71 posts categorized "Jonathan Wynn"

November 05, 2018

People are Different. People are the Same.

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

We seem to be living through a particularly violent time and, by some measures we certainly are. Pipe bombs and recent gun violence are very likely tied to the midterm elections.

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The Social Construction of Geography

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Ever since I was a kid I loved maps. How are maps sociological? They seem to just be objective reality, right; elevations, physical roads, and directions from point A to point B.

You might be surprised at just how much of a social construction our human geography is. I used to pore over maps, looking at the street systems, all the neighborhoods. Where did that name come from? Mapmaking—or, cartography—might seem to be an objective science. But it is not the mere reporting of the names of towns and directions of streets. Mapping is a social science!

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October 01, 2018

Clue: A Center of Knowledge, 15 Letters

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

This weekend I carved out a little time to do The New York Times crossword. I love puzzling over the clues, watching a quadrant emerge, and the satisfaction of finishing. As I sipped my coffee, I thought about how social life is a lot like a crossword puzzle.

Here is one clue from the July 28 puzzle: “What you might charge for a ride.” My mind cast about for a five-letter word. It couldn’t be TOKEN or TICKET. But then I remembered that puzzle masters love word play, and realized that “charge” has multiple meanings. The answer was TESLA—the name for Elon Musk’s electric car.

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September 03, 2018

Bridging Divided Values?

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Our national political divide seems to be widening. Our opinions have diverged, and we seem to have developed an ever increasing “us and them” national character. This summer I read four books on the topic, varying in their political and intellectual perspectives.

Sociologists have long been interested in our how our values (moral beliefs) and norms (the rules and expectations by which a group guides the behavior of its members) shape our culture. From Max Weber to Talcott Parsons, we are justifiably curious about how culture bends our beliefs into actions. We have a pretty good sense for how culture serves to push people into groups through accentuating differences. We have less of a handle on how to bring people from different belief systems together.

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July 23, 2018

Race and Studying Abroad

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Have you been traveling this summer? If you have, I’m sure that you packed your sociological imagination with you. Last month I participated in a Study Abroad trip with a group of first year students who were all either first-to-college or global majority students. We traveled to the Dominican Republic so the students could do an intensive cultural exchange and service learning course.

These students are part of a program to improve racial and ethnic diversity in our Honors College here at UMass Amherst, and I taught Intro to Sociology with them last fall. Similar to honors programs (as well as high school college prep courses) study abroad programs are, generally, a primarily white experience. Only about 5% of students who study abroad are black. Our International Programs Office recognizes this disparity, and assists and supports the program my students participated in because of this inequity.

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May 14, 2018

Careers and Side Hustles in Creative Work

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

In an article titled “Institutional Office and the Person” one of the great mid-century sociologists, Everett C. Hughes, wrote that a career is “the moving perspective in which the person sees his life as a whole and interprets the meaning of his various attributes, actions, and things which happen to him” and that any self-appraisal was dependent on how that person moves through an organization, as a kind of sequence of roles. What if we don’t really work in institutions anymore?

Careers, particularly in the creative world, don’t match Hughes’ model. People are not moving through any one organization, or even any one career, but several and, at times, concurrently. When you graduate you might not have one career, but two or three. (It is likely, in fact, that the average graduate will have three or four career changes, and four job changes by age 32.) Millennial workers will likely have to work more than one job to make ends meet. You will, quite possibly, have to make ends meet with what are called “boundaryless” jobs and careers.

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April 30, 2018

Hobbies, Ghost Work, and Identity


Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Work and occupations occupy a dominant position in our lives and, perhaps correspondingly, in our sociological scholarship. For good reason, of course. Work is a central component of our lives. Work fills our days (or nights) and pays the bills.

Work is also a resource for who we are, as what we do is often a central part of our identities. Although you may still be a college student, and if so, you’re probably only working a part time job. (70% of students work while in school and 25% of students work full time.) Eventually, however, you will graduate and have a job doing something. And at some point not too far down the road, you’ll be at a party and someone will ask you: “So, what do you do for a living?” Is it a lazy question, or should our work provide a key insight into who we are?

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April 09, 2018

Masks and Nods: Distancing and Bids for Acknowledgement


Jonathan WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The recent news about Amazon Go stores developing technology that eliminates the need for cashiers has renewed concerns over technology’s ability to not only eliminate working class jobs, but also peel away another layer of interpersonal connection. Small interactions can matter, big time.

Cities and shopping are zones of personal contact, places for micro-level exchanges. It got me thinking a lot about all those small interactions that I enjoy. (My friends tease me over how much I like to make small talk with people and it’s somewhat true. I often try simple nonstandard interactional responses like: “How would you like your coffee?” “Black like my heart.”) I love small micro interactions.

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March 05, 2018

Mindhunter as Social Research

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

I recently watched a Netflix show called Mindhunter. The show—based on a non-fiction book—is about the beginnings of a crime division in the FBI that attempts to tackle serial killers.

If you’ve ever taken a sociology class, the first and most obvious thing about the show are the explicit references to our discipline! One of the main characters, Debbie, played by Hannah Gross, is a graduate student in sociology, studying deviance. In the first episode Debbie explains the sociological approach to deviance to her date, a somewhat listless young FBI agent named Holden (played by Jonathan Groff of Hamilton and Glee fame). In a bar she admonishes Holden: “You teach about criminality but you’ve never heard of Labeling Theory?” (Although, granted, Debbie doesn’t get Durkheim right.)

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December 18, 2017

“So, What are you doing after you Graduate?”

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Perhaps you know what you are going to do after you graduate. As the fall semester starts to wrap up, there might be a nagging voice in the back of your mind that asks, “What are you doing to do after you graduate?” (Or maybe it’s part of family conversations as you get closer to your graduation date!)

Why do people pick the careers they do? Certainly, some people graduate with a good sense of a career. Some people knew what they were going to do from their first year of college. (That was definitely not me.)

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