423 posts categorized "Karen Sternheimer"

July 24, 2023

Smoking, Travel, and Culture Shock

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

As a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, I remember waiting to be seated at a restaurant. There were occasionally vending machines for candy, gum, and even cigarettes in the waiting area. While cigarette vending machines were apparently only banned in 2010 (except in adults-only venues), I don’t remember seeing a single machine for decades.

That is, until I visited Germany recently. We stayed in an apartment-style hotel, run by someone who also operated a bar on the first floor. When we stepped in the bar to check in, I noticed a cigarette vending machine. Oh wow, I thought, hadn’t seen one of those in years! But it was in a bar, after all, and I didn’t think much of it.

Continue reading "Smoking, Travel, and Culture Shock" »

July 17, 2023

Spam, Scams, and Social Norms

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

There’s really no such thing as good spam. I’m talking about the email variety of spam, not the canned pork from which unsolicited emails got their name (see this Monty Python sketch for its origin). Emails claiming to have money waiting for us, threatening us if emails go unanswered, or promoting questionable products are annoying and typically easy to spot. So easy that email platforms often identify it before we even see it.

Spam is annoying, but it’s also sociological.

Continue reading "Spam, Scams, and Social Norms" »

July 12, 2023

Social Media and Digital Resistance

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s not hard to find stories decrying social media. From concerns about mental health, bullying and eating disorders, wasting time, and spreading misinformation, the presumptive “harm” of social media has become taken for granted, especially where young people are concerned.

Continue reading "Social Media and Digital Resistance" »

June 26, 2023

Traveling Light: Testing the Limits of Consumption

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Earlier this year I booked a flight using frequent flier miles that ended up costing me about $20 total (a good deal on this route is typically at least $200). Needless to say, I was pretty excited about this. But my luggage would not be so lucky: it would cost $100 to check a suitcase roundtrip, or $130 to carry it on and store in an overhead bin.

Challenge accepted: I would bring only a backpack that could fit under the seat in front of me.

Continue reading "Traveling Light: Testing the Limits of Consumption" »

June 20, 2023

(Another) Sociological Celebration of Baseball

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Three years ago, Todd Schoepflin wrote about his love of baseball and its sociological significance. As a father of young players, he noted its absence during the pandemic-related shutdown of 2020. Because of its interdependence, the way it helps us understand the roles of others, and how it illustrates how and why rules can be bent, baseball helps us learn a lot about social systems and social interactions.

Continue reading "(Another) Sociological Celebration of Baseball" »

June 05, 2023

Using Archival Data in Sociological Research

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

A few years ago I wrote about comparative historical research, a method sociologists use that overlaps with historical research. Doing this type of research often requires us to use some form of archival data, something from the past that has been saved that we can go back to examine.

Archival data can take many forms, from information collected for the purpose of future research (like census data) to publications like newspapers and magazines and even personal journals and diaries that were not initially collected with research in mind.

Continue reading "Using Archival Data in Sociological Research" »

May 31, 2023

Creating Downtown LA

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last summer, the American Sociological Association (ASA) held its annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). “We’re right in your backyard!” an out-of-town colleague said, and while only about 20 miles away, this area is in many ways a world away from where I live in Los Angeles. I seldom go downtown, despite it being a mere 2 miles from my workplace, mostly because I prefer open spaces to commercialized zones. (Yeah, traffic and parking issues are a deterrent too).

The conference took place at the city’s Convention Center, near the crypto.com Arena (formerly known as Staples Center) and LA Live, a complex of sports-themed restaurants, hotels, and performance spaces. My colleague, Leland Saito, studied the development of this area in his book, Building Downtown Los Angeles: The Politics of Race and Place in Urban America. He explores how low-income people of color were systematically displaced over the last five decades—mostly within the last twenty-five years—to create this commercial area. He argues that the meanings of race are intertwined with geographical spaces, and that displacement isn’t just an effect of race, but creates meanings of race itself (pp. 3-4).

Continue reading "Creating Downtown LA" »

May 15, 2023

Life Expectancy: Explaining Declines in the U.S.

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report last year indicating that life expectancy in the United States dropped about 2.7 years between 2020 and 2021, “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

What is life expectancy, how does it vary, and why has it declined?

Continue reading "Life Expectancy: Explaining Declines in the U.S." »

April 24, 2023

Alienation, Consumption, and Waste

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Students of social theory are familiar with Marx’s theory of alienation, which posits that workers feel disconnected from the products of their labor within industrial capitalism. As consumers, one might argue we are also disconnected from the process of production: both the creation of items we consume and discarding of these items.

Many of us are aware that products we consume regularly, like food and clothing, are produced by child labor and sometimes even forced labor, and sometimes are created in “sweatshops” with unsafe working conditions. These practices are not limited to low-income countries, but take place here in the United States as well. It’s hard to avoid products created under these conditions—especially because chocolate is one of the most problematically produced and most beloved food produces.

Continue reading "Alienation, Consumption, and Waste" »

April 10, 2023

How to Like Your Job: Thoughts for Entering the Workforce

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Want to like your job? It helps if you are upper income, have earned a postgraduate degree, and are 65 or older. But this probably won’t help you if you are a recent graduate about to look for a job.

As we enter college graduation season and many new grads are beginning their journey into the workforce, it is important to figure out not just what you want to do but how you want to live.

Continue reading "How to Like Your Job: Thoughts for Entering the Workforce" »

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