349 posts categorized "Karen Sternheimer"

July 06, 2020

YouTube, Upward Mobility, and Inequality

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

These days, much of my “television” watching is on YouTube. I’m not unique—according to Google’s CEO (Google’s parent company owns YouTube), about 2 billion logged-in users use the site each month. As of 2018, there were an estimated 23 million channels. All this got me thinking about how news of YouTube fortunes may make many of us think that our financial future is online, especially during tough economic times.

The channels I watch most feature what seem to be ordinary people who have somehow found a way to monetize their skills: a fitness channel I use to work out has more than 6 million subscribers; two channels I am using to learn German have over a half million subscribers each, and one of the creators had been traveling the world and made her videos from wherever she happened to be at the time. I watch a lot of travel videos as well, including some by people who had been able to travel full time, thanks to YouTube success and sponsorship deals.

Continue reading "YouTube, Upward Mobility, and Inequality" »

June 08, 2020

Widening the Digital Divide

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last December, my neighborhood experienced a power outage for about 12 hours. It was quite an inconvenience: I had no Internet access, particularly after my cell phone battery died. Our heat wouldn’t turn on and it got a bit chilly inside. I had just been to the grocery store the day before and was concerned about a refrigerator full of food going bad.

Even at the time, I knew I was fortunate. I didn’t know why the power was out, but I was pretty certain that crews were working to restore it. I didn’t need to access the Internet or contact anyone, and since I live in southern California, even a chilly December day is pretty mild by winter standards. And having a refrigerator full of food is always a privilege, as is knowing it could be replaced without having to sacrifice another necessity.

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May 18, 2020

The Challenges of Doing Research while Social Distancing

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

A group of my colleagues have started a support group for qualitative researchers, called “Ethnographers in Exile.” After spending a year securing a field site and getting Institutional Review Board approval to do an ethnography in an emergency room, one colleague found that his research could not go forward under the current circumstances, with no timeline for his project to begin any time soon.

Ethnography involves immersing one’s self in the lived experience of the group that you are studying and being present to observe interactions and ask questions that might come up in the course of our participants’ day-to-day lives. Ethnographers observe the tempo of interactions, what happens when seemingly nothing is happening, and ultimately try and learn what it is like to be a member of a particular group.

Continue reading "The Challenges of Doing Research while Social Distancing" »

May 04, 2020

When Back Stage becomes Front Stage: Goffman’s Dramaturgy in the Age of Teleconferencing

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Nearly eight years ago, I blogged about how we might reconsider Erving Goffman's front stage/back stage distinctions in the age of social media. As I now teach, attend meetings, and visit with family members using teleconferencing, I have been thinking about what actually constitutes “back stage” right now.

Erving Goffman wrote in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life that, “back regions are typically out of bounds to members of the audience” (p. 124). That was in 1959, when he could not have foreseen that we would have the technology to share audio and video with hundreds of people at a time from a device that could fit in the palm of our hand.

Continue reading "When Back Stage becomes Front Stage: Goffman’s Dramaturgy in the Age of Teleconferencing" »

April 27, 2020

Stay at Home and Formal Social Control

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The COVID-19 crisis has led to an unprecedented experience for many people around the world: formal orders to stay at home and the closure of businesses deemed non-essential. The closure of businesses has created an economic crisis too, as more than 25 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits between mid-March and mid-April.

Protesters have held rallies to end these orders, arguing, among other things, that the orders are an overreach of government and that their individual rights are being taken away. This post is not about whether the stay at home orders or the protesters are right or wrong—it is about reactions to formal social control.

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April 01, 2020

Ideology and the Grocery Store

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In recent weeks, grocery shortages have been common around the country as people stock up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have had a hard time finding staples like garlic, potatoes, and dry beans at my usual local grocery store. What can the concept of ideology teach us about the run on food and paper products?

Ideology is a system of beliefs that appear normal and natural to a particular group. Rather than a fancy way of saying “idea,” ideology is a grouping of ideas that seem unquestionable and are often taken for granted. These systems of beliefs that we live within often seem to be “human nature” and beyond the need to think about critically.

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March 30, 2020

How to Speak Sociologese

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

At the Everyday Sociology Blog, we pride ourselves on avoiding academic jargon whenever possible and clearly defining concepts whenever we do use words that might not be familiar to most readers.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are some words and phrases that should be used very specifically while speaking and writing sociologically, and in the social sciences more generally. The list below is not exhaustive, but a reminder that we should use our words carefully to clearly communicate sociological concepts and findings. Think about the following examples when reading and writing:

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March 16, 2020

Behind the Research: Understanding Panel Studies

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The Pew Research Center recently released a study about online dating. They found that about thirty percent of U.S. adults have used an online dating site or app, and that just over one in ten have used one in the past year. About 12 percent of respondents reported being in a serious relationship or marrying someone that they met online.

When most of us read about or hear about studies like these we don’t think much about how the findings are generated. Who are included in the study, and how do researchers find them?

Continue reading "Behind the Research: Understanding Panel Studies" »

March 12, 2020

Applying the Sociological Imagination to COVID-19

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

By now you have likely heard of the Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19. Maybe your school or workplace has shifted online for the time being, or you have noticed a shortage of cold and flu related items at your local store.

While this is a rapidly changing situation, we can use this example to help us understand several sociological concepts:

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March 02, 2020

Social Institutions: Central to our Lives—and Beyond

Sally Raskoff: Social Institutions Central to our Lives - and Beyond

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author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Social institutions, the building blocks of societies, are not only central to our lives, but they continue to be part of us even after death. Social institutions such as family, medicine, government, religion, and the economy are part of the process of death as well as its aftermath.

In this podcast conversation, Sally Raskoff and I discuss our experiences with these social institutions following the deaths of family members. We do not just mourn with family members when someone passes away. After a death it also takes work to disentangle all of the threads from other social institutions (think closing bank accounts, taking a name off of a title deed to a house, ending pension and Social Security payments, to name a few tasks for survivors).

In this brief conversation, we touch upon the involvement of family members with hospitals and hospice, mortuaries, religious practices, and the long-term process of dissolving economic arrangements.

As you listen to this podcast, think about the following questions:

  1. What roles do social institutions play in our lives that are often hidden? How does the death of a loved one reveal these connections with social institutions?
  2. How does the involvement with these social institutions vary by age, gender, and socio-economic status?
  3. How else might social institutions be part of our lives, and how might these connections linger beyond death? What other social institutions might be an ongoing part of our lives and their aftermath?
  4. Are there social institutions that we can never fully separate from, even after death?

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