Source: Brandizzi (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.
I have previously
written about whether the sociology classroom can be a space of critical or radical pedagogy and how critical research agendas should be reflected in sociological pedagogy. Most authors experimenting with critical pedagogy rely on Freirean
conceptions of student-centered learning that seek to eliminate teacher-student hierarchies and offer students the change to take ownership of their education by involving them in peer-grading, course design and instruction. However, scholars equally committed to critical sociology and radical analyses have critique these models as problematic and actually not coherent with sociological understandings of the world.
[This article is the second in a series that explores theories behind critical/ radical/ transformative education in the sociology classroom, as well as its practice, problems and limits. The first article introduced some theories behind critical pedagogy, and its overall framework.]
Black Friday shoppers at WalMart
The holiday season is officially upon us as thousands of individuals woke up early on this Black Friday to score the best deals of the season. This time of year brings joy to the hearts of many, but also exposes one of the greatest contradictions in American society. Along with the excitement of holiday shopping and purchasing a 50 inch TV for half-price, this time of year is also supposed to be about giving. From Thanksgiving through Christmas more people volunteer and donate food and/or money than any other time of year. In 2012, to combat the popularity of consumption during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more and more people are participating in Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday), a day to give to those in need. While we can certainly see the merits and benefits of giving a toy to a child who has none or a coat to someone who is cold, we should also ask ourselves why charity is needed in the first place and why charity is so intimately linked with consumption. (more…)
Source: Luiz Carlos Cappellano (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
A number of sociologists understand their work as being part of a radical or transformative project: They are committed to empowering the marginalized or are engaged in challenging hegemony, they work within the tradition of radical theoretical approaches such as Marxist, feminist, or critical race theory, and understand their work as a contribution to laying foundations for a more just, equal and democratic society. However, it is not often not clear what role the commitment to radical social thought – and ultimately radical social change – can play in the sociology classroom. A number of scholars have asked whether there is a unique radical, critical or transformative pedagogical approach to the teaching of sociology, how to theorize radical pedagogy, how to implement radical approaches in the undergraduate classroom and how radical educators might deal with institutional constraints.
[This article is the first in a series that explores theories behind critical/ radical/ transformative education in the sociology classroom, as well as its practice, problems, limits, and the constraints faced by sociology teachers committed to critical pedagogies. This first article introduces some theories behind critical pedagogy, and its overall framework.]
How close are we to the dystopian world outlined in 1984? Following on from my colleague bschaefer’s article ‘Volunteering for surveillance: Consumerism, fear of crime, and the loss of privacy’, this article discusses the latest challenges to our consumer privacy rights.
The concept of surveillance raises significant social questions, especially in relation to how far technologies constitute an unacceptable degree of intrusion into our private lives. This week Tesco announced their plans to introduce targeted advertising through facial recognition technologies to all 450 of its UK based petrol stations. The OptimEyes screen, developed by Lord Alan Sugar’s company Amscreen, scans the eyes of customers to determine specified categories of age and gender before running tailored advertisements. Although most of us in advanced western states are already subject to a vast array of data collection fuelled by the desire to obtain our interconnected life experiences information. This latest attempt to monitor and influence our consumer behaviour automatically sets a number of alarm bells ringing, namely to do with the social issues of surveillance, in particular power relations, spaces, and categorisations. (more…)
Janet Bloch. Self Portrait as Shakti, 2004. Acrylic & Mixed Media,
16 x 16 in. © Janet Bloch. Reprinted with permission.
Full Disclosure: I am a feminist. It never crossed my mind that there might be anything problematic about labeling myself this way since I have openly articulated my interests in gender issues and social, political, and economic equality since my early undergraduate days. Of course, I knew that researchers had shown women today often reject the term “feminist” (McRobbie 2004; Rowe-Finkbeiner 2004; Levy 2006). However, I somehow had convinced myself that these individuals were just not informed. I truly believed that if men and women could critically examined the social construction of gender, see the ways in which gendered notions impact their lives, and take the time to critique these forces there could be greater understanding, acceptance, and embracement of feminist politics.
Last fall I found myself working on a project on women’s art. I met with several female artists whose work examined, questioned, and challenged cultural gender expectations. What I found utterly shocked me; within the art world, there are a number of female artists that use art as a vehicle to challenge gender inequality but are cautious, hesitant, or dismissive of being labeled as “feminist artists.” I found that many female artists believe that term “feminism” is so deeply connected to a stigmatized social movement that strongly reject the label even while creating feminist art.
The recent contention over the United States budget has pitted the Democrats against Republicans and in doing so has hardened political ideologies for many but has also opened the minds of many to the hypocrisy of Congress. One central narrative in this battle is whether citizens should continue to receive entitlement programs such as Social Security or be allowed to get health care under the Affordable Care Act. The right considers anyone in poverty as lazy and handouts as a disincentive to work. Narratives were abound regarding individuals who are perceived as undeserving of healthcare and that people need to work for a living in order to receive healthcare. Fox News went so far as too post a horrifically misrepresented graph suggesting that more Americans receive benefits than work. Of course the graph is extremely flawed with contradictory measures for those that receive benefits and those that work, and the Y axis makes the difference appear greater than what it is. The notion that Americans can pick themselves up by the boot straps and make something for themselves is a sensationalized myth at this point in time. The reality is that it is difficult to win the economic race when you are not even allowed on the track. The 99% moniker of the Occupy movement is indicative of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the difference between the rich and the poor cannot be whittled down to work ethic. Rather, income inequality is a product of social structures that exploit the working class. (more…)
Political Cartoon, July 5, 1919. Source: Wikimedia Commons
At the time of this posting, the government shutdown drags on, the debt default is on the horizon, and Democrats and Republicans are waging the battle of blame. Spin is, of course, business-as-usual in politics. Figuring prominently into this fight is the question of who is acting responsibly.
What stands out to me, as a student of social movement studies, is one particular strategy to smear opponents as irresponsible and therefore dangerous: the recent persistent use of the term “anarchist” by Senate Democrats to describe Republican politicians and the Tea Party social movement with which they are aligned. This approach is exemplified in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s blog post earlier this month entitled “We are not a country of anarchists,” and has been echoed repeatedly by other politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his claims that anarchists had taken over Congress. (more…)
The 2006 Online Health Search, a US survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, showed that “prescription or over-the-counter drugs” was the fifth most widely searched health topic on the Web. The most recent study, conducted by the Pew Project in September 2012, found that 72% of Internet users they surveyed say they looked online for health information within the past year. As well as providing knowledge, the Web is also a retail opportunity which allows the buying of medicinal products online. Even if obtaining medicine was not the original intention when visiting the Web, it provides the setting for advertising – including direct marketing such as pop ups. These may enable opportunist impulse buying whereby people do not realise that they are indulging in anything untoward. The issue is further complicated where the medicine is regulated and specified as prescription-only. Although it is not illegal to purchase prescription only medicine rather than obtaining it from a health care professional, using a web supplier exposes the consumer to a plethora of criminal behaviour and health risks. The Web offers no guarantee on the quality and effectiveness of medicines supplied with no legal recourse available, especially if the product was obtained from an unregulated site. SPAM emails that bypass the healthcare system by advertising prescription-only medicines further risks people’s health by encouraging self-diagnosis and self-medication. These also carry the risk of credit card fraud and PC viruses which could be associated with larger criminal associations and organisations.
Beck (1992) has purported that the increased propensity to conceptualise problems in terms of risk has been accompanied by shifts in both the role of the expert and the form and communication of their expert product. While the paternalism of the expert remains an important ‘definer’ (Beck 1992:29) of risks, significantly in terms of where they can be discovered and how they are best avoided, this role has supposedly undergone momentous changes. Beck alleges that expertise has both been ‘demonopolised’ (Beck, 1992:29) and ‘democratised’ (Beck, 1992:191). (more…)
By Joost J. Bakker (Flickr: Do The Right Thing graffiti Amsterdam) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
News continues to break revealing more incidents of U.S. government spying. Based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, we learn that targets of the NSA now include the phone calls, emails, and text messages of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico
, and the internal communications system of news broadcaster Al Jazeera
. The leaks have also brought to light that the U.S. has been hacking into foreign networks in order to place them under covert control through an effort dubbed “GENIE.” (more…)
Ethnography is a “particular method or sets of methods” which in its “characteristic form it involves the ethnographer participating, overtly or covertly, in people’s lives for an extended period of time; watching what happens, listening to what is said, asking questions — in fact, collecting whatever data are available to throw light on the issues that are the focus of the research” (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1983: 1). Ethnography therefore allows insight into the knowledge and meanings behind the composition of cultural groups and individual behaviours by gathering empirical data on human societies and cultures. The focus on the Web as an area of research requires a re-evaluation of what we call ethnography. (more…)