64 posts categorized "Cities and Urbanization"

February 05, 2024

Community Development Studies in Sociology, and What Sociology Offers Students

CKing headshot 1 4.3 Calvin-odhiambo IMG_5518

By Colby King, Calvin Odhiambo, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Lizabeth Zack, Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, University of South Carolina Upstate

The recent decision by the Florida Board of Governors to exclude Introductory sociology from the list of courses that fulfill the social science general education requirements for Florida public college students has sparked discussions highlighting the vital role of sociology in academic curriculum. Stacy Torres wrote here about the life-changing role sociology course can play in students’ lives.

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October 30, 2023

Place Matters: Inequality and Geography

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

The history of the places we live matters. From the infrastructure that provides access to roads, water, sewer systems, and utilities, often built long before we live someplace, to things like nearby schools and hospitals, where we live is a window into our life chances.

In their recently published book, The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America, Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer, and Timothy Nelson examine the factors that lead to “deep disadvantage.” They define this as having an income of less than half of the poverty rate, health disadvantages, and limited opportunities for children (p. 4). These spaces are mostly rural, and often overlap with places of enslavement in the past (p. 10). Throughout their book, they explore the link between past injustices and the lack of opportunities in the present.

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September 18, 2023

The Irony of Tiny Houses: Commoditizing Rebellion

Thumbnail_AliceHSBy Alice Wilson, PhD Student, University of York (UK)

Capitalism is amazingly good at devouring the things that would seek to challenge it, then packaging that same thing up and selling it back to people through its own market tendrils. It is somewhat of a superpower.

Tiny houses are one of the more recent examples of this. (I did a TEDx talk about people's motivations for living in a tiny house and what your life might be like if you lived in one.)

A tiny house is a compact living space, often ranging from 100 to 400 square feet, designed to provide all the essentials for daily living. These homes, which can be stationary or mobile (like those on trailer foundations), prioritize minimalism and efficient use of space. They've gained popularity as a response to rising housing costs and a desire for simpler living and reduced environmental footprints.

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September 04, 2023

Public Transportation and Global Citizenship

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

In addition to travel itself, I enjoy travel planning. One of the first things that I usually do is figure out when to go, how to get there, and how to get around once I am there.

When planning my most recent trip to Germany and Austria, I was excited to get what I thought was a great deal on a rental car, which would amount to about $20 a day. After reading so much about rental car shortages while making plans, I was particularly excited about this, and moved on to figure out lodging for the trip, about 9 months in the future.

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August 14, 2023

Selling Old Towns: Consumption and Hyperreality

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

I’m a sucker for an old town when I’m traveling, and based on the crowds I regularly find on these visits, I am not alone.

Old towns hold out the promise of a walk into history and a chance to see something that we seldom get to see in our daily lives. They feel like they represent the most “authentic” aspect of a place, one that might distill the essence of what it means to visit this locale. In contrast to the mundane, everyday nature of most places, old towns seem like they offer something special.

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August 08, 2023

Beer, Identity, and Place

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

I recently visited what is arguably the beer capital of the world, Munich, Germany. I’m not a beer drinker, even casually, but the cultural meanings people create surrounding beer interest me. Through many ads and signs, it was clear that part of what beer makers advertise is its connection to a particular place.

First, a brief history: Munich, called München in German, literally translates to “Monks” in English. Augustinian Monks brewed beer at least as far back as the fourteenth century, as the alcohol made safer to drink than water. Claims that the first brewery was near Munich help solidify the historical connection, and of course Oktoberfest, a two-week long festival each fall that celebrates beer (among other things) continues the tradition.

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May 31, 2023

Creating Downtown LA

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last summer, the American Sociological Association (ASA) held its annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). “We’re right in your backyard!” an out-of-town colleague said, and while only about 20 miles away, this area is in many ways a world away from where I live in Los Angeles. I seldom go downtown, despite it being a mere 2 miles from my workplace, mostly because I prefer open spaces to commercialized zones. (Yeah, traffic and parking issues are a deterrent too).

The conference took place at the city’s Convention Center, near the crypto.com Arena (formerly known as Staples Center) and LA Live, a complex of sports-themed restaurants, hotels, and performance spaces. My colleague, Leland Saito, studied the development of this area in his book, Building Downtown Los Angeles: The Politics of Race and Place in Urban America. He explores how low-income people of color were systematically displaced over the last five decades—mostly within the last twenty-five years—to create this commercial area. He argues that the meanings of race are intertwined with geographical spaces, and that displacement isn’t just an effect of race, but creates meanings of race itself (pp. 3-4).

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February 27, 2023

An Applied Sociological Perspective on Design

Janning-M-7756 copyBy Michelle Janning, Professor of Sociology and co-designer of Human-Centered Design at Whitman College 

Do you ever find yourself feeling frustrated when an airport security line seems to be moving too slowly? How about when restaurant tables are arranged so close to each other that it’s hard to navigate the trek to the restroom (let alone have a private conversation)? Or when you can’t get work done because the noises coming from a housemate’s conversation are pulsing through your walls?

It’s easy to imagine ways that our built environments (and how objects are arranged in those environments) don’t always meet our personal and social needs. Put another way, we often notice that something is poorly designed when our engagement with the design leaves us feeling frustrated, stuck, or even excluded.

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February 20, 2023

Public Transportation: Space and Social Control

Corneilia mayrBy Cornelia Mayr

Every city has a heart, a rhythm, and a beat. The pace of a modern city’s life is characterized by industrial civilization, new information technologies, a settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals, and faster methods of transport.

Buses, trams, metros, ferries, and passenger trains, are, for example, all fascinating urban spaces to study what is, can be, or should be public in the city. Every day, those large vehicles steer their way through a network of streets, trying to carry its passengers safely from one part of the city to another. Rushing all day in places filled with people who often seem to avoid interacting with one another, public transport may function as a rational example of modern city design; a form of social control that connects us to our sense of time and place as well as to others.

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December 05, 2022

Here We Snow Again (But Not On Our Own)

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Nationwide, Buffalo is known for a few things: chicken wings, a football team that lost four consecutive Super Bowls, and a place that is cold and snowy. True, we happily claim our city as home of the chicken wing, we love our Buffalo Bills, and we take pride in being able to handle adverse winter weather conditions. Those of us on the inside refer to Buffalo as the city of good neighbors, and use slogans like “My city smells like Cheerios” and “Talking Proud.”

I’ve been through countless snowstorms, including what’s known as Snowvember in November 2014. Back in 2014, it wasn’t snow that was our biggest worry. It was the smell of gas in our basement that concerned us. We stayed with friends across the street who generously offered to take us in until a worker from the gas company was able to determine the leak was coming from outside our house and was able to solve the problem.

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