Source: Jacob Sauer
This weekend I drove from Chicago to New York. By hour six I couldn’t stand my playlists and begin scanning through local radio stations. I was startled by the number of times I’d find a really great hard rock or heavy metal song and realize 15 to 60 seconds into the song that I was listening to a Christian radio station. Once again, I began thinking of heavy metal as tool for examining intersecting social issues – religion, popular culture, gender, class, race, and ethnicity.
On the surface, heavy metal music and conservative Christianity are situated on opposite ends of a cultural morals-and-values spectrum. Heavy metal has been known to celebrate and glamorize explicit sex, defiance, aggression, violence and alcohol or drug use (Gore 1987; Walser 1993:139). In comparison, modern conservative Christians often see themselves in absolute contrast to the sex-drugs-party world. By embracing a code of strict, absolute and unchanging moral standards conservative Christians often view themselves as free from an egotistic, libidinous and morally pernicious mainstream society (Smith 1998:131). However, despite the obvious confliction of values that often exist between heavy metal culture and Christianity, there are places where hard-core music and a conservative faith overlap. (more…)
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…)
Yesterday, I read a disturbing article in Adweek. “Powerful Ads Use Real Google Searches to Show the Scope of Sexism Worldwide Simple: Visual For Inequality” by David Griner explores a new campaign idea from UN Women, which used real suggested search terms from Google’s autocomplete feature. The ads, which were designed by art director and graphic designer Christopher Hunt, were designed to illustrate how gender inequality continues to be so problematic that even Google has come to expect it.
Being a sociologist, I was interested in the reliability of the Google experiment. So, I conducted my own Google search of the phrases used in the project. My findings were not exactly the same as the UN Women campaign but I was saddened to see so many misogynistic phrases pop up on my screen. I found “women shouldn’t…” work, be in combat, or be cops. In contrast, “women should…” know their place, not preach, not speak in church, and not be in combat. Google autocomplete told me that “women need to…” shut up, grow up, feel wanted, and feel safe. And finally, “women cannot…” be trusted, be pastors, have it all, or teach men.
Disney Princes and Princesses. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Disney has a gender problem.
A long line of feminist scholars and activists has used Disney princesses as examples of exactly what is wrong with the representation of women in mainstream media. The classical Disney princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine, etc.) have been lambasted for having story lines in which they are helpless damsels in distress whose lives revolve around male characters. Even the more modern princesses such as Tiana from Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel from Tangled have story lines that are largely tied to their romantic interests in male characters. Indeed, Jezebel has already posted an article addressing the many ways in which Disney’s upcoming film, Frozen, appears to undermine its female protagonist.
Unfortunately most of the criticism of Disney’s gender problem only addresses one pole of the gender spectrum – femininity. That is, Disney’s portrayal of masculinity is also problematic but has received little attention. (more…)
The American farmer is becoming a central figure in the advertisement world and two recent commercials standout for using the image and ethos of the small, hardworking farmer to sell their products. During Super Bowl XLVII, Dodge Truck made a commercial called “god made a farmer.” The commercial shows a series of still shots of American farmers working hard and the narrative describes the hardships associated with an honest day work on the farm. The commercial focuses on the small farmer using his hands, rather than the more common use of mechanized equipment to accomplish farm work. A second commercial created by Chipotle romanticized the movement away from mass farming and towards the small farmer fighting the corporate machine to produce “wholesome” food. The Chipotle commercial critiqued the mass-farming of animals and received backlash for co-opting local food movements. Both commercials speak to the notion of the isolated American farmer attempting to make it on his/her own in a corporate world, placing the value of hard work as an American ethos. The construction of the farmer in this manner is not intended to provide support or to recognize the struggles of small farms, but to sell products. Nor does it allude to the goal of most farmers—to make a living. (more…)
Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Silence_Means_Security_-_NARA_-_515419.tif
The chief of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, made his first public comments since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s PRISM spying program. The media aftermath of Snowden’s revelation generated multiple narratives surrounding the program. Media coverage focused on privacy concerns, the criminality of Snowden, and the necessity of the program to protect America’s safety. Lost in the production of these various discourses, there were also narratives that did not emerge, that remained silent. The absences of particular narratives are rarely innocent oversights, but a result of presenting controlled narratives. The lack of coverage of certain views can be explained through a framework recognizing the constitutive role of silence in our everyday lives. In particular, a focus on silence can teach us to ask what is not said, for instance, why was the PRISM program classified in the first place? (more…)
Source: Above the Law
Last week, a survey of 1,300 incoming freshman at Harvard University found that 42 percent of respondents had cheated on a homework assignment or problem set before starting at Harvard. This study lead to countless editorial pieces with provocative titles such as “Welcome to Harvard, Cheaters of 2017” and “More Incoming Harvard Students Have Cheated On Their Homework Than Had Sex.” However, what the study and related articles did not discuss was how “cheating” was defined both for those conducting the survey and those responding; how technology has complicated the definition of “cheating;” and if academic institutions as well as the larger social structure needs to rethink academic ethics in today’s changing and advancing digital society.
The announcement by Apple this week regarding the latest version of the IPhone excited consumers worldwide. Along with any new release comes with anticipation over what new features will be included. The latest installment of the IPhone, the 5S, comes with a fingerprint technology called TouchID that replaces the now “antiquated” password with a biometric scan of the phone user’s fingerprint. Security experts are praising this new function as a way to increase protection for consumers and deter criminals from attempting to steal the phones. The use of fingerprint technology for security is nothing new, but the application to cellphones is part of an ever evolving culture of control in the United States, and is an example of the growth in passive surveillance. The need for improved security in cell phones plays on consumer’s fear of crime. The IPhone 5S may be the first phone to include fingerprint technology and, while as of now it remains optional, the use of biometric data for security purposes will slowly evolve into the industry standard and people will lose their choice to opt out.
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…)
By A. Smith [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Football season is upon us, and there are plenty of reasons why this moment in big time football is very intriguing from a sociological perspective. More specifically, most of the major offseason storylines of both professional and collegiate football tell us much about the racial politics in big time football and the negotiations of race and sports in the media.
Update: Johnny Manziel makes the cover of Time Magazine.