RANTS OF A SOCIOLOGY MAJOR

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We aren’t good at self-reporting

So I’ve been caught up in my thesis, doing interviews and writing up my report. In the process of coding and analyzing, I was just reminded about how bad people can be at self-reporting.

One of my questions was a fairly simple one: When did you join Facebook? I interviewed close to 40 people and almost half thought they had been on Facebook a year or two longer than they had actually been. One even thought he joined in 2003 when really, he joined in 2009. Those who did tell me the correct years were generally stumped and had to pause to think and try to remember when that was.

I suppose our lives have become so intertwined with social media, we don’t really think much about it anymore. Many of my interviewees thought that when they stop using Facebook, it will be because another social media platform will have become more popular.

Filed under thesis sociology social networking social media interviews research facebook text posts virtual life self-reporting social research

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IMAGES: What Happens If You Flip The Gender Of Book Covers?

Books don’t have genders. They are artefacts. That’s what we tell ourselves. Yet, Maureen Johnson’s idea of the cover flip clearly demonstrates that many think of books as gendered. I mean, what does chick lit tell you? It tells you that books classified in that genre are targeted at women. Often the content is considered fluff, kinda like junk food or candy for the brain. Anyway, point is, we judge books by their covers. And books by women for women often have covers that seem to show those books are of lesser substance.

Johnson challenged her followers on Twitter to design book covers of published books that are aimed at the opposite gender. Looking at some of the covers, the discrepancy between “female books” and “male books” become very evident. “Male books” seem more likely to portray substance over “female books”.

What irks me is that women do not have any less substance than women. Reading is an exercise of intellect. Women writes pour their minds into writing just as men writes do. And then marketing dumbs them down. Even more so if the target readers too are women. How often do men refrain from reading “female books” because they don’t want to be caught with their covers?

So how do book covers influence your decision to read the books? And are there specific types of books covers that cause you to shun a book?

Filed under sociology gender books reading book covers women feminism questions to answer link posts

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(Source: “An Anthropology of Images” by Hans Belting)

For some reason sociology is often reminded of death, be it justified like in war or slightly ludicrous like in tourism. Here it’s about images and photography. Belting argues that as much as we try to beat death through photography, we really just found another way to experience death.

Belting is onto something, I’m sure. Photography is a means to capture moments to make them live on forever even when our memories fail. Yet, in a way, it’s a misguided practice. Photos can’t prolong our lives, so attempting to evade death is futile. But neither do they capture the soul of a person, so I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with the whole “new experience of death” that Belting seems to be so bent on.

(Source: “An Anthropology of Images” by Hans Belting)

For some reason sociology is often reminded of death, be it justified like in war or slightly ludicrous like in tourism. Here it’s about images and photography. Belting argues that as much as we try to beat death through photography, we really just found another way to experience death.

Belting is onto something, I’m sure. Photography is a means to capture moments to make them live on forever even when our memories fail. Yet, in a way, it’s a misguided practice. Photos can’t prolong our lives, so attempting to evade death is futile. But neither do they capture the soul of a person, so I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with the whole “new experience of death” that Belting seems to be so bent on.

Filed under anthropology sociology quotes images photography on images books hans belting death thoughts

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(Source: infographicsmania.com)
I’ve been caught up in finals the past week and won’t be done yet till after tomorrow. Nonetheless, I thought I’d share this infographic I came across which is somewhat related to my last exam this semester: Sociology of Tourism. Either way, I should be off to bed now. I need to dedicate the whole of tomorrow to cramming for my sole sociology exam. Plus, I’m exhausted from spending the past days on chemistry for today’s exam.

(Source: infographicsmania.com)

I’ve been caught up in finals the past week and won’t be done yet till after tomorrow. Nonetheless, I thought I’d share this infographic I came across which is somewhat related to my last exam this semester: Sociology of Tourism. Either way, I should be off to bed now. I need to dedicate the whole of tomorrow to cramming for my sole sociology exam. Plus, I’m exhausted from spending the past days on chemistry for today’s exam.

Filed under sociology infographics images tourism travel economy globalization

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Dialectic

Every professor and every tutor seemed to have a different understanding of the term, to the point that I came to fear it as a first-year sociology student. Even in my second year I wasn’t quite sure to make of it all. Some of my braver friends used the terms “dialectic” and “dialectical” when they wanted to sound all-importnat and look like they knew what they were talking about, when in fact, they were just adding fluff to their essays.

Through the study of Marx’s (translated) writings, I figured that it had something to do with two opposing forces that had yet to be resolved. Beyond that though, I couldn’t really explain it, much less apply it in any of my own pieces of writing. That’s when I decided I needed to know once and for all. A quick search in JSTOR proved to be enlightening and disheartening at the same time.

What I found was "Dialectic in Sociology" by Louis Schneider (1971). Scanning the first few paragraphs it became evident that many of the people Schneider cited believed the term to be contentious and even arbitrary. He then goes on to examine ways in which the term has been used and then grouped those ways into meaning clusters. At the end of it, there still were a few uses to it and no neat definition.

Sadly then, I did not walk away any surer of how and when to employ a “dialectic” to any of my analyses.

This leads me to wonder, how do you define (or how did you learn to define) this mighty confusing word “dialectic”?

Filed under sociology woes of a sociology major dialectic definitions louis schneider

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Science is inevitably subjective

Science prides itself in its standard of objectivity. It is objectivity that supposedly sets the hard sciences apart from the social sciences. Subjectivity is touted to be the downfall of social sciences and that which makes the social sciences inferior to the hard sciences. But what if subjectivity could actually be found in the hard sciences too? And not only that, but what if subjectivity formed an integral part of the practice of science? In that case then, the hard sciences would not be able to legitimately claim a superior standing.

In fact, Thomas Kuhn, in philosophizing about scientific theories noted that subjectivity is a characteristic that cannot be ignored. He also explained that subjectivity must not be taken in the light of judgmentalism and personal taste. Instead, it should be seen as the plain opposite of objectivity. Consequently, quantitative measures cannot necessarily claim to be superior to qualitative measures. They each have their place and purpose in research. Statistics, for instance, allow us to determine and track trends while ethnography brings to phenomena previously unobserved.

Science is concerned with the physical. Sociology is concerned with the social. They each have their place in research and academia. So the next time some ignorant science major looks down on a sociology major for engaging in a “soft subject”, fret not. Sociology is every bit as challenging and in my (very biased view) every bit more rewarding.

Filed under sociology science objectivity subjectivity thomas kuhn woes of a sociology major philosophy of science text posts

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My disagreement with Dove

(This is a repost from my personal tumblr, so if this looks familiar, bear with me. I decided the text needs to stand alone without the video embedded because in reblogging, people did so because they agreed with the message rather than disagreed with it. For reference, the link to the video in question can be found here.)

Dove’s video “Real Beauty Sketches” has been making the rounds and as of now, Youtube reflects more than 453,000 views. The premise: You are more beautiful then you think. Sounds very empowering, no? If you haven’t already done so, go ahead, watch the video.

Now, I wonder how most people, especially women, respond to the message. Are they amazed? Touched? Do they reevaluate how they view themselves? That’s all good and well. I do agree that we often are our very own harshest critics. When a tiny zit emerges on our foreheads, we moan about that “mountain” that’s visible for miles. So in this aspect, I do applaud Dove for addressing this.

But beyond that positive note, I for one took issue with the message. It reinforces the idea that there is this standard of beauty we should measure ourselves against in order to gain confidence. The women were each shown two drawings. One on the left based on their own descriptions of themselves, and one on the right based on the descriptions of a stranger they had met prior to the experiment. Needless to say, the women were flattered when they saw the drawings on the right. These drawings generally made them look prettier than the ones on the left. Honestly, I would have been flattered too. Yet, what does that say about women who do look like the women on the left? Are they worth any less just because they seem to be further away from that standard of beauty? Of course not! But that is the underlying problem here.

And what if they had actually included women of diverse shapes, colours and sizes? Would they still have been able to pull this off? The women who were featured were mainly Whites and fit too comfortably into a Hollywood cookie cutter.

Also, once again, why is this about women? This just further perpetrates the objectification of women in popular culture. Women are good if they are beautiful and so are a delightful sight to behold. How empowering! Sarcasm aside, there is so much more to woman than her looks. She has her intelligence, her accomplishments, her character, among other things to offer. Don’t reduce her to her looks.

To you, dear woman, you are indeed much more beautiful than you think you are but remember, empowerment should come from who you are.

P.S.: It did not pass me by that Dove sells beauty products but that is no excuse to compound the objectification of women based on looks.

Filed under women objectification of women thoughts dove sociology beauty image empowerment feminism self-perception brands advertising text posts

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Why this blog

First off, I am very opinionated. That is what must have drawn me to the humanities and social sciences. As a sociology major, I find the best part for me is that I get to study about a wide range of topics and voice my thoughts in turn. Yet, sometimes pragmatism and the need for that grade dictate that I keep my personal opinions off essays in favour of more balanced views. This is what this space is for: for me to put my commentary out there on anything and everything under the sun concerning humans. Also on occasion I will link posts to things I have learnt and am learning through my course of sociology at university.

I cannot promise that I won’t offend anyone. I surely will. But I am open to what others think, so feel free to comment or pose questions.

Filed under introduction first post purpose text posts