The flawed, award-winning paper, and cups of coffee

I’ve had a lovely bit of news that my paper in JAPA was selected the best of Volume 80. That’s been a dream of mine for some time, and it’s wonderful to have had it happen.

But I’m still struggling with the paper. The paper is:

Schweitzer, L. 2014. “Planning and Social Media: A Case Study of Public Transit and Stigma on Twitter.” Journal of the American Planning Association. 80(3).

It’s available for free download if you’d like to look it over.

I did a fair bit of media work trying to get this paper out there, largely because JAPA could use the eyeballs, and if there were ever a study that could work as click bait, it’s this one. I pretty much did nothing for two weeks besides prepare the press release and work with media. Even with the work, most of the attention went to the listicle aspect of it. But some journalists really did a great job, and I’m grateful to them for their time, energy and insights.

All of it reminds me of a quote from Helen Mirren after she won an Oscar: “I’m honestly at my happiest in a cold rehearsal room with my polystyrene cup of tea.” Only in my case, it’s coffee. Because coffee–yum.

The ego, the ego. One wants attention until one gets it, and then one gets tired of talking about the study and wants to talk about, or get back to, work one is actually doing, and why will everybody keep talking about this thing that was done ages ago?

Promoting work is work, and I did just about everything I wanted to do here, except I am still haunted by questions concerning regional effects. At one point, I thought I should have some test of regional effects. I thought, for example, about matching transit agency regions with their police departments, so we might be able to tell of Bostonians are just exceptionally grumpy, or if Chicagoans are mad in general at city management and that spills over to the way they talk about their local transit provider.

My problem with that is, simply, that there are no close public management analogues for most these transit agencies. Transit agencies are one of the few exemplars of service-providing regional quangos with street-level bureaucrats. So matching the Chicago PD with the CTA has some geography and service area in common, but the CTA serves way more. The LA Metro spans countless police departments; ditto with New York. I could have gone with smaller regions where the service areas overlap more, but I needed to focus on larger systems to get Tweets. (At the beginning of the study, I only used a year of data, but holdups with getting the thing reviewed delayed for four years. Turns out to have been a good thing because I worked on it and keep gathering more data over time.)

I probably should have matched the police department controls by geography just to see, and if it showed nothing, well, that’s information, and overlaps in sentiment would then need to be interpreted. Ah well. The next paper.

I’m pretty sure anything you get from Twitter about police departments will be spicy now.

Back to working on the next thing. 🙂

One thought on “The flawed, award-winning paper, and cups of coffee

  1. I’m glad you suffered through the media effort work. It’s great to see you and this project get the attention you deserve. Lots of reasons I think it’s great, but the top three are that you’ve made some important findings, you put a big focus on SEPTA, the transit system that gets me around most days, and you wrote an academic article that’s more like a slice of toasted hearty whole wheat with butter and homemade jam than the cardboard most are.

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