93 posts categorized "Jonathan Wynn"

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., “jonwynn@umassbutnotreally.com”) 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.

Continue reading "The Sociology of the Con" »

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.

Continue reading "Sociology of Adoption" »

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?

Continue reading "Managing Risk and Sociological Theory" »

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.)

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October 05, 2020

Merton’s Role Set: Chairing a Sociology Department

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Have you met the chair of the sociology department? What do they do, anyway?

When I was an undergraduate at a large public university, I didn’t know who the chair was, let alone what they did. Heck, I am the chair of a sociology department right now, and I’m still figuring it out! But, I think it’s important for you to know what chairs do, particularly in our current, historical moment.

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August 03, 2020

Empty Pedestals, Monumental Culture

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

A non-trivial aspect of the wave of protests over the last few months has been focused on public monuments.

The Theodore Roosevelt statue at the National History Museum will be replaced because of its representation of racism and colonialism. Controversial former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo’s statue has been removed. Statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and other confederates are being removed on Richmond’s Monument Ave. Christopher Columbus statues are also being brought down in several states. This movement didn’t start weeks ago, however. The University of Texas Austin campus removed its statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson in 2016.

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June 22, 2020

Putting the “Diplo” in Diplomacy: Music as Soft Power

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

This summer, I’ve been obsessing over Wind of Change—a podcast about the CIA’s possible involvement in the titular 1990s global mega hit by the German rock band, The Scorpions. The story unravels the sometimes-shadowy threads between music and foreign policy, and gets us to think about how culture is used.

I absolutely remember ”Wind of Change,” but didn’t think it was as big a hit as ”Rock You Like A Hurricane,” a song U.S. readers might recognize from a commercial. But “Wind of Change” was a theme song for the revolutions behind the Iron Curtain, culminating in the end of the cold war, and I was shocked to learn that it is the fifteenth most purchased song in history, outranking any Beatles song. The podcast is a fantastic journey into how the U.S. government has secretly used American music, from jazz to hard rock, to further its own interests overseas.

Continue reading "Putting the “Diplo” in Diplomacy: Music as Soft Power" »

May 13, 2020

Are Social Bubbles a New Form of Segregation?

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Are we moving from "social distancing" to "social bubbles?" What are the factors and consequences involved in such a move?

Based on the TV show Lost, I used to ask my Introduction to Sociology students (back in the before times) what characteristics they would want their fellow castaways to behold. What kinds of skills would you hope people in your group would have on your beautiful-yet-isolated island?

Continue reading "Are Social Bubbles a New Form of Segregation?" »

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