sociology

Songs are better than sociology

Jason Isbell’s lyric “Is your brother on a church kick? Seems like just a different kind of dopesick” is everything I’d like my sociology to be.

It’s critical without being uncaring. It points out that religion is mundane – that it’s just like a lot of other human salves.

The next lyric, “Better off to teach a dog a card trick than try to have a point and make it clear” clearly makes a point I’ve never been quite able to communicate. This is that any successful human communication is pretty remarkable given how difficult it often is to get across the most basic things like what ingredients you want on your sandwich.

The whole song, “Relatively Easy” on his album Southeastern is an excellent portrayal of privilege, a concept social scientists know matters a lot but seem never to be able to share without producing mass confusion and angry backlash. Listen to it:

Research Methods Resources: quantitative analysis

Here at Le Moyne I regularly teach a research methods course that serves criminology, sociology, and political science students. It is a survey course, by which I mean I cover a broad range of topics. I typically start with the epistemology of the social sciences, move into research design issues like measurement and connecting empirical work to theory, and then spend the second half of the semester focusing on specific analysis procedures. The course covers both quantitative and qualitative methods, so very little time is allowed for each.

I spend about 3 weeks on quantitative methods, hoping that by the end students are relatively comfortable with understanding and producing descriptive statistics, crosstabs, t-tests, correlations, and regressions. This year I covered logistic regression in more detail than normal. It’s a lot to cover in that time, so over the years I’ve created some handouts meant to help students do the work we have limited class time to practice.

I’m going to put two handouts here. One is meant to help students work in SPSS to do some basic quantitative analysis. The other is meant to walk them through using the SDA resource from Berkeley. One year I taught SDA exclusively because it’s free and gives students access to some high quality data with lots of social science applications.

I offer these resources ‘as is,’ and am confident that there are mistakes – I catch some every year and surely make more as I expand them. It’d be great if others found these useful, and I’ll only be reasonably embarrassed if you point out errors I’ve made (hopefully nothing super-serious!).

SPSS handout (MS Word)

Brief.SPSS.Guide.2015

SDA handout

SDA.Handout (MS Word)

Producing Fun: How they are Saving the Syracuse Chiefs

 Take Me Out to the Ball Game

I’m a Syracuse Chiefs fan. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that, and probably would like me tweet a bit less about it. I’ve tweeted lots of photos and comments about games this year, made fun of the Chiefs on my timeline, and last year I waged a quixotic battle trying to get the ‘Chiefs’ to change their name to the Salt Potatoes (which I still think would be a better name – see the Montgomery Biscuits). Part of the reason I do this is because even a lot of baseball fans think minor league ball is a weak substitute for the big league game, and not much fun. But they are wrong, and I want to share the fun that can be had at NBT Bank Stadium. A lot of the fun is a result of the social experiences surrounding the game, so you don’t even need to be a baseball lover to enjoy an evening at the ballpark.

 

(more…)

Baseball and sociology: A little chatter

I’ve been a baseball fan longer than I’ve been a sociologist. I’ve got memories of playing as a kid (I threw a 3 inning no-hitter and then got taken out of the game!; I made a great catch once in t-ball; once I hit a bases clearing triple, etc.). My Glory Days came before I was 15, and they were only so glorious. My other childhood memories about baseball are about being a fan and learning about the game. I recall my dad teaching me to watch the catcher’s mitt to get a sense for how the pitcher was doing. I remember trips to Milwaukee County stadium to watch the Brewers in the American League. Occasionally we’d use box seat tickets my dad got from someone he knew through his work. Once in those seats I got a ball that an ump tossed into the stands between innings. Those are good memories, thus far unadulterated by analytical thought.

This Midwest League ball sits on my desk year round.

This Midwest League ball sits on my desk year round.

Over the years colleagues who know about my enjoyment of baseball have suggested I turn my sociological eye to the game. There is certainly a lot one could wax sociological about, but I’ve resisted because I thought why turn something I enjoy so much into work? However, recently I have blogged a bit about sports and tweeted some sociological takes on changes in the MLB. In particular I’ve been sending some Weber inspired tweets about instant replay as rationalization. I’m not someone who values the ‘human element’ for sentimental reasons, but rather it’s that I just don’t understand how replay will significantly improve the game. I think the cost of chasing certainty will be some of the spontaneous emotionality of the game which is sometimes the result of feeling like you’re on the wrong side of a bad call.

Seeing some of these tweets, fellow sociologist and friend Todd Schoepflin asked if I’d answer some questions for an interview he’s put up on his blog. I was happy to, and it was fun. Here’s a link to Todd’s post.

 

Breaching Boston: On accidental ethnomethodology

I was in Boston, MA a week or so ago for the meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. It was a good meeting, but it was in a part of Boston where I’d not previously spent any time. The Westin Waterfront is near the Boston Convention and Exposition Center, in the Seaport District. While there are some good dining options on the water, I wasn’t aware of that on the first day of the meetings. So, at lunch I decided to walk out and see what I could find. I started walking west on Summer street, not toward the water, but toward South Station because I figured there would be food in that area. As I crossed the “Fort Point” Channel, I came to a large building with floor to ceiling windows on the first floor. Inside, there were a lot of people standing in line at a number of different counters. It was a food court, and I wanted food. So, in I went. 

As I entered, I could see from the business attire that most were wearing that this was a largely professional crowd. Fortunately, I’d just given a paper, and looked pretty professional (for me). I was in khakis and button down shirt, which is about as put-together as I ever look. I started slowly walking through this food court to see what my options were. The lines were long, it was just a few minutes after noon, and the rush of people made it a bit difficult to see what was available. As I made my way through, I noticed that there were reception desks between this open food court area and the elevators to the rest of the building. I didn’t think much beyond “this must be an office building” and I kept walking to check out the options further down this lobby area.

Then, however, I hear someone yelling “excuse me, sir. Sir. Sir!” I looked over to see that a guy behind one of the desks was talking to me.  (more…)

Teaching With Twitter: How I think I’ll use Twitter in class

This semester I’m attempting to make Twitter an active part of my teaching. My plan is to share news items, research results, and other helpful information that comes via Twitter with students. I’ve asked them to follow my ‘professional account’ (yes, I’ve got another on which I mostly tweet about music and baseball). I’ve also created tags for the two classes so we can interact that way. Below is something I wrote up as a way to clarify my own thinking about using Twitter for class. I wrote as if I was speaking to the students because I planned on saying it on the first day of class. I did say most of it. I’m sharing it here on the blog because I thought readers might have advice. I’m sure there are holes and contradictions. After the monologue I’ll share some of my concerns and questions at this point, and then I’ll include my syllabus statements about Twitter (some overlap with what I said).

Monologue

So, as you can see from the syllabus, and if you’ve been following me on Twitter already, I want to use Twitter a bit in this class. I don’t intend for this to mean you’re on your phones/computers/tablets tweeting everything we say (or your own distractions, whatever they are) when we have class. In fact, most of the time I don’t want you tweeting in class because I want you talking (imagine that!), but sometimes it will be appropriate. I’ll let you know when that is (i.e. later in the semester when we talk about social networks, technology, globalization, etc.). See the statement on the syllabus: (more…)

Gun values, gun shows, and the sacred

Yes, this is a post about gun shows, but first I’ll write a bit about my values when it comes to guns. If you like and use guns, then you probably don’t share my values. Still, I hope you’ll read past the beginning to see my sociological reflection on gun shows that I think treats a different set of values fairly.

My Piece

I don’t like guns. I know and respect people who like, own, and shoot guns. I assume that most gun owners are responsible, and most guns are not used to hurt people. Realistically, I would be very happy with restrictions that forbid private ownership of guns and ammo that are designed so that relatively unskilled shooters can shoot and kill a lot of people very quickly. I’d like gun laws that protect recreational use. I know the second amendment isn’t about recreational use, but the “security of a free state.” I’m not scared of our government, and instead I’ll use the rest of the U.S. Constitution that allows me to participate in governing my free state. After all, we are that government of which so many of us are afraid. Some might call me naïve for believing that, but if you think you can use the current individual gun ownership rights reading of the second amendment to maintain a militia that would be effective against the U.S. government’s historically unmatched war machine, then you are the naïve one. (more…)

Race and class privilege in daily life: Stones in the wall

We have a fieldstone retaining wall that runs most of the length of our property. It’s great for curb appeal, but it also tends to slowly come apart. Occasionally, sections need to be rebuilt. On the face of it, this involves taking the stones down and then stacking them back up, but there is more to it. You need to have a plan and some knowledge of building a stable wall to do it right. A few years ago a portion of the wall got to the point where it was clearly going to collapse fairly soon, so something had to be done. I don’t have the strength, the knowledge, nor the desire to prove my manliness to do this job. So, I called two landscape companies for estimates.

Just making the call made me aware of my middle class privilege. Not only can I afford to live in a desirable neighborhood with nice landscaping and well cared for houses, I can also afford to pay someone else to do my part to make sure it stays that way. I do this with the vast majority of the maintenance on my house. Walking into a Home Depot or Lowes makes me feel overwhelmed, but buying and using something as simple as a can of WD-40 gives me that “I’m a man!” rush. I’ll usually watch whoever repairs whatever is broken and feel like I’ve accomplished something. But, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about privilege and racism in everyday life. (more…)

Public Sociology: Mark Regnerus on porn and same-sex marriage

Mark Regnerus contributed a short piece on a correlation he found between watching pornography and support for same sex marriage to The Witherspoon Institute’s ‘Public Discourse.’ In the essay, he attempts to be very clear about what he is not saying. He’s not writing about “any correlation between same-sex relationships and porn use (although that would be an answerable research question)” and he’s not “talking about women’s support for same-sex marriage” because women just aren’t that in to porn. His question is “Does heightened porn use matter for fashioning attitudes about marriage?”

Here is the data analysis Regnerus presents as an exploration of his question: (more…)

Making Sense of the Shootings

Friday’s attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT is difficult to comprehend. Nonetheless, a social science that can’t use its tools to begin to make sense of the act and the political and social response to it is not worth pursuing. Since 11 am on Friday, this is about the only issue to which I’ve given serious thought. I’ve watched hours of television coverage, mostly on CNN, I’ve read news articles and watched countless relevant tweets scroll by, and I’ve tweeted a lot about it myself. I’m fortunate to have very thoughtful friends from multiple disciplines, and we spent some time Saturday night discussing the shootings and the response. I’d guess my experiences are similar to many others who are trying to make sense of what is undeniably awful news.

(more…)