Office Space: Desk Setup

[Update: A more recent desk setup: “Office Space: Sit-stand Workstation“]

An office can be a sanctuary for productivity. An important component of the santucary is the desk. I find that some desk setups are less distracting and more practical than others. In this post, I’ll mention a few things about my current desk setup.

1. THE DESKTOP

Sometimes I stand at my desk and sometimes I sit. I When I am sitting, I use the ViewSonic LCD monitor as an external monitor. Mounted on the wall behind the desk is a SteelMaster Organizer. On the top shelf of the organizer I have a Dell LCD monitor. I extended the bottom shelf with a piece of plywood that protrudes over the desk to hold my laptop and my coffee tumbler. I use the other shelves in the organizer for papers.

 

academic-desk-tech
Left to Right: SteelMaster Horizontal Origanizer, ViewSonic LCD Monitor, Dell LCD Monitor
http://amzn.to/1Md4bNChttp://amzn.to/1kF0FWihttp://amzn.to/1GApGvqImage HTML map generator

 

And yeah, I know. It’s not a glorious workstation. I had to MacGyver the standing desk from leftovers in the department storage closet. Another department was kind enough to give me another old monitor after they remodeled some offices. What can I say? I’m a scavenger. I’m always on the lookout for ways to use redundant campus equipment, e.g., my last standing desk.

 

podium-standing-desk-nick-byrd
Got a redundant podium and a filing cabinet? Then you’ve got a standing desk. #recycle #gradSchool

2. THE COMPUTER

I’ve had a few laptops and a tablet over the last 10 years. I’ve found that I strongly prefer Apple’s operating systems to Microsoft’s operating system. I also prefer smaller and lighter devices over larger and heavier devices; it makes travel and bike commuting a lot more tolerable. And when I’m traveling I find that I prefer screens that are no larger than a piece of paper. That leaves me with two options: an iPad or a small Macbook. I’ve tried iPads, but they just didn’t do everything I needed to do. The main problem is that iOS is miles away from OS X. So I went with the macbook air. It’s small, light, durable (no glass panel display), and powerful enough for my daily needs. Plus, I get 9-10 hours of battery life which is great when I’m traveling.

 

macbook-air-for-academics

 

SUMMARY

So that’s my desk. Sometimes I sit. Sometimes I stand. And when I stand I prefer to stand on The Level. My trusty workhorse is the macbook air accompanied by one of two computer monitors.

 

 

Thoughts about the steup? What is your desk setup like? Or if you’re undecided about a setup, what do you want out of a setup?Thoughts, pics, links, etc. are welcome in the comments.

 


† Here’s an example. First, some background. When I’m at my desk, my back is to the door. And the door is almost always open. When I am reading and writing, I often listen to music. And sometimes I find myself dancing to the music…with my back to the door…while the door is wide open. Once in awhile I catch myself and then turn around to find a couple of students laughing at me from the hallway.

Implicit Bias | Part 4: Ten Debiasing Strategies

At this point it’s pretty clear why someone would be worried about bias. We’re biased (Part 1). Consciously suppressing our biases might not work (Part 2).  And our bias seems to tamper with significant, real-world decisions (Part 3). So now that we’re good and scared, let’s think about what we can do. Below are more than 10 debiasing strategies that fall into 3 categories: debiasing our stereotypes, debiasing our environment, and debiasing our decision procedures.

1.  Debiasing our stereotypes

In the last post, we learned that implicit attitudes and stereotypes can badly affect our judgments. Here is how stereotypes can be formed and reformed.

Conditioning

In conditioning, we repeatedly present ourselves with a pair of stimuli until we begin to associate one thing with the other (De Houwer, Thomas, and Baeyens 2001; Hofmann, De Houwer, Perugini, Baeyens, and Crombez 2010). So, for example, if someone consumes media that repeatedly presents certain ideas or groups in a negative light, then they will cultivate a negative implicit attitude about these ideas or groups (Arendt 2013; Arendt & Northup 2015; Matthes & Schmuk 2015). Or if a certain profession is dominated by white men, then people will associate membership in this profession with being white and male — and this might have a self-reinforcing effect on the profession’s makeup.

Counterconditioning

We can also use conditioning against our existing biases. Some call this counterconditioning (Stewart, Latu, Kawakami, and Myers 2010; VansteenWagen, Baeyens, and Hermans 2015). One fairly easy and effective way to countercondition a negative stereotype is just to imagine a positive version of a negatively valence concept (Blair, Ma, and Lenton 2001, Markland et al 2015).

Here are examples of how we might use counterconditioning. When nominating, recommending, or choosing someone for an opportunity, we might alot some time to think of non-stereotypical candidates from underrepresented groups. If we’re teaching, then we might assign material from underrepresented groups. If we’re an office manager, then we might choose imagery for the office that represents a more diverse group of people.

2.  Debiasing our environment

It turns out that altering the decision environment can also support debiasing. So if you have a say in the decision environment, then think about the following.

Ask for justification

Put decision-makers in a position that forces them to justify their decisions to a third-party (Lerner & Tetlock 1999, Simonson & Nye 1992). The point of this is to prevent overconfidence in our judgment, e.g., optimism bias (Ben-David, Graham, and Harvey 2013, Moore & Healy 2008).

Consider alternatives

Try to diversify the decision-makers (Bell, Villado, Lukasik, Belau, and Briggs 2011; Shor, Rijt, Miltsov, Kulkarni, and Skiena 2015). The hope is that your intuitions will be challenged. After all, “Training in normative rules often fails when people have strong intuitions and do not pause to think more deeply (McKenzie and Liersch 2011)” (Soll, Milkman, and Payne 2014). So find people who question our intuitions (Koriat, Lichtenstein & Fischhoff 1980). If you can’t find someone to disagree with you, disagree with yourself: simply imagine arguments for different conclusions (Herzog and Hertwig 20092014; Keeney 2012).

Make information easier to consume

Remove irrelevant data, e.g.,  a job candidate’s identity, the status quo, unnecessary complexity, etc. (Célérier & Vallée 2014; Thaler & Sunstein 2008).  And present the remaining data in a way that allows for easy comparison (Heath & Heath, 2010; Hsee 1996, Russo 1977). And present the data in the most relevant scale (Camilleri & Larrick 2014; Burson, Larrick, & Lynch, 2009; Larrick and Soll 2008). Talk about probabilities in terms of relative frequencies or, better yet, represent probabilities with visualizations [examples] (Fagerlin, Wange, and Ubel 2005; Galesic, Garcia- Retamero, & Gigerenzer 2009; Hoffrage, Lindsey, Hertwig, and Gigerenzer 2000).

3.  Debiasing our procedures

Certain reasoning strategies can help you with debiasing (e.g., Larrick 2004; Fong and Nisbett 1991, Larrick, Morgan, and Nisbett 1990). Here are some ways that we might debias our decision procedures.

First, decision-procedures checklists, criteria, and rubrics. Use them, especially if you are repeatedly making one kind of judgment, e.g., grading, reviewing applications, etc. (Gawande 2010; Heath, Larrick, and Klayman 1998; Hales & Pronovost 2006).

Second, quantitative models. Predictive linear models often do better than our own reasoning (Dawes 1979 and Dawes, Faust, & Meehl, 1989; Bishop & Trout 2008). So if we have a good model by which to make a decision, then we should be wary of deviating from the model until we have good reason to do so.

Finally, the status quo. We tend towards the status quo. So if it is already well-known that a particular choice optimizes our desired outcome(s), then default to that choice (Chapman, Li, Colby, and Yoon 2010; Johnson, Bellman, and Lohse 2002; Johnson & Goldstein 2003; Madrian & Shea 2001; Sunstein 2015). And — going back to section 2 — if people want to opt-out of the optimized status quo, then ask them for justification. 😉

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many debiasing tools in our toolkit. We can debias our stereotypes, our environment, and our procedures. While these tools have been shown to help, they might not entirely solve the problem. And there maybe be at least one more option at our disposal: feedback. That will be the topic of Part 5.

Series Outline

Part 1: I talk about the anxiety I had about being implicitly biased. “Am I discriminating without even knowing it?! How do I stop?!”

Part 2: What is implicit bias? Check out this post to learn about the theory and some of the findings.

Part 3: What are the real-world consequences of implicit bias? Research suggests implicit bias can impact hiring, pay, promotions, and more.

Part 4: [Jump to the top]

Part 5: Can feedback help? What if people are not used to giving each other feedback about their biases. Check out how to give and encourage feedback about our biases.

Productivity, Overworking, & Incentives

University faculty might face a dilemma. On the one hand, productivity is required for faculty to keep their job, be promoted, and — for tenure track faculty — secure tenure. And one way to survive in the competitive academic market is to outshine the competition in terms of productivity. And one way to be more productive than the competition is to overwork yourself. After all, overworking is associated with greater productivity (Jacobs and Winslow 2004; see also Seals and Rodriguez 2006 and Thomas 1992). However, overworking is also associated with lower job dissatisfaction (ibid). So, overworking

Continue reading Productivity, Overworking, & Incentives

Philosophers’ Carnival #171


Welcome to the 171st edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival. Thanks to all those who submitted, to everyone who is reading, and to Tristan Haze for his support. Here we go!

 

Projects

Conceptual Geneology For Analytic Philosophy. Catarina Dutilh Novaes offers a series of four posts in which she defends a “historicist conception of philosophical concepts.” There are helpful links to the literature and to the other posts in the series in this final post.

Degrees of Justification. Luis Rosa begins exploring the claim that degrees of justification will not be satisfactorily captured by probabilities.

Human Errors and My Errata. Anne Jaap Jacobson has written four posts over at The Brains Blog. The overall project: “My intention in planning these four posts was to close on a kind of contribution very developed in feminist thought.  The contribution has concerned how we account for human cognitive successes when we are actually rather error-prone creatures.  The very general approach is to give up a kind of Cartesian picture of the mind.  What is instead emphasized is the extent to which our knowledge depends on our social interactions.” Continue reading Philosophers’ Carnival #171

Grad School | Part 5: Contingency plans


You’re trying to figure out whether or not you want to go to grad school. You’ve tried to estimate the value of a PhD in philosophy (Part 1). You’ve considered academic jobs (Part 2). And you’ve considered the nuts and bolts of grad school (Part 3) and the pros and cons of grad school (Part 4). Now it’s time to figure out what to do if — after starting grad school — you find yourself no longer wanting the academic life. It’s time to talk grad school contingency plans.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | …

1. Disillusionment

Sounds exciting, right? Hear me out.

In just a few years, I have encountered many grad students who Continue reading Grad School | Part 5: Contingency plans

Grad School | Part 4: What’s Good And Bad About Grad School?


Prior to this post, I argued that the value of a Ph.D. is not in its job prospects …or lack thereof (Part 1). I showed that desirable academic jobs are neither ideal or common and that most academic jobs are very undesirable: they pay very little, they expire as frequently as every semester, and they offer no health insurance (Part 2). Then you found out about how most US philosophy Ph.D. programs work (Part 3). If you are considering getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, then you’ll want to have a realistic view of the process. This post attempts to provide such a view. It covers two things:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | … | Part 5

1. What’s So Great About Grad School?

Even on a mediocre day, I can honestly say that I am living the dream! Really, there’s a lot to be grateful for in terms of being a grad student in philosophy.

1.1 Admission

Just being admitted to grad school Continue reading Grad School | Part 4: What’s Good And Bad About Grad School?

Grad School | Part 2: Academic Jobs


The value of a PhD is hardly about job prospects. So if your reason for getting a PhD in philosophy is the prospect of getting a particular job, then you might want to rethink things. Maybe you dream of comfy academic jobs. If so, it’s time for another reality check.

Part 1 | … | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

There is a reason that academics worry about the state of academic jobs. The good ones are increasingly rare …and they aren’t always dreamy. And the bad ones? Well, they’re pretty bad.

1.  The Basics

First of all, professors work up to 60 hours a week. At least, that’s what the data since about 1940 suggest (Charters 1942Ziker et al 2013).

Here is a preliminary description of what professors do with their 60-ish hours:

  • Teach a handful of classes each semester.
  • Grade and comment on papers/tests (in the best case scenario, you will have a student to help with some of your grading, but probably not early in your career).
  • Advise a bunch of students.
  • Write letters of recommendation for potentially lots of students (not all of whom are actually recommend-able).
  • Attend department meetings.
  • Assume potentially time-consuming roles for your department (e.g., chair a committee about [whatever], give talks to people outside the university, organize conferences, put on workshops, etc.).
  • Try to convince grant committees that non-experimental research about old philosophical puzzles is as valuable as experimental research.
  • Write stuff.
  • Revise what you write.
  • Submit your writing to conferences, journals, grant committees, etc.
  • Receive rejection notices about your writing.
  • Revise your writing again.
  • Resubmit your writing.
  • Receive more rejection notices.
  • Review other philosophers’ writing.
  • Occasionally, present your writing at conferences (often in non-ideal locations, at times when you might otherwise be visiting family —e.g., Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, etc.).
  • Do some work on vacations and “sabbatical”.
  • Worry about whether you will be rehired and/or promoted at your next review.

This might not fully capture the breadth — or banality — of some of the duties of academic jobs. But that’s not the point. The point of this list is to dispel the caricature of academic philosophers as people who get paid comfortable salaries to do all and only the following:

  • sit in comfy armchairs
  • read
  • write
  • think only about interesting things

In reality, these activities make up only a small fraction of academic jobs.

Pro Tip: If you want a better idea of what professors do, then ask them. Email them, go to their office hours, or just raise your hand in class one day and—actually, that last one isn’t a good idea.

2.  Compensation

To be clear, none of the duties mentioned above are likely to earn you any extra money. I mention this just in case a reader is under the impression that professors make side-money from their writing, presentations, etc.

Let’s get a few things straight: academics do not make money for writing or reviewing articles for journals. And the vast majority of professors make a pittance from their books. Further, when they speak at a conference, they are often reimbursed only for their costs — or maybe only some of their costs. So, conferences are not a money-making enterprise. And while we’re on the topic of money…

Some data might give you the sense that academic jobs pay loads of money [The Chronicle of Higher Ed]. However, you should consider the fact that

  • positions in the humanities pay significantly less than positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and
  • the vast majority of the teaching positions offered by universities these days are adjunct positions.

Importantly, reports about professor’s income often don’t include the data about what adjunct professors’ income. So next time you read about how much professors make, take a close look at the data to see whether (or how) they analyze adjunct professors’ compensation.

3.  Adjunct Teaching

Adjunct jobs pay very little. Seriously. You could make more money and receive better health insurance than an adjunct professor by working at a grocery store [Business Insider], at the Gap [Vitae], or as a pet sitter [The Guardian].

And adjunct jobs are the new norm! Most existing and new academic jobs are adjunct jobs [Inside Higher EdOnline PhD Programs].

Why is this bad news? Let’s start with compensation.

Adjunct job postings I’ve seen offer $2000 – 4000 per course. And courses can easily take up to 20 hours per week depending on the size of the course, your experience, and the commute. And many adjunct jobs don’t include benefits like health insurance. Oh, and academic job contracts usually expire in one or two semesters.

So if you can find work as an adjunct professor, you might make only $4000 – $8000 per semester. And your free time will be spent (re)applying for your next job. And you won’t necessarily have health insurance.

Conclusion

Let’s review.

  • Desirable academic jobs are by no means ideal.
  • Desirable academic jobs are rare. And they’re only becoming more rare.
  • Undesirable academic jobs (i.e., adjunct jobs) are the norm.
    • Adjunct jobs can be precarious (since pay is low, health insurance is not always included, and opportunities for promotion are very scarce).
    • Adjunct jobs provide little or no time for research (since that time is spent applying for next semesters’ jobs).
    • Adjunct professors might not have enough time or money to raise kids, or to live (what many people think of as) a comfortable lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong: academic jobs can be a great gig for a select few. But your chances of landing the ideal gig in philosophy are low (and steadily decreasing). This brings us back to the main point of Part 1: the value of a PhD in philosophy just isn’t about job prospects.

Does this leave a bad taste in your mouth? For many, it will. But you’re better off thinking about this stuff sooner than later. It’d be a shame to find out about all of this after you’ve spent 5+ years forgoing better opportunities while you get a PhD.

But maybe you’re not phased by all the doom and gloom about academic jobs. You don’t care about getting the dream job. You just want to continue studying philosophy. That’s fine. But remember: there is more than one way to study philosophy. Graduate school is just one way. You might want to consider the alternatives. To do that, you’ll need to learn about grad school itself. That’s what Part 3 is about.

 


Featured Image: “Main room of the École nationale des chartes, Paris.” © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5