coding

In this episode we welcome Madison Van Oort, Ph.D candidate at the University of Minnesota. Madison conducts research in the areas of fast-fashion and low-wage labor in the 21st century. The format of the conversation will be slightly different than past episodes, as Madison joins us to reflect on the strengths and limitations of the discourse and semiotic analysis that she employed in collaboration with me (Kyle Green), to study how companies employed the crisis of masculinity to sell products. Our co-authored article, “We Wear No Pants: Selling the Crisis of Masculinity in the 2010 Super Bowl Commercials” can be found in Signs (Spring 2013 Vol. 38, No. 3). I enjoyed the chance to participate with in some of the methodological reflections and hope you enjoy the conversation as much we did.

“Semiotic analysis is never objective and it is never absolute. I don’t think that we were ever claiming that we were taking an objective approach. Instead, I think we just kind of came at it as two sociologists with somewhat similar, but also somewhat different, academic training and with eyes toward different kinds of signs and symbols.”
Madison Van Oort- 

*The commercials that we discussed on this podcast can be found here.

In this episode, we talk with Alejandro Baer, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota.

In this study, Alejandro and his colleagues sought to understand the specific discourse around anti-semitic sentiments amongst different cultural groups in Spain. To study this difficult to measure construct, the researchers created homogenous discussion groups of 7 to 9 people, led by a trained moderator. Participants were of similar demographics, leading to a ‘group discourse mode’ that revealed the structures of meaning different groups use to discuss their views on minority groups.

“When you design your groups, they have to be internally homogenous and externally heterogeneous. All of the individuals of one group share certain similarities in terms of age, political orientation, or of religious origin. You cannot put together left wing activists with conservative religious individuals of a totally different age. That’s not the idea. We want to capture the discourse they will share, not what makes them different.
– Alejandro Baer – 

In this episode, we talk with Vincent Roscigno, sociologist at The Ohio State University, about using multiple methods to research historical inequality. Using the case of the Sioux Massacre at Wounded Knee, he ultimately answers empirical and theoretical questions about how powerful state actors justify inequality. Using archives, correspondence, and qualitative and quantitative analyses, Vinnie and his research team found that officials of the Office of Indian Affairs and federal politicians amplified ethnocentric and threat frames, using the Sioux Ghost Dance as central to this argument. Force against the Sioux was consequently portrayed as justifiable, which increased the likelihood of the massacre. This unique project sheds light on the value in using multiple approaches to answer a sociological question.

“I engage in quantitative work. I engage in qualitative work. But, increasingly my work has taken on a multimethod flavor. I feel more confident when I can pull off this blending of methods… I think in some ways, questions of validity are what pushed me to become more of a multimethod researcher. I think that various types of qualitative approaches [to supplement quantitative analyses] can both give us confidence in the validity of the variables we tend to choose, as well as bolster our confidence in the interpretation of what that relationship is… For me, this type of sociology is poignant. It’s powerful. It puts a human face on some of the processes we talk about in the abstract.
– Vincent Roscigno – 

Keith N. Hampton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, School of Communication and Information, and an affiliate member of the Graduate Faculty in Sociology at Rutgers University. His research interests focus on the relationship between new information and communication technologies, social networks, democratic engagement, and the urban environment. Today we discuss his project, “Social Interaction in Public Spaces: A Longitudinal Study.” The goal of this study is to understand change in the social life of urban public spaces over the past 30 years, using visual content analysis.

“This is truly the only way to do a longitudinal study of public space. We can hang out in a public space for months, or maybe even a year, but doing that for two or three decades is simply impossible. So, for any large scale, longitudinal study of urban public spaces, I think this is probably the only method that is available to us.”
– Keith Hampton – 

In this episode we speak to Francesca Polletta. Francesca is a professor of sociology at the University of California Irvine. She is the author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics and Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements. Francesca has also authored many peer-review articles on social movements, democracy, and culture. Francesca joins us to discuss coding stories from online forums as a way of studying public deliberation.

“We really struggled with figuring out how to be flexible enough to capture what people what people do when they are actually telling stories, which is not to hue strictly to the formal criteria of formal storytelling. While, at the same time, not losing what makes stories interesting, which is that we know when we hear a story in conversation.”
– Francesca Polletta –