Mess Hall: Robin Burke and John Shanahan Talk about Reading Chicago Reading


In October, Robin Burke (of CDM) and John Shanahan (of English) stopped by the SSRC’s Mess Hall to discuss their venture, Reading Chicago Reading.  The project, which was recently funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is an empirical examination into who reads what kinds of books.  The digital humanities project started by examining the One Book, One Chicago (OBOC) program, operated by the Chicago Public Library.  Essentially, Burke and Shanahan (as well as their research team, which also includes SSRC Staff Members Nandhini Gulasingam and Jessi Bishop-Royse), are using OBOC data from CPL to examine various aspects of the well-known reading program.


The Reading Chicago Reading project is innovative in that the team is combining data from texts, community demographics, circulation records, and social media to yield book-level predictions on who is interested in a particular item.  Combining CPL checkout data with other data, such as Census data, the Reading Chicago Reading research team is hoping to determine how the characteristics of branch libraries influence OBOC participation.  Burke and Shanahan are hoping to use these various data sources to predict community interest in various titles CPL might consider for future iterations of OBOC.

For more information on their recent projects, please check out the results page of the Reading Chicago Reading website.



Economic Inequality According to Adam Smith

Eliminate poverty and economic inequality disappears.  Not so, says DePaul Political Science Professor David Lay Williams, who treated a recent Mess Hall audience at the SSRC to a preview chapter from ‘The Greatest of All Plagues’: Economic Inequality in Western Political Thought, a book he’s writing for Princeton University Press.


Returning to an examination of seminal free-marketeer Adam Smith, Williams traces the recurring theme of economic inequality throughout Smith’s writings, particularly in his less celebrated book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  And while he finds Smith’s solutions for alleviating desperate poverty stronger than those addressing economic inequality, he points out that Smith was quick to recognize potential pitfalls of inequality at the nascent roots of capitalism.

Smith, whose own 18th Century Scotland was marked by great economic inequality, ascribed its development to a combination of people’s tendencies to base their actions on self-interest, the desire for rank and distinction, and an appetite for both superiority and domination over others.  In commercial societies where people are considered responsible for their station in life where success is measured by wealth and poverty equals failure, two separate moral codes can evolve, observed Smith.  People’s inclination to worship the rich allows the rich to indulge in a very lax moral code, one that tolerates their foibles while subjecting the poor to life-long punishment for theirs.  Likewise, greater wealth will also enjoy greater political authority, continues Smith’s critique.

To Williams, relieving poverty wouldn’t address the pathologies Smith identified or control badly performing political institutions.  What Smith described as the “natural selfishness and rapacity” of the rich has both individual and societal implications.  Pitted against the morally corrupting effects on individual character that Smith warned of, the interests of the poor barely register on the radar of the rich, Williams said.  The more disproportionate the wealth, the more violently and unjustly the rich will treat the poor, a Smithian observation not generally remarked on, Williams noted.

In other chapters of his book, Williams will examine the issue of economic inequality through the lens of Plato, St. Augustine, Hobbes, Rousseau, Mill, and Marx.

Mess Hall: Seasons of Violence with Jessi Bishop-Royse


Senior Research Methodologist Jessica Bishop-Royse presents preliminary findings from a  collaborative research project with MSW faculty member Noam Ostrander on weather patterns in homicide mortality in 100 US Cities.  Using data compiled from several sources (the FBI, NOAA, and the USDA) they examine the extent to which homicide mortality patterns in the 100 largest US Cities is influenced by weather fluctuations over the period 2009-2012.  The presentation will take place in the conference room of Suite 3100 of 990 W. Fullerton Ave at noon on Monday March 28th.

Brendan McQuade’s Mess Hall

DePaul University Visiting Assistant Professor Brendan McQuade delivered a practice job talk during his Mess Hall presentation on Thursday October 29th in Suite 3100 of 990 W. Fullerton.

Brendan McQuade

In the talk, he described the national network of Fusion Centers within the Department of Homeland Security.  These are collaborative efforts between two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and information whose goal is to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.  The Fusion Centers came about as a result of intelligence failures following the September 11th terrorist attacks, where several local, state, and federal entities had information about potential terrorist threats but failed to “connect the dots”.   The talk was largely about his research that investigates decarceration and rising domestic surveillance programs in the United States.  His results were the product of 75 field interviews with intelligence professionals in New York and New Jersey.

Mess Hall Thursday Oct. 29: Brendan McQuade

U.S. domestic intelligence post-911 has been consolidated into a network of state and local “fusion centers” across the country, clearinghouses designated to receive, gather, analyze, and share information about potential security threats. Brendan McQuade, a visiting assistant professor in the Dept. of International Studies, has spent a year interviewing scores of intelligence employees and attending intelligence-sharing meetings in New York and New Jersey. Situating his own information-gathering within a sociological approach to expertise, the state, and social control, he concludes that intelligence fusion spells mission failure. Join Brendan for a presentation and discussion about his observations in the Social Science Research Center’s Mess Hall series.

messhallThursday, October 29
1:00 pm
Dietzgen Building, Suite 3100
990 W. Fullerton Ave.

Mess Hall is a series of short, informal presentations in which DePaul scholars (faculty, staff, students) share their work—mess and all—with an audience, acknowledging the messiness inherent in developing scholarship. Contact the SSRC at or 773 325-2164 to schedule a presentation or to learn more.

Mess Hall: Transition to the Nurse Faculty Role, A National Perspective

On Friday June 5, GSC Fellow and Nursing DNP student Nadia Spawn presented preliminary findings from her current research project with nursing faculty members Dr. Young-Me Lee and Elizabeth Florez.  Spawn presented her findings ahead of several conference poster presentations and talks, set to happen later this summer.

TNFR Presentation (3)_Page_09

Their project investigates the factors associated with nursing faculty’s intention to leave positions in colleges and universities.

This work comes at a crucial time;  there is currently a shortage of registered nurses (RNs) and an even greater shortage of doctoral level RNs (who can teach).  The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has suggested that in order to keep pace with the growing need for nurses and nursing educators, that the US double it’s #of RNs with doctorates by 2020.

Spawn’s preliminary findings suggest that the majority of nursing professors who intend to leave report non-competitive salaries, high faculty workloads, and lack of institutional support as primary reasons for leaving.  Spawn and colleagues intend to examine how characteristics such as doctoral preparation, demographic variables, as well as job satisfaction, burn out, and competence to impact intention to leave nursing faculty positions.

Mess Hall: Collaboration at DePaul

How well does DePaul support cross-disciplinary collaboration? While intra-college projects do happen, a model for accommodating partnerships across colleges seems more pipe dream than reality. Moving innovative collaborative projects from the individual “hero-driven” approach to a process supported and valued by the institution was the topic of the May 19 Mess Hall session by Robin Burke of the College of Computing and Digital Media. Within the frame of innovation and supporting collaboration, Robin also discussed CIRSCI, the Collaboratory for Interdisciplinary Research, Scholarship and Curricular Innovation that he and SSRC Director Greg Scott have proposed to DPU administration.

“If you want to work together, you’ve got to be together,” Robin declared. A good starting point, Robin suggested, might be locating informal meeting spaces and federating existing institutes or resources that could facilitate fledgling partnerships. We recorded Robin’s brief presentation, which you can watch here. You can access related documents the links below.

Slides: A Collaboratory to Support Interdisciplinary Projects

CIRSCI Proposal

Faculty Council Resolution: Support for Collaboration

Discussion following the presentation focused on communication and documentation of both new and existing projects. Where can potential collaborators find each other or meet to hatch ideas—temporary pop-up locations and events, perhaps? What examples are underway at DePaul and where can we learn about them—maybe document them through a website? What constitutes an acceptable collaborative end product and how do you demonstrate value?

Let’s continue the discussion and talk about collaboration. What do we need? How do we get there?