friendonphone.jpgMike Nizza, author of the New York Times blog The Lede, recently reported on a new study from physicist Cesar Hidalgo of the University of Notre Dame and Calros Rodriguez-Sickert from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile on the persistence of relationships within the cell phone network.

Hidalgo and Rodriguez-Sickert used data from almost two million people and eight million phone calls over the course of the year. They found that the leading cause of a persistent relationship was reciprocity – one friend returning another’s call. interviewed Hidalgo:

“‘One result that I thought was somehow not so intuitive was the trade-off between the degree (number of links) of a person and the persistence of its ties,’ Hidalgo told ‘It has been known for a long time that some people are much more connected than others, yet it was not known whether these highly connected individuals also had a larger number of strong connections. While time constraints may force people with more ties to be less persistent on average, the data also showed that, in absolute terms, people with more ties also have a greater number of persistent ties than those less connected. Highly connected individuals are not trading quality for quantity; rather, they appear to be more socially expressed in both the numbers of links and the persistence or strength of them.'”

This recent broadcast from National Public Radio attempts to answer the question of why children curse. Drawing upon the expertise of psychologists from premier research institutions, Morning Edition reporter Allison Aubrey provides some interesting answers and comical anecdotes.

Listen here.

49253383_44783d7ce9_m.jpgTalking about marriage? Call in the sociologists!

In a recent article from, Lyneka Little reports on the conclusion that marriage can be a ‘double-edged sword,’ providing positive and negative benefits to each member of the couple. The effects have proven to be disproportionately favorable for married men, who make more than their single counterparts. Read more…

“‘Marriage works as a two-edge sword,’ says Stephen Sweet, an assistant professor of sociology at Ithaca College in New York. On the plus side, there is often much stability to gain from tying the knot.”

“‘Married people are better off than single people based on economic status, social status and happiness,’ Sweet says. ‘The economic gains of marriage can come from aligning yourself with another individual and increasing social capital.'”

 “…Other jobs where a ring could raise your profile? Judge, clergyman and police officer. A police officer may want to show a stable life and marriage can help that, says S. Alexander Takeuchi, a professor of sociology at the University of North Alabama.”

“And how about your productivity? ‘Once you get married, you’re going to spend more time with your spouse and family,’ and it may affect your job productivity, according to Takeuchi. For those in a creative career, Takeuchi says, ‘the amount of time that you can spend to think and visualize things, and use your imagination decreases.'”

Science Daily reports on a new publication from Professor Yang Yang at the University of Chicago that concludes that Americans grow happier with age. The findings from this study, published in the latest issue of the American Sociological Review, also concludes that Baby Boomers are not as happy as other generations, that on average, African Americans are not as happy as whites, and men are less happy than women. The study uses data from the General Social Survey from 1972 to 2004. The paper also highlights the rise and fall of happiness between historical time periods in the United States

Professor Yang Yang comments:

“‘Understanding happiness is important to understanding quality of life. The happiness measure is a guide to how well society is meeting people’s needs,’ said Yang Yang, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago.”

UPDATE: In January 2012, we caught up with Jessie Daniels for her latest picks in the best of the best documentaries, and got replies from several other professors representing different courses. Please check out the new lists!

Here are more items suggested by the commentors:

Josh Page, a professor of sociology (particularly law, crime, and deviance) at the University of Minnesota, sends in his Top Five list for teaching undergrad courses on the criminal justice system, noting “The ‘reality’ TV stuff about prison life is pretty much uniformly bad.”

Top Five Prison Documentaries for Crime and Punishment Courses

1. Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (2009)
2. The Dhamma Brothers (2008)
3. The Farm (1998)
4. Writ Writer (2008)
5. Ghosts of Attica (2001)

Favorite Re-entry Documentary
Omar and Pete (prison reentry) (2005)


Another great friend of The Society Pages, Prof. Andrew Lindner of Concordia College, Moorhead, writes in with his own favorite documentaries with teaching. He said he’d have included “49 Up,” but since it had already been mentioned, these are his next Top Five, culled from the film series he puts on every semester at Concordia:

But I do a film series every semester on campus, so here are a few not mentioned:

1. “Manufactured Landscapes” (2006), based on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, it has some unbelievable footage from Chinese factories. Great for teaching about globalization and capitalism.

2. “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” (1996) – a classic documentary on the (now recently freed) West Memphis Three. A powerful and disturbing illustration of stigma and social control.

3. “The War Room” (1993) – an insider’s look into Bill Clinton’s path to victory in the 1992 primaries. I use this in my “Political Sociology” course to talk about rhetoric, political strategy, and political professionals.

4. “Flow: For Love of Water” (2008) – a terrifying documentary on our dwindling water supply and how it is owned and managed by corporations for profit. Great for discussions of capitalism, privatization, or environmental sociology.

5. “Secret of the Wild Child” (1994) – an outstanding PBS/Nova documentary on feral children, particularly the famous Genie case mentioned in almost every sociology text. Challenges many students assumptions about socialization.


Nathan Palmer shares:

This is such a great idea and I’d like to thank TSP and Jessie Daniels for doing this. Resources like this and The Sociological Cinema make finding great videos for our classes so much easier. Thanks for taking the lead on this and for allowing the rest of us to share.

My Top Five Documentaries.

Race The Power of an Illusion Pvert 3: The House We Live In (2003)
My favorite film to show how historic and institutional racial discrimination is affecting us to this day. It does a great job connecting whiteness to citizenship and explaining red lining/block busting. I use it in my 101s and race & ethnicity classes.
The Color of Fear (1994)
An oldie, but a goodie. The film is a recording of 9 men of different racial ethnic backgrounds talking candidly about race. My only critique of the film is there are no women included and multiple racial groups are left out as well.

Food Inc. (2008)
More than anything I want my students in my environmental sociology class to understand how social inequality and environmental degradation are connected. The portion of this film dedicated to the mistreatment of farmers, factory workers, and the animals/land they use is priceless.
The Battle for Whiteclay (2008)
This independent film documents how 4 liquor stores in Whiteclay, NE (a town of 14 people) sell 12,500 cans of beer a day. The off-sale liquor stores take advantage of their proximity to the Pine Ridge Reservation, who banned alcohol sales and possession on their lands. Despite there being no legal place for the 12,500 cans to be consumed (Whiteclay only has off-sale establishments) there have been nearly no arrests while the liquor dealers make millions of dollars annually. The video is an excellent example of government corruption, exploitation, and selective law enforcement.

Inside Job (2010)
The 2008 credit crisis is a perfect example of how changes at the institutional level have a cascading affect all the way down to the individual. It also gets at how social problems are socially constructed. This film more than any other explains the complex crisis in a way that is approachable.


From Sarah Lageson:

One site I have relied on for seeking out sociologically relevant videos is Sociology at the Movies.

I also think a neat project for students in food or labor-related courses is to view Edward R. Murrow’s Harvest of Shame, then view a selection of contemporary documentaries that highlight how little has changed since 1961. Some really great documentaries include:

American Harvest,

The Harvest/La Cosecha,

and New Harvest, Old Shame.


Carolyn Liebler says:

I often use movie clips in introduction to sociology when introducing a set of theories or concepts. Students use the movie clips to pull out examples of each theory/concept. They appreciate the chance to apply sociology to their regular lives.

For example, I show a short clip from:

1) Little Miss Sunshine – for students to pick out examples of material culture, non-material culture, subculture, counterculture, face and face work, front stage, and back stage behavior.

2) Wedding Crashers – as a way to apply the following theories of deviance: rational choice, labeling theory, differential association theory, and obligatory action.

3) The beginning of Ghostbusters – to apply the three major tenets of ethical research methods

4) Fiddler on the Roof – to play “spot that social institution!” and talk about how social institutions are interrelated.


Dedicated friend-to-TSP Joe Soss sends in this list of his Top 5:

1. At the River I Stand
2. Merchants of Cool
3. Occupation: Dreamland
4. Stonewall Uprising
5. Inside Job

And one from a student, Thom Friend:

College student here, taking courses on media & gender. Some of my favorite documentaries we have viewed in the classroom:

– Generation M: Misogyny in Media & Culture
– The Mickey Mouse Monopoly
– Iron Jawed Angels (Dramatization of the Women’s Suffrage Movement)
– Tough Guise: Men and Masculinity in Media
– Further Off the Straight & Narrow
– Makers (PBS)

Then some of my personal recommendations:

– Zeitgeist: Moving Forward
– Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky
– Forks Over Knives

What makes students happier than watching movies during class time? — A new blog post provides some beneficial guidance in selecting films for specific sociological topics.

A recent update to the blog titled ‘Thinking at the Interface‘ provides a thorough and exemplary list of films to use in sociology classes. The list is organized around common themes of introductory sociology courses including the sociological imagination, research methods, race, ethnicity, and gender, just to name a few!

Link to the list… 

702920003_60c6159b89_m.jpgIts not just a fantasy anymore, someone is actually teaching a ‘Sociology of the Simpsons’ course…Professor Darren Blakeborough of University College of the Fraser Valley as reported by the local news in Victoria, British Colombia. This new course, offered to advanced undergraduates, in a class of 30, links the popularity of the show to the issues it addresses. Read more…

2342171023_587471abe8_m.jpgThe Houston Chronicle picked up a story on the recent violence in Mexico against ’emo’ youth in the city of Queretaro.

The Story from the Chronicle:

“The dramatic dress style of urban music followers known as ’emos’ has struck a nerve in Mexico’s macho society. The result is a wave of violent attacks in recent weeks against the scene’s mostly teenage followers. The attack getting the most publicity occurred last month in the central city of Queretaro. Hundreds of youths shouting ‘kill the emos’ pounced on a handful of long-haired teenagers in a plaza. As the victims lay bleeding on the concrete, their assailants filmed the scene on cell phones. Within hours, the footage was posted on YouTube, fueling attacks in other cities and the Mexican capital.”

Sociological Commentary:

Hector Castillo, a sociologist in Mexico, specializing in youth culture suggests that the cause of this violence is homophobia and intolerance. In addition, Castillo suggests that the 2006 presidential elections, which were highly contested, created a climate of polarization which pitted the ‘far right’ groups against the left.

Read more.

The Courier Post recently covered a recent lecture by Nikki Jones, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara about the rising problem of violence among teenage girls. Jones asserted that the justice system and social services provide nearly ten times more support to programs for males than those for females.

This lecture in Camden, NJ covered the subject of Jones’ upcoming book on her field work in Philadelphia with female students at Martin Luther King High School, primarily African-American girls.

“Those girls, from middle through high school, she said, can primarily be separated into two categories, but many navigate between both camps. One group of girls, she said, ‘want to be known as able fighters’ and confrontations with them often lead to cuts, especially when the targets are considered pretty.”

“It is not uncommon, she said, for a pretty teen to suffer permanent scarring from a bladed weapon for no reason other than her looks. ‘It’s the code of the street. It’s about reputation and respect,’ Jones said.”

“The other group of girls avoids being in confrontations. As violence increases in a community, Jones said, these girls avoid social relationships, spending more and more time at home and restricting movement in public places.”

“‘Many avoid going to school altogether. They isolate themselves from close relationships, so they have no need to defend anyone because it generally is expected that you will fight for a friend,’ said Jones.”

The Independent Lens is currently collecting photographs that illustrate what it means to be an American through the website to integrate into an upcoming PBS documentary called ‘A Dream in Doubt.’ This documentary, based on the premise that the American Dream is becoming increasingly elusive, highlights the racial stereotypes in the U.S. including the wave of hate crimes following September 11th. The documentary is set to air on PBS Tuesday, May 20, 2008.

See the photography collection.

A recent article from focuses on the recent shift in foreign research taking place in India. Current projects are concerned with contemporary issues rather than the more historic Orientalist-focused research programs.

Sugata Srinivasaraju reports:
“Wesley Longhofer, a PhD scholar from the department of sociology at the University of Minnesota, personifies the new kind of research scholar in Bangalore. He is studying how high-profile philanthropic foundations set up by the IT community in the areas of water, education and governance are aiming to transform Bangalore into a world-class city. His research even takes him to places like the city’s ISKCON temple, so that he can understand how corporates like Infosys are supporting the mid-day meal programme run by the temple.”

“Bangalore has many attractions from a social science perspective. From the archetypal sleepy town, it has undergone huge changes in a relatively short period. It is a laboratory in which the globalisation experiment is alive and under way, allowing scholars to examine many trends and their effects on society. Cities like Shanghai may offer similar insights, but the language barrier there puts off many Western scholars.”