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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).

    Broken Windows Revisited | 1

    Friday, June 26th, 2020

    Part 1 of a 3-part series that revisits a number of aspects of Broken Windows. This part looks at the general theoretical and empirical background.

    Since its publication nearly 40 years ago Wilson and Kelling’s “Broken Windows” has become one of the most-influential and widely-adopted approaches to our understanding of crime and policing, particularly in America but also across a number of other Western societies, including in some small part, the UK.

    Broken Windows: Wilson and Kelling
    Broken Windows: The Atlantic Monthly

    To understand how and why Broken Windows has come to have such a huge and lasting impact on our thinking about crime and policing we need to understand something about both its theoretical origins and underpinning and its empirical applications.

    Theoretically, there’s nothing particularly innovative about Broken Windows.

    It mainly draws on a range of well-known human ecological ideas and observations about crime popularised 40 – 50 years previously in the work of Chicago School theorists such as Park, Burgess, Shaw and McKay. More-specifically, it owes a theoretical debt to the latter’s work on Zones of Transition and, in particular, the notion of interstitial “inner city” zones in which crime flourished as a consequence of “socially disorganised spaces”.

    There’s more…

    The difference between sex and gender

    Thursday, June 25th, 2020

    For most sociology / psychology teachers Robert Stoller’s (1964) distinction between “biological sex” and “cultural gender” is probably the go-to definition to use when introducing this topic – and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using it you might want to flesh it out a little by pointing your students towards some more-contemporary ideas and definitions about the different between the two terms.

    If that’s the case, the Office for National Statistics has produced a simple and accessible primer you can encourage your students to read – or you can cut-out-and-keep just the bits focused on sex and gender (the article discusses these concepts in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which might be a little distracting).

    Either way, the main areas of interest here in relation to sex and gender are probably:

    1. Definitions and differences, as employed by the UK Government. Other definitions are, of course available, but these are, as you might expect, broadly similar.
    2. Variations in sex characteristics: This paragraph flags the concept of “intersex individuals” – people born with “naturally-occurring instances of variations in sex characteristics” who may identify as a man, a woman or non-binary.
    3. Transgenderism or the reassignment of a person’s sex.

    The main advantage of the above is that the information is relatively short and to-the-point, but if you want to extend this into a wider discussion of something like LGBTQ+, this article goes into things in a little more depth.

    UK Schools: Social Mobility or Cultural Reproduction?

    Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

    One of the persistent debates around education is the extent to which it serves as an agency of social mobility, as opposed to one of cultural reproduction:

    Mobility proponents, for example, argue education – and the credentials it creates – is one of, if not the, most important sources of social mobility in democratic societies: the sons and daughters of different social classes compete against one another for educational qualifications on a reasonably-level playing field.

    Reproduction theorists, on the other hand, argue education systems have the appearance of fairness and equal competition while, in reality, Higher Economic Status (HES) parents are able, through a combination of their higher levels of economic, social and cultural capital, to “play the system” to ensure their sons and daughters are the ultimate winners in the education game.

    (more…)

    SHS Sociology Resources

    Friday, May 22nd, 2020

    Padlet, in case you don’t know it, is a file-sharing site that lets you organise files into Boards, the contents of which can then be shared with anyone who happens to want them.

    Topic Sheets…

    You can upload all kinds of files (such as documents or videos), or link to files on other web sites. It’s a very visual and a very handy way to organise files and would probably be my go-to site for sharing stuff if it hadn’t decided to charge for the privilege.

    While there is a free version, last time I looked it was limited to 3 Boards for new users – which sounds okay(ish), but for teachers who want to organise information into Specification categories for their students it’s not really much cop (the Padlet I’m about to feature here, for example, consists of 66 Boards…).

    And there are alternatives, such as Wakelet, that do much the same sort of thing for free.

    Nor do they display anoying and somewhat baffling messages like “Don’t forget to drink water” when I log-in.

    Like breathing, this is not something I regularly forget to do.

    Go figure.

    Just some of the Boards…

    Anyway, the purpose of this rambling preamble is simply to draw your attention to this very useful set of Padlet Sociology Boards from shs_sociology (Laura Lakin).

    The aforementioned 66 Boards are broadly organised into half-a-dozen (or “6” as it’s sometimes known) Specification-friendly categories:

  • Education
  • Family
  • Methods
  • Theory
  • Beliefs
  • Crime and Deviance
  • These, in turn, contain all kinds of resources and links that are well worth exploring, although one of the most interesting, for my money, is to the different Topic Sheets available. These are a bit like a Knowledge Organiser / Learning Table in the sense they include key concepts and their definitions, but they also expand this a little more to include stuff like links to other topics, practice questions and the like.

    If you’ve got a bit of time to spare and enjoy nosing around other people’s files these Boards are worth the effort.

    Cherry-Picking Revision

    Thursday, May 21st, 2020

    Cherry-Picking Revision is a simple Presentation based on an original idea by History-teacher James Fitzgibbon. While the basic idea is much the same as his – getting students to identify key ideas they can “cherry-pick” to answer exam-type questions – I’ve converted it to PowerPoint and extended it slightly:

    Cherry-Picking Answers…

    1. To make it a little more interactive.

    2. To provide a range of different “revision options” to use with students.

    3. To potentially cover a wider range of questions, from simple 2-markers to essay-type.

    As you’ll see, once you fire it up, there are now 3 different types of resource contained within the Presentation. While these are all minor variations on the same basic theme, they provide a few different options for any revision exercise, depending on what you’re trying to do with your students:

    Pick-Your-Own: Students select options from a range of ideas to answer a question.

    Cherry-Picking: This has 3 different sub-options you can use it to get students to answer a wide range of questions.

    Pick-The-Best: Students are presented with 7 possible ideas they can use to answer a question, from which they need to pick 2, 3 or 4, depending on the type of question asked, but some are red-herrings they will find difficult, if not impossible, to apply.

    Finally, since the Presentation only provides a single sample question to familiarise you with its mechanics, I’ve provided a Template slide you can use to devise and implement any question(s) you want to use. I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible to create new questions and answers, particularly if you’re not familiar with the creation of slightly more-complicated forms of slide interaction.

    I’ve also included reasonably extensive Notes under each slide to explain the basic purpose of each type in the Presentation.

    New Media, New(s) Values?

    Monday, May 18th, 2020

    The concept of news values – the basic principles journalists use to guide their decisions about what constitutes “news” – has been a staple of media sociology since Galtung and Ruge’s (1965) taxonomy (classification) identified the various basic requirements “stories must generally satisfy” if they were to qualify as news.

    As you might expect, this initial categorisation has been reviewed and refined over the years by different researchers – one of the most-interesting and sociologically-useful being Harcup and O’Neill’s (2001) attempt to test the validity of the original classification.

    The outcome was a reduction to 10 categories (from the original 12) to take account of changing economic, political and cultural circumstances – the most-noticeable of which, particularly in a UK-context, is arguably the inclusion of an “Agenda” category, missing from the original, that highlights the significance of “owner views” – individual or organisational – on how the journalists they employ select and report “news” (I’ve left the “Examples” column blank so you can add your own. Either that or I couldn’t be bothered to think of any. I’ll leave you to decide which is the more plausible).

    Harcup and O’Neill (2001)

    While both of these classifications (and many others, such as Chibnall (1977) or Lanson and Stephens, 2003) are, in their slightly different ways, relevant to any understanding of the historical concept of news values, contemporary media developments such as the growth of the Internet and, more-specifically, the rise of social media such as Facebook (2006) and Twitter (2006), add a different dimension to our understanding of news values. This involves, as Harcup and O’Neill (2017) suggest, the need to:

    Examine the extent to which any taxonomy of news values devised in the age before Twitter, Facebook and other interactive platforms, can be taken as read today”.

    The main (sociological) reason for this relates to the relationship between news producers and consumers:

    (more…)

    Visual Media: Study Booklet

    Sunday, May 17th, 2020

    Following hard on the heels of the previous “visual media” offering comes this 18-page Pdf Study Booklet.

    Media Booklet: click to download

    It’s packed to the rafters with information presented in a variety of simple, visually-attractive, ways under six main headings with sub-headings as required:

  • New Media: changes, digital optimism and pessimism
  • Ownership and Control: trends, patterns, theories.
  • Globalisation: cultural changes, imperialism, postmodernism.
  • New Values: bias, moral panics.
  • Representations: class, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality.
  • Effects: passive and active audiences.
  • As with the previous offerings, there are no indications in the metadata about who created the Booklet, but thank you mysterious, anonymous, person anyway.