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…)
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:
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.
In case you were the only person who didn’t realise, last Friday was Valentine’s Day. I hate Valentine’s. Its’ ever increasing prevalence, its’ cloying, creeping appearance that infiltrates perfectly normal looking things and makes them red or pink, and the way the world suddenly becomes full of people perpetually and disgustingly in love, or stressed, or miserable and alone, or a combination of all three. If I sound bitter, please know it is definitely intentional. I am bitter, but not for the reason you’d think. (more…)
Last year, as I completed my fieldwork, I was unexpectedly reminded of the continuing contention around gender identity. Interviewing dozens of people involved in social movement actions around austerity and economic inequality, I anticipated that there would be some emotional responses, moments of hesitation, perhaps even discomfort around some of my inquiries. I did not expect to elicit these reactions during the demographics section of the interviews. Yet, about a third of the time, when I asked the respondent to disclose a gender identity, there would be silence. Sometimes after the long pause the respondent would cautiously clarify whether I was seeking to categorize them as either male or female (I wasn’t). Other times the interviewee would go into a longer explanation of their opposition to the gender binary before identifying with a gender non-conforming label or declaring gender irrelevant and declining to provide an identity at all. (more…)
On January 9, 2014 government officials in West Virginia discovered that over 7,500 gallons of chemicals used to clean coal had leaked out of a Freedom Industries’ chemical facility and into the nearby Elk River. The location of the leaking storage facilities was just upriver from the largest treatment facility in West Virginia affecting over 300,000 residents throughout the state. Immediately discovering the leak, government officials notified the residents of Charleston and surrounding areas to stop using tap water. The government warned against water usage for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The chemicals spilled caused skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and wheezing to several residents. (more…)
As the saying goes ‘the jury’s in’; human activity is causing global temperatures to rise unnaturally and catastrophically quickly. The IPCC’s international panel of more than 800 scientists compiled over 9,200 peer-reviewed research papers to reach this verdict. As a result, we are said to be initiating a mass extinction event analogous to one that annihilated the dinosaurs. Yet, climate change, once a totemic issue for politicians attempting to appear progressive, is becoming one of their marginal concerns. For example, David Cameron, when he was working to detoxify the Conservative Party, went dog-sleighing in the Artic to signify his green credentials and commitment to address global warming. In the new era of perpetual austerity he has deprioritised the environment; Downing Street appointed a climate sceptic as Enviroment Secretary and reportedly recently referred to environmental levies as ‘green crap’.
Politicians in precarious states of power are notoriously sensitive to a construct known as ‘public opinion’. Public opinion is an analogue, shape-shifting beast only temporarily captured by various combinations of: opinion polls, newspaper columns, phone-ins, Tweets, blogs, emails, petitions, TV vox-pops, and whatever people in power imagine it is. Climate change’s deprioritisation reflects the reality politicians are not under pressure from public opinion to address it. There is probably a variety of complex psychological, sociological, economic, and political reasons that could tell us how and why how we’re arrived at point. I am going to suggest some reasons for this shift by applying Foucault to my PhD research data. (more…)
This post was borne out of a recent discussion with a good friend of mine, Harriet, who is a self-identified lesbian. (I include the phrase self-identified here deliberately: I realise her propensity to prefer the company and sex of woman does not categorise her as a lesbian, but it is a term she very comfortably uses herself). She was talking about going to a sex party, and I, in what I perceived to be ignorance, asked her what her interest could be in going. “Would it not be far too full of men?” I asked naively.
I had expected her to laugh at me, which she did. My question displayed an assumption that I hadn’t realised I held, that lesbian women must only be interested in seeing women have sex with other women. Being the tolerant and long-suffering woman she is, she challenged my assumption. Sex parties often include lesbian sex, she pointed out, and just because she is a lesbian doesn’t mean she is repulsed by men or their sex, any more than a straight person should be repulsed by lesbians. Heterophobia is no more acceptable than homophobia. However, she went on to explain that actually lesbians quite often found men sexually attractive, and, slightly more unusually, they are often interested in watching men have sex with men, in the form of gay male pornography. (more…)