Category: Sociology of Media & Communication

From the defining issue of our era to “green crap” – the transformation of climate change discourse in the UK.

Source: http://politicalscrapbook.net/2013/11/david-cameron-get-rid-of-all-the-green-crap/ As the saying goes ‘the jury’s in’; human activity is causing global temperatures to rise unnaturally and catastrophically quickly. The IPCC’s international panel of more than 800 scientists compiled over 9,200 peer-reviewed research papers to reach this verdict.  As a result, we are said to be initiating a mass extinction event analogous to one that annihilated the dinosaurs. Yet, climate change, once a totemic issue for politicians attempting to appear progressive, is becoming one of their marginal concerns. ...

Speech, Identity, and Losing the Accent

The voice isn’t often taken as a subject for Sociological analysis, despite affecting and representing a great range of highly sociological topics such as social stratification and identity, amongst many others. Taking the voice as an object of study can be incredibly illuminative, as trends in the way we speak are a clear indicator of wider social changes, as well as being highly applicable to social theory. I started thinking about this after hearing a radio programme on the BBC, that...

Everyday Deviancy and the Web

  Since the credit crunch of 2008, and the global financial crisis swept around the world, a new rogue’s gallery of folk devils have been the focus of media opprobrium. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has ceased to talk about ‘Broken Britain’, how everyone is ‘in it together’ and of the laissez-faire, small government ideology epitomised by the ‘big society’. Perhaps this is because the discourse sounds too hypocritical even for a politician to espouse. As jobs are lost,...

Heavy Metal Music and Sociological Imagination Duex: Just Add Religion and Stir?

This weekend I drove from Chicago to New York.  By hour six I couldn’t stand my playlists and begin scanning through local radio stations.  I was startled by the number of times I’d find a really great hard rock or heavy metal song and realize 15 to 60 seconds into the song that I was listening to a Christian radio station.  Once again, I began thinking of heavy metal as tool for examining intersecting social issues – religion, popular culture,...

£1984: the cost of consumer surveillance? The future of facial recognition technologies

How close are we to the dystopian world outlined in 1984? Following on from my colleague bschaefer’s article ‘Volunteering for surveillance: Consumerism, fear of crime, and the loss of privacy’, this article discusses the latest challenges to our consumer privacy rights. The concept of surveillance raises significant social questions, especially in relation to how far technologies constitute an unacceptable degree of intrusion into our private lives. This week Tesco announced their plans to introduce targeted advertising through facial recognition technologies...

Autocompletes of Sexism and Inequality

Yesterday, I read a disturbing article in Adweek. “Powerful Ads Use Real Google Searches to Show the Scope of Sexism Worldwide Simple: Visual For Inequality” by David Griner explores a new campaign idea from UN Women, which used real suggested search terms from Google’s autocomplete feature. The ads, which were designed by art director and graphic designer Christopher Hunt, were designed to illustrate how gender inequality continues to be so problematic that even Google has come to expect it. Being...

Masculinity and Disney’s Gender Problem

Disney has a gender problem. A long line of feminist scholars and activists has used Disney princesses as examples of exactly what is wrong with the representation of women in mainstream media.  The classical Disney princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine, etc.) have been lambasted for having story lines in which they are helpless damsels in distress whose lives revolve around male characters.  Even the more modern princesses such as Tiana from Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel...

The Commodification of the American Farmer

The American farmer is becoming a central figure in the advertisement world and two recent commercials standout for using the image and ethos of the small, hardworking farmer to sell their products.  During Super Bowl XLVII, Dodge Truck made a commercial called “god made a farmer.” The commercial shows a series of still shots of American farmers working hard and the narrative describes the hardships associated with an honest day work on the farm. The commercial focuses on the small...

Classification and the NSA: The Power of Silence

The chief of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, made his first public comments since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s PRISM spying program.   The media aftermath of Snowden’s revelation generated multiple narratives surrounding the program. Media coverage focused on privacy concerns, the criminality of Snowden, and the necessity of the program to protect America’s safety.  Lost in the production of these various discourses, there were also narratives that did not emerge, that remained silent.  The absences of particular narratives...

Is THAT Cheating?

Last week, a survey of 1,300 incoming freshman at Harvard University found that 42 percent of respondents had cheated on a homework assignment or problem set before starting at Harvard. This study lead to countless editorial pieces with provocative titles such as “Welcome to Harvard, Cheaters of 2017” and “More Incoming Harvard Students Have Cheated On Their Homework Than Had Sex.” However, what the study and related articles did not discuss was how “cheating” was defined both for those conducting...

Volunteering for Surveillance: Consumerism, Fear of Crime, and the Loss of Privacy

The announcement by Apple this week regarding the latest version of the IPhone excited consumers worldwide. Along with any new release comes with anticipation over what new features will be included. The latest installment of the IPhone, the 5S, comes with a fingerprint technology called TouchID that replaces the now “antiquated” password with a biometric scan of the phone user’s fingerprint. Security experts are praising this new function as a way to increase protection for consumers and deter criminals from attempting...

Whistleblowing in the Wind: Channeling and Harnessing Collective Outrage

News continues to break revealing more incidents of U.S. government spying. Based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, we learn that targets of the NSA now include the phone calls, emails, and text messages of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, and the internal communications system of news broadcaster Al Jazeera. The leaks have also brought to light that the U.S. has been hacking into foreign networks in order to place them under covert control through an effort dubbed “GENIE.”

Connecting the Dots: The Politics of Race in Big Time Football's 2013 Offseason

Football season is upon us, and there are plenty of reasons why this moment in big time football is very intriguing from a sociological perspective. More specifically, most of the major offseason storylines of both professional and collegiate football tell us much about the racial politics in big time football and the negotiations of race and sports in the media. Update: Johnny Manziel makes the cover of Time Magazine.

For the Love of the Game: Collective Memory and the Fight for Gender Equality in Sports

On September 20th, 1973 recent Wimbledon winner, 29-year-old Billie Jean King took on a 55-year-old former tennis champ, Bobby Riggs, in an exposition match dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes.” King dominated the court, winning straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) and marking a historically significant moment for female athletes, second wave feminists, and women’s history in general. ESPN’s recent exposé, suggesting the match was rigged has resulted in passionate responses from journalists, sports commentators, feminist scholars, and tennis fans across...

"Where's my place in a music that's been taken by my race?": Macklemore and Authentic White Hip-Hop

In his 2005 song “White Privilege,” white hip-hop artist Macklemore asked, “Where’s my place in a music that’s been taken by my race?”.  In the same song he acknowledges that “white rappers’ albums really get the most spins” and that “hip-hop started off on a block [he’s] never been to, to counteract a struggle that [he’s] never been through.”  This seemingly self-aware critique of his own whiteness in the context of hip-hop dropped 7 years before Macklemore’s meteoric rise to...

American Public Libraries: A Forgotten Social Institution?

Last week, NPR ran a series on American public libraries.  The series immediately filled me with a sentimental wave of nostalgia.  One of my earliest memories is packing up my teddy bear and a sack lunch and driving to the Lincoln Township Public Library for their annual Teddy Bear Picnic.  I also remember taking a writing workshop at the library in second or third grade, which lead to my first publication, “Friends of the Sea.”  As an undergraduate, I spent...