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JPS My Symposium at 10:29

My First Solo Symposium: The 2014 Jean Piaget Society Annual Meeting in San Francisco

My First Solo Symposium: The 2014 Jean Piaget Society Annual Meeting in San Francisco

I had three other conferences scheduled for the Spring of 2014, so I was ambivalent about submitting a proposal to the Jean Piaget Society (JPS) Annual Meeting.  When my advisor Colette Daiute described her idea for the symposium it sounded exciting. The other panelists were my colleagues and friends and the discussant, Carol Lee, was a well known professor whose work I’d read extensively. This would also be my first opportunity to present the preliminary results from my doctoral research. Further, I had lived and loved San Francisco for three years before moving back to NYC to attend the psych program at The CUNY Graduate Center.  I still had many dear friends in SF – at least one of whom I hoped would let me crash on their couch!

Jean Piaget Society Logo

Two weeks before the conference our discussant had a family emergency and wrote that should would not be able to attend. However, she would still gladly read our papers and write a response that could be shared at the conference. Normally the discussant is present and shares their feedback, but this seemed a reasonable alternative.

Then one week before the conference all three of the other panelists cancelled due to their own family emergencies. I’m not exactly sure the odds of such a cacophony of calamities – it has to be small though.

This left me, who was already feeling a little drained from the previous three conferences in the spring as the lone presenter. After I recovered from from my initial reaction, which was dumbfounded, I went through my options.

Option A: Same same but different.

I could cancel like everyone else, but in my case it was different because I was only canceling because I didn’t want to be the only person presenting at the symposium – it’s not a symposium if only one person is presenting work!

Option B: Find new Friends?

Colette kindly emailed the conference coordinator who informed her that there was no room in any other symposiums as most other cancellations were  accounted for and necessary shuffling had already taken place. So Option B 

Option C. Go it Alone. 

At first this going it alone seemed overwhelming. I was at the very early stages of data analysis. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to say, or how, or that I had anything even. Either way I would be working with my data, either for the conference or for my dissertation. So I put my head down and finished a first round of coding. A few days before the conference it looked like I did have some results. I had also written an extensive dissertation proposal so the main work was cutting down what I was going to say so that it could fit into a 15 minute presentation. And of course now that I was the only person presenting I could present for longer, I had the room for an hour and a half! Not that I was planning to talk for that long.  I decided on Option C, to go it alone.

The  Presentation Day

What I feared was that it would really be me…alone! The presentation was scheduled for 10:30am on Saturday, the third and final day of the conference. Generally, conference attendance fluctuates throughout the day or days and this is particularly noticeable at smaller conferences like JPS, where there are many fewer audience members in the morning of the first day and in the afternoon of the last day.

So it was 10:29 and this is what the room looked like…no-one:


JPS My Symposium at 10:29
JPS My Symposium at 10:29

The Symposium

Thankfully, in the next ten minutes, as I paced around the room, people began to trickle in, and by 10:40 there were about 10 people in attendance! I know, I know, that’s not so many people. Why do all this work, fly across the country, stress out, just for 10 people to attend your talk. Well that’s the life, and 10 is actually not a bad number! It’s also about who the 10 are – and these 10 people were interested and offered insightful comments.

Colette gave a brief introduction and apologized for the people who could not make it and then I gave my talk about how transfer students blogged about their transition to college experience and how their blog posts reflected their cognitive and emotional development. I used PowerPoint not Prezi as I wasn’t sure about the Internet situation at the conference. This turned out to be a good decision as there was no free Internet in the conference room. In case any reader’s are interested, here’s a copy of  My JPS PPT, Digital Sense-Making.

I talked for around 25 minutes.  It was different than a normal conference presentation because there was no strict time constraint and members of the audience asked questions and we engaged in dialogue during the presentation that continued once the presentation concluded.

The conversation ranged from theoretical  perspectives on the diversity of stories and how one person may tell the same story many different ways in part depending on their audience, with one scholar  referencing a TED talk by Ngozi Adiche that I’m looking forward to watching, and also to reading Adiche’s work!

Another scholar wondered about the strengths and shortcomings of using human coded narrative analysis – as I had done – as compared to using a computer program like the LIWCOthers questioned the definition of genre and we explored some of the implications of the definition and why it is important to consider genre when doing narrative or mixed methods research.

Usually conference symposiums allow for about 5 minutes of questions and conversation, but we talked for an hour!

This turned out to be one of the best symposiums I’ve ever been a part of!

Seeing the City

It was also great to see my San Francisco taking lunch hours to explore Chinatown and some of North Beach.

IMG_20140530_133301 IMG_20140530_134410Svetlana - a GC Student and one of the great thinkers who were at my talk - in North Beach

Catching up with my olde Willie Brown middle school teacher friends in the evening was super fun. And of course  kicking it with my great buddy Nick and his wonderful wife Sarah is the best! So in the end,I’m glad I went with Option C!

Nick with Two Giant Beers
Nick with two giant beers


Nick's Popeye Muscle
Nick’s popeye muscle as he tries on Patagonia’s latest surfer invention


Talking Academic Boycotts Online

Recently the NY times published a piece regarding the academic boycott of Israel.

As a graduate student and New York Jew with family in Israel, including a brother attending medical school there, I clearly have a stake in this debate. There is also some family history involved; my grandparents worked with the ANC, and in part due to their political activities, were eventually forced to leave South Africa for England with their three young children (a journey that my mother recounts beautifully in the prologue to her book).

Certainly in the short term the boycott draws attention to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, but at what cost to meaningful academic dialogue and research in the long run?

A good friend and fellow CUNY graduate student, Sam, shared his opinion recently in response to a Facebook post:

sam's facebook response

Many have likened the recent academic boycott of Israel to the academic boycott of apartheid South Africa. I wonder about historical differences in the two contexts. The history of the Jewish state and the jewish people is quite different from the history of the South African apartheid state. How will my family members, such as my brother, grandmother, and great uncle – who has a dual appointment at an Israeli and an American University – relate to this issue?

Interestingly, the above Facebook conversation ended with both parties agreeing to continue to the conversation offline – which also relates to my interests in how people write in explicitly social settings as opposed to semi-public or more intimate settings.

response to sam

Clearly these two young men are aware of what’s at stake when debating academic issues involving Israel. What are the implications of their choice to end the conversation here, why didn’t they continue online and what does this mean for the way people write and think while using social media?


Joining the Modern Era: Reflections on a Week in the Smartphone World

I decided to join the modern era and buy a smartphone.  Once I started looking I was overwhelmed with the choices. iphone or Android? and what number 3,4,5?

I mainly use gmail, gcalendar and gdrive and I’ve had enough experience with my wife Sandy’s  iphone and ipad to know that those google apps are generally lacking – either they don’t sync right or they are filled with adds or both.

Okay Android it was – but which one? There seemed to be so many choices – so I asked a couple Android using friends.

MJ replied: “i would wait for the new google phone- nexus 5 i believe. samsung uses android, but adds a lot of stuff on top of it – some cool features, but most of it’s kinda lame. because they customize it, it can take a while for them to get the newest version of android fully “samsung-ized” and you end up not getting the latest stuff for months. the google phones used to be built by samsung (now made by LG), but they’re made specifically for google, so when the newest, hottest android shit comes out, you always get it from the jump”. either way, i think you’re making the right move with android, assuming you live in a more google-y world than an apple-y world.

While SP had a slightly different take:  “These nerds are right. Battlestar Galactica is WAY better than Star Trek the Next Generation. And yes, get a regular Samsung Galaxy S 3 or 4. It does everything, and you don’t need to wait like a shnook for the latest coolest gadget. You’re dirty Phil. Embrace your lack of cutting edgery (that sounds like something Mike would say about me). ”

My Nexus 5

I waited and bought the Nexus 5.

 What’s changed? and Am I finally part of the modern era? 

My Location location map

Using my old Nokia only T-Mobile knew my location, now it seems like everyone can follow me as Google, the weather channel and the NSA keep track of my whereabouts(Even though I turned off ‘use my location’ I have a sneaking suspicion I’m still being followed).

Talking on the phone? Or just listening?

beyond pod Remember how people used to talk on the phone? Unless I locate the phone’s little speaker and place it directly on my eardrum – it’s nearly impossible to hear a phone conversation. To ameliorate this issue I just keep my headphones plugged in – all the time -which facilitates more talk radio and music listening. Unfortunately, every time I load up good ole’ NPR it hits me with three straight commercials and anyone who knows me – knows I hate commercials.

So I’ve mainly been bumping podcasts – anyone have any good recommendations?

Also streaming the radio chews up more battery power than it did no my old phone, though I should note that I’ve been impressed with some long lasting  battery life – almost 48 hours on one charge with moderate to low use.

A Travelling Dictionary
Portcullis at the Fort Tryon Cloisters

The other day riding the train, plugs stuffed into my ears, and reading the New Yorker I came across a word I didn’t know, portcullis. 

So I tapped it into my dictionary app. Even years though I spent my tenderfoot years playing as knights in armor at the Cloisters, I never knew  there was a word for the “strong grating (especially in medieval castles. made to slide along vertical grooves at the sides of a gateway or fortified place”.



Maybe I’ll learn more cool things to do with this phone in the next few weeks- but considering all the hype around these super phones- not much has changed.

Wait – you might say-  what about how I can watch movies, tv and live sports with my new smartphone. Well I don’t because if I wanted to do that I’d use the computer that I am always sitting at.

And Sandy quipped that when I’m lost I won’t have to call her for directions anymore – but that hasn’t happened yet (likely related to the sitting at computer phenomenon).

Just after I ordered the phone I shared my excitement about it with a few friends. My buddy PJ summed up the import of this shift best,   “Sweeeeeeet! Now Phil can gmail in real time!”.