Signaling or Public Service? A Cowen-esque Post

I have a colleague who tapes dozens and dozens of news articles outside his office on the hall walls.  If you are a professor, I’m sure you have a similar colleague around. 

So, are these people consciously engaging in signaling to their colleagues and students about their political preferences?  Their erudition?  That they keep up on current events?  That they belong to the group?  Are these professors more or less likely to be active researchers or great teachers? 

Or are they just honestly attempting to provide a public service to those who might linger in the hallway and see articles of note that will improve their understanding of the world?  In other words, is such activity just an annex to their typical educative function?

Or is it a strictly political act?

Or are they subconsciously signaling while believing they are providing a public service or engaging in a political act?

Before anyone brings it up in the comments, the same questions could be asked about bloggers.

3 thoughts on “Signaling or Public Service? A Cowen-esque Post

  1. Mr. President, I assume you don’t mean these options to be exclusive? I’d bet that the vast majority consist in some sort of melange of lots of them. I’m not somebody who posts tons of articles on my door, but I do have a few, and I think if I ask myself it is partly political statement/signaling, partly a way of getting exposure for ideas I like that they might not otherwise get. I’d be the correlation to either great research or great teaching is pretty weak.

  2. Right, not exclusive. Just framing some starker options. Curious – do you get a lot of readers? I don’t see a lot of students or faculty reading these pieces – but that just might be our students.

  3. No, I don’t get a lot of readers that I know of. On the other hand, I haven’t changed them for a few years either! But that might say there is something more like signallng (or expressive value) at work than any plausible attempt to produce something in the public interest.

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