So I’m a nerd. I hope that this is evident given what little you know about me, and does not sound like the new trendy tendency to claim nerdity and geekdom, but I don’t really care if it does because I’m about to go on an enormous rant about my sociology independent study and if you think I’m a cool kid after that, I would like to know if you’re single. See, this past semester, as you can tell by my complete absence from the web (not that this is a new phenomenon) I was immersed in doing undergrad sociology research (as you do), and I figured I’d write something regarding my adventures in doing undergraduate research, for all of those young highschoolers and undergraduate students who don’t read my blog.
So let’s start here:
PART 1: WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?
So my research project was a descriptive analysis of the effects of economic variables (GDP, GDP/capita, birth rate, death rate, misery index, freedom index, inflation…) on the production of popular media as measured by the convenient (…”convenient”…) proxy of movie production, using information from the IMDb database. Yes, the great and academically legitimate source that is IMDb. And if you want to know why, I can tell you why.
I mean, look at this shit. People apparently have no idea how many movies anyone is making ever. IMDb and UNESCO agree on the 1971 number, and then disagree once more in the 1972 number (IMDb says 5). But anytime I went looking for a list of the movies in question in UNESCO, I couldn’t find one, so IMDb won.
Now that I don’t have a deadline, I’ll try to download more spreadsheets and see how this looks with R later. Hopefully I can do a followup post in the future.
PART 2: IN WHAT UNIVERSE DOES THIS MATH WORK?
So IMDb has its drawback, and that is that Nigeria is barely present in it. I’ve been reading all of these things about how Nigeria is the biggest thing ever since Bollywood and it seems that a lot of journalists agree that it is, but they don’t agree on how.
Bollywood – as the Mumbai-based film industry is known – produced 1,091 feature-length films in 2006. In comparison, Nigeria’s moviemakers, commonly known as Nollywood, came out with 872 productions – all in video format – while the United States produced 485 major films
1,676 =/= 485. I may not be a fancy schmancy math major with a concentration on statistics, but I do know that. And 1,091 < 1,676, not the other way around.
There are so many things like it. Things claiming “India has a thousand movies! That’s twice as much as Hollywood!” when the latter made 3,649 movies in 2015, to which I go “how the fuck does your math work?”
PART 3: NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING
Say you want to find out the GDP of, I dunno, Argentina. So you go to the UN, because hey, it’s the UN, and you look because these people surely know what they’re talking about.
And then you get told no, and you get sent to the World Bank.
And then you go to the International Monetary Fund.
And then you realize that everything is hell and certainty is a charade that economists say exists because they don’t want to admit that they are all either dark wizards with powers beyond our grasp or full of shit.
It seems to me Economists don’t even know what the GDP of anything is because ALL LEGITIMATE SOURCES DISAGREE ON THIS VERY BASIC ISSUE. I MEAN IT’S NOT LIKE THERE ARE PEOPLE WHOSE ENTIRE JOB IS CHECKING THIS SHIT OR ANYTHING. But hey, maybe population will clear that up for you.
NO. FUCK YOU. BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE AND STUDENTS MUST BE MADE TO SUFFER.
Surely, how many movies were made in a given country must be easy to find. I’ll just go over to Unesco, where– What do you mean? There were clearly more movies than that made. Look. IMDb says so. And I’m not saying IMDb is always right, but those are the titles of the movies right there. And the posters. You can tell me there are MORE movies than IMDb thinks there are from a given country, but you can’t solidly argue for FEWER when I can see the names of the movies and where they were made and how much they cost all right there.
And then you decide “fuck this shit, I’m going to go with the World Bank numbers, because the World Bank is supposedly trustworthy, and I’m going to use the UN’s numbers for some other shit, and I’ll just put my sorrow and pain in the discussion.”
Alright. So that’s done.
And once more you realize something misaligned all of your data points(two empty columns somewhere for no reason), so you spend the next four hours going over every single section and verifying that it lines up with the original data you got from the UN and WB, and then you start crying because it’s two AM and this shit was due yesterweek and you thought this was a good idea because you didn’t realize the magnitude of that with which you were messing.
Then, at five in the morning that day, you make a fateful decision to one day revenge against the economists. Years later, at an economic conference, there is a fire that spells out “LIES”. Completely unrelated, of course.
PART 4: YOU KNOW NOTHING JON SNOW
So you decide “fuck everything, I’m just going to run correlations until something happens”.
And then, provided your information is somewhere around right (it’s probably not), and provided your math is right (the computer did it so I’m hoping so) you realize that holy shit, this thing that you thought would have a positive correlation has a negative one or something.
And then you ask for yet another extension, because you’re a terrible student who doesn’t do things well and why are you even in university anyway at this point a 3.5 gpa means nothing and you will probably not have it next semester if things keep going in this direction…
At which point you spend an unhealthy amount of time hating everything and smashing your head against the desk. And then you realize that every prof and grad student in the entire university is probably doing ten times as much work, and you smash your head against the desk some more because you are an unworthy excuse for a human being .
And then you decide to play with R for six hours because programming is fun, right?
And then you make charts. And more charts. And more charts.
And then you wake up and you realize you went to sleep at four in the morning and the charts… they’re beautiful. But they are incomplete.
So you make more charts.
And then you show your work to your prof and he’s like “wow, this is actually impressive”, which makes you feel good at first and then makes you frown because hey, what was he expecting when you asked for like fifty extensions?
So, good news is, you have an extra week because the Old Gods have smiled upon you and your prof has other shit to worry about so he doesn’t exactly care that much so long as he can grade it before the semester ends. The bad news is that you forgot you have a 3,000-word essay on Spanish Lit due twenty-three hours from now and you would have done more except you were busy dealing with R and Excel.
And then you ask for an extension from that prof and he’s like okay, but you’re handing that in tomorrow right?
And then you don’t. Because you suck.
And then you take it out on your anterior radio-ulnar muscles for some reason, and then you get hoped up on caffeine for a while and then next thing you know you’re ranting at your roommate about the proper definition of seasons and how no, winter does not end in December, that’s not how the rotation of the earth works, and no, the subjective experience of a Pakistani person living in Pakistan is not a good predictor of the subjective experience of what living in Canada is like because they have different latitudes and by the way where are the caffeine pills?
And because you know all (some) about the behavioural psychology of addiction thanks to The Prof Who Shall Not Be Named’s alternately divine and hellish class (as anyone who has actually taken his courses can attest, because never has any class I’ve taken before been so confusingly polarizing from one day to the next), you consume slightly different things and get slightly different behavioural cues all the time in order to keep up the effect of the caffeine pills and when they stop working that much you drink some gatorade or something before them and it boosts them back up and you feel like a biohacker for a while and everything is rose-coloured but actually everything is terrible because you haven’t been working this whole time and you suck.
THE INEVITABLE DOOM
So you continue to ask for extensions like an asshole, and then there comes a point where your wonderful professor looks at you and goes “Um, you know I need to give you a grade, right?” and asks to see what you have so far. And what you have… is shit.
And then you get a B because you had As in all the previous stuff and the final paper, while shitty, is very thoroughly researched it just needs like a bajillion polishes. And a part of you is sad because you decided to do an independent study due to it being a guaranteed A (ha! Guaranteed, they said…) but the rest of you is just surprised and amazed and glad.
And then you realize you have like two weeks before you need to get back to school and suffer, oh yes suffer. And then you don’t get into any of the classes you wanted to, and you end up with a weird schedule doing half a philosophy minor in a semester because hey, why not?
…And that’s how my first independent research project went.