9 posts from April 2013

April 29, 2013

Thinking Sociologically about the Boston Tragedy

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

Since the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, the nation has been trying to figure out how and why someone would do something so horrific. The bombers’ methods and motives are the domain of law enforcement, trying to figure out first who did it, how, and why.

Sociology can be useful to help us to develop hypotheses about why events take place, particularly those events involving large group. Explaining why any particular individual behaves the way they do is harder to understand, and as I write investigators are working diligently to learn more about the suspects to figure out why they would build bombs and hurt innocent people. So it is too soon to specifically use sociological concepts to understand the suspects.

But we can think sociologically about the public’s reaction to the violence.

Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically about the Boston Tragedy" »

April 25, 2013

Violence and the Need to Be Imaginatively Aware

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

“It’s always one damn thing after another.” This was a favorite phrase of my advisor in graduate school. He was referring both to the relatively minor irritations of grad school—getting papers rejected, having data troubles, worrying about qualifying exams—as well as the daily annoyances of life—finding a parking ticket on your car, getting into an argument with a friend, having a long wait at the doctor’s office. 

2013_Boston_Marathon_aftermath_peopleI’ve thought of this phrase quite a bit lately as I followed the tragic events in Boston. It wasn’t so much the bombing at the Boston Marathon that brought these words back to me as much as it was the cumulative effect of recent events: Boston, Sandy Hook, Hurricane Sandy, Aurora, Penn State, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and the list could go on.

Continue reading "Violence and the Need to Be Imaginatively Aware" »

April 22, 2013

The Power of Acquaintances

Wayne mellingerBy Wayne Mellinger

Instructor, Antioch University

Casual connections might be some of the most consequential relations in our lives, helping us to land jobs, deal with our personal issues, and providing us with a sense of identity and belonging.  And in our world of social media, such as Facebook, modern humans probably have more casual acquaintances than most humans ever have had before.

Continue reading "The Power of Acquaintances" »

April 18, 2013

Social Interactions

Todd sBy Todd Schoepflin

There I was, sitting on a bar stool, having a beer and shooting the breeze with my brother-in-law Jim, and watching people bowl together. I don’t get out much, so it was eventful just to hang out at a bowling alley for a few hours. But a surprising interaction occurred that night. A woman, who appeared to be drunk, touched my face as she walked by me and said something about my eyes that I think was intended as a compliment.

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April 15, 2013

Thinking Sociologically About Education

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

Ask just about anyone about how to improve public education and they’ll likely give you an answer: Hire better teachers. Fire bad teachers. Instill more discipline. Include more art and music in the curriculum. Go back to the basics. Involve multicultural lesson plans. Allow students to use vouchers to attend private schools. Create more public charter schools.

All of these ideas have been implemented somewhere, each with fans and critics. None has been proven to be a cure-all, but for supporters, they seem like simple solutions that should be put in place as soon as possible.

Education is a great example of the multifaceted nature of social issues. And while single solutions are easy for us to understand and form an opinion about, they are not necessarily helpful in the long run. Applying core concepts can help us understand why and move us towards a more complete understanding of education as a social institution.

Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically About Education" »

April 11, 2013

On the Social Construction of Privacy

Tristan_bridges TaraToberBy Tristan Bridges, The College at Brockport, State University of New York

and Tara Tober, University of Virgina

Drug-sniffing dogs are becoming more and more ubiquitous.  Dogs are often one line of defense against possessing drugs in public.  They help law enforcement identify people with drugs in airports, schools, and other public spaces.  The use of dogs relies on a collective understanding that carrying drugs in public, even if you are discrete about it, should not be allowed.  Various drugs are illegal to use, distribute, and even possess.  Yet, we also know that many people do use, distribute, and carry drugs.  So, the question becomes, when can people reasonably expect privacy from law enforcement?  Or perhaps more appropriately, where?  

Continue reading "On the Social Construction of Privacy" »

April 08, 2013

Data are Everywhere

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

From day one in my statistics course, I tell my students that data are everywhere. Even though the word makes it sound like data is everywhere, the word data is plural thus they are everywhere.

Facebook helped me make the point recently when they posted a note and shared information gleaned from posting patterns (empirical data!) during the week that the Supreme Court heard arguments on marriage equality.

Continue reading "Data are Everywhere" »

April 04, 2013

Gay Marriage: It’s Personal

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman       

Recently, gay marriage and gay rights have been at the forefront of the nation’s attention. As the Supreme Court heard two historic arguments on same-sex marriage, the top story in print, on the airwaves, and over the Internet has revolved around these issues.  

My interest in such matters started much earlier, specifically in January 1991. At the time, my brother and I were driving back to New York from Washington, D.C. after attending a rally protesting the Gulf War. We spent the whole weekend together talking about things both serious and frivolous. It wasn’t until we were about two exits away from our hometown when my brother woke me up from a nap saying that he had something to tell me. I thought he was going to say that he got pulled over for a speeding ticket. Instead, he told me he was gay.

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April 01, 2013

The Sociology of Pranks

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

For the last five years I’ve received many calls about pranks. I’m not a prank expert, but I did write an article about tricks tour guides use to tell historical stories. That perked up the ears of a New York Times journalist who quoted me in an article, “April Fool! The Purpose of Pranks.” Since then, I’ve been on the radio and in print every year saying something about the sociology of pranks.

This year, instead of just giving little quotes here and there to the media, I wanted to explain my thoughts about April Fool’s pranks more fully. Fellow Everyday Sociology blogger Sally Raskoff wrote about them last year, too. Yesterday, in a faculty meeting, one of my colleagues said that "sociologists don’t have much of a sense of humor," but Raskoff’s blog is indeed a funny April Fool’s themed post. I won’t spoil it too much, but she points to pranks as being about breaking norms and showing the importance of humor. I agree, and want to expand this idea a bit further.

Continue reading "The Sociology of Pranks" »

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