Tags: economic sociology, inequality, methodology/statistics, organizations/occupations/work, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, affirmative action, field experiment, hiring, institutional discrimination, labor market, racism, stratification, 00 to 05 mins
Access: no free online access (but currently available on netflix); YouTube preview
Summary: In this clip from Freakonomics (start 13:50; end 17:30), economist Sendhil Mullainathan discusses his (and co-author Marianne Bertrand's) 2004 field experiment that examined racial discrimination in the labor market (article here). They sent out 5,000 resumes to real job ads. Everything in the job ads were the same except that half of the names had traditionally African-American names (e.g. “Lakisha Washington” or “Jamal Jones”) and half had typical white names (e.g. “Emily Walsh” or “Greg Baker”). As they illustrate, people with African-American-sounding names have to send out 50% more resumes to get the same number of callbacks as people with white-sounding names. In the video, everyday people also discuss how others make assumptions about a person's race based on their name. This is important to understanding how racial stratification is reproduced through the labor market, and explains part of the racial gap in income. This study is further supported by Devah Pager's (2003) classic audit study, where she documented similar effects of racial discrimination through in-person applications. These studies also highlight the importance of affirmative action policies in attempting to level the playing field (although Bertrand and Mullainathan's study showed federal contractors did not favor applicants with African-American sounding names). The video can also be used in a methods class to illustrate field experiments. Note that this is the second post on The Sociological Cinema, which draws from the film Freakonomics.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: methodology/statistics, science/technology, depression, research methods, validity, 00 to 05 mins
Access: The Colbert Report
Summary: In this clip, Stephen Colbert critiques a research study that claims late night television causes depression. Methodologically, Colbert first points out rather than having humans watch late night television and then assessing levels of depression, the scientists exposed hamsters to dim lighting at night and then examined the rodents' brains and behaviors. Thus, despite headlines promoting the link between television and depression, all the scientists actually discovered is that low light affects hamsters. After revealing this methodological weakness, Colbert puts human viewers at ease by letting us know that people are immune to his underhanded plot to drive hamsters to suicide. Thus inadvertently, Colbert reveals the importance of validity to scientific methodology. We must always be careful what findings we extrapolate from studies by asking ourselves, does this study actually measure what it is supposed to measure?
Submitted By: Jason T. Eastman
Alex Castellanos and Rachel Maddow argue on Meet the Press
Tags: economic sociology, gender, inequality, methodology/statistics, organizations/occupations/work, prejudice/discrimination, empiricism, feminism, gender wage gap, income inequality, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: A few months ago, sociologist Phillip Cohen blogged about a feminist viral statistic meme, which claims that women own less than 1% of all the world's wealth. It turns out, a credible source for this figure can't be traced and is unlikely to exist. As Cohen's post reminds us, the very statistics that shape how we understand the world are sometimes little more than elaborately disguised rumors. So what about other influential statistics? What about that viral statistic which states that women earn about 77 cents for every dollar men earn? When people have denied gender inequality exists and when they have implied it is unnecessary to enact policies aimed at eradicating it, the 77-cent statistic has often come to the rescue and thwarted derailment, so whether the statistic is accurate is an important question. In the above clip, Republican Party strategist Alex Castellanos asserts the 77-cent statistic is untrue. Could it be just another viral statistic meme without a source? The short answer is no. The longer answer is that 77 cents is an average, and the number varies based on profession, age, and race. The 77-cent statistic can easily be traced to a respectable source--the Census Bureau (the U.S. Bureau of Labor calculates the number differently and arrives at about 81 cents on the male dollar). The point is society needs an accurate description of the world, lest our dominant understanding of the world become solely derived from eloquently stated assertions by elites with narrow interests. In part, this clip makes a good case for the potential importance of sociology, and in particular, a sociology that checks its sources. It is also important to have a sociology that is capable of setting the record straight, if only to rebuke those talking heads who seek to confuse the public with baseless assertions. In this clip, Alex Castellanos' baseless assertion begins at about the 7:35 mark.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Violinist Joshua Bell performing in a subway station.
Tags: art/music, class, goffman, methodology/statistics, theory, defining the situation, pierre bourdieu, social experiment, taste, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This video footage depicts a young man playing a violin in a Washington, DC Metro station during the heart of the morning rush hour. Unbeknownst to passersby, the musician is the world renowned Joshua Bell, playing one of the most difficult pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. In total, Bell played for about 45 minutes to about 1,100 people moving through the station. During this time, only a handful stopped to listen; he collected $32. Organized by the Washington Post, this social experiment was designed to broach questions around perception, beauty, and priorities; however, it can also be used to teach sociological concepts, such as Erving Goffman's theory of defining the situation and Pierre Bourdieu's theory of taste. Goffman argues that when individuals encounter one another, they (consciously or not) seek out information about the other so as to define the nature of the interaction. Morning commuters use the information around them to define the interaction between themselves and the violinist, including the fact that the musician is playing in a subway station, wearing everyday street clothes, standing beside an open violin case occupied by loose bills and change. Despite Bell's talent and professional status, given this information, the majority of commuters define the situation as an amateur musician playing for money, and they ignore him. Had the situation been defined with a sign that identified the world famous violinist playing an impromptu public concert, presumably more commuters would have stopped to listen. This latter point also speaks to Bourdieu's theory of taste, in which Bourdieu rejects a pure or genuine conception of aesthetics and instead argues that "good taste" is simply a reflection of the taste of the ruling class, demarcated by ruling class signifiers. Given that Bell is in a non-elite space, wearing non-elite clothing, playing for a non-elite audience, commuters are unable to recognize the highly skilled nature of the art. This demonstrates how good taste can be understood as a social (and Bourdieu would say classed) phenomenon, rather than an objective truth. This clip is one of several featured on The Sociological Cinema that illustrates social experiments, including experiments on racial bias, the Milgram experiment, and breaching experiments at Grand Central Station and on a college campus.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: aging/life course, art/music, emotion/desire, marriage/family, methodology/statistics, biography, data visualization, divorce, memory, narrative, storytelling, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this clip "Polly", a 65 year old woman from the Midlands in the UK, recalls the time as a child when her parents sat her down and asked her which of them she wanted to be with. Her story, re-narrated by three players, represents how this traumatic event became an enduring memory throughout the various stages of her life. This video exhibits how sociologists can draw upon biography and narrative to explore any number of sociological concepts; in this particular clip, Polly's narration of her own biography can be used to explore sociological understandings of memory, emotion, family, and the life course. For example, the clip could be useful in a class on cognitive sociology, highlighting how cognitive processes, such as memory, are shaped by socio-cultural events, such as divorce. In addition to using the clip as a way to interrogate biography and narrative as sociological methods of research, the clip could also be a nice launching pad from which to introduce an assignment where students create their own videos, using their own biographical narratives as a window through which to explore larger sociological phenomena, much in the way C.W. Mills suggested. The clip's Vimeo webpage provides production details about the video, as well as a link to a paper by Kip Jones, the video's writer and producer, "The Art of Collaborative Storytelling: Arts-Based Representations of Narrative Contexts," which tells more about Polly's story and Jones' method. Kip Jones describes the clip as an "experiment in visualisation of research data."
Submitted By: Kip Jones
Tags: methodology/statistics, race/ethnicity, social construction, racial formation theory, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This short case study of the Garifuna community (who are part African, part Caribbean, and part Central American) in New York City examines racial identity and classification. It notes that when completing their census forms, the Garifunas "say they don’t fit into any box. Increasingly, there is a disconnect between how different ethnic and racial groups identify and how the Census wants to count them. In the 2010 Census, more than 18 million Latinos rejected the standard race categories, instead picking the catch-all known as 'some other race.'" Viewers may reflect on what are the common conceptions of how race is defined, and how do the Garifunas differ from that conception? Like sociologists, everyday Garifunas are thinking of race more as a social construct, determined by cultural factors rather than skin color. For a more in-depth exploration of this issue, see also this excellent documentary on race as a social construction. This clip might also be useful in a discussion about methodology, and how researchers can objectify their research subjects by forcing them to fit into the researcher's pre-defined classifications and reifying socially constructed categories.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Duneier's research on NYC book vendors is presented in film.
Tags: class, community, crime/law/deviance, inequality, intersectionality, methodology/statistics, organizations/occupations/work, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, rural/urban, ethnography, homelessness, urban poverty, visual sociology, 21 to 60 mins
Length: 60:00 (film)
Access: Film (part 1; part 2; part 3)
Discussion (part 4; part 5; part 6; part 7; part 8)
Summary: This documentary, directed by Barry Alexander Brown, is based on the ethnographic fieldwork that sociologist Mitchell Duneier conducted for his seminal book, Sidewalk (1999). Framed in the film's introduction as an "epilogue" to the book, Brown offers a plot summary: "SIDEWALK chronicles the lives of primarily black homeless book vendors and magazine scavengers who ply their trade along 6th Avenue between 8th Street and Washington Place in New York City. By briefly comparing those book vendors with the history of book vending along the Seine in Paris, the film speaks to the efforts of North American and European societies to rid public space of the outcasts they have had a hand in producing. The film takes us into the social world of the people subsisting on the streets of New York by focusing on their work as street side booksellers, magazine vendors, junk dealers, panhandlers, and table watchers. The sidewalk becomes a site for the unfolding of these people living on the edge of society in order to give us a deeper understanding of how these individual's are able to survive. It also becomes a site for conflicts and solidarities that encompass the vendors and local residents. We followed half dozen vendors for most of this past decade. By the end of shooting the film, their lives had taken a myriad of routes..." Like other urban ethnographic films (e.g., here), Sidewalk would be excellent to show in an urban sociology course, as well as an introductory sociology class, as it engages core sociological concerns around race, poverty, homelessness, underground economies, interactions with police, and community support networks, among others. Ethnography professors might also find the film useful—the film opens with several screens of written text, describing the film as a "set of fieldnotes." There is also discussion of the film available online. One of these discussions entails Duneier's introductory lecture on ethnographic methods, in which two sidewalk vendors visit his class. Here Duneier presents his approach to doing ethnography, particularly within the context and medium of film. The other is a panel discussion about the film with Cornel West and Kim Hopper at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: class, community, crime/law/deviance, inequality, intersectionality, methodology/statistics, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, rural/urban, ethnography, gentrification, housing, urban poverty, visual sociology, 21 to 60 mins
Access: no online access
Summary: Directed by sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh, this documentary film is based on ethnographic field research conducted by Venkatesh at the (now demolished) Robert Taylor Homes public housing development in Chicago, IL. A description of the film is provided on the film's website: "In February 2002, families living in the Robert Taylor Homes public housing development were given a 180 day notice of eviction. In six months, the community that had been their home for generations would be demolished. DISLOCATION chronicles the lives of tenants in one building as they move through the six-month relocation process. The filmmakers follow three families as they prepare for their own move and as they help others around them. DISLOCATION is a story of a community coping with its own impending demise. It is a tale of courage, hope, and survival." This film is an ideal compliment to most topics covered in an urban sociology course, which include discussions of gentrification, urban poverty, racism, underground economies, community and family support networks, police interactions, and much more. The ideas explored in the film are expanded in more detail in Venkatesh's books, American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto (2000) and Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets (2008), which are based on the same ethnographic field research. The film (and books) would also be excellent to use in an ethnography course, and could help guide class discussions around written vs. visual ethnographies, and the (subjective) role of the ethnographer and her relationship to her research subjects. To gain access to the film, check out your university library or you can find purchasing information here.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: economic sociology, education, gender, inequality, methodology/statistics, violence, data visualization, stratification, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: This clip utilizes data visualization techniques to present data from the Women's Economic Opportunity Index, a measure constructed (and 150-page report published) by the Economist Intelligence Unit, an in-house research unit for The Economist. Detailed storyboards present data on women's economic status from 113 countries across the globe, including information on education, equal pay for equal work, the relationship between gender violence and earnings, paid maternity leave, and the discrepancies between legislation and enforcement around laws aimed at promoting women's economic opportunities. Viewers might be especially surprised to learn that, of the 113 countries analyzed, the United States lags behind is Western counterparts on many measures, and is currently the only country out of the 113 that does not offer some kind of mandatory paid maternity leave for women. While this concise 6-minute clip would be great to show in a class on gender and global economics, inequality, education, and/or violence against women, the density and pace of the information presented also makes this clip ideal to incorporate in a take-home assignment, where students can have time to re-watch the presentation and process the information. For another clip on The Sociological Cinema that uses data visualization techniques, click here.
Submitted By: Lindsey Baker
Tags: children/youth, class, education, methodology/statistics, autoethnography, film studies, popular culture, privilege, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this clip from the movie Clueless, Travis thanks the many people involved in helping him accrue the most tardies in the class. I've used this clip as a (very brief) example of autoethnography, a method of autobiographical storytelling that explores a person's social experiences through their empirical yet subjective personal narrative. I ask students to reflect on the social relationships and experiences that have shaped their identities and their understandings of themselves. This clip, though short, gives us plenty to talk about in the way of social relationships shaping Travis' life -- his parents never give him a ride to school; why might that be? He rides public transit; how might that shape how his Beverly Hills classmates see him? This can lead to a discussion about how social class has shaped this character's experiences, how he sees himself, how others see him, as well as how he perceives others to see him.
Submitted By: Margaret Austin Smith
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