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Marxism Sim

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

The Prisoner: A Picture of Portmeirion. Apparently.

This is a slightly weird one because it seems to be an unfinished, abandoned, web site dating from 4 or 5 years ago created by Chris Deakin (who has another sociology blog you might find useful).

It has precisely two blog posts.

With a bit of unhealthy competition you could probably force this price down…

One of those posts – “Using simulation to illustrate basic Marxist theory” – might, however, be useful to you if (probably more-accurate to say “when”) you find yourself introducing Marxism to a sea of blank faces. It’s just a relatively simple “Marxism sim” that casts your students in the role of owners and labourers, the experience of which should help you to introduce – and them to understand – a range of basic-but-important Marxist ideas and concepts (Means of Production, Social relations to production, ownership and control and so on).

Although I’m not altogether sure this post is complete (there’s reference to creating “a chart on the board which looks something like this” that is signally absent) but there’s enough here to successfully run the sim. In addition, it strikes me that there’s also scope to expand the basic sim if you want to introduce further elements / ideas.

If you have a large enough class, for example, you could set-up a number of “factories” where different “companies” compete against each other for your custom. The effect of this competition on the production process might be interesting to illustrate, as might further ideas about companies being bankrupted, the establishment of monopoly controls when there’s only one company left in the market (and its effect on prices etc.).

“Society Is Like”: Simple Sociological Analogies

Monday, May 28th, 2018

This activity uses simple analogies (plus some optional optical illusions…) to introduce students to a variety of sociological perspectives.

Whatever you may think about the notion of “sociological perspectives” (useful categorising concepts that help students get to grips with a range of related ideas? Or a misleading way of grouping writers in an oversimplified attempt to impose to impose a order on largely unrelated phenomena?) if you teach or study a-level sociology they are a key component of the course that has to be confronted: if you don’t teach or learn “the main perspectives” your chances of achieving top grades are likely to be severely diminished.

In other words, to paraphrase Goffman, you can love them or loathe them, but what you can’t do is ignore them.

With this in mind, therefore, I’ve always found a “Socratic Dialogue” technique, to which I was introduced many years ago at an ATSS Conference, a good way of both introducing different perspectives and getting students to work together to solve problems.

As an added bonus, this particular exercise is based on a technique – the use of analogies – often employed in a-level sociology to teach the Functionalist perspective (where “society” is likened to a human body). All this exercise does, in effect, is extend the number of analogies used to different perspectives.

In the “Society Is Like” document I’ve included a number of possible analogies you may want to consider if you’re stuck for ideas (Interactionism, for example, “is like a Play”) but if you want to use your own that’s no problem. The document is basically a series of templates students can use in relation to each perspective you want to introduce. If you want your students to complete each analogy by hand you can print and distribute the relevant page or, if word-processed answers are required you can use the Word template.

As you may or may not be aware, the use of sociological analogies is something I’ve noted before in relation to both Jill Swale’s work and an earlier version of the “Society Is Like” document. This updated version is one I put together a little while ago, forgot about, thought I’d imagined or lost and then rediscovered lurking in a forgotten sub-sub-directory.

How To…

A Young Woman – and an Elderly Woman…

The “Society Is Like” document contains general instructions about how to use the template, but how you actually use it is, of course, up to you. What I’ve tended to do, because this basic introduction to the idea of sociological perspectives is something done very early in an a-level course, is to introduce students to the idea of different ways of looking at and understanding “society” through a series of simple optical illusions. This sensitises students to the notion of people looking at the same thing (“Society”) but seeing it differently. A quick Google search throws up plenty of examples you could use.

Once this has been done, organise your students into small groups and give each group or student a copy of the template. Each group is required to focus on one perspective. The Socratic Dialogue part of the exercise is for each group to discuss among themselves two ideas:

1. Decide on 5 characteristics for their given analogy (e.g. 5 characteristics of a Play if they’re doing Interactionism).

2. Decide how each of their 5 characteristics can be used to describe some aspect of “Society” from their given perspective (e.g. one characteristic of a Play might be a script and this translates into a characteristic of society in the sense that something like gender socialisation is equivalent to a script “society” gives males and females about how to correctly perform gender).

I’ve found it useful to walk students through an initial example with the class: Functionalism is easy and works well in this respect.

Once each group has completed their work you should get them to present it to the whole class so that every student has a basic understanding of a range of perspectives.

If you want to follow this up you can start to look in a little more depth and detail at each perspective. This can include looing briefly at how each might be applied to whatever substantive section of the course you plan to do next: education, for example, is one area where there are plentiful opportunities to look at how different perspectives see this institution.

Leave Nothing to Chance: An Education Simulation

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

“Leave Nothing to Chance” is, unless I’m very much mistaken (and I probably am), my first real attempt at a “proper classroom simulation”.

I’d like to say I’m excited about it, but when all’s-said-and-done it’s only a simple simulation.

On the other hand, I very much hope you like it, use it, develop it and share it.

Not necessarily in that order, but you probably get the idea.

Aside from this, if you need a bit of convincing about the content, the sim is designed to illustrate differential educational achievement and uses the mechanism of a lottery – or to be more-precise, a series of Key Stage lotteries – to explore how differences in achievement are, for sociologists, the result of material and cultural factors that occur both inside and outside the school.

The lotteries, although a central feature of the game (there can only be one winner. Unless you decide otherwise), are the device through which students are encouraged to explore, with your help, direction and guidance (you know, the teaching stuff), how and why different social groups achieve differently in the education system. They are, in other words, the glue that holds the lesson together.

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Sociology Sim: An Exercise in Inequality

Friday, March 9th, 2018

As you may have gathered, I rather like simulations and this is another one I’ve found that can be added to the expanding list.

This particular one was created by Chris Andrews and is interesting, at least to me, because its focus on social inequality means it has applications right across the sociological spectrum; you can use this sim just about anywhere you need to illustrate structured social inequality.

Apart from its flexibility, it satisfies what Andrews’ calls four criteria for running a successful in-class exercise. A sim should:

• be simple and easy to learn,
• sensitise students to central motifs or aspects of sociology versus specific theories or methods,
• involve minimal preparation and resources
• be usable within one-hour length class periods or less.

You can, if you want, download the original article containing the full documentation for the sim that:

• Provides a general overview of and rationale for the sim
• Describes how to run the game
• Includes a debate and debrief section that explores how the sim can be used to illustrate different aspects of structured social inequality.

Alternatively, if you just want to view the instructions for running the sim and view some short Notes I’ve added about using the sim to illustrate and discuss structured social inequality in the context of Education, I’ve created a short booklet for just this purpose…

 

Beat The Bourgeoisie: A Simulation

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that around 18 months ago I posted a series of sociology simulations, under the general title “7 Sims in 7 Days”, one of which, Cards, Cakes and Class, focused on giving students a physical taste of social inequality. However, while I like the basic ideas underpinning the sim, it suffers from two major problems:

1. It takes a lot of time, effort and space to set-up and run.

2. It mainly focuses on economic inequality to the detriment of other dimensions of class inequality – specifically, cultural and social capital. While the former is, of course, an important dimension of inequality, students need to understand, discuss and, in this instance, experience other dimensions of inequality.

If you liked the basic idea behind “Cakes and Class” (and who doesn’t like to see their students suffer in the name of Education?) but were prevented from running the sim because you couldn’t commit to everything involved in setting it up, you might be interested in this variation by Dawn Norris (Beat The Bourgeoisie: A Social Class Inequality and Mobility Simulation Game). While it covers much the same area as Cakes and Class it does so in a way that’s:

1. Easier to set-up and run: you just need two groups of students and some questions.

2. Quicker to carry-out: Norris suggests the simulation itself should run for around 30 minutes, (with as much time as you like after for a discussion of content and outcomes).

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EySKuBe: The Addiction Simulation

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

To complement the free chapter  on addictive behaviour you can give your students a taste of addictive behaviour with this simple – and harmless – simulation.

This was originally created by Todd Campbell (Texas A & M University) and the instructions here are filtered through the work of Linda Walsh (University of Northern Iowa)

Purpose

The basic purpose of the simulation is to give students a personal insight into addictive behaviour through the experience of being “addicted”.

Method

You can run the sim over whatever period you like, but 48-hours is a suggested minimum because this will include class time, time at home and time spent socialising. This gives a good spread of situations and encounters that need to be managed.

Inform the students they have developed an addiction to a new designer drug:  “EySKuBe” – known as “Ice” on The Street (possibly because it’s actually just frozen water). Where they once used to just dabble in the softer types of water they now need the harder stuff.

The simulation involves following these rules:

1. To satisfy their addiction they must put EySKube (ice cubes, just to be very, very, clear) in every single liquid they drink during the 48-hours. There is no drinking without EySKuBe (as the advertising slogan might say. If it were legal. Which it isn’t). They cannot drink anything without adding EySKuBe

As an additional complication (and possible talking point at parties…) you can ramp the simulation up a notch by the requirement that their EySKuBe must be tinted – they can only consume a drink that contains say, red, blue or green EySKuBe. This is because with a real illegal addiction the drug wouldn’t be available everywhere – you’d have to either find a dealer or make your own Luckily you’ve probably already set-up your own home-brew lab (sometimes called a refrigerator). It should be relatively easy to hide the fact you’re making plain ‘SKuBe from inquisitive eyes, but it will be more difficult to hide tinted ‘SKuBe.

If any non-addict discovers or questions you about what you’re doing, you’re busted. Your addiction is revealed and your immediate future is either rehab or jail…

2. You cannot let non-addicts see you taking EySKuBe. If you are challenged about your behaviour you’re busted (rehab or jail…).

3. To feed your addiction you must consume at least one EySKuBe every hour. If you fail to do this you’re busted (rehab or jail…). Feeding your addiction without exposing yourself as an addict means you will need to carefully plan how to manage your addiction throughout the day. If any non-addict sees you consuming ice or questions you about what you’re consuming you’re busted.

4. Each addicted student starts the simulation with 25 Pretend Pounds (P£25). Each cube costs P£5 each so if you need to buy cubes of ice this is the minimum a dealer will charge. They may, however, charge you more if they think you’re desperate. If you run-out of P£ dealers will not sell you any more EySKuBe. In relation to dealers you can run the sim in one of two ways:

a. Each student in the simulation can be a dealer as well as a user

b. A certain percentage of the class are designated as “dealers” – you can only buy EySKuBe from them.

Any EySKuBe dealing must be discreet. If any non-addict sees or questions what you’re doing you’re both busted.

5. You must not talk to anyone outside of the EySKuBe culture (the class) about your situation for the 48 hours. Also keep in mind your teacher is not an addict. You cannot reveal your addiction to them. The only people who know about your addiction are other EySKuBe addicts or dealers. If a non-addict questions you about your behaviour (such as you leaving the room to secretly get your fix) you must not reveal the truth. Deception is part of the sim and if they see or suspect you are doing something illegal you’re busted.

Being busted doesn’t end the sim. Just start over but record the fact you were caught in your log (see below).

6. An hourly log should be kept every waking hour during the simulation. You should record:

When do you expect to get your next dose of EySKuBe?

How will you obtain the EySKuBe you need?

Any difficulties, feelings, reactions you are experiencing.

Anything you think may be relevant to the sim.

The log simulates the obsession, involvement and regular attention common to many addictions. Preoccupation with the abused substance can seep into every waking hour. You may not be experiencing the intense withdrawal symptoms of addicts but keeping a log forces you to think about your drug every waking hour of the day.

Not real ice…

7. This is a simulation. You must not do anything illegal or morally wrong to fulfil its requirements. If the simulation gets, for any reason, too intense, you may terminate it (go into rehab). If you choose to do this write-up in your log the reasons for stopping your participation.

8. At the end of the simulation turn-in your log to your teacher, plus a write-up of your experiences and your reaction to the simulation. For example, you might want to consider:

In what ways, if any, did your experiences / behaviour seem like those of an addict?

If you ran out of money or couldn’t make / consume your hourly craving what would you have done to ensure you got your fix?

How many times, if any, were you busted during the sim? If you were repeatedly busted what might have been the consequences “in real life”?

How did you like having to alter many of your daily activities to accommodate your addition?

What was the hardest part of the simulation?

Finally:

Given that real psychoactive substances could not be used, are there other things that would make the simulation more realistic and effective?

Simulacra and Hyperreality

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

I’ve called this a “Lesson Outline” (rather than Plan) because it’s designed to introduce and to some extent explain the related concepts of simulacra and hyperreality using practical examples to illustrate the processes.

What the Outline does is treat Baudrillard’s concepts of simulacra and hyperreality in much greater depth than is usually the case with most Sociology A-Level textbooks; this isn’t a criticism of these books, but rather an observation that there’s rarely enough space available in textbooks to treat the concepts with the depth I think they deserve (trust me, I know this from bitter experience).

In this respect the Outline details 1st, 2nd and 3rd order simulacra and, in relation to the latter, hyperreality. Although it’s quite theoretical for A-level I’ve tried to include quite a bit of “practical stuff” you can use to illustrate the ideas. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go into too much depth you can just pick-and-choose (now, there’s an idea…) the bits you want to use.

Whether or not you go with the practical stuff is really up to you – it’s indicative rather than prescriptive – and there are no fancy timings or whatever to restrict your use of the materials.

I’ve also included a short (3 minute) video resource  you can use alongside the printed resource – again, nothing too fancy or prescriptive, just 6 short (around 30 seconds) clips you can integrate into your lesson if you so choose.

7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 7: Cards, Cakes and Class

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

sim_cakesThe final offering in what no-one’s calling “The Wonderful Week of Sims” is designed to give students practical experience of social inequality based on the unequal distribution of economic resources (wealth) – the eponymous “cake” of the title. While this can be an end in itself – a central part of the sim is the physical segregation of students within the same classroom – it can also be the building block for an examination of the possible consequences of such inequality.

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7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 6: For My Next Trick…

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

This sim involves a bit of very gentle trickery on your part as you use your little-known ability to mind-read as a way of enlivening some of the “possibly less interesting?” aspects of research methods.

As with some of the other sims in the series this is a building-block resource; while it’s not very useful, in itself, for teaching, it’s possible to integrate it into curriculum content in a number of innovative and, I hope, interesting ways.  

The specific instructions for this version of the sim relate to research methods generally and research design specifically. The background reading that’s included, at no extra cost, relates to Popper’s Hypothetico-Deductive Model of science and you can build the sim around a range of general and / or specific research method issues (replication, variables, hypothesis construction and testing etc.) depending on your own particular needs and preferences. For more advanced levels the sim can be used to illustrate the difference between Positivist and Realist approaches to understanding social phenomena and action. (more…)

Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 5: Trial by Jury

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

sim_trailAs with some of the others in this series, “Trial by Jury” is a building block sim that gives you a basic template that can be used to organise and run a wide range of possible simulations. In basic terms if there’s an area of the Sociology / Psychology course that involves comparing and contrasting two opposing viewpoints it can be adapted to the Trial by Jury format using this template.

As a way of exampling this the package uses the (sociological) example of “Positivism On Trial” (effectively a debate between Positivism / Interpretivism at As-level).

This is quite a time-consuming simulation and it’s probably best-suited to occasional use (unless you’ve completely flipped your classroom, in which case it’s something you could frequently use).

For example, it could be used at the end of a specific teaching session (such as “secularisation”) as a way of bringing all the different arguments and evaluations together. Alternatively you might find it useful for a series of “end of course” sessions as a way of structuring student revision.

7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 4: The Anomie Within

Friday, September 30th, 2016

sim_anomieThis short (5 – 10 minute) sim can be used whenever you want to introduce the concept of anomie, such as if you’re introducing Merton’s Strain Theory or looking at Garfinkel’s breaching experiments.

The package includes a little bit of background on breaching experiments and a couple of different anomie variations – mild and strong – depending on the type of short, sharp, dose of anomie you want to impart to your students.

7 Sims in 7 Days – Day 3: Window Shopping / The Art of Walking

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

sim_shoppingAlthough these are two different sims I’ve included them together because both involve thinking about the “rules of everyday social interaction”, albeit in different ways:

Window shopping is designed to encourage students to think systematically about the “underlying rules” of relatively mundane behavior. It can be used to simulate sociological research (such as field experiments and naturalistic observation) and introduces what some teachers might feel is a practical element into research methods.

The Art of Walking relates to Berger’s argument that sociology involves making “the everyday seem strange” in that it involves looking at something students take for granted (how to walk in public) to see if they can work out “the rules” by which it is underpinned. It’s a simple sim that can be used at different points in a course but can be very effective right at the start as a way for students to “do sociology” in a relative safe environment.

Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 2: Cultural Deprivation

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

sim_deprivation

Cultural deprivation, as an explanation for differences in educational achievement (particularly those of class and ethnicity), is something of a Vampire Theory in the sense that no matter how many times sociologists have tried to kill it off it refuses to die. It is, for example, an explanation that continues to have currency among UK political parties, particularly in terms of ideas about the “differential aspirations” of middle and working class children.

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Seven Sims in Seven Days – Day 1: The Urinal Game

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Background

We can illustrate the idea of cultural learning (and show how the concepts of roles, values and norms are inter-related into the bargain) using Proxemic theory – the study of how people understand and use space in a cultural context – originally developed by Hall (1966).

sctv_hallAlthough we are born with the ability to understand notions of space (our eyes, for example, are positioned in such a way as to create three-dimensional images that our brains have the ability to process accurately) Hall argued different cultures create different ways of “seeing space” – the most familiar example, for our current purpose perhaps, being the idea of personal space (although it’s possible to look beyond the individual to understand how whole societies organise and utilise space in culturally-specific ways – in terms of things like urban development, housing, transport and so forth).

Personal space can be defined in terms of an area (or “bubble”) that surrounds each of us which has a couple of important characteristics:

Firstly, the extent of our personal space varies both between cultures (in countries like England or the United States, for example, people generally like to maintain a greater sense of personal distance from others than they do in countries like France or Brazil) and within cultures – such as gender differences in our society (two women talking to each other, for example, tend to maintain less personal space between them than two men in the same situation).

Secondly, the space that surrounds us is considered to be “our property” and entry into it is regulated in various ways – something we can relate to different roles, values and norms using Hall’s (1996) classic example of “strangers waiting for a train”.

When waiting for a train at a railway station we are (for the sake of illustration) playing the role of “stranger” to the people who are also waiting for the train. In this situation the role, as with any other role we play, is surrounded by certain values (beliefs about how we should play this role). In our culture there are a range of values that apply (we should not behave towards strangers as if they were our closest friend in the world, for example) and in this particular example one of the values we bring to bear is that of privacy and, more specifically, the notion of personal space as a way of maintaining privacy. In other words, when playing the role of stranger we value the cultural concept of privacy, both for our own purposes and those of others.

In this respect we understand that privacy is an important concept in our culture and we should not act in ways that invade – uninvited – the privacy of others (just as we expect them not to invade our privacy). One way this value (or general behavioural guideline) is expressed is through various norms (or specific behavioural guidelines) that apply in particular situations.

In this instance, one norm that reflects the role of stranger and the value of privacy is that we do not sit too close to strangers; we do not, in short, invade their personal space. There are, of course, additional norms we could identify in this situation; we do not, for example, deliberately touch the people we are sitting next to, nor do we generally interact with them – although this may depend on things like the amount of time we are forced to spend sitting next to someone. We may, for example, make “general conversation” (to complain about having to wait, for example) although, once again, we need to avoid becoming too intimate or personal – a stranger doesn’t want to hear your life story. Such “conversational gambits” also have an important normative function here because they establish a “common ground” between strangers forced to sit together – we observe, for example, the norms of conversation and recognition in a way that is generally neutral (“how much longer are we going to have to wait”?) and which establishes clear behavioural boundaries.

If you want to simulate the cultural significance of personal space, it’s relatively quick and easy to do in a couple of ways:

  1. Pair off your students and ask them to stand next to or facing each other much as they would if they were in some outside location. If you make a rough note of the distance between them you should find a consistent distance across all pairs.
  2. A variation here is to pair girls and boys separately to test if there are gendered special distances (you should find there are).

If you want to do this in a more-structured way use these instructions (sorry but I don’t know the source):

“Using masking tape, place an X on the floor. Attach measuring tapes to the floor around 6 inches away from the X so that the increasing measurements go away from X. Ask one student volunteer to stand on the X. Following the measuring tape, have another student volunteer walk slowly toward the student in the centre. Instruct the student in the centre to say “stop” when the approaching person is close enough that they start to feel uncomfortable.

Record the distance. Then do the activity again from the sides and back.

Ask students: What is the standard shape of the individual’s personal space requirements? What factors may influence the amount of personal space we need? Will there be cultural differences? How does personal space affect interpersonal relationships?

The Simulation

A more-structured way to achieve a similar end is to play Paul’s “Urinal Game”, the basic rules of which are outlined below.

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Seven Sims in Seven Days: The Introduction

Monday, September 26th, 2016

I’ve long been interested in the idea of using simulations (and games – see Disclaimer below) as teaching tools – there were a couple of online efforts I created many moons ago when the Internet was still young and frames seemed such a good idea:

  1. Education and Differential Achievement: The Sociological Detective was an attempt to embed the idea that “studying sociology” at A-level can be a bit like being a detective – you identify “suspects”, develop theories to explain social phenomena and collect / evaluate different types of evidence. I’ve since had to retire the original version, but it’s spirit has since been resurrected here if you’re interested.
  1. Crime, Deviance and Methods: The Great Chocolate Bar Theft, also long-since retired, was an online crime and methods sim that I might, at some point in the future, resurrect (but don’t bet on it).

One of the problems, aside from having the time and ability to think them up, has always been the difficulty of finding materials that not only delight, surprise and occasionally befuddle students but which also have teaching content that repays all the time and effort required to set-up and use them effectively in the classroom.

The Internet has, to some extent, made this easier in terms of finding stuff and it has to be noted that just about everything that’s presented here has been invented by someone other than myself. Where I know who created the materials they’re given appropriate credit but in some instances I don’t have the first idea about the identity of their creator, so if you are that person I’d just like to say “Sorry”, “Thank You” and “I’ve hidden all my money in off-shore trusts, so don’t bother suing”.

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Really Simple Series: Five-Minute Feedback Form

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

5mfbformGetting feedback from students can help you:

  1. Check student understanding at an individual level.
  2. Reflect on your teaching in terms of how lesson content is conveyed and understood.

But it can also have practical and theoretical drawbacks:

• In terms of the former, for example, it can be time-consuming to create and interpret.

• In terms of the latter there are potential expectancy problems – students effectively tell you what they think you want to hear.

One way to avoid these problems is to develop a quick and simple way of gathering feedback – and this is where the five-minute feedback form comes into play. The form is given to students to complete at the end of a lesson and allows you to gather evaluation data in a way that focuses on identifying:

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New Media 4: Implications – digital pessimism

Monday, April 20th, 2015

An alternative interpretation – digital pessimism – argues the globalising processes on which new media depends are neither wholly beneficial nor unambiguous; while globalisation involves decentralising processes, for example, it also produces greater centralisation across economic, political and cultural behaviours.

In economic terms “free” business models are only free in the sense they have costs hidden from the consumer. These include:

  • exploiting free labour: The news and opinion site The Huffington Post, for example, was built around the free labour provided by its blogging contributors; the site was, however, sold by its owners for $300 in 2011.
  • driving out quality: companies that can’t rely on cheap or free labour must either cut their costs, thereby potentially undermining quality, or go out of business.
  • privacy: new media that are dependent on free labour, such as social networking sites where consumers create content, make money by selling user data to advertisers.
  • copyright: Some corporate social media sites lay claim to the copyright of user-generated content, such as photographs and videos, that can then be sold to advertisers.

  • Conglomeration is a related process that mirrors the behaviour of old media corporations. The highly-concentrated ownership of new media allows global corporations to buy-up competitors or emerging technologies. This leads, for Schecter (2000), to a decrease in digital diversity in areas such as news production. As he argues “The Internet, is not very diverse, even though it appears to be. The concentration in ownership that is restructuring old media has led to conglomeration in news transmission and a narrowing of sourcing in new media. It is cheaper for Web sites to buy someone else’s news than generate their own”. In a related issue, it is also “cheaper” for global corporations to simply take and republish content generated by individual users with little or no prospect of recompense.

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    Really Simple Simulations: “On Trial”

    Saturday, July 12th, 2014

    An “On Trial” pdf template that can be used to create a range of simple classroom simulations

    The idea of the RSS “On Trial” template is to make using Simulations in the classroom as easy as possible, especially if you’re doing some flipped teaching / learning.

    As the title suggests the Sim involves using a Courtroom Trial as the basis for arguing pro-and-anti positions about a range of possible topics and issues (basically anything in Sociology / Psychology that fits this particular template).

    Types of Cultural Capital

    Saturday, December 14th, 2019
    Food and types of cultural capital
    Food Spaces: The relationship between economic and cultural capital

    If you need a short, relatively simple, student-friendly outline / overview of cultural capital this should fit the bill.

    Written by Nikki Cole, the article is useful because it breaks the concept down into three easy-to-understand component types:

  • Embodied involves thinking about the cultural capital individuals acquire simply though living – their socialisation, education, experiences and the like. This form of capital is, of course, embedded within the individual (hence the use of the embodied descriptor).
  • Objectified forms of cultural capital are those embodied in the objects we own and use – from the house in which in live, to the objects we own and even the things, like food, we consume.
  • Institutionalised forms involve things like educational achievements and qualifications. These can be seen as symbolic forms of cultural capital whose value, to both individuals and institutions, is that they are validated through some form of institutional measurement and certification.
  • Gender, Crime and Co-Offending

    Friday, December 13th, 2019
    ShortCutstv Film
    Girls on Film…

    The broad relationship between gender and crime is both well-known and fairly-consistent over time, both in the UK and across the world, and can be summarised in terms of three main ideas:

    1. Men commit more crimes than women. This, as we’ve noted, is consistent across both time (an historical dimension) and place (a cultural dimension). Men – and young men in particular – appear to have a greater involvement than women in criminal behaviour in all societies and at all times.

    2. Men and women commit different types of crime: violent crimes, for example, are much more-likely to be committed by men.

    3. While men generally commit a wide array of crimes – from murder, through fraud, to burglary – female criminality is generally limited to a much more limited range.

    These observations have led to a number of explanations – biological, psychological and sociological – for both higher male criminality and comparatively lower female criminality and if you want to review some of these, this short film featuring Professor Sandra Walklate (Gendering the Criminal) should prove useful.

    And free.

    Alternatively, if you prefer your information in Note form, this document covering Feminist and Left Realist approaches to gender and crime might help.

    Method and Findings

    While there are a wide range of possible explanations for differences in male-female criminality, one general problem is that the majority of these – particularly ones, such as radical feminism or masculinism, that focus on essentialist gender differences – are based on the assumption crime is largely an individual pursuit: offenders, in other words, working alone.

    While this is by no-means unreasonable – as Becker and McCorkel (2011) note, “more than 80% of criminal incidents in America involved individual offenders” – it does mean a not-insignificant percentage of crimes were committed by co-offenders.

    And a proportion of these involved a mix of males and females working together.  As they note, “33% of men and 38% of women participated in co-offending incidents” at some point.

    The question they wanted to test, in this respect, was whether male-female co-offending increased the range of crimes committed by women: if this proved to be the case it would narrow-down the range of possible explanations for female offending by both removing essentialist explanations (the idea, for example, that biological or psychological gender differences explained wider and higher levels of male criminality) and eliminating a range of sociological possibilities – particularly, but not exclusively, those relating to socialisation and social control.

    Using data collected by The National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) that included information about “offenses known to the police, arrests made, victims, and victim–offender relationships for serious offenses and information on a larger set of offenses”, Becker and McCorkel explored if and how working with a male co-offender altered female crime participation. In this respect their analysis concluded:

    Women are represented across a broader array of crimes when they co-offend with men, compared to when they co-offend with women or work alone”.

    More…

    Family Death Rates: The Grandmother Problem

    Friday, November 29th, 2019
    Click to download the Shocking "Grandmother Problem" research.

    While the study of Family Death Rates (FDR) is probably not Number 1 on most people’s list of “Favourite Sociology Topics”,* research by Mike Adams, a biologist at Eastern Connecticut State University, Connecticut, has injected a certain frisson of excitement – and, it must be said, controversy – into a rather dull and theoretically-moribund corner of the Family Specification through his identification of a peculiar and perplexing phenomenon amongst American college students. As he puts it:

    It has long been theorized that the week prior to an exam is an extremely dangerous time for the relatives of college students. Ever since I began my teaching career, I heard vague comments, incomplete references and unfinished remarks, all alluding to the “Dead Grandmother Problem.” Few colleagues would ever be explicit in their description of what they knew, but I quickly discovered that anyone who was involved in teaching at the college level would react to any mention of the concept”.

    Sensing he may have chanced upon a way of getting a hefty grant from his University authorities significant and hitherto-unstudied field of research – one with serious implications for the health, safety and, not-to-put-too-fine-a-point-on-things, longevity of vulnerable family members – Adams did what any self-respecting scientist would do: he reformulated the suspicion into a hypothesis he could test:

    A student’s grandmother is far more likely to die suddenly just before the student takes an exam, than at any other time of year.”

    And test it he did.

    In an equally scientific kind of way.

    And what he found broke a lot of ground.

    Click Here for more Shocking Stuff

    One Pagers

    Wednesday, November 27th, 2019
    Click to download Perspectives One Pager
    Perspectives One Pager

    The basic idea underpinning the concept of a “One Pager” is that it represents a one-page (no, really) response to something.

    Conventionally, given the concept’s origins in literature studies, this a piece of text.

    Somewhat less conventionally, in the context of sociology / psychology we can widen the definition of “text” to include just about anything you want – from a perspective or theory, through a research method to a specific concept you need students to understand.

    In other words, One Pagers are a way of getting students to condense their Notes on a particular topic or idea into a single page – which can, of course, be linked if necessary – that eventually builds into a simple, efficient and well-organised, revision system.

    In order to do this a One Pager needs to have some sort of structure – otherwise it’s just a blank sheet of paper – but what that structure might be is up to you (if you want to provide strong guidance) and / or individual students (if you’re confident enough to allow them to create the different structures that work for them).

    If students are new to the idea – and need a bit of encouragement to adopt it – it might be useful to develop One Page templates together to cover different aspects and types of Note-taking. This can, of course, include various forms of visual Note-taking (pictures, drawings, doodles…) as well as more-conventional text.

    Once students are confident with the idea and happy to use it you may find they develop their own, personal, structures that you can share with students who may be struggling to develop a style of their own.

    How various One Page templates develop will be strongly-influenced by what students are expected to know, the skills they are expected to demonstrate and so forth. In Sociology, for example, “evaluation” is an important skill that can be reflected in Notes that focus on things like the key strengths and weaknesses of a theory, method or perspective.

    In this respect, there are a couple of Template examples I’ve created you might find useful / instructive. I’ve presented these as Word documents (so they’re not pretty and pretty basic) rather than pdf files because most teachers / students will find it easier to edit the former.

    Template Examples

    Media Methods and Representations: The Bechdel Test

    Friday, November 22nd, 2019
    Alison Bechdel's “The Rule” (1985)
    Alison Bechdel’s “The Rule” (1985)

    The Bechdel Test is a very simple type of content analysis, created by Alison Bechdel in a 1985 episode (“The Rule”) of her comic-strip “Dykes to Watch Out For”, that tests how women – and by extension men – are historically represented in Hollywood films.

    Aside from throwing-up, so to speak, some interesting and frankly-quite-surprising results (the Bechdel test web site has a database of films that passed (or more usually, failed), the Test itself is a simple and efficient way to allow students to “do” some Content Analysis in a context that’s easy to arrange and manage.

    In basic terms, ask each student in your class to watch a film of their choice (in their own time…) and, while their watching, record whether or not it satisfies 4 simple criteria:

    1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?

    2. Do they have names (i.e. are they something more than background extras)?

    3. Do they talk to each other?

    4. Is their conversation about something other than men?

    If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, the film fails the test.

    Applying the Test

    Gone in 60 Seconds: video explainers

    Saturday, November 9th, 2019
    Helen Barnard on Debt
    Although this looks just like a WordPress ad for a pay-day money lender, it’s actually not. It’s a 44-second film about debt.

    Helen Barnard, currently Deputy Director of Policy and Partnerships at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has created a Vimeo Channel (an up-market version of YouTube that we like so much we have our own dedicated ShortCutstv Channel) filled with a number of very short films on and around the topics of poverty and welfare.

    Most of the films (there are currently around 25+) are less than 45 seconds long – although a couple, such as Poverty and Mental Health, run to between two and five minutes – and consist of Barnard speaking directly into her smartphone.

    Although this means the films basically have zero production values – no fancy sets, sounds or graphics – this is actually part of their charm: they’re simply short, pithy, commentaries on key concepts in poverty and welfare delivered by someone who knows what she’s talking about and can speak clearly and confidently to camera.

    As such, they’re both ideal as discussion starters and inspirational as lesson content.

    Students can, for example, finally be encouraged to use their smartphones constructively in the sociology classroom to create similar levels of content: Gone in 60 Seconds video explainers on a range of key concepts, ideas, methods, theories and perspectives they can share using their preferred media of choice.

    Sociological Detectives: An End Has A Start

    Sunday, October 13th, 2019

    This is a simple, counter-intuitive, teaching technique that can be used to enliven run-of-the-mill lessons (or serve as a quick’n’dirty lesson template when the inspiration for all-singing, all-dancing lessons has temporarily left the room) by reversing the teaching process: instead of starting-at-the-start and gradually revealing more and more information to students, you begin-at-the-end and encourage them to “build backwards” to create an understanding of The Bigger Picture (whatever it was you need them to grasp).

    And if this all sounds a little complicated, an example should clarify things.

    Starting at the Start…

    A conventional way to teach a high-level concept such as “Functionalism” might be to start-at-the-start by identifying a number of key ideas –

  • Organismic analogy
  • Consensus
  • Function
  • Purpose and Needs
  • Social system
  • – and then explaining, illustrating and applying each as necessary to provide a broad overview of this general perspective.

    At various points in the process students can be asked to make contributions, such as answering a question or providing an example, but it can be very easy for them to be relatively passive observers and recorders of your teaching.

    If you want to make your students do a bit more of the work – and who, quite frankly, doesn’t? – there’s a simple way to do this: one that doesn’t involve a lot of additional pre-preparation, gets your students actively involved in their own learning and is the kind of simple lesson template you can reuse as much as you like.

    Because although the process is always the same, outcomes will always be different.

    And rather than just telling students something, you structure your teaching to lead them to discover it for themselves – which sounds as though it might be complicated and involve a great deal of work on your part, but really doesn’t.

    How you achieve all this is, like all good ideas, deceptively simple.

    Continue On To An End Has A Start…