A bit of my Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) Diary

Last month I wrote about a new method of measuring happiness, or ‘subjective wellbeing’ as sociologists like to describe it, in our daily lives (you can read that post here if you haven’t already). My starting point was that most of us rely on our ‘evaluative self’ at the expense of our ‘experiencing self’. This means that when we are asked if we are ‘happy’ in our lives/job/relationship/location etc  (or if we reflect on this question internally), we too often resort to generalisations which often have little relation to how we experience our lives, day-by-day or hour-by-hour.

Paul Dolan, in his book “Happiness by Design” points to a number of methods which might engage our usually-neglected experiencing self to find out how happy we are on a daily basis; to identify which activities maximise either pleasure and/or purpose; which people make us happier in different contexts; and thus, what kinds of adjustments we might make to our daily lives in order to maximise happiness. One of these methods is the Day Reconstruction Method, or DRM. more...

"Natural Afro American Hair" by AveryScott - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg#/media/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg
“Natural Afro American Hair” by AveryScott – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg#/media/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg

The term “natural hair” is used in the African American community to differentiate between hair that has been left in its natural state and hair which has been permed (which is to permanently straighten the hair follicle with chemicals). African American hair in its natural state appears tightly coiled or kinky and is often socially stigmatized. Social stigmas are any idea that individuals associate with negative connotations. Many individuals would agree that hair is a prevailing symbol of one’s self and self-expression, contributing much stake towards one’s identity. As social norms change over time, so do the effects of symbols that an individual imposes on their social reality; as a consequence of being symbolic in society, hair speaks to a person’s status, power, beauty and beliefs (Bellinger 2007). Hair speaks to one’s character and is representative of their status in society. Hair is also a measure of beauty and how one styles their hair affects one’s level of beauty in society more...

Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.
Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.

Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the ‘failed’ researcher (Wolcott, 2005, p. 214). I am sure I can’t be the first person to be six months into their fieldwork and be seriously doubting the entire process and already wondering if it is salvageable. So I have decided to write a post about why I think my research is going wrong. more...


Here is a photo I took of an elderly woman in Jandiayacu. She is one of very few people (possible only five remaining) who speak and have a deep knowledge of the Sapara Language. The knowledge of Sapara people is not written down; it is an oral tradition that has been recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

 

I am not going to cite, quote or reference anyone in this post, and I wonder if that will change the opinion of those who read it. Does citing someone else make what I write more valid, more accurate or more valuable? Citation and referencing are an important part of academic writing; it is a painstaking, laborious and often frustrating process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Of course, I understand why it is necessary. When communicating ideas or concepts it is useful to use citations to provide signposts to our readers should they want to know about something in more depth or detail. It is also important when we are talking about ‘facts’, particularly historic occurrences, statistics or things people have (supposedly) said. But there is another side to this practice that is more of a burden on the writer than it ought to be. more...

 

Source: Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon
Source: Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon

I recently stumbled upon a unique analysis of the construction of social reality.  In Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters, haunting is a method of sociological research.  She argues, “To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects of it” (7).  Ghostly Matters is her attempt to understand the complexities of social life through an analysis of the hauntings surrounding Sabina Spielrein, the desaparecido of Argentina and the lingering impact of racial slavery during the Reconstruction period in the United States.  Her book might be a conceptual call within the field of sociology to understand that which it represses, but her approach is truly interdisciplinary, in that she seeks to create a something “that belongs to no one” (ibid).

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In Tearoom Trade (1970/1975), Laud Humphreys’ writes about the homosexual relations that took place in various “tearooms” (i.e., public bathrooms) in an unidentified American city during the mid- to late 1960s. By pretending to be a simple voyeur, Humphreys explains that he systematically observed these activities and even recorded the license plate numbers of a sample of tearoom participants. While the systematic observation part of his study permitted an understanding of the rules and roles, patterns of collective action, and risks of the game associated with impersonal gay sex in public restrooms, his tracking down and interviewing a handful of the subjects allowed Humphreys to better understand the identity, lives, and rationality of those men involved in the so-called tearoom trade. While the author defended the ethics behind his research early on, he was still stunned by the backlash it received. Yet, even years after Humphreys’ death, the ethical issues that his study provoked continue to reverberate in the social research community. In response to such issues, I will use this post to critically evaluate the strong and weak points of his book. more...

This article discusses some of the fundamental flaws in game theory and discusses agent based modelling as a successor to model social emergence.

Axelrod (1984) made a major contribution to Game Theory in his book “Evolution of Cooperation” but thirteen years later he, dissatisfied with game theory, moves onto agent based modelling to rework his view of cooperation in his book in 1997 “The complexity of Cooperation: Agent-based Models of Competition and Collaboration”.  In a similar move, the Santa Fe Institute in the US was established in 1984 to grapple with complex social issues and used agent based modelling amongst other techniques to “collaborate across disciplines, merging ideas and principles of many fields — from physics, mathematics, and biology to the social sciences and the humanities — in pursuit of creative insights that improve our world”.  Additionally, the EU acknowledges the failure of traditional economics so adopts agent based modelling.

Agent based modelling captures the interaction between agents to simulate emergence whether at the physical or social level. NetLogo  provides an extensive library of simulations of both physical and social emergence that shows the diversity of application of agent based modelling.  These sample simulations can be readily tailored to meet the needs of social scientists.  The software is free and there is a thriving enthusiastic community support group.

Why is there a move by a prominent game theorist, the Santa Fe Institute and the EU to agent based modelling?  The article Game Theory as Dogma by Professor Kay (2005) discusses ample reasons to search for alternative techniques to model competition and collaboration  and emergence in general.  For instance.

The trouble with game theory is that it can explain everything. If a bank president was standing in the street and lighting his pants on fire, some game theorist would explain it as rational. (Kay 2005, p. 12) more...


Angel Arce Torres shortly after being hit by a car.
Source: Hartford Police Department via Associated Press

It’s the type of story that we too often hear on the news. In 2008, 78-year-old Angel Arce Torres tried to cross Park Street in Hartford, Connecticut. Before he could make it across, a car driving on the wrong side of the road hit him. The driver left the scene of the accident as the elderly man lay bleeding in the middle of the street in the notoriously high-crime area. Nine other cars then drove around his body and it took about 40 seconds for bystanders to leave the sidewalk to get a closer look at Torres. About a minute later, a police officer in the area saw Torres and called for an ambulance. Before the officer’s arrival, four people had called 911 although no one directly came to the victim’s aid. It was later found that Torres had been paralyzed from the accident; he ended up dying from his injuries about a year later. He never left the hospital. more...


Source: Seattle Municipal Archives

In recent years, debates have swirled over whether or not physicians should be allowed to hasten the death of their incurable patients. Although the Hippocratic Oath forbids medical doctors from prematurely ending the lives of their patients, questions still remain over how physicians should respond to the needs and to the wants of terminally ill individuals. Although the legality and ethics surrounding assisted suicide have been pondered since antiquity, these issues were brought to the forefront in the U.S. during the early 1970s with the arrival of the pro-euthanasia movement. The goal of this movement was to increase the rights of people with terminal illnesses and to give these people more control over their destinies (Menon 1991). Since this time, physician-assisted suicide (PAS)—which Schroepfer (2008)defines as the event wherein a physician provides a competent, terminally ill patient with a prescription of lethal drugs—has become increasingly recognized as a phenomenon deserving of more attention. more...

Mark Twain once said “that the human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” Even if this is an exaggeration, it might explain our love for humor, specifically the art of comedy. Humor allows people to approach sensitive issues. No one is better at this than the Stand-up Comic.  The Comic’s job is to create, sustain, and guide the audience throughout their performance. In doing so, the comic touches on material that is taboo to the host society.

Jokes are obviously meant to be laughed at and understood by the way in which the comedian communicates their craft onstage: in front of their audience under terms and conditions that are both relatable and comical. The more a comedian works on their craft, knowing their audience, honing in on the jocular, the more they earn trust and respect from the people that pay to laugh. This trust and respect is crucial to the comic to not only obtain laughter, but also to send a message to the audience, that even in times of difference, we are more similar than we think

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