Signaling flips

by on July 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

A while ago Bryan and Arnold had an interesting exchange as to whether on-line education might ever “flip” into being a higher-status signal than is currently the case.  A conversation with Karina points me to one interesting example of a signal status flip, this time from Beirut (and possibly other places as well?):

Apparently, here in Beirut, nose jobs have become so popular that those who cannot afford them, or don’t even actually need them, can still opt to wear bandages across their nose…to fake a nose job. Yup. The newest trend to hit the Beirut fashion scene is the post-op nose bandage.

There is a bit more here.

1 AC July 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Also of note: Asian tanning signals.

In the US, we tan to show we’re not low-status office drones. In China, people avoid tanning to show they’re not low-status manual laborers. Eventually China will develop to the point where more low-status people are office drones, and the signaling will flip with a vengeance. Should be amusing to watch.

2 Miley Cyrax July 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm

In the U.S., I suspect tanning is not so much a signaler of status as much as it is that it makes you look thinner and your skin smoother. Hence why girls go tanning more than guys, as their physical appearance is much more important for mate attraction.

In Latin America, however, light skin is associated with high status, as the European-descended tend to be higher class.

3 david July 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Does this hypothesis imply that tanning should be unpopular in Brazil?

4 Miley Cyrax July 30, 2012 at 12:06 am

It would be difficult to ascertain a priori whether tanning would be popular or unpopular in a given country.

On one hand, tanning helps with smoothness of skin and appearance of thinness.

On the other hand, a tan has historically been an indicator of low class.

Tough to say which would be more salient at a given time in a given place.

5 ya obviously July 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

i second miley’s comment re: north american tanning. tanning conceals blemishes and makes bone and muscle structure more visible. it’s all about being a sexy sex machine.

AC, how old are you? everyone over the age of ~35-40 greatly overestimates how much people (esp women) care about how other people pay their bills.

6 Rob July 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I would suggest tanning in the US has flipped yet again, with only the uncouth opting for a tan, whereas the truly high status seek to avoid any association with the GTL crowd (in part because tanning is considered unhealthy).

7 IVV July 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Agreed, I don’t like the look of a tan at all. I much prefer the look of a glow–even if geeky.

8 bob July 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm

What are some other interesting status flips? Greece vs. Turkey, nerds going from losers to cool in the 90s, graffiti art selling in auctions for millions… Pretty much everything that the culture finds awesome was considered lowbrow and dirty just a few years earlier. Corollarily, what are some lowlife things we should get into if we want to really catch the wave?

9 ya obviously July 30, 2012 at 10:39 am

it became fashionable in the 90s to self-describe as a nerd and affect a superficial interest in book learnin’ and computerin’, but it remains as unfashionable as ever to actually possess enough technical expertise to, you know, DO things. authentic nerds are still losers.

10 Andrew' July 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I see it more as a natural experiment where on-line breaks off mostly the teaching from the credentialing. that is why cheating is seen as a big problem. Brick and mortars might retain the imprimatur premium by honing their ability to discriminate.

11 Kaleb July 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I would expect someone who successfully educates themselves online to the point where they are the are providing clear added value to potential/actual employers and/or society to be highly self-motivated. Such individuals should earn more income (over the medium and long terms) than the average college graduate simply due to motivational differences.

On the other hand, I suspect online education can also be significantly easier than attending physical college. So we might see a more sharp disparity in the attendees of online schools: it is attractive both to those who don’t want to do very much work, and to those who want to be able to work as much as possible.

I suspect students closer to the mean of the motivation distribution will continue to attend physical colleges; I also suspect that both the laziest students and the most motivated will pursue as much online education as possible. Many highly motivated students may also pursue education at a physical college while pursuing additional online education.

Another thought: the internet is incredibly flexible. So flexible that it enables you to pursue whatever query takes your imagination. I think that people are most highly motivated, and therefore likely most efficient, at answering questions that have taken their imaginations. Yet most of the online courses whose syllabi I have perused (including those at coursera) seem rooted in the same system that has grown from the foundation of the physical classroom, along with its physical limitations. Some extremely-highly motivated students may wish to avoid the limitations of this classroom structure entirely and pursue a truely internet based education…..using the internet as their primary source of knowledge advancement, only occasionally using online courses for supplementation or for further reading leads. If all of the aforementioned is true, then how should/can internet classrooms adapt?

12 Kaleb July 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I was somewhat drunk when i wrote this and didn’t relate it to signalling at all. I guess the signalling post made me think that an online education could potentially signal both greater value than a normal or lesser….though how you would determine that signal I’m not sure. It would probably be easier to fake an online education than an off-line one (easier to wear a nose-bandage).

But if there were a way to tell whether two people, one with an online education and one with a physical education, had equal knowledge levels in the field of education, I would expect the online education to signal higher motivation/resourcefulness than the physical education;

13 Bill July 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Is the nose job bandage

Sort of Like


A Harvard Sweatshirt?

14 derek July 30, 2012 at 1:30 am

I wonder if the economic breakdown will make the two synonymous?

15 Anon. July 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm

MR really feeds my misanthropy…but at least it’s in a tragicomic way. I was laughing my ass off while I though about how stupid we are.

16 Donald A. Coffin July 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm

There continues to be this either/or tone to the discussion of on-line courses (OLC) and face-to-face courses (F2FC). In most places and in most cases they are more nearly complements than substitutes. Students taking OLC are almost always taking F2FC as well; which they take is often more for scheduling convenience than for any other reason.

And there continues to be some notion that people *could* move entirely to OLC for most (all?) of their educational needs. For any learning for which laboratory work or practicums of one sort or another are important/necesary (science; nursing; pre-med; other health disciplines), F2FC of one sort or another will continue to be necessary. For learning in which personal contact (not mediated by some tellecommunications technology) is necessary, the same will continue to be true.

What has happened is that somehow the conversation has incorporated a dichotomy that does not exist in current practice, or in the forseeable future.

17 Andrew' July 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Correct, somewhere around a decade ago my university thought computer learning was a good idea.

18 derek July 30, 2012 at 1:29 am

A mixture of the various modes is already used in many fields such as nursing. Some online, some face to face along with the practicum. In BC for a nurse to practice requires a certain level of education, and people who have worked in the field are required to upgrade. So this mix works well for them, allowing them to work, do schooling, get their practicum as they work, with a short time going to school for the face to face instruction required.

It does come down to general assumptions. If the way to do it is to go to school, assume a large debt then go into a job, that is the way it was done. Now that idea is proving to be not so good, so alternatives are being explored. A one size fits all approach won’t work, but that is what we have had for the last while, and indeed it hasn’t worked very well. Probably a mix designed around the needs of the particular field or endeavor would be the best.

19 Steve McLeod July 30, 2012 at 6:27 am

Where’s the data supporting the Beirut “fashion trend” claim? A short traveller’s blog post quoted on Lonely Planet, quoting a 10-year-old newspaper article, which itself quotes plastic surgeons doesn’t constitute good data.

I lived in Beirut recently, and although one sees the occasional nose bandage, it is not a “fashion trend”.

20 bob July 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I remember seeing lots of bandages in Beirut in a few years ago, but not so many recently. There’s a cyclicality to these signaling status flips. Everyone started joking about the fake nose job bandage, so it flipped back to a low status symbol and was pretty much abandoned.

21 Barkley Rosser July 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Regarding a possible status flip with online education, I remember well the one that happened after all the hype about correspondence courses…

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