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Attitudes to Marriage in China

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018
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As you may be aware, from time-to-time I’ve featured a variety of short pieces of research, on a range of topics, carried-out by Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.
This latest study by Elim Wu (“What are High-School Girls’ Attitudes Towards Marriage in China’s International High Schools?”), a high school sociology student at the school, is well-worth the read for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it gives an interesting glimpse inside a non-European society that UK students in particular should find useful as a way of broadening their knowledge and understanding of contemporary societies.

Secondly, it’s a relatively simple piece of research (in the sense that it doesn’t try to be over-ambitious in what it can realistically achieve with the time and resources available) carried-out by an A-level student.

The study looks at female attitudes to marriage and the various pressures surrounding the development of such attitudes, with a particular focus on parental and wider cultural attitudes to marriage in contemporary China. The study has three main sections (although some of these are sub-divided):

1. Background reading about marriage in China that’s used to set the context for the study, in terms of outlining some of the traditional social pressures faced by young women. In addition the material notes some of the contemporary attitudinal changes creeping into a Chinese society undergoing rapid modernisation.

2. The Methodology section provides information about the research method (semi-structured interviews), sample and pilot study. There’s a helpful discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the method A-level students should find useful. Discussion of the plot study also provides an interesting reflection on the research, in terms of things like how questions evolve in the light of researcher experience. Again, this is useful information that gives students an insight into how “real-life” research changes to meet unexpected problems and conditions.

3. Final Findings sets-out the qualitative data collected from the interviews. This is worth reading for both the content – the author interviewed a number of perceptive and articulate respondents – and the clarity with which the data is linked to the various research questions.

While the study clearly has limitations, both in terms of the subject matter and the methodology (only 6 respondents were interviewed, for example) this makes it a useful piece of research on which A-level students can practice skills such as evaluation – to which end the author has included a helpful final section in which they evaluate the work they’ve produced.

New Media: WeChat and the Chinese New Year.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

One of the nice things about running Dorset’s Most Popular Sociology Blog (*) is that from time-to-time we get to feature the work of Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China.

Previous posts have, for example, examined ideas as diverse as Cultural Capital, Parental Involvement in Education, Social Identity and Matriarchy as these relate specifically to Chinese society.

This particular piece of research, by Adelaide Han, is a qualitative examination of the impact new media, in the form of WeChat,  a hugely-popular Chinese social media messaging app (used by an estimated 900 million people each day), has on traditional forms of behaviour in the shape of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

As ever, you need to keep in mind the research was carried-out by an A-level student so you should see it as suggestive rather than definitive; it’s useful, nevertheless, for the way it looks at the relationship between new technology, in the shape of social media apps, and highly-structured traditional forms of behaviour.

Disclaimer

* While there’s no actual evidence to support this Proud Boast, we’re making it on the entirely-ridiculous basis that since there are no other Dorset-based Sociology Blogs (probably) we are, by default, the “most popular”. QED.

How does Cultural Capital Work in Chinese Society?

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

This research, created and carried-out by one of Richard Driscoll’s students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China applies the concept of cultural capital to an understanding of the relationship between class, status and education in contemporary China.

As such, it’s a useful teaching resource for both the way it applies the concept of cultural capital to an understanding of Chinese parents’ “hopes and fears” for their off-spring’s education and for its sympathetic use of in-depth semi-structured (“focused”) interviews to elicit a fascinating insight into the thoughts and behaviours of two sets of Chinese parents from two different areas and social classes in China.

Although the research shouldn’t necessarily be taken as representative of all Chinese parents across all social classes – this is, after all, simply a piece of research conducted by a then a-level student (she now studies at the LSE in London) – it is nevertheless a very-rewarding read, both for its careful construction and the insights it gives into the thoughts and behaviours of two very different families living in contemporary China.

Richard is Head of Humanities and can be contacted on Twitter.

Family Relocation: A Neglected Dimension of Power?

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

When looking at power relationships within families there are a number of fairly-obvious areas – such as domestic labour and violence (both physical and sexual) – that tend to receive most of the critical focus at A-level. While not suggesting this “dark side of the family” is somehow unimportant, insignificant or unworthy of so much attention, an over-concentration on these “manifest and obvious” displays of power can result in other, perhaps more-subtle, examples of power imbalances being overlooked. This is particularly the case where power relationships become a little more complicated, messy and not so clearly bound-up in relations of individual, physical, domination and subordination.

One such area relates to work and family relocation for dual-earner families where decisions have to be made about whose work has the greatest priority when, for example, the family needs to move. Hardill (2003), for example, found women were more likely to be the ‘trailing spouse’ in this relationship: male occupations had greater priority and the family relocated to follow male employment patterns.

While this type of research is interesting and suggestive, a further question to consider is whether these types of decision-making are indicative of greater male status and higher levels of power within the family group, rather than simply reflecting male-female economic differences in wider society. (more…)

Chinese Parents’ Involvement in Children’s Education

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that from time-to-time we’ve been able to feature research done by Richard Driscoll’s Sociology A-level students at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and the latest study to come our way, by Ma Jia Ying, looks at the involvement of Chinese parents in decisions made by their sons and daughters about what to study in higher education.

The research should be interesting to UK teachers and students for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it gives a comparative cultural insight into family relationships and educational processes in an area that will be familiar to many UK students – the extent to which family pressures impact on the choices made by individual students in terms of their future educational careers.

Secondly, another interesting dimension is the construction and implementation of the research itself: this is made manifest in areas like the choices made by the researcher in terms of sampling, research methods, reliability, validity and so forth, their awareness of methodological uses and limitations and their evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of their research.

If you want to get in touch with Richard about this research, his students or maybe to make a fruitful contact between your school / college students and his – you can contact him via his Twitter account

Culture and Identity: Caught Between Two Worlds?

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Richard Driscoll teaches A-level Sociology at the Shenzhen College of International Education in China and you may recall an interesting piece of research – The Last Queendom of Women?  – carried-out by one of his students, Hecate Li, that provided a contemporary example of an alternative to the “conventional nuclear family”.

In this latest piece of research by one of his students, Sarah G. Zhang applies two complimentary research methods, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, to examine the question “How do experiences in different countries affect the social identities of American-born-Chinese (ABC) students” – a piece of research UK teachers and students should find useful for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it covers the respective strengths and weaknesses of two different research methods and shows how they can be applied to a substantive research area. The use of quantitative and qualitative methods / data is also a useful example of research triangulation.

Secondly, the research gives a fascinating insight into questions of culture and identity by choosing to look at “precarious identities” – young people “caught between two very different worlds” – expressed through a wide range of cultural concepts: language, family values and relationships, work ethics, identity and social relationships.

If you want to contact Richard Driscoll about this research you can do so through Twitter.

CIE A-Level Sociology Wiki

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

For those unfamiliar with this Specification, Cambridge International A-level Sociology is largely aimed at – and followed by – students outside the UK (although around 150-odd UK schools do enter students for the exam). It’s a fairly “traditional” Specification by contemporary UK standards,  but if you want to know a bit more about it, have a look at this post  that gives details about the Spec., the structure of the exam and so forth (you might be interested in the fact that unlike its UK equivalent the CIE Board still supports AS and A2 Sociology as stand-alone qualifications).

Anyway, the main point of this post is to draw your attention to a new Wiki created by CIE students to support A-level Sociology students in their studies and the opportunities this provides for: 

Adding your contributions to the development of content

Making contact with a range of students and teachers across the globe (China, India, North America, Africa…).

 

Global Culture Teaching Notes

Monday, September 12th, 2016

global-culture-coverNature and Extent

Although the idea of global influences on local and national cultural behaviours is not particularly new (different cultural practices and products have influenced “British culture” for many hundreds of years) what is new is the scope and speed of cultural diversity and change – processes hastened by technological developments such as cheap air travel in the mid-20th century and the Internet in the 21st century.

Download of Global Culture to cut-out-and-keep

(more…)

Globalisation: Part 1 – Definition

Friday, June 17th, 2016

As Sklair (1999) suggests, globalisation provides a context for understanding the relationship between societies in the contemporary world because it represents a process that both reflects and contributes to change – the idea that how nations relate to each other is different now compared to even the very recent past. In this respect, therefore, we need to understand what globalisation is – how it can be initially defined – before we can apply it to an understanding of changing economic, political and cultural relationships.

Although we can refer, in vague terms, to globalisation as ‘a process’, it’s much harder to pin down a definition that’s broadly recognised and accepted within the sociology of development. It is with good reason, therefore, that Rosamond and Booth (1995) refer to globalisation as a contested concept – one whose meaning is nebulous, fluid and hotly debated.

(more…)

SCTV Weekly Round-Up

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

A little late, but worth the wait. Probably.

Our weekly round-up of the sites and stories that are hot.

Or not.

(more…)

An Alternative to the Conventional Nuclear Family

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Finding good, contemporary, mosuoexamples of alternatives to the “conventional nuclear family”  is never that easy so I thought I’d pass-on this example from Sociology teacher Richard Driscoll. It’s a piece of primary / secondary research carried-out by one of his students, Hecate Li, on the Mosuo Tribe in China.

The short, beautifully-produced and clearly presented report touches on a wide-range of concepts, including: family structures, marriage, divorce, motherhood, fatherhood and social status, sexuality, old age and family size

Download The Last Queendom of Women

New Media: 2. Issues

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

The various features of new media raise a new set of issues for both producers and consumers. In terms of the former, for example, the development of global computer networks have presented problems for media industries whose products are relatively easy to copy and distribute, with no loss of quality because of digital reproduction. The development of peer-to-peer networks, for example, has led to the rise of global forms of intellectual property theft (“piracy”), to which media conglomerates have responded in a range of ways:

  • legal prosecutions of individual offenders and attempts to shut-down illegal providers, such as Napster and Megaupload.
  • the development of new economic models. “Freemium” models, for example, provide a free service, such as software or a game, but users then pay a premium for “added extras”. Popular Facebook games, such as Farmville, have successfully taken this approach..

A further issue involves the “unauthorised access to computers and networks” (“hacking”), something that involves:

  • governments: cyberwarfare, for example, involves governments engaging in the politically-motivated hacking of rival government computer networks for reasons that range from espionage to sabotage.
  • organisations: In 2010 the American government claimed the cybertheft of copyrights and patents by China remained at “unacceptable levels”.
  • individuals: viruses and malware designed to damage computers, extort money or steal information.

Specific issues for consumers have a number of dimensions, particularly those surrounding personal privacy. Social media such as Facebook make money through advertising, which can now be individualised, personalised and targeted through the sale of users’ personal data to third-parties; users, therefore, exchange “free” services for some loss of privacy. While corporations such as Facebook simply monitor how their network is used in terms of what an individual likes or dislikes, discusses or avoids in order to deliver adverts matched to these behaviours, Kosinski et al. (2013) have shown it is possible to accurately infer a wide range of personal information, such as ethnicity, IQ, sexuality, substance use and political views, from an analysis of an individual’s “likes”.

(more…)