Cornelia Mayr explains in a blog post at Everyday Sociology how the concept of home is created through “home-making practices,” such as organizing a space. She uses the insights from anthropologist Mary Douglas, who explained how keeping things in their proper place contributes to a sense of domestic order:

For the anthropologist Mary Douglas (1991, p. 289), the home is a “localizable idea” that “starts by bringing some space under control.” In this sense, a place like home acquires its meaning through home-making practices; and as such, it becomes part of processes of the creation of domestic order. Put differently, order is sustained and things go smoothly so long as they are being kept in the proper place within the home.

A quote from an article by David Grazian titled “The Production of Popular Music as a Confidence Game: The Case of the Chicago Blues” about the creation of authenticity:

A curious set of concerns develops in settings where patrons seek out cultural forms deemed “authentic,” or naturally indigenous to their locale. In these settings, consumers expect to be entertained by performances that conform to dominant stereotypes of the setting, with attention given to local dialect, styles of interaction, dress and so forth. But in addition, they also expect that these performances will be real, as genuine expressions of self rather than a charade performed merely for the audience’s benefit. As a result, producers face the arduous challenge of meeting a predetermined set of expectations without appearing as though such a feat requires any effort. While few contemporary consumers would be shocked by the revelation that motion pictures rely on tricky camerawork and special effects, or that their favorite actor routinely opts for plastic surgery, audiences rarely suspect that authentic culture and art—populist music, exotic handicrafts, ethnic cuisine—depend on similarly performative strategies of manipulation and impression management.

Via an article on the sociology of the on the Everyday Sociology blog.

In a brilliant article at MIT Technology Review, Tate Ryan-Mosley gives an overview of the history and challenges of face and beauty filters that are popular on social media apps and platforms:

The face filters that have become commonplace across social media are perhaps the most widespread use of augmented reality. Researchers don’t yet understand the impact that sustained use of augmented reality may have, but they do know there are real risks—and with face filters, young girls are the ones taking that risk. They are subjects in an experiment that will show how the technology changes the way we form our identities, represent ourselves, and relate to others. And it’s all happening without much oversight.

He also mentions an interesting bit of history of face filter technology that originated in Japan:

These real-time video filters are a recent advance, but beauty filters more broadly are an extension of the decades-old selfie phenomenon. The movement is rooted in Japanese “kawaii” culture, which obsesses over (typically girly) cuteness, and it developed when purikura—photo booths that allowed customers to decorate self-portraits—became staples in Japanese video arcades in the mid-1990s. In May of 1999, Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera released the first mobile phone with a front-facing camera, and selfies started to break out to the mainstream.

Prof. Ron Anderson writes at The Society Pages about the importance of thrust during the Covid-19 pandemic. He gives an overview of different types of social thrust that have been theorised by classical sociologists and how their insights may apply to our current situation.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt society, we will see more clearly how the social forces of trust and solidarity influence peoples’ beliefs, attitudes and social relationships. Probably we will see even more clearly how the erosion and absence of trust leaves us fewer and fewer options. Despite the growth in size and complexity of societies today, trust resides at the center of our understanding of social life. No wonder the notion of trust helps us understand life during the pandemic.

Read the full article here.

A short but brilliant video from NPR explaining the segregation of lives and neighbourhoods in the US:

In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act that made it illegal to discriminate in housing. Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch explains why neighborhoods are still so segregated today.

Auguste Comte discusses the prerequisite of theory for observations1:

The most important of these reasons arises from the necessity that always exists for some theory to which to refer our facts, combined with the clear impossibility that, at the outset of human knowledge, men could have formed theories out of the observation of facts. All good intellects have repeated, since Bacon’s time, that there can be no real knowledge but that which is based on observed facts. This is incontestable, in our present advanced stage; but, if we look back to the primitive stage of human knowledge, we shall see that it must have been otherwise then. If it is true that every theory must be based upon observed facts, it is equally true that facts cannot be observed without the guidance of some theory. Without such guidance, our facts would be desultory and fruitless; we could not retain them: for the most part we could not even perceive them.

  1. Comte, Auguste. 1830. Chapter 1 - Account of the Aim of This Work – View of The Nature and Importance of the Positive Philosophy. In Course of Positive Philosophy., accessed May 6, 2020. ↩︎

Paul Elie writes at The New Yorker on the uses of metaphors in relation the the Covid-19 virus. Based on the work of Susan Sontag he reminds us to be careful on our use of language when thinking and writing about the virus. He also makes an interesting point on how we use metaphors for illness for phenomena in society:

Rather than applying societal metaphors to illness, we’ve applied illness metaphors to society, stripping them of their malign associations in the process. It may be that our fondness for virus as metaphor has made it difficult for us to see viruses as potentially dangerous, even lethal, biological phenomena. In turn, our disinclination to see viruses as literal may have kept us from insisting on and observing the standards and practices that would prevent their spread. Enthralled with virus as metaphor and the terms associated with it—spread, growth, reach, connectedness—we ceased to be vigilant. Jetting around the world, we stopped washing our hands.

An opinion piece in the New York Times by Professor of sociology Eric Klinenberg on the value of public libraries. As someone who loves libraries, I fully agree with his observations. Read his full piece at the NYT Sunday Review.

Libraries are an example of what I call “social infrastructure”: the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact. Libraries don’t just provide free access to books and other cultural materials, they also offer things like companionship for older adults, de facto child care for busy parents, language instruction for immigrants and welcoming public spaces for the poor, the homeless and young people.

Having fun looking at two posts from Sociological Images on gendered products:

I’m always interested to learn about influences on culture and traditions that are otherwise taken for granted, or are considered “natural”. So I’m pleased to find out via Wikipedia about “The Pizza Effect” as one perspecive on such a phenomena:

“(…) phenomenon of elements of a nation or people’s culture being transformed or at least more fully embraced elsewhere, then re-imported back to their culture of origin, or the way in which a community’s self-understanding is influenced by (or imposed by, or imported from) foreign sources. It is named after the idea that modern pizza toppings were developed among Italian immigrants in the United States (rather than in native Italy, where in its simpler form it was originally looked down upon), and was later exported back to Italy to be interpreted as a delicacy in Italian cuisine.”