‘Jacob’s Ladder’ © 2013 Sumi Perera RE
Writing for Sociology Lens earlier this year, Johannes Lenhard introduced ‘the homeless as the last materialists’ – past masters in the dying arts of cash, marginal to the ‘dematerialised’ and ‘virtual’ monetary circuits that are fast becoming conventional. For it is not only in the migraine-inducing markets for foreign-exchange derivatives (worth US$70 trillion at last count) that money appears dematerialised and virtual; you cannot any longer use cash to pay your bus fare in London. But for homeless people in Britain, Lenhard notes, coins really do matter. The feel, the storage of different denominations at varying distances from the body – and of course, the fact that in a society gone contactless, spare change is all that remains to insulate the homeless from full economic – and thus social – exclusion. But is the language of dematerialisation the best way to grasp new monetary mutants such as, say, Bitcoin, singled out by Lenhard as the quintessential virtual currency?
I don’t want to stereotype computer scientists. I still cringe when I remember clumsily insulting a room of (mainly) computer scientists at a conference by showing the wallet inspector scene from The Simpsons. There are, however, some computer scientist communities who give all computer scientists a bad name. Witness, for example, the infamous kick-starter project to give a food substitute called Soylent to poor people (which for non-sci-fi fans took its name from the dystopian film called Soylent Green within which people are recycled into the eponymous food substitute and fed to the masses). Less crass, but arguably just as clueless is Google’s inability to recognise its Google Glasses are not cool and that some people would be upset if Google Glass wearers were, like mobile CCTV units, recording our movements and quirks. Equally, researches at Facebook seemingly lacked the necessary empathy to predict the notorious manipulation of user’s emotions experiment would cause widespread disquiet. (more…)
Photo by: DonkeyHotey
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
Iowa is engaged in an historical race, possibly sending their first female to the U.S. Senate. Republican candidate, Joni Ernst, while also an Army National Guard soldier, describes herself as a mother first. Albeit a mother who also carries a gun, castrates hogs and rides a motorcycle…just like most mothers I know. A recent NPR piece questions whether motherhood is a qualifying attribute for national office. The female focus group interviewed for the broadcast didn’t buy it. They all seemed to want the “right person for the job” regardless of his or her status as a parent.
[Source: By Gerolsteiner91 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
In the UK, this week marks the end of British Summer Time. The clocks go back an hour, its dark by teatime, and the sky turns a uniquely depressingly shade of gunboat grey until March. Yes, The Long Dark Winter Of The Soul starts here. For millions of Britons, keeping Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay will mean spending many hours in that great British sanctuary: THE PUB. There will be beer, there will be football, there will be whingeing and moaning, and there will definitely be crisps. Lots and lots of crisps*.
Crisps might not be the most sociological of topics for me to discuss here on Sociology Lens, but they are certainly a valid cultural signifier. Until I started working alongside many foreign students in the UK, I never really questioned how ubiquitous these potato snacks really are, and how strange our national obsession can seem to newcomers. You know something is deeply embedded in one’s culture when you never think to question it. (more…)
Image credit: PhD Comics www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1723
In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men. Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).
As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013). I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.
Source: Cosmopolitan Magazine, November 2014
Every day I drive a half hour from my home to my office at the university and a half an hour from the university back home. Like many of my peers, I pass time during my commutes listening to National Public Radio. I know it is a bit of a cliché, the doctoral student in the sociology department listening to NPR every morning, but I really do feel as if my 60 minutes of NPR each day keep me on top of current issues in local and global politics, business, science and technology, and global health. NPR is part of my routine and for the most part it is pretty predicable.
However, last week I was caught off guard by a segment in the special series “The Changing Lives of Women.” I had heard a couple of other stories in the series. There was a very interesting interview with the Navy’s first four-star admiral, Michelle Howard. There was also a piece on female programmer who were pioneers of the computer revolution. On October 14, 2014, the NPR series focused on Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine.
By Nicolás Espinosa (De mi computador) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
If you read my last post
about how women’s colleges are still relevant, you know that I am a large advocate for women’s colleges. There is a plethora of evidence that women’s college students experience (and gain) significant benefits compared to their coeducational peers.
That does not mean, however, that sex segregation in education is always the answer. In fact, for some single-sex colleges, the gender-focused environment is in fact too exclusionary. Women’s colleges, by definition, are for women. But what does that mean? Who qualifies as a woman? Are we talking about gender or sex?
Under what conditions might it be ethical to refuse to meet or return someone’s gaze? Is it ever acceptable for a social scientist or journalist to write ‘with their eyes shut’? The notion that visual receptiveness can be a spur to urgent ethical response is captured in that familiar category of humanitarian action, ‘bearing witness’ (so much so, in fact, that we often forget about the work that must be done in order for witnesses to be created). At the same time, it is almost a sociological commonplace that to look is to do violence. From Michel Foucault’s ‘medical gaze’ – implying a mute body patiently set before the sovereign eye of a physician – we derive John Urry’s ‘tourist gaze’, and Raewyn Connell’s ‘imperial gaze’. The last is found wherever classical sociologists sought to generate what Connell calls a ‘synoptic view of human affairs from a great height,’ inserting vulgar classifications of social types into a hierarchy of peoples and nations that had an undeniable elective affinity with colonial projects.
When thinking about new blog post topics, inspiration can come from any number of topics: something on social media, a new film or book being released, or, most often, something in the news that catches our eye and asks for a Sociological analysis. My topic today is a combination of two, that fit together almost too coincidentally to be funny: The London School of Economics’ student union’s decision to disband its Men’s Rugby club for production of an offensive leaflet, and the release of the film The Riot Club. Although the misogyny in both is a problem, and has been argued very well elsewhere, I want to point out that they are both demonstrative of wider issues around privilege, and highlight the need to take an intersectional approach to both power and oppression. Intersectionality, as both a method and theory is important because studying race, class, gender or other category in isolation ‘ignores the multifaceted nature of individual experiences, capturing only part of a more complex whole’ (Landry, 2007). (more…)
Photo by: Anne-Lise Heinrichs
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
Mothers seem to be good at finding tribes. They blog, form Facebook pages, meet for regular play dates, etc…If the plight of early woman were anything like this nostalgic blog post, I would surely miss a communal motherhood as I would miss an appendage. I suspect however, that even with shared laughter the washing, cooking, and caretaking required of early mothers left them just as exhausted as we feel today. According to Wikipedia (insert snickering), archeologists think that tribal structures were an adaptation to situations providing plentiful yet unpredictable resources. Historically tribes were a face-to-face community bound by kinship, reciprocal exchange and strong ties to place (Paul, 2006).
Regardless of the time period in which one lives, commiserating with others who share your experiences is rewarding. This includes those who share your research interests. (more…)