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Some opening words

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“Human beings make their history themselves, but they do not do so voluntarily, not under circumstances of their own choosing, rather under immediately found, given and transmitted circumstances.” – Karl Marx

It’s been a frantic flurry of message threads, late night emails, and artistic touchups since we first came together just a very, very short while ago (that might be the understatement of the century), but it’s finally here.

Welcome to The Daily Opium – an experiment with the transformative potentials of the social sciences… with a little help from the Internet.

So why this site?

In laying out the objectives of this site we owe a substantial debt to others who have made a mark blogging about their own social scientific pursuits. We were, and still are, inspired by such social science blogs and sites as The Monkey CageSociological Images, and Freakonomics, to name a few. You may find echoes – likely intentional ones – of their mission statements in ours. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

1) To promote the social sciences. The social sciences have historically been accorded lower esteem than other fields of knowledge such as the “hard” sciences and business, among others. To change this mindset, we want to instill greater understanding of the social sciences, not only through social scientific thinking, but also through bolstering interest in pursuing it as a discipline/degree.

As a new medium, the Internet and its associated technologies present both challenges and opportunities for Filipino social scientists. The idea of publishing content without the fraught process of mediation involved in traditional channels and with the potential for direct engagement with its intended audience is at least worth exploring.

Some progress has been made in this sphere by Filipino writers and intellectuals – The Manila Review and quezon.ph come to mind. The foreign policy crowd has also established their own foothold through Forging a New Philippine Foreign Policy.

To provide diverse, dynamic, informed, and intelligible commentary on current events and issues by Filipino social scientists and students of social science. The four-fold description of the word “commentary” is extremely important. Fulfilling all the criteria above will perhaps be the site’s greatest challenge.

We aim to assemble a diverse group of writers and bloggers to feature the widest variety of topics possible in a site of this nature. By exposing readers and contributors to a wide range of contending views, we hope to advance the discussions of the issues they put forward in ways made much more difficult elsewhere – especially the traditional media.

By dynamic we mean that this site will strive to produce content that is relevant to the issues of the day. Much of the power of blogging lies in the ability to quickly articulate one’s thoughts in response to a particular issue or event, especially those breaking out in real time.  By no means, however, does this mean that we will tolerate baseless speculation. We will as much as possible try to strike a balance between timeliness and comprehensiveness whenever we comment.

The use of the word “informed” will likely prove to be somewhat controversial, depending on one’s views. Some may frown on the notion that social scientific “facts” should be used to explain the world, while others may insist that this is, in fact, the very purpose of the social sciences. Assuming that these views cannot logically coexist, the site as a whole will take no sides in this debate. You may, however, expect to see a back and forth between the contributors once in a while about this issue. This is the kind of debate this site was made for.

We shall place great emphasis on providing content that is intelligible to both the layman and the practitioner. Practitioners of the social sciences have continually been criticized by some for failing to make an effective case for their continued relevance to contemporary society. A notable example from this year (2013) is the recent Congressional vote to tighten US federal funding restrictions on political scientists. The burden remains on advocates for social science to spark public conversation not by talking down to people, but by talking to them.

3) To think aloud. As happens often in the course of our work, we think of ideas that we know are not quite ready to go the distance, but are still worth developing. Thus at times we may post links to articles we have read, or write about topics which we want to explore with readers. Though we may risk looking intellectually foolish or silly at times, we – like the authors of The Monkey Cage – believe just the mere exercise of putting our thoughts into writing is worthwhile in itself. We believe that the value of a idea written down far outweighs that of one that languishes in the mind.

4) To create a social science resource for everyone interested. As time passes and more posts are published, this blog will have accumulated hundreds if not thousands of links, pictures, charts, and other items of interest to our readers. As much as possible, posts will be tagged and organized to make research easier and satisfy the curiosity of future readers. Maybe in the future we could even compile posts into course packs, for use by teachers to enrich their respective classroom learning experiences.

5) To speak to our idiosyncratic interests as social scientists. We’re more than just a group of social science professionals and students. We’re also comic book geeks, compulsive classics devourers, dedicated followers of fashion, video gamers, lovers of cinema… just to start. We’ll infuse a bit of ourselves into our posts, and sometimes that means we’ll get to have fun talking about our favorite things with a bit of our training thrown in. We hope you have just as much fun reading these posts as we have writing them.

This site will always be a work in progress. As the body of content grows and our interests change, we expect the blog to take on a different character over time. Your feedback – whether through comments or our mailbox – will be very much important in determining our future direction.

From the team at The Daily Opiumthank you, and we hope you join us for years to come!

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