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July 06, 2020

YouTube, Upward Mobility, and Inequality

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

These days, much of my “television” watching is on YouTube. I’m not unique—according to Google’s CEO (Google’s parent company owns YouTube), about 2 billion logged-in users use the site each month. As of 2018, there were an estimated 23 million channels. All this got me thinking about how news of YouTube fortunes may make many of us think that our financial future is online, especially during tough economic times.

The channels I watch most feature what seem to be ordinary people who have somehow found a way to monetize their skills: a fitness channel I use to work out has more than 6 million subscribers; two channels I am using to learn German have over a half million subscribers each, and one of the creators had been traveling the world and made her videos from wherever she happened to be at the time. I watch a lot of travel videos as well, including some by people who had been able to travel full time, thanks to YouTube success and sponsorship deals.

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June 29, 2020

Collective Trauma and COVID-19

Liana tuller author photoBy Liana Renée Tuller,  Research Fellow at Northeastern University's Brudnick Center on Conflict and Violence

Numerous newspaper and magazine articles, health advisories, blogs, radio segments, and op-eds have dubbed COVID-19 a “collective trauma.” What does that mean? And, if our city, our country, and our world is, indeed, experiencing a collective trauma, what lessons can previous collective traumas offer us to help us cope?

Unquestionably, COVID-19 has affected people’s psychological state, not only through grief when loved ones die, but also through the stress of job loss, fear of being infected, isolation imposed by social distancing, and anxiety that life will never return to normal. These emotions, communally experienced, could indeed be described as traumatic.

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June 22, 2020

Putting the “Diplo” in Diplomacy: Music as Soft Power

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

This summer, I’ve been obsessing over Wind of Change—a podcast about the CIA’s possible involvement in the titular 1990s global mega hit by the German rock band, The Scorpions. The story unravels the sometimes-shadowy threads between music and foreign policy, and gets us to think about how culture is used.

I absolutely remember ”Wind of Change,” but didn’t think it was as big a hit as ”Rock You Like A Hurricane,” a song U.S. readers might recognize from a commercial. But “Wind of Change” was a theme song for the revolutions behind the Iron Curtain, culminating in the end of the cold war, and I was shocked to learn that it is the fifteenth most purchased song in history, outranking any Beatles song. The podcast is a fantastic journey into how the U.S. government has secretly used American music, from jazz to hard rock, to further its own interests overseas.

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Race, COVID-19, and Payday Loans: How “Race-Neutral” Policies Reproduce Racism

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos, Sociology Doctoral Student, Rutgers University

More than three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become abundantly clear that the virus has impacted the U.S. along racial and class lines. Previous posts on the blog have already commented on how people of color – Black Americans and Latinx immigrants, specifically – are at much higher risk of COVID-19 than White people. This is in part the result of significant class-related inequalities: people of color are vastly overrepresented among those deemed to be “essential workers” who can’t work from home, have less access to healthcare, and are more likely to be using means of transportation that involve potential exposure (e.g. taking the subway or bus). Of course, poor Whites are also at risk for these same reasons. There is no doubt that the long-lasting economic repercussions of the pandemic will also hit these populations the hardest.

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June 17, 2020

The Generalized Other During COVID-19

Jessica Poling author photoBy Jessica Poling

It is an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted our social lives and how we interact with others. Mandated to self-isolate, in-person interactions have been replaced with countless Zoom meetings, Facetime calls, and virtual happy hours and game nights.

The limited face-to-face interactions we do have are defined by new social norms. Suddenly, tasks that used to be mundane are defined by necessary, potentially life-altering decisions such as: should I go into public today? When should I wear a mask? When should I wash my hands? How close should or shouldn’t I get to other people?

In essence, how we think about our own behavior and actions in interaction with others has changed dramatically. How we address these questions is largely guided by external expectations, both formal (like those from the Center of Disease Control) and informal (such as peer-pressure from other affected citizens). In both cases, our day-to-day lives now invoke constant reflection on the impact of our actions on others.

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June 15, 2020

White Man's Burden: Understanding Race and Ancestry through Travel

Myron strong author photoBy Myron Strong

Our knowledge is limited based on our cultural experiences. Traveling is a great way to expand not only our knowledge, but our capacity for compassion, understanding, and hope. In a career that is built on being busy, traveling slows you down and makes you reflect and appreciate simple things.

For these reasons, I often say traveling abroad and specifically leading students abroad is one of my most rewarding experiences as a professor. But beyond that, I am reminded that our lives and decisions are not entirely ours – we carry the hopes and dreams of our ancestors. And, as much as we think we are individuals, we are all connected, and our histories speak too much to how we are rooted.

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June 08, 2020

Widening the Digital Divide

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last December, my neighborhood experienced a power outage for about 12 hours. It was quite an inconvenience: I had no Internet access, particularly after my cell phone battery died. Our heat wouldn’t turn on and it got a bit chilly inside. I had just been to the grocery store the day before and was concerned about a refrigerator full of food going bad.

Even at the time, I knew I was fortunate. I didn’t know why the power was out, but I was pretty certain that crews were working to restore it. I didn’t need to access the Internet or contact anyone, and since I live in southern California, even a chilly December day is pretty mild by winter standards. And having a refrigerator full of food is always a privilege, as is knowing it could be replaced without having to sacrifice another necessity.

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