Naughty Bits Article Accepted

“Naughty Bits: An Empirical Study of What Consumers Would Mute and Excise from Hollywood Fare if Only They Could”, an article co-authored with Doug Lichtman, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A.


Should parents have the freedom to block potentially offensive language, sexuality, and violence from the films their children watch at home? Should an adult with reservations about explicit material be allowed to experience the movie Titanic without that film’s one notorious nude scene, or Schindler’s List without its most uncomfortable audio and video moments? And are these freedoms rightly limited by the relevant decision-maker’s ability to engage the fast-forward and mute buttons quickly enough, or should copyright law make room for more sophisticated solutions, even over the objections of a hostile copyright community? In this Article, we offer a unique contribution to this long-running debate: detailed data about what consumers would mute and excise from Hollywood films if only they could. Specifically, we report on the decisions made by roughly 300,000 viewers as they filtered and then watched nearly 4 million movie streams during calendar year 2016. The data, we argue, make a strong case in favor of a permissive copyright regime where viewers would have significant freedom to filter films according to their own religious, moral, and public policy convictions.

Building on Social Science: Theoretic Foundations for Modelers

“Building on Social Science: Theoretic Foundations for Modelers” a book chapter I co-authored with Angela O’Mahony and Katharine Sieck, is now out in Davis, O’Mahony and Pfautz, eds., Social-Behavioral Modeling for Complex Systems.

Social scientists predominantly engage in ‘mid-level’ theorizing and empirical research, which presents distinct challenges for building models. The default theoretic and empirical approaches vary across social scientific disciplines, and the validity of most social scientific theoretical and empirical research is context-dependent, making integration and cumulation of knowledge difficult. Social scientific modelers need to be aware of the challenges in building models based on mid-level theoretical frameworks and empirical research where the most common causal mechanisms involve unobserved, and potentially unobservable, mental states. This chapter begins with an overview of key social scientific theoretic frameworks that researchers draw on to build models, focusing in turn on atomistic models of individual behavior before turning to social determinants of individual behavior and theories of interaction and group behavior. While the range of theoretic frameworks used across the contemporary social sciences is diverse, they share common features that create distinct challenges for data collection and model building. With these challenges however come opportunities for building useful social scientific models that leverage cross-disciplinary perspectives and a wider range of social scientific theories.

Voice and Satisfaction With Democracy Article Accepted

“Having their Say: Authority, Voice, and Satisfaction with Democracy”, an article co-authored with Eric Merkley, Fred Cutler and Paul Quirk (political scientists at the University of British Columbia), has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Politics.

Abstract: Scholars have shown that citizen satisfaction with democracy is driven, in part, by having their policy preferences represented in government – authority – and that this is facilitated by “consensus” democratic institutions. Receiving far less attention has been whether such institutions also increase satisfaction by simply providing more inclusive political discourse. Citizens may value having their voice represented in politics, independent of authority. This paper presents the first experimental evidence to this effect by conducting a simulated election campaign while manipulating both the election result and the discussion of a policy issue that subjects cared about. The results show that subjects were less satisfied with democracy when they lost the simulated election, but that this gap disappeared when exposed to discussion of an issue they broadly cared about. This suggests that consensus institutions may have the capacity to cushion the blow of losing by producing more inclusive discourse.

Peacekeeping for Profit Article Accepted

“Peacekeeping for Profit? The Scope and Limits of “Mercenary” UN Peacekeeping,” a paper I co-wrote with Katharina Coleman (UBC) has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Peace Research.


Developing states furnish the vast majority of UN peacekeeping troops, and academics and policy makers frequently assert that one key reason for this is that developing states are able to derive a profit from UN peacekeeping reimbursements. In this article we argue that this ‘Peacekeeping for Profit’ narrative has been vastly overstated. The conditions for significantly profiting from UN peacekeeping are in fact highly restrictive, even for developing states. We begin by highlighting two potent reasons for re-examining this narrative: developing states emerged as the UN’s principal troop contributors in a period of stagnant reimbursement rates; and the quantitative evidence scholars have presented as supporting the peacekeeping for profit narrative is flawed. We then identify the scope conditions within which peacekeeping for profit provides a plausible explanation for a developing state’s UN troop contributions. First, the deployment and its attendant reimbursements must be significant not only in absolute and per-soldier terms but also in relation to the state’s total armed forces and military expenditure. Second, the state must have an exceptional ability, in comparison with other troop contributors, to benefit from UN reimbursements, because the scope for generalized profit-making from either equipment or personnel contributions is limited by intense political pressure against reimbursement rate increases. Individual states can nevertheless make a profit if they 1) invest in inexpensive and old but functional equipment, especially if deployed with usage restrictions and/or 2) limit the deployment allowances (rather than salaries) they pay their UN peacekeepers. Critically, meeting these requirements reflects national policy decisions, not simply national development levels. We establish that only a limited subset of developing states meets the plausibility conditions for the peacekeeping for profit narrative – and many top UN troop contributors do not.