Emile Durkheim

“…Man is double. There are two beings in him: an individual being which has its foundation in the organism and the circle of whose activities is therefore strictly limited, and a social being which represents the highest reality in the intellectual and moral order that we can know by observation—I mean society. This duality of our nature has as its consequence in the practical order, the irreducibility of a moral ideal to a utilitarian motive, and in the order of thought, the irreducibility of reason to individual experience. In so far as he belongs to society, the individual transcends himself, both when he thinks and when he acts.”

From The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life

RSA Animate – First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

Zlavoj Zizek highlights the hypocrisy of embedding charitable acts into consumer behaviour (exemplified through Starbucks’ ‘monetization’ of fair trade and Tom’s 1 for 1 shoe donation campaign). His most illustrative metaphor, for me, is near the end of the video – “he’s repairing with his right hand what he’s ruined with the left”. Clearly buying your way out of capitalism-produced problems is not sustainable, even if it’s marketed as such.

Interactive Dataset: County Health and Demographics

This visualization provides access to a large number of statistics for US counties, drawn from the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year “profile” estimates (2009) and the Community Heath Status Indicators (CHSI). The bulk of the indicators initially displayed are from the CHSI, which covers a large subset of the nation’s counties sampled over a three year period, rather than from the ACS, which covers all counties with sampled data drawn from a five-year period. While the two datasets are not perfectly compatible, combining them in one visualization allows Weave users to see a broad range of county-level indicators for quick, rough comparisons. 

As configured initially, the scatterplot in the lower left corner plots Employment, as shown in the ACS table, against obesity rate (from CHSI), with a regression line to show the negative relationship between the two factors. The map shows percent obese in 2007. By clicking on the labels of the scatterplot axes, one can select from hundreds of other indicators. The data table in the lower right corner shows a small set of indicators from the CHSI. The CHSI dataset visualized here is from 2008. We expect to update the datset shortly to 2009.

The map includes a US States layer and a NASA satellite image layer in addition to the US Counties layer which is active.


Fun bonus: there are more datasets to be selected from the dropdown menu, top left corner

Read more about the platform used to display the graphic: Weave, a web-based analysis and visualization environment 

“Disciplining cultural minorities: 1960s housing guidelines for Inuit families”

After reading this post, I’ve decided that the Canadian definition of “crowded housing” seems pretty arbitrary: it forces minimum room requirements on the dwellings of people with more/older kids. Apparently, “a two bedroom house is suitable for up to two couples with one baby each” but if any of the children are 12 or older, the same house is considered overcrowded. The post talks about adult education programs for Inuits, and there’s an illustration from the 1960’s “Eskimo Rental Housing” pamphlet. Cultural norms and forced assimilation aside, that policy is all kinds of problematic for low income families. Finding a bigger apartment is expensive (so families will probably downgrade in neighbourhood quality), time consuming (you can only take so many days off when you live paycheck-to-paycheck), and would hurt kids a lot more than this so-called overcrowding would. Thoughts?


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).