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Title: Observing Prestige: Visibility and Performance in the Sociology of Knowledge
Authors: Kindel, Alexander Thomas
Advisors: Stewart, Brandon M
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: game shows
history of psychology
Subjects: Sociology
Computer science
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation studies the observation of prestige. Sociologists use "prestige" to describe rewarding displays of importance associated with high-status positions: pub- lic praise; interpersonal admiration; special titles and costumes; access to restricted locations; special payments like grants or endowments; "going down in history"; and other forms of publicly visible symbolic reward. Prestige narratives magnify small underlying differences into durable, naturalized images of social hierarchy by controlling what can be seen as important. Displays of importance are part of a more general class of social processes that are partially caused by external observation. When cultural processes have reflexive or performative qualities, this must be reflected in our measures in some way. Developing measures of cultural associations (e.g., logics, schemas, meanings) in a way that respects their innately reflexive quality necessitates being more specific about the qualitative implications of the scale at which we observe cultural processes (i.e., their duration, amount, or frequency). By improving our ability to observe the generation of prestige, we gain greater insight into the stylistically material forms of domination and superiority that underwrite the most celebrated hierarchies.Chapter 1 discusses a methodological problem in a popular word association measurement model in computational cultural sociology. Chapter 2 examines how a controversy in the academic prestige structure of the midcentury US psychological profession shaped a critical juncture in the history of psychological measurement: the development of validity theory. Chapter 3 compares the distribution of correct responses to trivia questions on the US television game show Jeopardy! to the distribution of contestants’ occupations, and explains why the trivia show genre is guaranteed to produce an occupational prestige pattern. Chapter 4 describes the emergence of a novel symbolic distinction in scientific publication in the economics profession—the typesetting of working papers in LaTeX —and examines how this process relates to the changing formal organization of technical superiority in the field.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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