21 posts categorized "Colby King"

March 25, 2020

The Working Class and Service Industry Workers: The Front Lines of the COVID-19 Economy

author photoBy Colby King

As the U.S. responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen quick and dramatic changes to how people work and how our economy functions. I wrote a few days ago about one worker, a migrant laborer, was made to dress as a hand sanitizer dispenser at Saudi Aramco. Since then I have seen stories that highlight the risks and challenges of working in the COVID-19 economy, especially for the working class and service industry workers. As Todd Schoepflin wrote here last week, these are the people “who are working to hold the fabric of society together.”

These dilemmas came into focus for me the other night as I talked with my cousin Randy on the phone. Randy lives in Colorado and works multiple jobs part time, as a lighting designer for theaters in Colorado and driving for a rideshare app. When Governor Polis of Colorado banned gatherings of more than 10 people, it had an obvious impact on Randy’s lighting gigs.

Continue reading "The Working Class and Service Industry Workers: The Front Lines of the COVID-19 Economy" »

March 17, 2020

Applying Sociology of Work and Organizations Concepts to the COVID-19 Pandemic

author photoBy Colby King

During spring break this past week, I was grading midterm exams from my Sociology of Work and organizations class while also following the news about the spread of COVID-19. Karen Sternheimer wrote the other day about how we can apply the sociological imagination to better understand the ongoing situation with the disease. I also saw ways in which the pandemic vividly illustrates some of the sociological concepts in the exam I was grading.

On March 11, Megha Rajagopalan at BuzzFeed posted a report about how a migrant worker at Saudi Aramco’s headquarters was made to dress as hand sanitizer. Pictures of the worker were shared on Twitter. In the pictures you can see the man is wearing a face mask and gloves, and over his khakis and shirt he is also wearing a box with the words “HAND SANITIZER” at the top and “Office Services” at the bottom (in English) and also an actual hand sanitizer dispenser attached to the front of the box.

Continue reading "Applying Sociology of Work and Organizations Concepts to the COVID-19 Pandemic" »

March 09, 2020

The Working Class is More Diverse than You Might Think (and We’ve got Stories to Share)

author photoBy Colby King

We have been hearing a lot about the working class the last few years, in part because many observers of national politics see the white working class as an important voting base. With the 2020 presidential race underway we can expect to see continued debate about how the white working class is likely to vote.

In these discussions, the working class is largely presented as white, male, employed in manufacturing, and often rural. But, these discussions that focus specifically on the white working class give a misleading representation of who comprises the working class altogether.

Continue reading "The Working Class is More Diverse than You Might Think (and We’ve got Stories to Share)" »

November 18, 2019

Seeing People like Us in People Like Us

author photoBy Colby King

This week I screened People Like Us: Social Class in America, in my Introduction to Sociology class, as I have done just about every semester since I started teaching. Although the film is now about 20 years old, I’m still finding lots of reasons to use it.

People Like Us directly examines something we often have difficulty talking about: social class. As any student of sociology knows, the social categories we work with, like class, or race, or gender, can be difficult to discuss in both informal and academic settings. All of these categories are meaningful, shape patterns of social inequality, and are perpetually being contested and renegotiated in our everyday social interactions.

Continue reading "Seeing People like Us in People Like Us" »

October 09, 2019

The 2020 Census: Help Wanted

author photoBy Colby King

If you study sociology you’ve very likely worked with data from one of the several surveys administered by the US Census Bureau. And while it is not 2020 yet, you might have already seen Census Bureau workers in your neighborhoods, as they have begun to check addresses ahead of next year’s count.

The US Census Bureau and its surveys are important to the discipline of sociology, and this fall I have been encouraging my students to consider applying for a job with the US Census Bureau. While field jobs and career positions with the US Census Bureau are always something sociology students might consider as long-term possibilities, the Bureau is currently recruiting thousands of people for several different temporary jobs in preparation for the 2020 Decennial Census. These temporary jobs include not just census takers, but also clerical positions, as well as a few supervisory and outreach positions. You can apply for all of the 2020 Census jobs through one online application form, which is available here.

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September 30, 2019

Where People Live: The Socio Spatial Perspective

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

It is important to study both how residents socially construct meaning in their settlement spaces, and how the built environment shapes social life. The socio spatial perspective (SSP), which is a framework for studying urban social life that integrates sociological and political economy dimensions into the analysis of urban space and social life. (For more discussion see The New Urban Sociology.)

This approach to urban sociology is deeply informed by Mark Gottdiener’s efforts to bring Henri Lefebvre’s writing to urban sociology. Drawing on Lefebvre, the SSP focuses on the social production of space, and as we explain in the book, examines how everyday life throughout metropolitan regions is affected by the interplay of cultural, political, economic, and social forces.

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March 18, 2019

Social Infrastructure, Postlandia, and Shared Investment in Public Space

author photoBy Colby King

Each day, it seems, we see new controversies that highlight how we (intentionally or not) misunderstand each other. These controversies regularly lament the decline of public life in our society. You are likely familiar with these laments: We gather news inside our own bubbles. Our neighborhoods, schools, and social activities are increasingly segregated by race, class, or other social groups. Our political views are polarized, and “the discourse” of online discussion further polarizes us.

Last year, sociologist Eric Klinenberg published a book in which he suggests one solution to these dilemmas is social infrastructure. The book Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure can help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life takes on an ambitious agenda for social infrastructure.

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February 19, 2019

Why College Costs Keep Climbing

author photoBy Irina Seceleanu, Colby King, Maria Hegbloom

Irina Seceleanu is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Bridgewater State University and the BSU Chapter Vice-President of the faculty union—Massachusetts State College Association. Maria Hegbloom is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Bridgewater State University and the BSU Chapter President of the faculty union—Massachusetts State College Association.

Growing up, we heard a lot about how school would be easier for either of us than it was for our parents and grandparents. “These days,” they’d say, “kids have it easy. The teachers are great, the schools have resources. When I was your age, I had to walk to school, in snow, uphill both ways!”

Maybe you’ve heard similar things about college today? Your campus likely has fantastic professors, maybe a few new buildings, and plenty of student services. If you’re at a public institution, especially a regional comprehensive university like Bridgewater State University (BSU) in Massachussetts that is known for small class sizes, teaching-focused professors, and lower tuition costs, you might also note the relatively affordable price compared to other nearby institutions.

Continue reading "Why College Costs Keep Climbing" »

February 18, 2019

Furnace, Kiln, and Oven Operators in the American Community Survey

Colby (1)By Colby King

In one of my research projects, I’m examining shifts in employment by occupational categories in the Detroit and Pittsburgh region. One result of my work is that I’ve become much more familiar with the 1990 Census Bureau occupational classification scheme.

The occupational categories that respondents are placed into are fairly detailed. Specific categories exist for locksmiths and safe repairers (code 536), railroad conductors and yardmasters (code 823), payroll and timekeeping clerks (code 338), funeral directors (code 019), and even sociology instructors (code 125, under Teachers, Postsecondary). Examining the characteristics of workers in particular occupation categories can illustrate the structure of their labor market, and the information can help develop a sociological imagination.

The category that recently caught my eye, is “furnace, kiln, and oven operators, apart from food (code 766),” because working around kilns and furnaces has become a tradition in my family.

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January 21, 2019

Online Media Dystopia

Colby (1)By Colby King

Concerned about online misinformation and fake news, I made a few revisions to the syllabi for my Introduction to Sociology courses before the start of the semester this past fall. I created an information literacy assignment based on the ongoing debate about the “marshmallow test.” But, I also made space to discuss Zeynep Tufekci’s research, particularly her analyses of how digital platforms and their algorithms shape how we collect information, share ideas, and interact with each other. Many students responded enthusiastically to these topics. And, while most were not surprised by the various concerning issues that Tufekci raises about digital platforms, many did report that understanding her research was causing them to reconsider the ways in which they engage online.

Zeynep Tufekci is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina in the School of Information and Library Science with an affiliate position in UNC’s Department of Sociology. Her book Twitter and Tear Gas, provides a vivid analysis of the ways in which social media supported social movements including the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, while also describing the challenges created by these same platforms.

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