178 posts categorized "Popular Culture and Consumption"

April 17, 2014

Social Media: Windows, Mirrors and Bubbles

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

If you are anything like me, you have engaged in a heated Facebook exchange once or twice. Recently I’ve had two interesting chats with old friends—one of whom I’ve lost touch with for over two decades who has political views on the complete other side of the spectrum than me. Rather than a reminder of how technology connects people from far afield, both exchanges reminded me of just how rare it is for me to bridge wide social distances. Where do you get to interact with people who are different from you?

We imagine a time when an open public square was where a community could find that exchange of ideas. As German sociologist Jürgen Habermas wrote, the public sphere is “a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed. Access is guaranteed to all citizens. A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every public conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body.” But we don’t have a social space like this today.

Continue reading "Social Media: Windows, Mirrors and Bubbles" »

April 04, 2014

The State of the Dinner

Slika 10By Teja Pristavec

Sociology Graduate Student, Rutgers University

This February, President Obama sat down for dinner with his visiting French colleague, President François Hollande. In the company of the First Lady, other government officials, and some celebrities, the men enjoyed an appetizer of Illinois caviar, Pennsylvania quail eggs, and twelve varieties of American-grown potatoes. The main dish was a Colorado beef steak with mushrooms, Vermont cheese and salad, followed by a dessert of Hawaiian chocolate cake, Florida tangerines, and Pennsylvania vanilla ice-cream. Three types of wine accompanied the meal. Not just any types of wine: they were American wines made by French-born winemakers. Nothing in this meal was left to chance. But why was the encounter so carefully planned? Would it make a difference if, to celebrate the French-American friendship, the presidents raised a glass of Italian wine instead?

Continue reading "The State of the Dinner" »

March 28, 2014

The Dark Side of Seeing Only the Bright Side

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As a self-starter, I like self-help books, and have read or listened to number of audio books in the genre. I have listened to many books on discovering one’s passions and creativity, on personal finance, relationships, career building, and those promoting emotional well-being. I can truly say that I have learned a lot from them, and they have taught me how to understand myself and others better.

But even while listening, on occasion I am reminded of the limits of self-help books. For instance, many personal finance books suggest that readers control their spending—stop buying that daily latte, and eventually you will have a million dollars. Well, I don’t drink coffee, and I’m sure there are many people who cannot save or invest for a million dollars even if they don’t either. As a college professor, I am in the economic group that would likely benefit more from this kind of financial advice, say, compared with a low-wage worker who struggles to pay bills each month. Advising someone in these circumstances to skimp on coffee is not going to help them.

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March 21, 2014

The Context of Understanding World Events

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

How aware are you of world events? As you are reading this, whats happening in the world?

As I write this, there are things happening with Russia and the Ukraine and Crimea. The missing Malaysian airplane is still missing. I wonder if theyll find it by the time you read this?

There are many things going on in the world that concern people--if they know about them.

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February 10, 2014

Parsons, Seeger, and Marx

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Pete Seeger, one of many well-known sociology majors, passed away in January 2014 at the age of 94. His education in sociology reflects a specific time and place in history and his life experiences and impact on society reflect changes within sociology itself.

Seeger was a folk singer and activist, best known for songs like "If I Had a Hammer" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" As is widely reported, he went to Harvard in 1936 to major in sociology to prepare for a career in journalism. Two years into the program, he dropped out (or, after failing an exam or failing to take an exam, he lost his scholarship).

Continue reading "Parsons, Seeger, and Marx" »

February 03, 2014

The Olympics and the Politics of Sport

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 I love being a sociology professor. I really do. But as a young kid growing up, I did not lay awake at night dreaming about teaching and writing. Instead, like many young boys I aspired to be a professional athlete. More specifically, I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Ever since I was a nine-year old watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics, I was trying to figure out what sport would give me the best chance to make the U.S. national team.

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December 12, 2013

Holiday Wish Lists: Mine vs. President Obama’s

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Recently, in a speech to the nation, President Obama put me to shame sociologically. I know that Michelle Obama has a BA in sociology and that the President once worked as a community organizer—a job that is often filled by sociology graduates. But still, I live and breathe sociology—and of course I also teach it for a living. I like to pretend that I have the DNA of Karl Marx and C. Wright Mills coursing through my veins. How could I have let the President outdo me sociologically?

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November 04, 2013

Sociology for Storytellers

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Sociology courses and concepts are not just for people looking to become sociologists. I wrote about the diversity of the sociology major recently, and mentioned that journalists and even novelists can benefit from a degree in sociology. How can storytellers enhance their skills by learning about sociology?

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October 30, 2013

Big Corporations and Big Social Programs


By Jonathan Wynn 

Having taught at a few different colleges and universities, I’ve had students who knew the real struggles of living in poverty and near poverty. But for every one of those students, there have been hundreds more who were unfamiliar with the anxieties of everyday economic uncertainty.  Poverty is a hard thing to teach about—both the very macro-level issues to the more personal, micro-level ones.

Although my blog post last year on McDonald’s was an invitation to think about work and compensation at a global scale (on The Big Mac Index) recent news offers us a chance to connect the dots between the big headlines of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, news on new campaigns against low wage pay for fast food work, and those everyday economic hardships. In all the talk about the Affordable Care Act, I’ve seen too much about broken websites and not enough about those unemployed and low-wage workers who need healthcare.

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October 22, 2013

The Power of Parks and Museums

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As many cities and communities face budget cuts, parks and other cultural gathering places often seem like unnecessary extravagances. For individuals recover from the economic downturn, going to the theater, a ballet or opera might also be far too pricey. The city of Detroit may even auction off its art museum’s treasures in order to cope with bankruptcy. But the arts and public places for recreation can redefine communities, socially, culturally and economically.

Continue reading "The Power of Parks and Museums" »

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