198 posts categorized "Popular Culture and Consumption"

May 18, 2015

A Super Sweet Quince Economy

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Growing up in Chicago, there were parts of the city that we’d go to to buy certain products. If we needed shoes or clothing, we’d walk or take the bus over to Maxwell Street to shop at places like Chernin’s, Mike’s, or the open-air market. If we wanted pan dulce (a traditional Mexican sweet bread) we’d go to Eighteenth Street to check out one of the many panaderias located there.  If my parents were looking for a piece of jewelry as a present for someone, they’d head over to Jeweler’s Row in downtown Chicago on Wabash.  

As I got older and had a little bit of pocket money, my friends and I would walk over to Cermak and Western to check out one of the many trendy (and affordable) clothing shops in that area.  Even now, on my trips back home, I often stop by Eighteenth Street in Pilsen to check out vintage items at one of the many second-hand shops, and by Twenty-Sixth Street to pick-up some traditional Mexican food items that I can’t find in Galesburg.

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March 02, 2015

Sports and Socio-Economic Status: More than Talent Required

Colby JakariBy Colby King and Jakari Griffith, Bridgewater State University

Colby King is an Assistant Professor of Sociology; Jakari Griffith is an Assistant Professor of Management

Recently, Pittsburgh Pirates star center fielder Andrew McCutchen shared a great essay  on The Players’ Tribune in which he reflects on his path to the pros. In the essay, he responds to the drama surrounding the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team, which won the Little League World Series and then had their title taken away for having players on the team who lived outside of their geographic area. The emphasis of his essay  is a critique of what McCutchen, who was raised by a poor family in Fort Meade, Florida, sees as a broader problem: the cost and difficulties that talented kids from poor families face as they hope to be discovered by scouts.

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February 18, 2015

Globalization: Is the World Getting Smaller or Larger?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

When I first started teaching, there was one phrase I told myself I would never use in class: “When I was your age . . .” As I am now undeniably in the category of “middle age,” and having been teaching in college classrooms for nearly 20 years, I must come clean and admit that I find myself using that phrase more often than I’d like. My only defense, and I realize it’s somewhat lame, is that things are changing so quickly. Life really was very different when I was in college and sometimes I just can’t help but marvel at these changes aloud.

The transformations that I find most fascinating and sometimes mind-boggling revolve around globalization and technology—two things that seem to go hand-in-hand. Although there is no singularly agreed upon definition, globalization is often understood as the process through which products, people, ideas, culture, and capital, are transferred around the world creating a system of global integration. Whereas in the past some nations or societies could stand alone and be self-sufficient, today all nations and almost all people are part of an interdependent global order.    

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February 13, 2015

Sociology on the Red Carpet

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In the entertainment industry, the first two months of the year are unofficially known as awards season. There are more awards shows than most of us know about, culminating with the Academy Awards at the end of February. While it may seem that awards shows are trivial or just entertainment, we can learn several sociological lessons from these events.

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January 23, 2015

Punk Rock Professors

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

It’s been said that “music soothes the savage beast.” Although that may be true, I think music can also have the opposite effect: it can turn the calm individual into a maelstrom of frenetic energy (think Animal from the Muppets). That’s certainly been my recent experience with music.

Questionable authorities

For over 10 years, I’ve been part of a punk rock cover band called Questionable Authorities. There are five of us in the band: a biologist, a psychologist, and three sociologists. We are all tenured, well-respected professors at SUNY New Paltz who do typical professor things such as teach and mentor students, write academic books and articles, and chair departments and campus committees. But we also play punk rock music together. We even have an official band video of our punk version of the SUNY New Paltz alma matter (set to the music of The Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia). We are still waiting for this video to go viral (or at least get more than 200 views—hint, hint).

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January 16, 2015

Art and the Social Construction of Reality

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

What is art? This is an unanswerable question, certainly one that I will not attempt to answer in this post.

 A recent visit to our local museum of contemporary art triggered this question, as I passed by exhibits including a plywood box, a drain, scribbles with hand-drawn maps on brown pieces of paper, sock puppets, as well as diary entries that including the creator’s daily weight, body temperature, and her body’s elimination schedule.

For these pieces to be in a museum, someone must have declared them to have artistic merit (with which professional art critics might disagree). Perhaps the creators consider themselves to be artists and set out to create art and are thus regarded by others as artists. How one defines art is not just an individual endeavor, but one that is grounded in our social context.

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January 06, 2015

Smart Phones and Postmodern Theory

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I have been to several concerts within the past year and have noticed that there are always at least a few people who use their phones to take videos during the concert, even if there is an explicit “no photography” rule in effect.

For audience members, these video-takers are very distracting. They are holding up a lighted object, often partly blocking the views of those behind them. From the perspective of the performers, not only can they be distracting, but for those who don’t want unauthorized images or videos of their work posted online, there can be copyright issues to consider.

At a recent show, I saw at least two people taking videos in my immediate vicinity, despite being told that all cell phones must be turned off so they would not interfere with the electrical equipment at the tiny venue (maximum capacity 155). It’s hard not to look at a smart phone while it’s taking a video right in front of you in a darkened room. At this concert, the “videographer” was zooming in and out of the stage, and shaking the phone to add his own effects to the music. It created a blurry, shaking, pulsating light in front of me.

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December 23, 2014

The Season of Giving, Charity, and Capitalism

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Within the United States, we often hear the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas called the “season of giving.” During the past three years, this season has been kicked off by Giving Tuesday.I n the true spirit of capitalism, Giving Tuesday draws on the monetary successes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to tap into two great American pastimes: charitable giving and shopping.

According to a study by the National Philanthropic Trust, in 2013 the average American household donation was $2,974. Furthermore, Americans donated $241.32 billion to charities; this dollar amount vastly outpaced the combined charitable giving by foundations ($50.28 billion) and corporations ($16.76 billion).  But what does it mean to give charitably?  Where did this idea of charity come from? And, why do Americans donate?

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December 03, 2014

The Social Nature of Personal Choices

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Did you know that you could do more to reverse climate change by becoming a vegetarian than by driving a hybrid car such as a Prius? Apparently, it’s true. According to researchers at the University of Chicago, the amount of fossil fuels it takes to produce a meat-based diet is so great that if you want to reduce your carbon footprint you are better off cutting livestock out of your diet than by driving a fuel-efficient automobile. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions, finding that “plant-based diets in comparison to diets rich in animal products are more sustainable because they use many fewer natural resources and are less taxing on the environment.”

I imagine that this news may be hard for many of us to swallow—especially during this stretch of meaty holiday meals full of turkey, ham, pork, sausage, and steak. Let’s face it: eating meat (and driving gas guzzling cars, for that matter) is a favorite pastime in the United States. And as much as we love consuming meat, we hate having people tell us that we shouldn’t be eating it.

But what does eating tofu instead of turkey have to do with sociology? Many of us think that our lifestyle behaviors such as being a vegetarian or a carnivore are personal choices. In reality, all of our behaviors and habits are socially conditioned. Whether it’s the car you drive (a Hummer or a Prius), the type of exercise you do (walking to the mailbox or running a marathon), the foods you eat (meat based or plant based) or the habits you engage in (smoking, drinking, doing drugs, etc.), the things we “choose to do” are largely products of the social environments in which we find ourselves.

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October 06, 2014

Sociology, Murals, and Communities

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you seen any murals in your community? If so, do you know what they depict? Do you know the history behind them? Finding such murals can be a good exercise for your sociological imagination.

There is one mural right next door to my college: The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is a half-mile long, located along the interior wall of the Los Angeles River – yes, our river runs within a concrete channel, built to control the unruly flow of water. With our current state of drought, however, we don’t have much water flowing so we can see the entire mural!

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