Just about four weeks ago the public was shocked: Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment. But what most people talked about after the first trauma was not only that the world had lost a great actor. It was the needle in Hoffman’s arm.
Hoffman had suffered from drug and alcohol problems earlier in his life. The public knew about that. Most people, however, believed him clean for the last 23 years. Hoffman himself was in fact not reluctant to talk about his addiction in more straightforward and honest ways. As he told the Guardian in 2011:
“I know, deep down, I still look at the idea of drinking with the same ferocity that I did back then. It’s still pretty tangible. I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don’t. Just because all that time’s passed doesn’t mean maybe it was just a phase.” (more…)
The pornography search engine PornHub, for reasons I can assume only they know, appear to have become sociologists. Using the collected data they have from their search engine that provides access to many free pornography sites, they have started a blog called ‘PornHub Insights’. This offers exactly what the name suggests – research and analysis directly from the ‘Pornhub team’, offering insights based on their data as to the numbers of viewers they have, how long they watch, and from where. Their most recent posts discuss, for example, their traffic changes during key social events (during the American football Superbowl they experienced a traffic drop equivalent to over 300 million viewers). In terms of mapping what people do, this data has huge potential. (more…)
Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault hosts conference at Liberty Field House. Conference helps raise awareness and combat sexual assault. Retrieved from wiki commons.
The United States Senate failed to pass a bill that would have altered the military’s response to sexual assault. The bill, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses in favor of giving the authority to military trial lawyers operating under a newly established office independent of the chain of command. The vote fell 5 votes short of the 60 necessary to move ahead with the legislation, with opponents of the bill arguing that commanding officers should be given more responsibility in preventing and punishing sexual offenses and that removing power from commanders threatens the organization of the military. The bill failed to pass despite multiple news reports revealing the extent of sexual assaults in the military and the lack of response by military commanders. (more…)
By mariselise derivative work: Steffaville [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
The NBA has its first openly gay player in Jason Collins, and the NFL will follow soon, as former college player Michael Sam is expected to join a team this summer. This might indicate that we are seeing a radical shift in society’s stereotypes about gay men. At the same time, it remains to be seen, as Dave Zirin asks at The Nation
whether gay male athletes like Sam can help shift our definitions of masculinity more broadly or whether they might paradoxically reinforce gender norms and notions of hyper-masculinity at the same time.
By Yamaguchi Yoshiaki from Japan [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This year marks one century of commercial flying. On New Year’s Day in 1914, a large crowd gathered in St.Petersburg, Florida, as an airboat named ‘Benoist’ (after its creator, Thomas Benoist), took to the sky for a 23-minute flight over the Tampa Bay, carrying a single passenger (Abram Pheil, who won his $400 ticket in an auction). This maiden flight soon became a regular route, thus marking aviation’s birth as a viable industry. In the following decades, transnational routes, jet engines and global airlines became fixtures of modern life.
What a difference a century makes. Today, 52 aircraft take off every minute, and an incredible half a million people are in the air above us at any one time. Flying now facilitates family visits, holidays, business and academic conferences, and freight trade; it’s made the world smaller, and the global economy bigger. (more…)
Unauthorized Health Clinic in Douala, Cameroon
Source: Andres Caballero/NPR
A recent segment on NPR’s Morning Edition commented on the government of Cameroon’s recent campaign to shut down unauthorized health clinics throughout the country. In recent years hundreds of illegal clinics have opened across the nation, treating individuals who cannot access public health care for financial or geographic reasons.
The short radio piece attempted to present contrasting voices. The operator of an unauthorized clinic and the medical director of a major hospital in Douala each presented their side of the controversy. In addition, the experiences of two patients were highlighted: a young woman with a fever and a woman who recently gave birth to a premature baby.
For its emerging practitioners, Digital Sociology is an ambitious and exciting new development. The ‘digital’ in its name is intentionally vague. It signifies anything that involves the transmission of 0s and 1s so includes everything from the Web, to the Internet of Things, to downloadable music, to devices that capture our heart rate: they are all within Digital Sociology’s scope. Digital Sociology is attempting to exploit all the opportunities digital technology can offer. Simultaneously, Digital Sociology plans to continue sociology’s tradition of critical engagement with technology; temper some of the unrestrained rhetoric that attends digital innovation. However, it aims to achieve this in a way that avoids interdisciplinary friction.
These are just some of the questions Digital Sociology asks – questions that could be crucial to the future of sociology:
- How can digital technology enhance the job of research? For example, has there ever been a more flexible and convenient ethnographic data capture device than the iPhone?
- How can digital technology amplify sociological voices; particularly beyond the academy? For example, blogs such as The Sociological Imagination, Discover Society as well as, of course, The Sociological Lens are taking pioneering sociology to a new, non-specialist, albeit English-speaking, global audience.
- How can sociology work with other disciplines to achieve new insights? For example, what are the new methods; particularly those being developed within disciplines such as computer and network science, that sociologists can put to inventive use? Sociology confronts some of society’s most profound and seemingly insoluble problems; in this respect, has digital technology improved sociology’s repertoire of instruments and data sources?
However, perhaps most crucial to Digital Sociology is an epistemological position it shares with its affiliate discipline Web Science. That is technology, from its visual design to its embedded algorithms; no matter how asocial, logical it appears to be, bares the imprint of people’s norms, values and intentions. Inversely, technology can alter the way we think of ourselves and each other. Digital Sociology attempts to unravel this complex, mutually sustaining relationship.
If all or any of this interests you please see @BSADigitalSoc on Twitter and digitalsociology.org for further information. There will also be a series of Digital Sociology sessions at the British Sociological Association’s Annual Conference.
This month the 22nd Winter Olympic Games began in Sochi, Russia. The spectacle of the event has captivated persons from around the world to tune into watch their favorite sport or favorite athletes. Russia spent over $50 billion to prepare for the Olympics by building hotels, roads, stadiums, and to bring in artificial snow into the Southern resort town. The Sochi Olympics are the first mega-sporting event to occur this year, but will likely be trumped by the upcoming World Cup in Brazil over the summer. Brazil’s price tag for hosting the World Cup is considerable less at around $9 billion dollars. Nonetheless, the cost of both of these events and the emphasis by the respective countries to show the world the capabilities of their nation reveal the increasing globalization of these world sporting events. The Olympics and the World Cup are two global sports spectacles that have considerable cultural and economic ramifications, and are a product of intense politicking to bring the events to one’s national home.
By movie studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
In January, President Obama became the latest in a long list of politicians and high profile public figures in taking a shot at academic disciplines perceived to be ‘useless’ from a labor market perspective. Talking about manufacturing and job training, Obama (who has since apologized
for his remarks) said
: “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”
This attack on disciplines, fields and degrees that do not tie in directly to what is perceived to be the workplace of today and tomorrow are nothing new. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made similar, albeit much more explicit and vicious, remarks
about higher education just last year, lashing out against the (inter)discipline of women’s and gender studies: “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
These and similar remarks point to two related notions that dominate in the debate about (higher) education: 1. The idea of a “skills gap” – that is the idea that workers and college graduates do not possess the right skills to fill vacant jobs in growing economic sectors. And 2. The idea that some academic disciplines are simply useless pursuits, as they do not help graduates secure employment. But do these ideas have empirical ground?
Source: The Telegraph
When I picked my friend’s nine year old daughter up from school last week the first thing she said to me was, “We had to do something really weird in class today. The teacher paired all the girls with a boy and we had to be a married couple.” It turns out the teacher was having her students work on writing dialogue and since it was right before Valentine’s Day she thought it would be cute for them to write dialogue about love and marriage.
“Not all girls want to marry a boy. It was so lame,” my friend’s daughter told me. ‘Lame’ was not really the word that came to my mind; I was more thinking about heteronormativity and how it is reproduced through our social institutions.