Your Academia, At Work -- See What the March on Science Types Consider Science

The same sorts of folks who are smugly marching to promote their strange, religious version of "science" are producing academic studies like this (abstract):

A Semiotic Landscape analysis, whereby a community or environment’s signage is photographed for linguistic and visual analysis, is a useful means of discovering power relationships within that community’s language use. While Semiotic Landscapes and their predecessor, Linguistic Landscapes, are traditionally used to explore differences between dominant and minority languages in a community, this research extends the concept to analyse hegemonic masculinity at a CrossFit gym. It also shifts the analysis from an outdoor landscape to an indoor, more private setting. Using an autoethnographic approach, the author argues that while many of the CrossFit signs are designed to appear as humorous entertainment or motivation, they simultaneously encourage the subordination of women and certain men, and the naturalizing of a particular view of hegemonic masculinity, as embodied by the ideal CrossFit male.

I wonder if the real point was to get her gym membership paid for through a grant?  By the way, for those not in the know on the words used here, "autoethnographic" means "I didn't do any actual research or study or anything one would traditionally consider scholarship, I just sat around and thought about it and then started writing whatever came into my head."  There is little actual difference between autoethnographic research and posting rants on Facebook, except one has to go to school for years and years to be able to drop grand-sounding but essentially meaningless terms like "linguistic landscapes".

I would love to see a study attempting to count the percentage of academic papers in the humanities nowadays that are autoethnographic.  I am trying to imagine having some of the economics professors I know acting as a thesis adviser and trying to sell them on the idea of writing my thesis as autoethnographic research based on how bummed out I am that I keep running out of money before payday.  Hegemonic masculinity is forcing me to dine on two-year-old cans of Spaghetti-Os I found in the back of the pantry!

If you enjoy this sort of thing in a kind of black humor sort of way, I recommend to you @RealPeerReview on twitter.


  1. DaveK:

    And how many of those papers are now "auto-trans-ethnographic?" Sounds like a new opportunity for additional rent-seeking.

  2. names_already_taken:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite memes: "I just tried to kill a roach with Axe body spray. Now his name is Brett and he won't shut up about Crossfit."

  3. Ward Chartier:

    The Flesch-Kinkaid grade level score for the quoted text is 21.4. That equates to a reading level enjoyed by scholars with more than 9 years of education beyond high school. Aside from the social implications of the message in the text, the text is likely impenetrable to many liberal arts professors. I believe that one purpose of writing is to be able to effectively communicate an idea. The quoted text fails spectacularly. Maybe that's a good thing.

  4. ladyhawk:

    ."... the naturalizing of a particular view of hegemonic masculinity, as embodied by the ideal CrossFit male. " That would be " displaying an opinion." As a female, I feel absolutely no threat from such signs and certainly not powerless. I can choose not to go there. . I know people who are CrossFit members and I have been to a CrossFit gym and watched both men and women following the suggested activities of the day. Those people work hard, and the program works. The signs are meant to encourage that.

  5. ladyhawk:

    Notice also that the sentence "this research extends the concept to analyse hegemonic masculinity at a CrossFit gym." contains its own question-begging, ie, it assumes that there is already hegemonic masculinity in a CrossFit gym, rather than assuming the null hypothesis that there is no such view present. I once sat on a university ethics review board for research proposals involving the use of human subjects, and this sort of presumption of the truth of the politically correct result was almost universal in the social science proposals.

  6. Mike Powers:

    Jerry Seinfeld's ENTIRE STANDUP CAREER was based on Semiotic Landscape analysis.

  7. Brad Warbiany:

    I've always prided myself on my writing ability. So I was humbled when I took a business writing course offered at my work and they said to use MSWord to analyze your writing, and that the goal was to write at a 5th grade level. Short paragraphs. Short sentences. Small words. Easy to understand.

    If you write too much, people won't even read it.

    I started looking at the things I've written and they were all 12-14th grade level. I realized I was probably not being an effective communicator at work. It was good that I changed, but it pains me to do it.

    Oh, and I am convinced that most "scholarly" writing is meant to impress other scholars, not to communicate an idea.

  8. CC:

    If a crossfit gym doesn't have a fit person (mostly male) as an ideal, what in the world sort of advertising are they supposed to do and what slogans in the gym? "get comfy"? "relax"? The objecting to everything male gets really old.

  9. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    I spend rather a lot of time 'teaching' [i.e. giving bad grades to those who don't follow the rules] both grads and undergrads who may end up being managers some day to "write short". Short sentences and short paragraphs. Very short. Like sentences of no more than 15 words, max, and paragraphs of no more than 4-5 such sentences.

    It usually takes a whole semester to get them to do it, with lots of rewriting to the rules. Over the past 20 years though I have accumulated an impressive set of "thank you" notes and emails from those who "made it" in their careers.
    I use these later in the semester to motivate students.

    I also give them a set of two handouts containing the same basic ideas and thoughts. One written short and one written "long" on a subject they know little about. I don't tell them they're basically the same. First I ask them which of the two they would rather read and write a short review on. Guess which one wins. Then I have them read both and ask them which one they understood the best. Sometimes the point sinks in.

    It all comes down to a single question: Do you want to be understood or do you want to make yourself look smart to yourself?

  10. GU1:

    The funny thing is that I've never seen a gym environment more favorable and non-judgmental toward women than the typical Crossfit gym. Everyone does the same movements (no "bench press for the dudes, 'toning class' for the women"), and men and women encourage each other during workouts and keep an outwardly courteous attitude (gym creeps are rare in Crossfit in my experience). Women who get competitive in Crossfit lift heavy weights and get "manly" muscles, and the Crossfit community encourages it. You won't hear people saying things like "don't lift so heavy sweetheart, you'll hurt yourself!" at a Crossfit gym, like you would at most commercial gyms.
    Reading the abstract, it's almost as if she's negatively judging Crossfit girls' choice to do such a "manly" activity! I though gender was a social construct and people should be able to do whatever xiey want? /sarcasm

  11. Don:

    Well, crap! If "research" has become a basic creative writing exercise, I guess I should go collect a PhD or two. I can make up all kinds of crap!

  12. Arrian:

    "Reading the abstract, it's almost as if she's negatively judging Crossfit girls' choice to do such a "manly" activity!"

    That's exactly what the article was being judgmental of. Bulk, strength, aggression, these are masculine traits and "toxic" because they are pushing others to do the same. Apparently the fact that this is a.) a gym, and b.) a crossfit gym where the _entire reason to go_ is to acquire these traits didn't impress the author.

    (Sorry, late to the game, but couldn't pass up responding.)