251 posts categorized "Theory"

April 01, 2024

Challenging Stereotypes in Unscripted Love Tales: A Reality Check through Symbolic Interactionism

Monica-Radu Professional Headshot-2024By Dr. Monica Radu, Associate Professor of Sociology Department of Criminal Justice, Social Work, & Sociology, Southeast Missouri State University, [email protected]

The rise of reality TV has been nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences worldwide, including sociologists (like myself) who find themselves drawn to the intriguing social dynamics portrayed on these shows. So, what's the fuss all about? Why do sociologists, in particular, enjoy the reality TV craze?

Many reality shows serve as unintentional social experiments, placing individuals in unfamiliar and often challenging situations. Sociologists are keen to study how participants navigate these scenarios, unraveling insights into human decision-making, adaptation to change, and the impact of external pressures on behavior.

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February 12, 2024

Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis

Wayne mellinger author photoBy Wayne Martin Mellinger

Everyday talk-in-interaction is the medium through which our identities are enacted and our relationships are negotiated. It is often through situated activities such as talk that the practical problems of our lives get resolved, the tasks of our workplaces get completed, and the business of society gets managed. Talk-in-interaction is a fundamental mechanism through which culture is enacted, providing the very infrastructure of social institutions. Everyday talk-in-interaction is indeed the fundamental site of human sociality.

Conversation Analysis (CA) is an approach to studying everyday social interactions which focuses on how participants in a conversation collaboratively build meaning and organize their interactions through verbal and non-verbal behaviors. It closely analyses the moment-by-moment unfolding of social life through close examination of ordinary social interactions. These fine-grained studies, now done in a wide variety of social situations and institutional settings, are revealing the basic structures of interaction as experienced in concrete instances of social life.

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August 14, 2023

Selling Old Towns: Consumption and Hyperreality

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

I’m a sucker for an old town when I’m traveling, and based on the crowds I regularly find on these visits, I am not alone.

Old towns hold out the promise of a walk into history and a chance to see something that we seldom get to see in our daily lives. They feel like they represent the most “authentic” aspect of a place, one that might distill the essence of what it means to visit this locale. In contrast to the mundane, everyday nature of most places, old towns seem like they offer something special.

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May 08, 2023

Keeping Order at Home

Corneilia mayrBy Cornelia Mayr

There is no place like home. But what makes a home? Some of you might say a home is a place that gives you a feeling of comfort, safety, and familiarity; it is a place where your heart belongs, and the self can thrive. It is a welcoming sanctuary where you find a treasure chest of living. But above all, home is where everything should be in order.

When we enter different homes with a sociological perspective, we can immediately experience a unique statement about the inhabitants’ tastes, lifestyle, and identity. At the same time, we can see how everything is put and kept in its place. Have you ever noticed how ordering things in the home might bring you a sense of wellbeing and comfort, but looking around a messy home can be overwhelming? The domestic space is, thus, a good place where we can study our relationship to objects and its connection with social order.

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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.

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February 20, 2023

Public Transportation: Space and Social Control

Corneilia mayrBy Cornelia Mayr

Every city has a heart, a rhythm, and a beat. The pace of a modern city’s life is characterized by industrial civilization, new information technologies, a settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals, and faster methods of transport.

Buses, trams, metros, ferries, and passenger trains, are, for example, all fascinating urban spaces to study what is, can be, or should be public in the city. Every day, those large vehicles steer their way through a network of streets, trying to carry its passengers safely from one part of the city to another. Rushing all day in places filled with people who often seem to avoid interacting with one another, public transport may function as a rational example of modern city design; a form of social control that connects us to our sense of time and place as well as to others.

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January 30, 2023

Ideology and the Prince

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

While I haven’t read it yet, Prince Harry’s book Spare has been receiving a lot of coverage. (A search of the terms “Spare Prince Harry” yields 135 million hits.) The coverage of this book teaches us a lot about the concept of ideology, or ways of seeing that appear normal and natural. How people view this tell-all book reflect differing ideological perspectives, shaped by social context.

I watched Anderson Cooper’s interview of the prince on 60 Minutes, as well as Stephen Colbert’s Late Show interview, both offering sympathetic coverage that focused on the trauma of losing his mother when he was twelve. Both interviewers have shared their own struggles with grief after losing their fathers as children, so perhaps this focus was not a surprise.

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November 28, 2022

Tears as Social Phenomenon

Cornelia Mayr Author Photo By Cornelia Mayr

November marks the point in the year when the cold beings to set in. Fields, buildings and streets are blanketed in heavy fog, blurring the city like an old painting. Trees look like skeletons and dawn frost carpets the grass. It is the time when biting winds gnaw on our skin and whip chilly, wintry air into our eyelashes. Our eyes tear up, because it's freezing.

Tears keep our eyes lubricated when it is cold and blustery; wash away smoke, dust or other irritant substances; and protect us from foreign particles that enter the eye’s environment. Though some animals do have the physiological ability to produce tears, humans are the only creatures whose tears can be triggered emotionally.

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August 08, 2022

The End of Ending Relationships

Cornelia Mayr PhotoBy Cornelia Mayr

Department of Sociology, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

My colleague and I recently spoke about our experience with death. He asked me whether I have ever seen a dead person in real life. My answer was yes and so did he. Our experiences with death led us to talk about the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one for the last time.

How often do we say goodbye, see you, so long, ciao, adieu, adios, sayonara, auf Wiedersehen, to our family members, friends, or acquaintance--mostly with the taken-for-granted assumption that we will meet another time? In fact, the German word auf Wiedersehen literally means until we see each other again. But what if we won’t be able to see this person again or do not want to? Do we always part our ways harmoniously? If you had known that you will never see a person close to you again, how would you have said goodbye?

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July 18, 2022

Death and Emotional Labor

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Since the pandemic started in 2020, I have “attended” three funerals online, two for elderly relatives who had cancer and one for the elderly father of a friend who had Alzheimer’s disease. Being thousands of miles away, the online option saved me the time and expense of making last-minute travel arrangements. I appreciated the privacy of watching the funerals alone, as I can get emotionally overwhelmed by other people appearing emotionally overwhelmed.

Of course, this is part of what the funeral ritual is for: to comfort the bereaved, and to be in a place where one can openly express sadness. In most social settings, there are unwritten rules that encourage us to stifle any impulse to weep uncontrollably. Typically, we try and hold back sobs and tears whenever possible. At a funeral such rules are loosened, but they still exist. This reflects Erving Goffman’s notion that we work to “regulate… face-to-face interaction” in his book Behavior in Public Places (p. 8).

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