Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart discuss the false nature of the democratic/republican dichotomy, extremism, media, and the role of satire in society and knowledge creation. Fantastically argued, well presented, and Rachel Maddow I want to be you.
“Transactional thinking contests the intrinsically reified nature of all categories: it shows how they ‘totalize’ identities that are in fact often multidimensional and contradictory; prescribe modes of thought and action against which alternatives can only be labeled ‘deviant’; naturalize rigid distinctions that suppress possibilities for creation (self-) transformation; and, most generally, accept rather than contest the historically variable relational matrices that serve to constitute invidious distinctions and categorizations in the first place” (Somers and Gibson 1994, pp.55-57).
In this paragraph, Somers and GIbson show how substantive thinking can prevent adaptation and change by nailing down concrete definitions of adversity. While establishing such definitions may help in identifying them in society and bringing them to discussion (for policy’s sake, for purposes of activism and outreach), the act discourages the very change it seeks. In my opinion, awareness of assumptions must precede their abandonment – only by identifying the patterns that marginalize those populations can we then choose to actively change them. From the above quote, it can be seen that the most effective way to change is to create an environment that simulates a vacuum, where negative patterns were exhibited before. When given this vacuum, self-organizing systems will emerge with the most efficient solution. (More) egalitarian power distribution will ensure that this efficiency is beneficial to all, or at least to a higher portion of the population than the previous social arrangement.
“Banana Split” (2002) is an intense documentary that analyzes the social and economic forces that drive the banana industry. It presents an in-depth look the production and shipping stages of the fruit, and the filmmakers successfully contextualize the impact of globalization with footage from Central America. Honduras for example was affected first by the generous arrival of the banana plantations and then by their exit that impoverished local communities. The impact on workers’ health was also documented, presenting not only the realities of low wage labour workers but also the effects of cost-saving mechanisms – workers who interact with pesticides were discovered to have blue-ish organs.
With great qualitative interviews with the workers, this movie really puts this industry into perspective.
Chinese equivalents to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have been well covered by Western journalists, but one site that’s missing is YY.com, China’s version of YouTube. Despite having a userbase “larger than Google+ and Pinterest combined”, YY.com has been largely ignored by non-Chinese media.
One major difference between YY.com and YouTube is that the Chinese counterpart gives users the opportunity to apply entrepreneurism skills and monetize their skills directly through contributions from other users. Those with talents in karaoke or photoshop are able to receive ‘gifts’ from fans, gifts that can then be turned into non-virtual cash. One student reportedly made over $180k in a year off of her online Photoshop lessons. According to this article, the reason for this lack of media attention may be the result of the socioeconomic divide in Chinese. Users of YY.com are largely lower income workers. and Chinese media is more likely to cover sites that cater to the rising middle class. This is an interesting study in internet communities, and challenges the notion that the internet is a free marketplace where innovation wins out over pre-existing ‘real-world’ social strata. Despite it’s online success, YY.com was unable to break through institutional barriers in publicity in the stringent Chinese media machine.
My name is Elena, I’m a fourth year undergraduate sociology student at McGill University. My main interests lie in communities, social network analysis and the impact of new technologies on social interaction, specifically related to the aging and the lifecourse. I spend a lot of time online and come across a wide variety of interesting articles. This is my curation of interesting socially-focused stories.
“The astronomer does not live in the remote galaxies, and the nuclear physicist can, outside his laboratory, eat and laugh and marry and vote without thinking about the insides of the atom. The geologist looks at rocks only at appropriate times, and the linguist speaks English with his wife. The sociologist lives in society, on the job and off it. His own life, inevitably, is part of his subject matter.”
-Peter L. Berger, An Introduction to Sociology. A Humanistic Perspective (1963).