ARTSEE 2016: Apologies and General Discussion

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ARTSEE 2016: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea »

Hey everyone,

Thanks for playing ARTSEE - I hope you enjoyed playing.

I'd like to start the meat of this post with an apology. This tournament was not sufficiently edited or groomed (including some parts of it that I wrote) - in fact, substantial portions of it were barely edited (or not edited, despite my intentions to do so) at all, apart from fixing grammar and cosmetic changes. In some cases, this was because submitted tossups were high quality (I do think there were a lot of gems in the set) and I didn't really need to do much; in others, because I just didn't really do my job. There were tons of cosmetic errors and irregularities and difficulty was often too high. This is because my editing job was extremely rushed due to a number of reasons - I do not mean to throw anybody under the bus here, but give a frank description of what happened:

1. I did not edit all of the questions I received immediately, though I did edit the music (albeit pretty lightly in most cases). This caused a bit of work buildup and is entirely my fault, but I initially thought it would be manageable because of the initial production schedule I set (finishing most or all work by CO and all work by the week after).
2. I was extremely occupied during the eight or so days before the tournament was "due" (August 6th).
3. Because I knew (2) was going to happen, but I had a good amount of free time beforehand, I wrote almost all of my questions (64 of the 77) before Chicago Open and requested that other writers do the same (as noted in 1); the latter request was not fulfilled.
4. Most questions consequently received very light edits, either trimming down length (in many cases from 13 lines to 9) or grammar edits. I missed a few spots and didn't get to all of these, as evidenced by the fact that numerous uses of the identifier "they" made it into the set (I made an effort to weed these out, but like my editing it wasn't thorough - I should have simply put the kibosh on them before, and I didn't for bad reasons despite the fact that I disagreed with the practice).
5. I was not able to give the set a read-over or even have the time to make sure the packetization job was done properly, so there were terrible things like question repeats.

In any case, I am ashamed that my failure to be an effective editor ended in this set having undesirable grammatical features, being too variant in difficulty and below the quality I initially desired. I apologize for this. I do not plan on taking any head-editing jobs after EFT for a long time. I would like to thank Jarret, Athena, and Kai for writing for this set, teaching me a lot through their writing and giving me some Good Content (I hope I'm not stealing Kai's trademark here) to do [not enough] work with. I'd like to thank Athena and Kai in particular for graciously handling packetization, since Jarret and I were both busy no time to carry it out.

In any case, here's who wrote what (though you can see via the writer tags in the set): Athena wrote most of the architecture and a substantial portion of the other non-film visual arts categories. Jarret wrote all but one question in each of jazz and film and contributed some painting. Kai wrote almost all of the opera, most of the other auditory arts, a few visual arts questions and a bunch of music (including all the theory questions and most of the tossups heavy on scoring/actual in-depth musical description clues). I wrote the majority of the painting and music and contributed scattered questions in various Other Arts categories..

I let people have relative freedom choosing what they wanted to write on - I generally followed a model of (for the most part) seeking out under-explored content or alternative angles/answerlines to approaching content. Jarret, Kai, and Athena each wrote questions in their own way, and I didn't want to try to mold this set to my own personal preferences too hard, especially given that the latter two were relatively new to writing. I would like to commend Athena in particular for stepping up and taking on more questions when she had some good ideas to fill them with (or, in the case of the Angkor Wat tossup, wrote a solid version of an answerline I originally wanted to execute myself!)

I've got about 13 hours per day of corporate boot camp and activities right now, so my ability to respond will be limited. I've instructed my co-writers to make certain grammar changes, and I'll make an effort to change any factual errors/hoses/misplaced clues that are pointed out (for example, I've identified one in the Brutus tossup, which was embarassingly caused by one of the edits I actually made - shows what hasty 2AM editing gets you). I'll try to approve all group requests in a timely manner, and will post responses as appropriate.

Discuss away, and thanks again for playing.
Will Alston
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

I want to thank Will for giving me the opportunity to write, and I'd like to apologize for the weakness of some of my tossups and other actions that led to this set being less-than-optimal. Like Will said, I should have also done a better job of writing my questions by the initial deadline. Besides that, four points:

First, “one of the most misguided things I have witnessed in recent qb memory”(Vinokurov, 2016) was my idea. I misunderstood Will’s criticisms about constantly using “they” when we discussed this early in the writing process. I thought I was doing what had been done at a previous iteration of MO and didn’t realize that using a pronoun that is very acceptable in everyday use was not appropriate for tossups. I apologize to everyone who lost points because of this. I will definitely use “this artist” in the future (and I plan to do so as often as I am allowed).
Second, I’m sorry about the mis-ordering of the clues in the Bernini tossup (round 9). That was a goof-up.
Third, in the future, I will work on having more middle clues and less of a cliff right before the end (for example, I was told the Klimt tossup didn’t do this well). I am aware that these did not play super well, and most were due to me not having a great grasp on relative difficulty.
Fourth, I think I now understand power marking. I did not when I was writing for this set and was definitely not nearly generous enough with them. I will fix this in the future.

This was my first time doing anything besides packet submission, and I had a lot of fun writing, especially all of the female artist tossups. I’d be grateful for further advice/ critiques.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

The "they" thing was a bit jarring. I think (for me at least), having played quizbowl so much, I've developed a very fine-tuned ear for any variance or strangeness in the way the answer is referenced, and have mapped very strong associations to certain answer-referencing words. (These are both important skills to playing the game effectively and smartly.)

To me, "they" is something that means "this group or collective entity," and that reaction is entirely reflexive (and difficult to ignore). The use of "they" in this tournament wasn't confusing in the sense that it made it hard to answer the tossup, but because every time (even after I was expecting it), it threw me for a short reflexive loop, and I had to remind myself "oh, 'they' in the non-gendered singular sense." This kind of effortful, non-reflexive thinking about what kind of answer is being sought is generally something that I don't like to do when playing tossups. I assume that many other players have similarly developed reflexes related to answer-referencing words, and I'm guessing that's why people have reacted how they have.

That said, I'm also not a huge fan questions that allow players to reverse-engineer the way the answer is referenced to infer that the answer to a question is a woman (despite getting lots of points from being able to do this over my career). At the most recent MO I edited, I did remove almost all gender-identifying pronouns and references to answers, and I was a bit disappointed that few people seemed to find that effort worthwhile. Unfortunately, this is something I've abandoned (at least in any rigorous sense) in my writing, based on the high effort-to-people-caring ratio.

Here are a few ways to write questions (on women or men!) that are difficult to pinpoint by gender from the way the answer is referenced. If you want to mask the genders of your tossup answers effectively, it's important to work things like this into questions on people of both genders, otherwise players will know to anticipate a woman as the answer whenever they see that one of them is being used.

1. Use descriptors to identify the person in the early clues. These can be definite descriptors (i.e. things that pick out only the person in question, because they apply to only one person) such as "this first president of the Society of Benjamin Franklin" (completely made up), or they can be non-definite descriptors used in conjunction with other unique clues, such as "this Jacobite led a frontal assault at the Battle of Putney Green" or "during World War II, this artist painted four orange nudes representing the four cardinal directions." (As noted above, if you do this only for tossups on women, people will use the "pronoun rule" to deduce that your answer is likely a woman if you keep asking for "this artist" or "this painter" or whatever, so you really have to commit to doing this across the set for it to work effectively.)

2. Write tossups on surnames rather than the person. For example, I wanted to write a tossup on Madame C.J. Walker for that MO, but figured that it'd narrow down the answer space too quickly to be talking about a woman who was an American industrialist in the late 19th/early 20th century. I ended up writing a tossup on both C.J. Walker and her daughter, A'Lelia, with the answer line of "Walker," which allowed me to mask the gender of all the clues until the very end. Note that you can almost always do this, even for people with distinctive surnames, because there's typically a clue about the primary person's interaction with a family member that you can use.

3. Write tossups on countries, movements, or other groups, clued from women who were members of those groups. This is similar to #2, but it's a bit broader, and will work even if there are no other notable people who share a surname with the person in question.

If you mix in several questions on women and men that use the above strategies, you can cut down on players' ability to fraud their way to the knowledge that a particular answer is likely to be a woman. Although I haven't edited a whole tournament to abide by strict gender neutrality in recent years, I do try to have a healthy number of questions that keep players honest.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

That long digression on a very minor point aside, I thought this tournament was very enjoyable. There was a nice blend of canonical questions on expected answers, difficult questions on harder topics, and creative questions on unexpected topics. A few of the questions in the first category were perhaps a bit more straightforward than might be ideal at a harder summer open (for instance, the tossups on The Battle of Issus and Klimt seemed to be straight out of an EFT-like event, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but is perhaps more perfunctory than you'd like to see at an event like this). But all in all, it was a good and occasionally great tournament that I was very happy to be able to play, especially with an entertaining crew whose coattails I could ride. Thanks for putting it together.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I'm a fan of the singular, gender-neutral "they" in ordinary use, but it makes sense only in situations where we either don't know the gender of the individual involved or someone has asked to be referred to by that pronoun. There's no real question about whether e.g. Burne-Jones was "he" or not; I don't mind the aritst's gender being concealed in a question, but the straightforward way to do that is to just write "this artist." Having to try and figure out why I'm suddenly hearing plurals was really confusing to me.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

I thought this was a decent tournament. I had fun playing it. It seemed to make an honest effort at presenting clues that were important and finding answerlines that are underrepresented.

My main overall criticism would be that many clues were not "playable." This occurred most often due to (1) artist or series tossups spending too little time describing each individual work so that players are forced to choose between thinking about one clue or listening to the next, as the two clues are unrelated and therefore cannot be processed concurrently, and (2) unevocative descriptions. Some examples of the latter are the pulpit clue from the "Santa Maria Novella" tossup (tons of pulpits have winding stairs leading up to them) and the Cindy Sherman clue from the "history" tossup (she uses wigs and props all the time).

A separate criticism, which may or may not be warranted and which I raise only to start a discussion, is that there was an overrepresentation of less important female artists. I'm under the impression that this was intentional on the part of the writers, and generally I think it's a good instinct to try not to overlook the contributions of women in art. But it's an unfortunate historical fact that in earlier centuries, women had fewer opportunities to train and practice extensively in the arts, and that, as a consequence, they collectively achieved substantially less than men. So people like Anguissola, Leyster, and Labille-Guiard, who possessed technical gifts and creative genius in their own right, end up as "more important" than their equally gifted male contemporaries only because they were women. I'm not saying that these artists should never come up, or that a good editor doesn't have a duty to acknowledge their ability to excel at a time where excellence for female artists was difficult; I'm just saying that if we're asking about artists because they are women, we shouldn't overdo it to the point that it becomes a theme of a tournament. It's neither within quizbowl's duty nor within its capacity to correct for the fact that the overwhelming proportion of notable or important pre-20th century Western art was created by men. The distribution of answers in a tournament should reflect that, simply because that's the only way you can get proper coverage of everything.

As a corollary, I think the right place to expand the female artists canon is the 20th and 21st centuries. Instead of a tossup on a Rococo painter who stands out among that era because she is a female artist, we can ask about Jenny Holzer, Sherry Levine, Shigeko Kubota, Helen Frankenthaler, Eva Hesse, etc., the bulk of whose importance is far less dependent on their status as a "female artist." (Of course, the study of these artists--as the Louise Nevelson question pointed out--often involves analysis of female identity, but I think analyzing an artist's work with her gender in mind is conceptually different from choosing to study her work because of her gender.)

I'm curious what this tournament's writers (and others!) think.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea »

I'm curious to hear what other questions you thought weren't very evocative, Stephen. I chose to write most of my questions light on descriptions in favor of highlighting trends, art history, broader themes, etc. When I did write a tossup on an individual work, I tried to pick only visual details that really struck me as unique and/or evocative (perhaps going too far in questions like the Alexander at Issus tossup - I probably overestimated that answerline's difficulty, though it's been tossed up at Regionals before) for descriptions. I hate it when questions play "corners of paintings" bowl unless the thing in the corner is something important (again, like the moon in the Issus tossup, though I overestimated how hard that was).
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

Thank you, Andrew and Stephen, for the specific suggestions about other ways to ask things and feedback about the evocativity/ playability of questions. Writing evocatively, especially for architecture, is something that I know I can improve (and I did ask for feedback from Will when I started writing architecture because I knew it was an issue for me).
As for the representation of female artists:
I am counting 15 out of 81 answerlines that are about women artists or groups of women (such as the “America” TU that was on black female sculptors, but not the “daughters” TU that had clues about artists split nearly evenly by gender) in the painting, architecture, and ”photo/performance/other visual arts” categories. These were the categories that I wrote in, and nearly all of those tossups were mine. This is proportionally high for any given tournament; I think that’s safe to say.
gyre and gimble wrote: I'm just saying that if we're asking about artists because they are women, we shouldn't overdo it to the point that it becomes a theme of a tournament. It's neither within quizbowl's duty nor within its capacity to correct for the fact that the overwhelming proportion of notable or important pre-20th century Western art was created by men. The distribution of answers in a tournament should reflect that, simply because that's the only way you can get proper coverage of everything.
Maybe this particular proportion was overdoing it. And I agree that quizbowl can’t correct for historical inequities. I however, did not ask a single one of these artists because they are women. I asked about them because they are artists of great value, who are worth asking, who have been under-represented. There is value in pushing the amount of coverage that female and any other marginalized minority artists receive. I take issue with your characterization of artists such as Leyster as “‘more important’ than their equally gifted male contemporaries only because they were women.” Some of Leyster’s works were misattributed as Hals for hundreds of years (so they must have been roughly equally gifted), but there are 88 results for Hals on aseemsDB and 21 for Leyster. There is a similar difference in the number of quizbowl references to Greuze and Labille-Guiard. While Greuze is more famous and prolific, I would at argue that Labille-Guiard is by no means less “gifted” than him, and her work can be studied in a valuable way when one looks at representations of royal women and their use in courtly power dynamics*. In quizbowl it doesn’t seem that at least these particular male artists are being seen as less important than their female contemporaries. And I believe that in quizbowl, because it is an extension of life in general, there is a tendency to see any conscious inclusion of women as an over-inclusion that comes at the cost of men. There is also a tendency, which I am seeing here, for men to greatly overestimate how much women are being represented. As long as arguments saying that attention to women artists is stealing from already highly-represented men are made I think it is worth it to push on this distribution and other minority distributions. I am not denying that this tournament may have gone a little overboard in my categories (I basically wrote about all canonical female artists I knew off the top of my head except for O’Keefe and Chicago). However, this is how I feel about the representation of female artists (and black artists, and Latinx artists, etc, etc) in quizbowl in general.
Stephen’s point about expanding the canon more in modern eras is a good one. There are more opportunities and therefore more women artists, and they should certainly be asked more. But I also feel that older female artists should be included more for the reasons stated above*.

*I can send anyone links to articles on this particular subject if they’re interested.

*Also, even Linda Nochlin says in “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” that “The feminist's first reaction is to swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker, and to attempt to answer the question as it is put: that is, to dig up examples of worthy or insufficiently appreciated women artists throughout history; to rehabilitate rather modest, if interesting and productive careers…[these endeavors] are certainly worth the effort, both in adding to our knowledge of women's achievement and of art history generally” (even if they don’t answer the title question, as she goes on to say). I choose to apply this to quizbowl, because quizbowl is valuable to me primarily because it is a celebration/experience of human knowledge and achievements, and I want that to include women without the fear of infringing on the intellectual space of well-represented men.
Also, here’s a link to a copy of her essay, which is baller: http://deyoung.famsf.org/files/whynogre ... ists_4.pdf
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

Athena wrote:I however, did not ask a single one of these artists because they are women. I asked about them because they are artists of great value, who are worth asking, who have been under-represented. There is value in pushing the amount of coverage that female and any other marginalized minority artists receive. I take issue with your characterization of artists such as Leyster as “‘more important’ than their equally gifted male contemporaries only because they were women.” Some of Leyster’s works were misattributed as Hals for hundreds of years (so they must have been roughly equally gifted), but there are 88 results for Hals on aseemsDB and 21 for Leyster. There is a similar difference in the number of quizbowl references to Greuze and Labille-Guiard. While Greuze is more famous and prolific, I would at argue that Labille-Guiard is by no means less “gifted” than him, and her work can be studied in a valuable way when one looks at representations of royal women and their use in courtly power dynamics*.
Sorry if I wasn't being clear, but I think you're misunderstanding me. I accept that each pair of artists are "equally gifted" (I know that's a vague proposition but for the purposes of this discussion I think it serves is purpose); I'm not arguing that Leyster or Labille-Guiard were less "gifted" than their male contemporaries. But your argument here only exemplifies my original point, which is that when you're deciding between writing a question on Labille-Guiard or Greuze, you're choosing Labille because her work reflects a female perspective, i.e. "representations of royal women and their use in courtly power dynamics." And just to make sure I'm being as clear as possible, I'll note that this alone is not a bad thing. I usually try to have a few questions like this whenever I write/edit a tournament. The issue is when this calculus becomes the primary guide for every one (or at least a very large number) of these decisions, so that in the aggregate, we end up with a disproportionate number of questions on women.

Let me explain this more concretely. If you feel that Leyster has been overlooked by quizbowl, or unfairly overshadowed by Hals in the real world, by all means you should write that tossup on Leyster. And you can make similar legitimate justifications for 50 more tossups on women or works by women. If playability isn't a major concern, maybe you can write an entire tournament about female artists, justifying each question on the artist's merit, separate from her significance as a woman in art. But when taken together, you are asking about these people, or at least asking about them in volume, because they are women. It's a subtle difference that doesn't show up at the level of the individual question, but significantly affects the overall aesthetic of the set. So that's what I mean by "because." I'm speaking at the level of the tournament as a whole, and not at the level of any single question.
Athena wrote:In quizbowl it doesn’t seem that at least these particular male artists are being seen as less important than their female contemporaries. And I believe that in quizbowl, because it is an extension of life in general, there is a tendency to see any conscious inclusion of women as an over-inclusion that comes at the cost of men. There is also a tendency, which I am seeing here, for men to greatly overestimate how much women are being represented. As long as arguments saying that attention to women artists is stealing from already highly-represented men are made I think it is worth it to push on this distribution and other minority distributions. I am not denying that this tournament may have gone a little overboard in my categories (I basically wrote about all canonical female artists I knew off the top of my head except for O’Keefe and Chicago). However, this is how I feel about the representation of female artists (and black artists, and Latinx artists, etc, etc) in quizbowl in general.
I agree that this as an issue in the real world ("life in general," if you want to call it that). But to me, the primary duty of a question writer or editor is to produce a set that accurately reflects what players know and study. The focus should not be "how much space in a tournament should we devote to female artists v. male artists" but rather "who is actually important and merits space in a tournament by virtue of their importance." Let's not forget that a lot of these men are "highly-represented" because they are simply that important. I don't think that means I'm viewing this as a problem of "women stealing from men." I only noticed that this set had an abnormal number of questions on women because, as the tournament went on, I started being able to narrow answers down faster based on the probability that the artist being described was a woman. At that point, it's probably not just a problem of overestimation on my part.
Athena wrote:I choose to apply this to quizbowl, because quizbowl is valuable to me primarily because it is a celebration/experience of human knowledge and achievements, and I want that to include women without the fear of infringing on the intellectual space of well-represented men.
Our views aren't incompatible. Maybe the overall point I'm making is a lot finer that I originally made it out to be. If women account for less than 3% of pre-20th century art (just making up numbers here), maybe it's good to set aside 6% of our questions for their work. But when that number gets to be 10, 15%, it significantly affects how the whole tournament plays by causing a mismatch between the tournament's distribution and the distribution of real world knowledge and study. While I'm only expressing my own views, I would encourage you not to think of this so much as a "men v. women" thing but more as a "not important v. important" thing. Those two distinctions certainly do not map onto each other (which is why I think it would be great to have more questions on women artists from 1900 onward). Maybe this is the classic case of some dude trying to tell women "no, no I'm on your side" while reinforcing the patriarchy, but hopefully I've succeeded in avoiding that and making actual constructive points.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by 15.366 »

gyre and gimble wrote: I only noticed that this set had an abnormal number of questions on women because, as the tournament went on, I started being able to narrow answers down faster based on the probability that the artist being described was a woman. At that point, it's probably not just a problem of overestimation on my part.
Stephen, I am now confused as to whether your objection is:
(a) This tournament was too hard because all the art questions were on women
(b) This tournament was too easy because all the art questions were predictably on women

So which one is it?
gyre and gimble wrote: I agree that this as an issue in the real world ("life in general," if you want to call it that). But to me, the primary duty of a question writer or editor is to produce a set that accurately reflects what players know and study.
Quizbowl does not reflect what players study in academia. Quizbowl reflects what people remember studying in academia. Which passes through the multiple filters of institution, field of study, course and term, instructor, and the remembering student who ends up being a question writer. Two people may sit next to each other in the same art history class and one of them may completely forget the ten minutes of the lecture the professor devoted to a female artist, while for the other, it is the only thing that year that he recalls four years later.

I do not think that you can turn "write a set that accurately reflects what players know and study" into a concrete recommendation without doing a lot more research than just extrapolating from your own impressions.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

15.366 wrote:Stephen, I am now confused as to whether your objection is:
(a) This tournament was too hard because all the art questions were on women
(b) This tournament was too easy because all the art questions were predictably on women

So which one is it?
Does it have to be one of those? My objection is that the tournament was improperly distributed, skewing towards artists who are less important in art history. A byproduct of that was that some questions were easier for me, but I'm not objecting to the difficulty. The reason I brought up difficulty was to illustrate how I noticed that there were more than the normal amount of questions on women (and to show that no, I don't keep a tally of how many women are stealing question space from men so I can angrily post on the forums if the men don't win).
15.366 wrote:Quizbowl does not reflect what players study in academia. Quizbowl reflects what people remember studying in academia. Which passes through the multiple filters of institution, field of study, course and term, instructor, and the remembering student who ends up being a question writer. Two people may sit next to each other in the same art history class and one of them may completely forget the ten minutes of the lecture the professor devoted to a female artist, while for the other, it is the only thing that year that he recalls four years later.
My argument wasn't based on just academia alone. But let's talk about that, because I'm pretty sure you're flat-out wrong about what quizbowl is supposed to reflect. The construction you present, about quizbowl being about what people remember studying in academia, leaves us with no predictable canon because it relies on individual impressions (which, funnily enough, is what I think you're accusing me of doing). But there is an objective canon. There's a measurable way to determine how much time academics spend talking or writing about Hals in comparison to talking or writing about Leyster.* It's absurd to build a canon based on the goal of "testing for things people might randomly remember." So to the extent that we are drawing from academia as a source for what to write questions on, quizbowl questions absolutely should "reflect what players study in academia."

But quizbowl should test for a lot more than that because academia can be too limiting, for the very reasons that you bring up; academic learning depends on institutions, field of study, instructor, etc.

*Of course, you could make the argument that Leyster should be talked and written about in academia as much as Hals, but quizbowl questions are powerless to make that change happen, and insofar as that's true, having equal numbers of questions on Leyster as on Hals disservices players who choose to spend their time learning about the artist that the art world has deemed more important.
15.366 wrote:I do not think that you can turn "write a set that accurately reflects what players know and study" into a concrete recommendation without doing a lot more research than just extrapolating from your own impressions.
I'm confused what point you're trying to make. Obviously I don't have an exact formula for how people should choose the topics to write on. Yes, writers should definitely do a lot more research than just reading my posts on this forum. And that research should involve a lot more than taking classes at school. For me, the best way has been to actually go to museums and see what's on display there. Institutional critique aside, I think museums provide far more accurate senses of how the art world assigns importance to things differently from the way academia or quizbowl does. Whichever way they do it, though, every good editor is going to have to do some broad learning in order to reach the point where their impressions are reliable enough from which to extrapolate.

When I set forth "write a set that accurately reflects what players know and study" as a guiding principle, I mean it in opposition to "write a set that reflects what you personally think is important." Those two principles aren't mutually exclusive, but the former should dominate over the latter if the goal of your set is to crown the best arts player.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

gyre and gimble wrote: Sorry if I wasn't being clear, but I think you're misunderstanding me. I accept that each pair of artists are "equally gifted" (I know that's a vague proposition but for the purposes of this discussion I think it serves is purpose)
No, I didn't think that you were saying one was less-gifted than the other. I made those statements about "giftedness" so I could discuss how what I felt were equivalent, contemporaneous artists were regarded by the quizbowl world.
gyre and gimble wrote: But to me, the primary duty of a question writer or editor is to produce a set that accurately reflects what players know and study. The focus should not be "how much space in a tournament should we devote to female artists v. male artists" but rather "who is actually important and merits space in a tournament by virtue of their importance." Let's not forget that a lot of these men are "highly-represented" because they are simply that important. I don't think that means I'm viewing this as a problem of "women stealing from men." I only noticed that this set had an abnormal number of questions on women because, as the tournament went on, I started being able to narrow answers down faster based on the probability that the artist being described was a woman. At that point, it's probably not just a problem of overestimation on my part.
I take a lot of issue with the part of this where you say we should produce a set that is coherent with what is currently known and studied. My point is that certain artists are not studied or represented enough in quizbowl, and I therefore believe that writers should go into a set actively considering what biases they might have and what topics they might favor given their educational background and identity and try to correct for these biases. One specific example (but this is not solely what I'm concerned with) is that most question writers at, say, nats or CO, are male and are therefore less likely to be aware of under-representation of women. Editors and writers should think about these things and question why what is currently known and studied is in the canon is studied and asked. Maybe it simply boils down to "this category perfectly reflects its corresponding field in academia." If so, great! It's still worth examining (and this includes examinations such as my resolution to not ask every single female artist I can think of again in the future).

And no, our views aren't incompatible. I believe I'm advocating more of an active stance than you are, but I agree that, ideally, quizbowl should reflect academic/real world importance (although this sure hasn't happened or is being rapidly changed just now in other categories such as myth and the various social sciences). I am also not trying to think of this as simply a "women vs. men" thing, and I think that's a pretty reductionist way for you to put it. As I've said, I want to be more cognizant of and include people who are under-represented in general, which includes a variety of groups. The fact that I am having so many hours of conversation with various people about what is an "appropriate" amount of female representation to include without disrupting gameplay tells me that we could stand to at least consciously consider gender and race representation when going to write each tournament. I think your view is very compatible with this, but I want to write it out to emphasize my hopes for myself and other writers in the future.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by 15.366 »

gyre and gimble wrote:
15.366 wrote:Stephen, I am now confused as to whether your objection is:
My objection is that the tournament was improperly distributed, skewing towards artists who are less important in art history. A byproduct of that was that some questions were easier for me, but I'm not objecting to the difficulty. The reason I brought up difficulty was to illustrate how I noticed that there were more than the normal amount of questions on women (and to show that no, I don't keep a tally of how many women are stealing question space from men so I can angrily post on the forums if the men don't win).
15.366 wrote:Quizbowl does not reflect what players study in academia. Quizbowl reflects what people remember studying in academia. Which passes through the multiple filters of institution, field of study, course and term, instructor, and the remembering student who ends up being a question writer. Two people may sit next to each other in the same art history class and one of them may completely forget the ten minutes of the lecture the professor devoted to a female artist, while for the other, it is the only thing that year that he recalls four years later.
My argument wasn't based on just academia alone. But let's talk about that, because I'm pretty sure you're flat-out wrong about what quizbowl is supposed to reflect. The construction you present, about quizbowl being about what people remember studying in academia, leaves us with no predictable canon because it relies on individual impressions (which, funnily enough, is what I think you're accusing me of doing). But there is an objective canon. There's a measurable way to determine how much time academics spend talking or writing about Hals in comparison to talking or writing about Leyster.* It's absurd to build a canon based on the goal of "testing for things people might randomly remember." So to the extent that we are drawing from academia as a source for what to write questions on, quizbowl questions absolutely should "reflect what players study in academia."
We have a concrete number for one fact:

(a) the ratio of women artists represented at ARTSEE. Athena quoted it.
As for the representation of female artists:
I am counting 15 out of 81 answerlines that are about women artists or groups of women (such as the “America” TU that was on black female sculptors, but not the “daughters” TU that had clues about artists split nearly evenly by gender) in the painting, architecture, and ”photo/performance/other visual arts” categories.
We are missing at least two facts:

(b) the ratio of women artists currently represented in the quiz bowl canon
(c) the ratio of women artists currently represented in the field of academic study, and, as you said, in museums.

You are claiming that (a) was significantly larger than (b). And that (a) is also significantly larger than (c). I did have the same impression. However, without actual numbers, that risks the impression that Athena talked about, that when women talk 30% of the time, they are perceived as dominating the conversation, etc.

The question is, is it true? Getting a concrete value for (c) is very complicated, but getting it for (b) is fairly straightforwardly done, especially if one can exploit the databases already available such as Quinterest. (Athena, I, and several other people have already taken the first steps towards doing it.)

Furthermore, there is a fourth value, which the quizbowl community at large will have to discuss, once we have some data:

(d) the ratio of women artists that SHOULD be represented in the quiz bowl canon.

It's logical and reasonable to have this be related to (c). It may be larger than (b). It may also be smaller; maybe quiz bowl has already been reaching to the deep corners for obscure women artists in search of difficulty rather than importance, and we should cut back. If ARTSEE's ratio did not match that, yes, ARTSEE is worthy of criticism. But the "should" is also subjective, and as far as I understand this conversation, you and Athena disagree on it. It would be less subjective once we actually know what the current numbers are.

Right now, we don't have numbers. We're looking for a value for (b) as a first step. If you happen to have data that contributes, especially data that contributes to (c) (even for one institution or one museum), I'd appreciate it.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Going back to a more generalizable point: I view canon expansion in quizbowl, fundamentally, as a means of correcting the disparity that exists between "what comes up" and "what people actually know" (in whatever form that knowledge may take). Defined as such, there is absolutely and obviously room for canon expansion when it comes to the contributions and careers of major female artists. Now, concurrently, the paramount goal of a writer and editor is to produce a set of questions that are accessible and answerable. If every canon-expanding topic/person/artwork was tossed up, then clearly the second goal would be sacrificed to meet the first. However, I think there are ways to meet both goals, and I think that for the most part, I came away from ARTSEE thinking that with respect to this specific aspiration, it had succeeded. If it had been me, personally, working on this set, I would have tried a different approach (focusing more on cluing from these artists, and less on tossing them up), but Athena was clearly mindful about answerability and accessibility in the questions she produced.

I think that it's less productive to frame this discussion in terms of "importance," a devalued and overused term, because you can make the case that nearly everyone is important, and don't really accomplish anything by, for example, arguing about the relative importance of Hals v Leyster. An ever-present writerly instinct of "do people have a shot at knowing this?" is a far better and more useful metric.

EDIT: A subordinate, but still important question writing goal (especially at side events) is to entertain and instruct, and we should take a moment to commend everyone who wrote for this set for meeting and exceeding that standard.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by gyre and gimble »

Athena wrote:I take a lot of issue with the part of this where you say we should produce a set that is coherent with what is currently known and studied. My point is that certain artists are not studied or represented enough in quizbowl, and I therefore believe that writers should go into a set actively considering what biases they might have and what topics they might favor given their educational background and identity and try to correct for these biases. One specific example (but this is not solely what I'm concerned with) is that most question writers at, say, nats or CO, are male and are therefore less likely to be aware of under-representation of women. Editors and writers should think about these things and question why what is currently known and studied is in the canon is studied and asked. Maybe it simply boils down to "this category perfectly reflects its corresponding field in academia." If so, great! It's still worth examining (and this includes examinations such as my resolution to not ask every single female artist I can think of again in the future).
You're pretty much right on all of this. I think our main point of disagreement might just be contained in the vagueness of the phrase "what is currently known and studied." I agree with you that certain artists are not studied or represented enough in quizbowl. Let me clarify by saying that I don't particularly value quizbowl-specific knowledge, so what I mean by "currently known and studied" is what Tamara identifies as category (c) in her post (which I'll address in a second). And if I'm understanding you correctly, I think we also agree that ARTSEE may have overdone it on the female artists. But again, let me clarify that I think this was still a step in the right direction; to the extent that adding more questions about women doesn't significantly distort the tournament's distribution (at some point it must, because a set that's 100% about women would not make a fair arts tournament, even if it might be a great women-in-arts tournament), writers should feel free to do that. Maybe all of this just boils down to figuring out what the right number is.
15.366 wrote:(a) the ratio of women artists represented at ARTSEE.
(b) the ratio of women artists currently represented in the quiz bowl canon.
(c) the ratio of women artists currently represented in the field of academic study, and, as you said, in museums.
(d) the ratio of women artists that SHOULD be represented in the quiz bowl canon.
This is a pretty good way to frame the issue. I'm not particularly concerned about (b), because (b) may be flawed. To explain my point above more clearly, I think (d) should be at least as large as but not much greater than (c). (c) may be flawed as well, and if editors feel that way then they should be able to correct for that by having (d) > (c). But if (d) >> (c), then you're risking overly skewing the tournament in favor of a subfield of art history at the expense of other content that players have expended time and resources learning. I guess I also think that (a) > (c), but that's not super important going forward.
15.366 wrote:Right now, we don't have numbers. We're looking for a value for (b) as a first step. If you happen to have data that contributes, especially data that contributes to (c) (even for one institution or one museum), I'd appreciate it.
I don't have actual data, but I think maybe the easiest way to do this is to compile a list of artists that are "regularly" discussed or studied in the real world and then look to see how many of those are women. "Regularly" would have to be defined, but I don't know if we can do it rigorously. I'd be pretty shocked if more than 5% of artists from before 1900 on that list were women.
Athena wrote:I am also not trying to think of this as simply a "women vs. men" thing, and I think that's a pretty reductionist way for you to put it.
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that your entire position is reducible to "women vs. men." I was reacting to your concern with "includ[ing] women without the fear of infringing on the intellectual space of well-represented men," which I don't think is a fear that should exist if the primary concern was with art historical importance, but maybe I'm just failing to understand where you're coming from.
Auroni wrote:I think that it's less productive to frame this discussion in terms of "importance," a devalued and overused term, because you can make the case that nearly everyone is important, and don't really accomplish anything by, for example, arguing about the relative importance of Hals v Leyster. An ever-present writerly instinct of "do people have a shot at knowing this?" is a far better and more useful metric.
Yeah, "importance" might not be the best word for what I'm describing, but what I mean by that is (c), with "field of academic study" replaced with "art world." Your metric is always something to keep in mind, but when we're talking about the role of editors in (re)shaping the canon, it might not be as useful because most quizbowl players are probably encountering new topics primarily through packets and not independent study.
Auroni wrote:EDIT: A subordinate, but still important question writing goal (especially at side events) is to entertain and instruct, and we should take a moment to commend everyone who wrote for this set for meeting and exceeding that standard.
To build on this, the questions on female artists (which I've been objecting to in the aggregate) were individually well written and I enjoyed playing them.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

gyre and gimble wrote:
Auroni wrote:I think that it's less productive to frame this discussion in terms of "importance," a devalued and overused term, because you can make the case that nearly everyone is important, and don't really accomplish anything by, for example, arguing about the relative importance of Hals v Leyster. An ever-present writerly instinct of "do people have a shot at knowing this?" is a far better and more useful metric.
Yeah, "importance" might not be the best word for what I'm describing, but what I mean by that is (c), with "field of academic study" replaced with "art world." Your metric is always something to keep in mind, but when we're talking about the role of editors in (re)shaping the canon, it might not be as useful because most quizbowl players are probably encountering new topics primarily through packets and not independent study.
I vociferously disagree and think that the standard "do people have a shot at knowing this" is actually more useful than ever. We live in a time when unprecedented numbers of quizbowlers read textbooks, go to museums when able, watch lectures, take classes, do research in the process of writing questions, or even, as you suggested, look artists and artworks up after coming across them in packets. And the occasional non-quizbowler who from time to time might play a tournament such as this only has "independent study" avenues open to them (in case you want to brush this off as too rare or too infrequent to be worth caring about, look at who won your own visual arts tournament). It's become ever easier and more desirable for an editor to consider the playing audience to be "people who care about art," rather than just "a bunch of quizbowlers," because the former is a sizable subset of the latter.

In light of this, I firmly believe that canon-expansion can be as simple as the editor choosing a well-researched memorable clue, worded in such a way that the importance is immediately obvious upon reading or hearing.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Perturbed Secretary Bird »

Stephen, I think we've reached a pretty good place of understanding right now (and thanks for discussing this with me- I've greatly enjoyed trying to get my thoughts in order about this). As for the "female vs male" thing, some of my language has been unclear with that. As I've kept thinking about this I've recognized the need for it to include any marginalized identities within art and hope all of my arguments apply to that broad a field. Any references I made that are solely to gender should either be directly in response to the ARTSEE criticisms or were a mistake on my part and should be taken as more general. Also, I do understand your concerns about historical importance and why we can't have a "female vs male" fight due to that.

On a side note, I will never produce a "female artists" set, even though I have a definite, professed, massive love for female artists and what they have historically gone through to produce their work.But there is no single "female tradition," and as such I think it is nearly paternalistic to group them together solely because of gender. I could, for example, see myself writing a vanity packet on "women artists claiming their bodies as their own through nude self-portraits" or "women in Rococo art" or something with actual thematic importance. But never "female artists." *

*Citing Nochlin's essay yet again (the one that's not about nudes) for its stance on a non-existent "female tradition."
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Although a packet or set on women artists might not reflect a coherent tradition, it still might be interesting to play and study from a quizbowl perspective. A lot of the arbitrary groupings that make up the distribution--"world history," for instance--don't reflect any particular tradition, but are nonetheless useful engines for getting new material into the game, as writers consider the possible answer space within the arbitrary confines of the particular category.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by Eddie »

I enjoyed this tournament. I thought it had a number of creative answer lines, themed questions, and material from underexposed areas of the canon and the "real world."

I can't comment on the jazz distribution as a whole, but I did appreciate the incorporation of historical and theoretical clues in the questions on early jazz (e.g. Storyville, cutting contests, open tenths).

I tend to agree with Auroni that the appropriate approach to canon expansion is to gradually introduce difficult material as early clues of tossups and third parts of bonuses, instead of as entire tossups that are bound to suffer from poor conversion and frustrated negs. I thought that the many of the "canon-busting" questions in this set could have been turned into common links that played just as well, if not better, and gave a sense of thematic or historical unity to the pieces or composers being clued. Some of the material I think should have been common links include Schumann's piano quintet, Giulio Cesare, Robert le Diable, Bacchus et Adriane, and the Vaughan Williams tossup on his operas.
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Re: Apologies and General Discussion

Post by gettysburg11 »

I hate to be the guy who does this, but will this be posted? I'd definitely like to take another look at some of these clues now.
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