering monkey mind.

This is the final episode of Season One of Indoor Voices, and in the spirit of sadness as a paradoxically forward-looking and motivating emotion (read the book, you’ll see), we look forward to Season Two beginning in Fall 2018. Having produced at least ten more episodes than we anticipated, we are rather pleased with ourselves and also grateful to our supporters (especially John Jay’s Office for the Advancement of Research) and our listeners. Happy summer! Don’t worry, be sad!

Listen to Episode 15 now!

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Episode 14: Barbara Gray on news research and the Queen of the Underworld

 

Photo of Sophie Lyons
Sophie Lyons is the subject of Barbara Gray’s forthcoming biography.

When Barbara Gray began her job directing the Research Center at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, she was only half a block from her previous job where she had been director of news research for The New York Times. The physical proximity is not at all incidental (the J school has forged a strong network with many of the city’s biggest media outlets), and the job overlap is significant (she brings loads of relevant expertise to her academic post). The skills that she advocates for, shepherds and teaches at CUNY have always been crucial to journalism, but they are especially critical in the digital information realm and even more essential – for everyone –  in the current news production and consumption culture. She talks about what she calls this “triage situation”; the importance of context, history and detail in reporting; the value of “failing up”; and her multi-faceted role as veteran news researcher, teacher and reference librarian.

As if that weren’t enough to fill a plate and an episode, there’s more. Barbara’s writing a biography of 19th century grifter-turned-philanthropist, Sophie Lyons. She talks about the genesis of the project, her research process and gives us a sneak peak of Sophie’s fascinating life.

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Episode 13: Dana Weinberg and digital publishing

I first met Dana Weinberg when I was a graduate student in the Queens College Applied Social Research program. She was, as you’ll soon hear for yourself, an incredible teacher. Her work at the time was around the sociology of nursing and we read Code Green: Money-Driven Hospitals and the Dismantling of Nursing, an amazing book which I often give to nursing students. It’s beautiful, both in terms of its prose and its ideas.

I was very interested to learn Dana is now working on the sociology of digital publishing. Her article, “Comparing gender discrimination and inequality in indie and traditional publishing” (with her collaborator, Adam Kapelner), examines the impact of gendered names on publishing, finding that books written by male-sounding names sell for higher prices than female — across independent and traditional publishing (sorry Kathleen!).

Dana also studies digital publishing from the inside as novelist DB Shuster. Her latest book, To Catch a Traitor is a is a Cold War spy novel. I was moved by Dana’s thoughts on DB Shuster helping her to find herself.

Also, in the spirit of correcting/clarifying, Dana correctly remembered that Art Worlds is by Howard Becker.

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Episode 12: Uncovering hidden stories

Linda Villarosa with The Campus editors
Linda Villarosa (center) with editors of The Campus Magazine, the oldest student-run publication within CUNY.

Linda Villarosa always knew she would be a writer, but when she was a little girl in Colorado, she probably couldn’t imagine that something she wrote would have a direct impact on New York State taking measures to address a critical life-and-death issue. She writes effective and affecting stories (read some of them here), directs the journalism program at City College and is a proud alumna of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. You’ll be inspired by her embrace of new challenges and complete lack of writing angst.

 

 

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Image courtesy of City College

Episode 11: Cereal and Hostful Confessions

In this guest-free episode, Steve and Kathleen take a break from highlighting CUNY scholars and aim the mic at themselves, indulging in some hostful repartee. It begins and ends with cereal (or serial), and in between, listeners are treated to perhaps more information than is necessary about their hosts. Revelations include ambiguous criminal activity, secret ethnic lineage, and obsessions with NYC MTA material culture, handedness and the aforementioned cereal. Steve also lifts the curtain on his status.

Following the admirable model of actor Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast, we offer a post-recording fact check/errata/clarification. If you’re reading this before you listen, you’ll get an idea of the curiosities in store:

  • Kathleen’s vest was not addressed to her, as she knows better than to open mail not addressed to her. But the packing slip clearly indicated that the company had sent her the item in error. It turns out that she did nothing illegal. The moral question remains.
  • Steve was referring to the new ABC sitcom “Alex, Inc.” that is based on the origins of Gimlet Media, not a small replica of Jim nor a mini gym, as Kathleen was envisioning.
  • CUNY can boast three Guggenheim fellows this year.
  • We dismissively referred to the wildly popular podcasts Serial and S-Town.
  • Steve occasionally enjoys professional development at varying speeds via Udemy.
  • MTA motormen (correct term seems to be train operator) vs. conductors: who does what?
  • It’s the pothos plant, which goes by many other names, that Kathleen feels confident will thrive even in a subterranean workplace devoid of natural light.
  • Ancestry DNA results include a category called “low confidence regions” which, despite its benign name, has the potential to damage identities and/or families.
  • Steve descends from the Romaniote, according to Steve and his still harmonious family.
  • On sluggers and handedness.
  • A dream deferred on London’s Brick Lane.
  • It turns out you don’t have to make do with a variety multipack of breakfast cereals. Homogeneity, like most things, is available online!

Listen to Episode 11 now!

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Episode 10: Richard Lieberman on teaching with archives

Dr. Richard Lieberman

Richard Lieberman is the head of the La Guardia and Wagner Archives, which just happens to be housed at LaGuardia Community College, my home campus. In this interview, we touch on a lot of great topics, ranging from the importance of faculty-led projects, to Wikipedia, to Ed Koch’s mayorship. If these seem like disparate strands, then you’ve never met Richard, who masterfully ties together the strands of history.

Richard’s many loves come through in this interview. He loves history. He loves teaching. He loves New York City. To sit with him is to become energized and inspired.

A quick bit of housekeeping. In the interview, Richard references Ann and Ximena. That would be my colleagues (and future interview subjects…I hope) Ann Matsuuchi and Ximena Gallardo, who work with Richard on the incredible Koch Scholars project.

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Image courtesy of YouTube

Episodes 8 & 9: A digital humanities double header

 

It was just a coincidence that I interviewed these two women right before NYC Digital Humanities Week (Feb. 5-9, 2018). In episode 8, I chat with my colleague, Robin Davis, grilling her about the thesis that she completed for the CUNY Graduate Center’s MA in Computational Linguistics. It’s titled “Nondescript: A Web Tool to Aid Subversion of Authorship Attribution.” After listening to her, I guarantee you’ll be intrigued and want to keep thinking about the topic. Fortunately, Robin offered some suggestions:

The second interview, Episode 9, is with Micki Kaufman, also a GC student, who’s working on her dissertation for a PhD in History. Her project is called “Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me:’ Quantifying Kissinger.” She uses computational text analysis and visualization techniques to work with material from the Digital National Security Archive’s Kissinger collections. As serious and important as this project is, Micki prioritizes fun. Just listen; she’ll explain.

Digital Humanities is a large, encompassing, often ill-defined field. If you keeping hearing about it but aren’t sure what it is, these two interviews will help shed some light. Robin’s project is not strictly DH, since computational linguistics is actually a science, but the fields are definitely cousins, as Robin says, and I find that similar parts of my brain are used in trying to gain an understanding. Robin and Micki are both good at describing complex concepts in a way that’s clear and enjoyable to take in. Bottom line: These two projects are both very cool and socially relevant.

Listen to Episode 8 now!

Listen to Episode 9 now!

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