Uncovering Social Assumptions

Your job as a researcher and an academic is to make known social assumptions.

In one of our regular phone calls, my advisor told me that I should be able to write about social assumptions, who has those, believes in them, and acts accordingly in the world. It was in the context when one of my dissertation chapters did not fully crystalize the social tension between content moderation and the often taken for granted absolutist freedom of speech in American culture. When I write, I take freedom of speech at face value. I assume that it is actually guaranteed for anyone living in the United States. My blindspot was pointed out. The assumption is that everyone interprets freedom of speech to mean that anyone can say whatever they want. But it’s not what actually is written in the law. The law protects dissents from government’s persecution.

This idea of absolute freedom of speech is a socially constructed idea, but it has had real life consequences. Thus as a sociologist, it’s my professional duty to make this assumption explicit, and to draw the various contours of the debate between content moderation and freedom of speech.

This is a challenge. I’m kind of stuck thinking about it at this moment. I feel like I want to throw the chapter in the air, and write something new.

Uncovering social assumptions is a hard job. Having the ability to observe how people behave, and translating this observation into words are not easy. It feels to me that my thinking is still not clear on this debate yet, thus writing about it is such a challenge.

I have two solutions to become unstuck. The first solution is keep reading on the debate, and think about it a lot. I often find running, going for a long walk, or sometimes taking a long bath helps. The second solution is to let it run in the back of my mind, while writing about something else. Maybe once I write about that something else, how to resolve the debate between content moderation and freedom of speech would come to me. The second option is sometimes labeled as”productive procrastination,” or honestly “wistful thinking.” It’s my wish that the writing would become clearer. Many a times, I find that laboring on a problem for a long period of time, and keeping at it might be a better idea. At this point, I will do intermittent thinking about this chapter while writing about another chapter to feel that I’m actually making some progress. Hopefully by the end of this week, I won’t feel too stuck anymore.

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