243 posts categorized "Popular Culture and Consumption"

December 11, 2017

Who Benefits from Automation?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

We recently had new hardwood floors installed in our house. Upon seeing them, a neighbor said, “I bet you’re a slave to these floors now,” meaning that we work hard to keep them looking clean and shiny. “You’ve got to get a Roomba! It’s a lifesaver!”

I checked into the automated floor-cleaning robots, and found they ranged in price from about $200 to $1,000. This seemed a bit pricey when my broom cost less than $10, and frankly, I don’t really mind sweeping the floor. It’s a good way to clear my mind and get some exercise while accomplishing a household chore.

But I get that some people might want to buy a device that over time will cost a lot less than hiring someone to come clean up. Automation creates opportunities to save money and reduce the number of unwanted tasks we do at home and also has revolutionized our workforce.

Continue reading "Who Benefits from Automation?" »

November 20, 2017

What’s in a Color? The Addition of Black and Brown to the Rainbow Pride Flag

12_01446By Angelique Harris

Pride celebrations occur in major cities and small towns throughout the nation and the world. Many of you have probably heard of LGBTQ Pride, or if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve probably noticed an increase in rainbow flags and discussions about LGBTQ identity during the June and July months. Pride celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) identity and rights and is a cultural event that includes parades, festivals, marches, and other celebrations.

During Pride celebrations, the pride flag is prominently displayed throughout the parade routes, on t-shirts, and outside of buildings and restaurants. In some cities with large LGBTQ populations, like San Francisco, the rainbow flag is even painted on city streets. Traditionally, the pride flag has been the least controversial aspect of pride celebrations until this past summer, when the city of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs unveiled their newly updated pride flag, with the colors black and brown added to the flag, and hoisted it above the Philadelphia State Capital in an effort to bring attention to diversity within LGBTQ communities.

Continue reading "What’s in a Color? The Addition of Black and Brown to the Rainbow Pride Flag" »

October 16, 2017

Eating and Identity

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

An acquaintance recently told me a joke: “How can you tell if a person is vegan?” “I don’t know,” I responded, “how can you tell?” “Don’t worry, they’ll let you know.”

The food we eat is a core component of culture; our customs, celebrations, and restrictions shape and are shaped by our shared values, beliefs, and our resources. It also helps shape our sense of self and identity by the groups that we belong to and who we are as individuals.

Continue reading "Eating and Identity" »

October 09, 2017

Place Character, DIY Place Branding, and the Yinzernet

Colby (1)By Colby King

How do you describe the place that you live? Is your neighborhood friendly? Is your campus cool? Is your city hip?

The way we talk about the places we live both reflects and contributes to their place character. This concept is often a little tricky to understand at first, but my students come to appreciate how it helps them make sense of how we socially construct meaning about the places in our lives.

Continue reading "Place Character, DIY Place Branding, and the Yinzernet" »

October 02, 2017

Good Bones and Good Policy

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As I blogged about several years ago, I have a weakness for programs on HGTV. I enjoy watching people house hunt and remodel, even with the knowledge that most of these shows are likely staged. At their core, they are programs about consumption, and advertisers hope their shows inspire viewers like me to want to buy home-related products. For me, and I suspect many other viewers, part of the pleasure of watching is vicarious consumption, watching other people make decisions and choices and perhaps getting ideas for my own purchases.

I recently binged-watched the first season of a new (to me) HGTV show, Good Bones. The show features a mother/daughter-run renovation team who buy mostly abandoned houses from the city, fix them up, and sell them.

What caught my interest in this show was that the stars’ company, Two Chicks and a Hammer, targets homes in their own neighborhood and a nearby neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis, with the goal of revitalizing the once struggling community. “I don’t want to build crappy homes for my neighbors, I just don’t,” says Karen E. Laine, the mother of the duo, during each show’s opening.

Continue reading "Good Bones and Good Policy" »

September 25, 2017

A Strangeness in My Mind: Rural Poverty and Isolation

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

I generally spend my spring break visiting friends in Oklahoma, reading novels, playing board games, and taking a much-needed break from teaching and research. This past March, in an attempt to read something entertaining, I picked up a translation of Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind.

The story chronicles the life of Mevlut as he migrates between his rural village of Anatolia to the city of Istanbul for work. We read about his school-age games and schemes to make money, his tireless work with his father as a street vendor selling yogurt and boza (a slightly alcoholic Turkish drink), his conscription into the army, and, in a comically sad twist, his elopement to the seemingly wrong woman.

Continue reading "A Strangeness in My Mind: Rural Poverty and Isolation" »

September 18, 2017

Getting a Ride: Transportation and Identity

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A few months ago while on jury duty, I observed the jury duty selection process for a vehicular manslaughter/hit and run case. I was never called into the jury box, but watched as others answered basic questions from both the prosecutor and defense attorney as they determined who would be part of the jury.

One prospective juror mentioned in the course of questioning that she didn’t have a driver’s license. She looked young—I would guess that she was in her very early twenties—and perhaps she was a student, judging by her clothing and backpack. The prosecutor seemed concerned that she didn’t have a license and asked her several questions about this.

“How did you get here? How do you get around town?” she asked the young woman, who responded that she took the bus.

“Why don’t you have a license? Are you scared of driving?” the prosecutor asked the embarrassed potential juror, who said she couldn’t afford a car and thus did not take the time to get a driver’s license. She was soon dismissed from the jury.

Continue reading "Getting a Ride: Transportation and Identity" »

September 04, 2017

Football and Foie Gras: How Taste Makes Groups

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Think about how taste works in your life. At some point you have, perhaps quite passionately, argued with a friend about a style or genre of music. Do your tastes define who you are as a person? Your taste in music, your taste clothes, your taste in food?

Taste seems like a very personal thing. It helps you craft your identity, right? It’s who you are. But taste is not a personal matter. It’s a profoundly social one.

What is taste? Let’s say that taste is the trained ability to make judgments on culture.

Continue reading "Football and Foie Gras: How Taste Makes Groups" »

July 31, 2017

Thirteen Sociological Things about 13 Reasons Why

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

I watched the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, this summer.

The story, based on a young adult novel, centers on the suicide of a high schooler named Hannah Baker. The premise is that Clay Jensen is given a set of seven old fashioned audio tapes, with Hannah telling the story of one reason for why she committed suicide on each side of tape. Throughout the series, viewers get two perspectives: in one we learn about the months leading up to Hannah’s suicide, and a second narrative in the present day, with the Clay dealing with the aftermath.

The following post contains some spoilers and uses sociological tools to understand the show’s meaning. This post should definitely not be read as a resource on suicide.

Continue reading "Thirteen Sociological Things about 13 Reasons Why" »

July 03, 2017

Sociological Superheroes

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman (illustrations by Terence Moronta)

The world needs some sociological superheroes. Don’t get me wrong. I have great appreciation and admiration for Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Spiderman, The Flash, The Hulk, and the rest of our favorite crime-fighting idols. With their awesome strength and special powers these comic book creations help keep our world safe from evil villains and wrongdoers.

But the problem with these traditional superheroes is that that they are only equipped to deal with problems after they occur. They always enter a scene to stop some wicked scoundrel from carrying out a nefarious plan. When they become aware of danger or sense that someone is up to no good, they quickly appear to thwart the dastardly plot and save the day.

What we really need are superheroes that have the power to stop evildoers from concocting these plans in the first place. Instead of tirelessly running around the globe trying to extinguish or contain so many fires, wouldn’t it be great if we had superheroes who had the power to prevent these villains from setting fires in the first place?

Continue reading "Sociological Superheroes" »

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