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Posts Tagged ‘media’

Understanding Media and Culture: Free Textbook

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication (to give it its full title) is a textbook, released under a Creative Commons licence by the University of Minnesota, that’s free to read, copy and share – which makes it especially useful for schools / colleges or students on a tight budget.

Under this particular licence you’re also free to adapt the work in any way you like (“remix, transform, and build upon the material”) and what this will mostly mean is that if you want to chop chapters or sections out of the textbook you’re free to distribute these in any way you like (you just can’t charge anyone for the privilege).

In terms of content, the main body of the text dates from 2010 but there has been some updating in 2016 (particularly around the impact of new technologies) which makes it pretty up-to-the-moment as far as textbooks go.

The emphasis on media and culture means that most of the text is given-over to an analysis of the cultural impact of different types of media, both old (books, newspapers, film and television) and new (video games, entertainment, the internet and social media). Each type is given their own discrete chapter which, among other things, looks at their broad development, relationship to culture and, perhaps most-interestingly, how they have been impacted by the development of new technologies.

The remaining chapters deal more generally with a range of areas: concepts of culture, media effects (there’s coverage of a range of theories dealing with direct and indirect effects), globalisation, the relationship between the media and government and a final section on the future of the mass media.

Each chapter also has its own learning objectives, brief summary and short exercises. Whether or not you find these useful is, as ever, a moot point. I’m personally not a big fan, but Publisher’s love them so we probably have to learn to live with them.

Or ignore them.

It’s your choice.

Finally, one obvious drawback, as far as UK teachers and students are concerned, is that the cultural focus is largely North American. This means that many of the chapters draw on materials and examples that will be unfamiliar to any but an American audience and UK teachers who decide to use these chapters may want to take advantage of the aforementioned editing privileges afforded by the CC license.

If you think you might be able to live with this, the textbook’s available to:

Read online
• Download in a variety of ebook formats (such as mobi and epub) or as a pdf file.

New Media: WeChat and the Chinese New Year.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

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

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

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

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

Disclaimer

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

Society Now Magazine

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Society Now” is a free full-colour magazine published four times a year by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and features a range of articles that “showcase the impact of the social science research” funded by the Council.

Although the magazine includes material that’s not necessarily relevant to a-level sociology – the ERSC funds a wide range of social scientific research in areas like economics. politics and geography – it’s worth browsing for the articles that, directly and indirectly, do touch on issues and themes sociologists – both teachers and students – will find useful. The latest issue (No. 29: Autumn 2017) for example has useful short articles on, among other things:

• The geography of inequality and poverty in Britain.
• The Summer of Love? – looking at “key changes to personal choice and individual freedom”
• England’s child protection strategy.
• Family-friendly employment rights

The magazine’s been published since 2008 (so there are quite a few – 28 to be precise – Back Issues  available if you fancy sifting through them) and is available in a number of formats:

Pdf download (the current edition, for example)

App download (for both Apple and Android OS).

Print: You just need to complete the online application form.

Britain In Magazine

 

As an added bonus the ESRC also publish a free annual magazine containing a range of news and feature articles, handily divided into sections (such as education, family, culture, media and health) that sociologists should find useful.

Past issues going back to 2007 are available as pdf downloads and the current issue is available in print format, although you have to contact them (email or phone) to order a copy.

More Crime and Deviance Learning Tables

Friday, December 8th, 2017

A few days ago I did a post on Learning Tables that noted, in passing, that although the numbering system used suggested at least 14 Tables had been created for crime and deviance, I’d only managed to find 10.

After a bit of detective work (which sounds a bit mysterious and a touch glamourous until you realise it merely involved typing different combinations of key words into Google until it eventually came up with something useful) I managed to find two more:

right realism
crime and locality.

In the course of wandering semi-aimlessly around some of the lesser-travelled highways and byways of the web, however, I came across a range of similar-looking Learning Tables that, on closer inspection of the metadata, seemed to be by different authors (although to make matters even more confusing, Miss Elles was credited as the author of some of the newer Tables that looked very similar to the Tables I’d previously posted. The former were, however, unnumbered).

Although I’ve got little idea what might have been going-on here (maybe the Tables were the result of a collaboration between teachers / the outcome of different teachers in the same school producing slightly different Tables / someone seeing the original format and deciding to produce similar-looking Tables?) I think that whoever authored the materials (THeaton, Miss Elles, Miss G Banton and a couple of anons) they’re worth distributing to a wider audience.

If you have a look at the original post you’ll see some of the Tables listed below are duplicated – at least in terms of their title, if not necessarily their content. In this respect, you pays your money (so to speak) and you makes your choice as to whether you want to download and compare both sets where they occur (as with labelling, for example). Otherwise, here’s another Big Bundle of Learning Tables to distribute to your students or inspire them to create their own:

Class
Ethnicity
Functionalism
Gender
Global, green and state crime
Labelling theory
Crime and the Media
Left and right realism
Punishment and prevention
Victimisation.

GCSE Sociology Notes

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Although this site describes itself as the UK’s leading educational website for GCSE and A-level it’s a little odd because it looks unfinished – loads of placeholder ”awaiting image” graphics, a Facebook page not updated for a year and the same with its Twitter feed.

However, if you and your students can live with this you’ll find a range of Notes here that are relatively short, to-the-point and cover a number of different Specification areas and topics:

• Introduction to Sociology
• Families
• Education
• Media
• Power
• Social Inequality
• Crime and Deviance
• Sampling techniques

While the material isn’t going to replace your textbooks, it’s a handy resource for students that complements, rather than detracts from, whatever sources you use.

Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

The 2017 OfCom Report on “Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes” (2017) covers different types of on-and-offline media use by children in the UK and it’s quite a treasure trove of visual and verbal information that will repay careful analysis – although at around 300 pages it may prove a little hard-going for most students.

Luckily, there’s a really good Executive Summary that pulls-together a shedload of interesting empirical / opinion data and disgorges them into concise, bite-sized and consumption-friendly chunks. This section is something you or your students can easily browse, taking whatever you want from what is actually a very rich menu.

If you’re interested in media and methods – and, let’s face it, who is? – there’s extensive details about the overall research methodology. It’s actually quite useful (in a sort-of “you know you should be interested in this stuff, but…” kind of way) because this knowledge lets you assess the likely levels of reliability and validity of some parts of the Report (such as interviews with parents about the media usage of their 3 – 4 year old children).

If you do decide to take the plunge and swim down into the deep waters of the main section of the Report you’ll find it contains some very useful charts, tables and summaries about all aspects of children’s media use.

However, if you’re anything like me the main takeaway from the Report is this rather neat little chart summarising “Media lives by age: a snapshot” – perfectly poster-sized for pinning on that pristine wall.

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Gay Best Friends as Consumers and Commodities

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

If you’re looking for something slightly different to incorporate into your Culture and Identity / Media Sociology teaching this book chapter on “Effeminacy and Expertise, Excess and Equality: Gay Best Friends as Consumers and Commodities in Contemporary Television” by Susie Khamis and Anthony Lambert might well fit the bill.

Of particular interest here might be the way it links identity to consumerism and consumption by focusing on “the gay male best friend as a possessable, commodified identity”.

It’s probably not something you’d necessarily give to students to read – it’s quite long and complex in places – but it’s definitely something teachers might find useful to precis or draw examples from to illustrate some interesting ideas about gender, identity and consumption.

Given A-level Sociology has a largely female demographic it’s also something this particular audience may find both easy to relate to and the basis for discussion based on their own ideas and experiences.

Methods, Mobiles and Media

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Research Methods can be a little abstract and dry (teacher-speak for dull), particularly when opportunities to experience and apply what’s being taught are limited by things like time and a lack of easy access to suitable research subjects.

This is where Steven Thomas’ “Patterns of Mobile Phone Use” article might help. The research example it suggests takes advantage of a ubiquitous resource – student ownership of mobile phones – to promote a relatively simple and straightforward way of applying and evaluating a range of methods, from questionnaires to participant observation.

It does this by suggesting students (loosely) replicate Maenpaa’s (2001) examination of the impact of mobile phones on social interaction through a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods designed to monitor mobile phone use in a small case study scenario. The article suggests a set of general areas to study – from the simple quantitative, like the length of time people spend on their phones each day, to more qualitative questions relating to how people behave when using their mobiles.

Media: Context / Background

Although the article is mainly designed to help students get to grips with research methods, if you’re teaching media there is an additional aspect to the research you might find interesting: evaluating the social impact of new media.

The concept of “New Media” appears somewhere on all Sociology a-level Specifications, frequently in conjunction with an instruction to examine its role / impact / significance in contemporary societies, both local and global:

AQA: New media and their significance for an understanding of the role of the media in contemporary Society

OCR: The impact of digital forms of communication in a global context

WJEC: New media and globalisation

CIE: The impact of the ‘new media’ on society.

In Thomas’ article the student research is based around a contrast between Negreponte’s slightly gung-ho and highly-individualistic “digital optimism” and Maenpaa’s more-nuanced approach to communication and interaction.

One interesting aspect of Negreponte’s work is the claim that in a digital society of “email, fax and answering machines” (the fact he only said this in 1995 shows how rapidly the technology has changed) the world will become asynchronous. That is, in order to participate or communicate people do not need to be interacting at the same time. As he predicted (Wired, 1998):

“We’ll all live very asynchronous lives, in far less lockstep obedience to each other. Any store that is not open 24 hours will be noncompetitive. The idea that we collectively rush off to watch a television program at 9:00 p.m. will be nothing less than goofy. The true luxury in life is to not set an alarm clock and to stay in pajamas as long as you like. From this follows a complete renaissance of rural living. In the distant future, the need for cities will disappear”.

One way in which new media has become increasingly ubiquitous is through the exponential growth of mobile / cell phone ownership and you would think that if any technological development has created or expanded asynchronous interaction it would be this one: technology that even a few years ago could be used to symbolise wealth and social status is now pretty-much everywhere.

While Negreponte’s arguments have a ring of truth about them – a certain face validity as it were – others have not been so sure. Maenpaa’s (2001) examination of the impact of mobile phones on interaction is a case (study) in point, with his key findings summarised by Thomas.

Methods

If you just want to use the activity as a way of teaching research methods, researching mobile use could be used to devise and apply methods such as:

  • Questionnaires / Structured interviews
  • Unstructured interviews
  • Observation – non-participant
  • Participant – overt and covert

  • Equally you could use a combination of quantitative / qualitative methods if you wanted to illustrate concepts of triangulation.

    If you don’t have the time, opportunity or inclination to do this as a practical exercise, try doing a thought experiment where students have to imagine what it would be like to do the research. This particular route can be instructive if students already have a good grounding in different methods, their strengths, weaknesses, uses and limitations and you want to explore a range of more-theoretical issues (different research methodologies, different aspects of triangulation and so forth).

    Sociology and Issues in the News

    Saturday, June 10th, 2017

    This simple activity, culled once more from the ATSS archive, has a dual purpose in terms of helping students:

    1.     Develop a critical and sociological understanding of “news” and how it is socially constructed and presented.

    2.     Interpret and apply sociological knowledge to real social situations.

    The activity requires no great preparation and involves students examining a story currently in the news from a sociological perspective. Stories can be chosen individually by you or your students or you can assign the class the same story. The objective here is to encourage students to:

  • identify the underlying assumptions and perspectives used to frame and present “news”.
  • explore alternative sociological explanations and evidence.

  • While the “news angle” is a bonus for those studying media, this is an exercise that can be used from time to time to help students sharpen and apply their sociological knowledge and understanding right across the a-level specification.

    If, for example, students are studying crime and deviance, stories relating to this area can be used to examine alternative sociological explanations.

    Deviancy Amplification PowerPoint

    Thursday, May 4th, 2017

    Deviancy Amplification has become something of a classic example of an Interactionist approach to deviance, predominantly, but not exclusively, because of Jock Young’s seminal analysis (1971) of “The role of the police as amplifiers of deviance, negotiators of reality and translators of fantasy”.

    This is a little ironic given that Leslie Wilkins’ original formulation of an Amplification Spiral (1964) has much more positivistic overtones: for Wilkins, the Spiral (or “Positive Feedback Loop”) both described a particular social process – how control agencies unwittingly create crime through their unwitting actions – and, most importantly, was intended to predict how such behaviour would develop.

    While the predictive element is perhaps long-gone (if it actually ever really existed) deviancy amplification remains an important sociological model based on Lemert’s (1951) distinction between primary and secondary deviation.

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