97 posts categorized "Jonathan Wynn"

March 14, 2024

"Fast Car" and Country Music

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Perhaps the highlight of the 2024 Grammys was Luke Combs’ duet with famously limelight-averse Tracy Chapman, singing Chapman’s “Fast Car.” While I had been pondering this song for over a year, it took the Grammy performance to really get a sense of what was going on here, especially with Beyoncé’s new songs promising to spark new controversy over what “country music” should be.

Combs’ version of the song is likely the one that most college-aged Everyday Sociology Blog readers know, but when most of your older professors (like me) were of a similar age, Chapman’s song was a big deal. These days, most hit songs come and go but, in 1988, the song was in heavy rotation. It was on the radio; it was in the mall.

Continue reading ""Fast Car" and Country Music" »

January 24, 2024

AI and Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

My inbox received two very kind and curious emails from students this semester. One was to our listserv, expressing remorse and solidarity for someone who had a death in the family. The second was a note of gratitude for my teaching this semester. The instincts behind were kind. Both students wanted to share meaningful feelings with our community in the first case, and with me in the second. They were interesting because they were both written entirely by AI.

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November 22, 2023

The Impossibility of University Neutrality in Times of Crisis

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Campuses are being torn apart due to the Israel-Hamas war. Students are protesting, getting arrested on campuses, and being threatened. While acknowledging that there are unspeakable horrors of war happening across the globe, it can still be said that it is the most challenging time to be on a U.S. college campus in my memory.

I am certain that even what I write here—which is tentative based on thoughts that are in-process—could be interpreted for this, against that, or not for anything and, therefore, bad. A lack of certainty, when faced by colleagues, friends, and students with very clear beliefs on very brutal realities, can be interpreted as a moral failure. My scholarship is not on colonialism, war, or international conflict, however. No one could or should look to me for enlightenment on this, and there are far too many people online who have spent a little time on Wikipedia and self-appointed themselves as experts in the history of Middle Eastern conflict.

Continue reading "The Impossibility of University Neutrality in Times of Crisis" »

October 16, 2023

Writing an Op-ed: Lessons in Public Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

I have a book coming out in a few weeks on hospitals and their communities. One of my co-authors and I are hoping to write an op-ed that will bring some of the knowledge from the book (particularly the policies recommendations we are making) to the wider public. Sociology should always be looking for ways to reach a wider audience, and do more public sociology.  

When aiming to write an op-ed, one of the things that authors will look for a “news peg.” These are very recent events in the news that a writer can use to make a wider point about some political or social issue. When the Fyre Festival debacle occurred, for example, I was able to co-author an op-ed about the financial risks and rewards for small bands to participate in music festivals. In my local paper, when a recent controversy arose about the renovation of my small town downtown strip, I was able to write about Jane Jacobs’ more pedestrian-focused approach to urban planning.

Continue reading "Writing an Op-ed: Lessons in Public Sociology" »

April 19, 2021

The Sociology of the Con

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Now that I’m chair of my department, my colleagues and graduate students occasionally get emails from email addresses that look very close to mine (e.g., “[email protected]”) that asks them to “help” me. If they aren’t careful, they’ll write back. One grad student, who is very kind, responded.

The fake Jon Wynn asked her to buy $200 of Amazon Gift cards and send the codes. Walking out of Best Buy (where she bought the cards) something didn’t sit right with her and, thankfully, she called me up. Luckily, we caught it in time. Best Buy didn’t refund the gift cards, as per their policy. So, our department bought them from the grad student, and used them as a prize for undergraduates.

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March 03, 2021

Sociology of Adoption

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

I wasn’t really eager to write about adoption. It’s a little personal, and still new. And yet, I can’t help but to think about everything in a sociological way and so, over the past two years, I’ve been mulling over the issues, and thought it would be a useful way to think about the sociology of families.

Joshua Gamson’s book Modern Families details how today’s family is the product of complex societal changes that weave together incredibly intimate and complicated personal experiences with larger social forces (e.g., reproductive technologies, international policies, reproductive freedom, gay and lesbian family rights, geopolitical power, changes in work, delayed parenting, global inequalities and war). Adoption is one piece of the story of what being a family means today.

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February 22, 2021

Managing Risk and Sociological Theory

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Here’s a situation that you might be familiar with: After months of being careful with a very small "pod" of three families, they decided to take a risk and allow another person into their trusted group.   That person ended up being an asymptomatic carrier of COVID and infected the whole group.  This is a tragic (and real) scenario.

It’s likely that you and your loved ones have had to individually assess risk and have been challenged either by a glut of some information, a confusion of incorrect information, or a deficit of good data. How are you assessing the decision to return to campus? Are colleges right to open up?

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January 27, 2021

The Symbols of the Capitol Siege

Jonathan Wynn (1)

By Jonathan Wynn

There are plenty of articles and posts that explore how sociological concepts can inform our understanding the Capitol siege on January 6th, 2021. (There’s a great post, titled “Sociology of the Siege” here). Of all the things going on that day, symbolism was a big part of it.

On the one hand, you have one of the great symbols of American democracy, the U.S. Capitol Building—such a significant symbol that was the alleged fourth target of another symbolic act, the 9/11 attacks. But there, among the crowd laying siege to it, was a wild mass of signs and imagery that was quite difficult to decipher for those who might not know what all of it means.

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January 18, 2021

Is Your Professor a Republican?

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

As I write, the 2020 presidential election is (almost) behind us. Perhaps you are wondering, "What’s the political affiliation of my professors?" It is not an unreasonable question. Some faculty are quite forthright about their political leaning. Some might be more discreet.

I suppose I can admit something here, among friends: I am quite liberal. I have toned down expressing political sentiments as I’ve gotten older but also out of a (perhaps unfounded) fear that some video of me might be taken out of context and uploaded on social media. The political leanings of our students at UMass Amherst reflect the state at large, politically, as being about 1/3 Republican, 2/3 Democrat. I say this knowing that tenure and academic freedom allows for great latitude in these matters. Still, people who are not professors might not realize this, but faculty aren’t exactly eager to have a media fiasco on their hands.

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October 30, 2020

Folk Games

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

I came across a Twitter thread of folk games, which are not board games but rather interactions that appear to be highly improvisational. Take a few minutes to click through and get a few well-deserved laughs. 

But it got me thinking about games. Partly because COVID-19 restrictions have limited opportunities for in-person social interaction,  the video gaming industry is booming. Sales have been high, even if production has been down.

Although I certainly loved my Atari 2600 when I was a kid, I’ve not really kept up with gaming. There are others who are definitely gamer sociologists. Jooyoung Lee uses Twitch (a videogame streaming site owned by Amazon) to teach his classes, and Ian Larson is a gamer and a sociologist who hosts a blog about the sociology of video games. (Karen Sternheimer wrote a post about research methods and video games ten years ago.)

Continue reading "Folk Games" »

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