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February 28, 2008

Peace March in Portland

Excellent example of paper two by Jacklyn Ferraris.

It could be heard from blocks away. Drums, singing, chants, excitement as people gathered to march through the city of downtown Portland. On this Sunday there would be a "peace march" that would follow a specific path for thousands of people to protest the war. As I walked to the park blocks I was nervous and timid. The thought of leaving crossed my mind, but as I walked closer I realized there was an alarming amount of people. So many that I felt comfortable as if I blended in.

As the rally started I soon realized this was something big. I felt powerful, invincible. All these people sharing a common goal, to be heard. Thoughts that generally never cross my mind began to flood my body with feelings. Extreme resentment toward the all things government related in the city that I love. Police, the designated "path" they corral us to walk on, and the stoplights we must yield. That's when it set in, the realization there are so many of us. We can do anything. As the drums thumped and pounded around these thousands of people young and old, an eerie sense of deindividuation formed. A young woman suddenly stood up on a bus bench to yell, "Whose city?" then paused for a moment. Someone familiar with the chant yelled back, "OUR city." And with that the person I came as, with my timid thoughts, and quiet voice felt the rally in my heart. My beliefs and energy fed the groups fire as did there's for mine. Responsibility as a functioning citizen went out the door; our only responsibility was to spread the fire. As we marched our colorful signs and banners lined the road ways. People going about there normal routines were the outsiders, not us flamboyantly parading the streets. Another voice rose up, "fuck the police. Lets make our own route." The designated path was then left as huge groups of protesters march into the streets. Cops on horse back are being sworn at, and hit with miscellaneous items. People are now flooding into oncoming traffic. Burnside is bombarded with people not wanting to conform to a plan. As I run down the middle of the street I am compelled to join in on the chants. Everyone is feeding off each other, "to the streets!" we yell. "Our city!" After an hour or so of intense street chaos, we all gather around the justice center. Police have called in riot control. Protesters spit and threaten police, cops shielded now with pepper spray and full body gear try to get the situation under control. "Robo cops!" the crowd mocks. Slowly now over the next couple hours the cops are managing to arrest and gain back order by weakening our group in numbers. Everyone is stationary outside the justice center hundreds still left watching the situation unfold, feeling secure with our actions and the way we have behaved. As night falls our numbers dwindle, our cause and group effort slowly distinguishes. Back to reality for the vast majority of us, back to being a cooperative citizen by bed time. What happened there I ask myself on the drive home? Who was I?

"Groupthink is the tendency for group members to reach a consensus opinion, regardless of how stupid it is." (Andersen and Taylor, 2008:148). Most "groupthink" situations have several thoughts/ideas in common. As for the group I was involved in we had the illusion that we were untouchable, and not vulnerable to trouble. Storming the streets any other day would be completely out of the question, not only is it against the law, but dangerous. The group saw that anyone not included within us or those who did not agree were antagonists to our plan, our cause. Unfortunately the police doing their jobs trying to maintain order were overwhelming profiled as just this. The number one force holding us back, stepping on our toes as we wanted nothing to do with their control.

Another factor in groupthink is the discouragement to voice opinions, especially those that may clash with the groups concerns. As we stood outside the justice center the situation looked like an old time western. Protesters lined one side of the street and riot patrol lined the other. It was a stand off. The robot looking police would push the crowd back by storming forward assuring we stayed out of traffic. As they pushed the group back people spit and swung forcefully at them. In my heart I knew that we were going too far. It is one thing to run wild, be loud, and make a scene it is another to attack people personally, or stoop as low as to spit in someone's face. Is that peace I asked myself? Is this what I want to portray? No. however I did not really question anything until I was alone in my car driving home. Away from those who may pin me as being disloyal to our peace rally. From feeling powerful reinsurance from my group I went to guilt and a little bit of regret. What we were trying spread? Peace? Hardly. It is easy to say we were contradicting our gathering in the first place, through our angry actions towards innocent people and even still no one had anything to say about it.

Groupthink has proven to be frightfully common within group dynamics through out politics as well. Since most decisions are based on consensus reached between several to many people there is always room for social and group influences unfortunately. Research of some of these incidents was done by I.L. Janis. Janis investigated decisions such as the infamous Watergate scandal, to Lyndon B. Johnson's decision to send more troops to Vietnam in the 1960's (Andersen and Taylor, 2008:149). I don't believe that groupthink has to happen within every group; however it is probably very common. I believe this because when someone is undecided, or maybe doesn't have a clue it is very easy to be convinced by someone else's opinions/ideas, especially someone who seems confident. Pressure will always exist, where decisions are to be made no matter if you're the president or third grader.

My behavior through out the protest took a total turn from my norm. I went there with the intention to spread peace, be heard, and hopefully make a statement about my beliefs. After looking back on my actions, I began to realize though I was preaching the truth of how I felt my actions said otherwise. Did I consciously realize I was being influenced perhaps by others motives that were initially different than mine? No, I had no idea. Our group seemed so secure. Individual reasons for participating disappeared into a group motive that was only led by strong feelings of unity and togetherness. Right and wrong everyone's opinions blurred together. (I believe it was unclear to most especially after they left. It went from a peace rally to protesting the war to a sense of anarchy.) The idea of this can be summed with risky shift or polarization shift theory. It is associated with groups whose decisions can lead to pretty bad consequences. Much like our protest, where we disrespected common rules, and broke the law consequently ending with arrests, vandalism and violence at a peace rally! How did this happen? How did we spit in cops faces? Walk down the middle of Burnside to stop traffic? To splinter off from a designated route, only to post up in front of the justice center to protest for hours signs, banners, riot police and all. I didn't think much of it at the time because of this reason. Within that large of a group you have very little sense of being and individual. Deindividuation is a group size effect (Andersen and Taylor, 2008:150). Meaning the most people the larger the numbers the less weight you feel for in terms of responsibility of you and your actions. We were all willing to take far greater risks with the amounts of people we had because we were no longer just one person we were a group. The risks we were taking were amplified with fuel according to the numbers of people around us. By the end of the night when the rally had gone down to maybe hundred or so of us, there wasn't chanting, swearing at police or charging through traffic to be seen or heard. Why? Everyone knew with out the sheer volume of that many people once again we as individuals would be held responsible for our OWN actions. Unlike sharing responsibility through out thousands of people in a group.

Overall the experience was mind blowing I had never felt that much power with so little consequences. However after leaving they were a lot of thoughts I used checks and balances with. Although I felt more power than I obviously ever have alone, I also lost what I was there for, peace. There is good and bad to the power of groups and all that goes with it. From Risky shifts, groupthink, peer pressure, lack of individualism, all it surfaced within our group right before my eyes it was spreading like a disease to each us, and still consciously I though nothing of it for the most part. It was not until I took the time as my individual self to look over our actions, choices, and consequences to see just what kind of powerful, tricky energy was being share among the thousands of us there that day to march.

Flight of Life

An excellent of paper 2 by J.L.

In Daniel Quinn's novel "Ishmael" the gorilla compares the Taker's way of life to a trial attempt at flight (104-110). At first I found this analogy difficult to believe, but then as I thought about perception up close compared to far away, it made a lot of sense. It was difficult to assume with so many diverse cultures on Earth that we could lump them all into two groups. Then take one group and further lump them into one person attempting flight, hardly a sufficient sample size. Of course Quinn goes on to give another example of a flight with a craft that the Takers all use together called the Taker Thunderbolt (107). The initial descent of the lone pilot seemed ludicrous. How can one not see they are dropping not flying? Then I thought if the canyon was large enough that you did not immediately see the ground and you could possibly soar, then any direction that was not nose down would seem like flight. This was the same as any situation that one is too close to see the entire reality. Life, to each person, is seen from a narrow perspective. As much as we try to look openly, we still see with the blinders of our own individual experiences. In comparing this final acceptance of the analogy I can see clearly how it compares to the Takers as well as Society today.

In the analogy that Quinn uses, the pilot is representative of the Taker population, or more simply put, the majority of the human race. The plane is the nonmaterial part of the culture of the society, while the flight itself represents the material portion of the Taker culture.

The quest for humans in a Taker's world is to live at peace. This is not to be confused with "in peace," but at peace with no fear of doom. Our basic desire in life as a human is to live with full control over how we die. First we work to not feel hunger or freeze to death. As we feel the initial freedom of not having to search for food or shelter, we strive for more. Then we experience the comfort of not having to participate in physical labor by inventing machines and we then strive for more. We achieve a level of comfort that gives us what we perceive as control over our lives through vaccinations, frozen foods, antibiotics, airplanes, etc., still we strive for more. We look around to see who is missing out in our comfort and we "help" them to be more like us. Then we learn that our way of living has power that comes with it, this is where we find something more to strive for. As long as we are looking for a way to avoid discomfort and death we will be forever striving for more. As a society we want a peaceful death that comes while we are sleeping, sometime after we have had a long fulfilling life. Plus we cannot have any limitations on that journey either mentally or physically. The only limitations we are willing to accept are ones that are due to status not nature. We can be poor and live in squalor as long as we are in control of all of our faculties. A simple desire to live is within all of us. Once we learned that we can obtain some control over our destiny the common mistake in Taker thought is born, the idea that all of our dreams are achievable. This goal is what creates the framework for our plane and all values and norms that are necessary in order to achieve this, make up the skin.

The design of the plane is what Quinn states is flawed. Our plane is not aerodynamic, so it will inevitably crash. Another view of this analogy focuses on the idea of flight in itself. The gods did not give the gift of flight to humans, yet here the humans were trying to compensate what the gods obviously forgot to do. By achieving flight we are proving to ourselves that we are the only ones to rely on and our way is correct. Gods are not cruel so it was a simple oversight that they would allow us to die a painful death or suffer from the pain of another's death. This way of life is focused on correcting that mistake as often as possible, how could that possibly be bad? The plane is a great analogy for Quinn to use since it represents what man has already done to achieve a goal that we were not born with. No one stops to ask why we were not born able to fly? We get on the plane that takes us to the world of endless dreams. We need to step back and ask ourselves if total control over our lives is worth the lack of control over the future.
The flight itself represents the product of socialization of the Takers throughout our history. This is the material part of culture where we follow the script and enforce the norms. This is the part that Quinn describes as enacting the story. The way we as humans enact the story tells us what angle our descent will be. Quinn tells us that we are not in actual flight, but the way we live our lives and abuse the Earth is what tells us how close to a nose dive we are actually going to descend. This is similar to the theory that if we recycle and do things that preserve the Earth then we may soar for a while. If we go on and consume, consume, consume without a second thought, then we will go into a direct descent down. Anything in between will react by adjusting the flight angle accordingly. In general that is how we would perceive the direct impact we make on the Earth. But if you look at it while keeping in mind the peacekeeping laws, then it is not quite as simple. The more we have the more we want and all the while the more we populate. The more we populate the more land we need to provide personal space for everyone. The more human space we need the less animal space we leave. This continues until there are only a select few species of animals that we choose will live, and only how and where we allow them to live. This thought overwhelms me due to its present inevitability.

A negative aspect of Quinn's analogy is that it does not offer a chance to change course or push a pause button so we can reconstruct the plane to become aerodynamic. Quinn states that no matter what we do, the plane will never fly because it is not in line with the laws. This view seems defeatist yet, at the same time, honest. Everything has its own life cycle. One could argue that the Earth will not survive forever no matter what choice you make in how you live. That seems an idiotic thought since accelerating the end is obviously not the best option for anyone. This analogy is great but it brings with it a feeling of impending doom instead of a demand for change. Quinn's point was just that though, "Trial and error isn't a bad way to learn how to build an aircraft, but it can be a disastrous way to learn how to build a civilization" (110).

This analogy also compares to weather and global warming. As in sociology, our understanding of weather is through the observations of patterns. We only have a limited amount of recorded years to conduct a search for patterns in our weather system. Depending on how close we look, different patterns emerge. It's like looking at a collection of letters on a page and working through them in an attempt to form words. Because we only have one page of letters we automatically assume that only one page ever existed. At first we attempt to make small words because we look for the simplest patterns first. But if you have no idea the word is "alphabet" you can create a pattern of a five letter word, then a four letter word. When the next word is not another five letter word we begin to panic and look for reasons as to why this is not occurring in sequence. Possibly the next word is "tomorrow." Although this is an eight letter word we can make three words in sequence with it. So now we think the pattern is five-letter, four-letter, (alpha-bet) then three-letter, two-letter, and three letter words (tom-or-row). When in reality it is only a pattern of two words. Just like our weather, we are guessing at the pattern that may exist. The seventy year flood may be in reality a 35 year flood or even 150 year flood depending on who was documenting the weather and what their individual observations were based on. This probably is not the case with this flood since I'm making it up, but the point is there. If we can only see for a limited amount of time in history, how can a valid weather pattern be established? Could it be, if we had access to timeless documentation that we would not be as worried about the melting ice shelf in the Arctic as we would have been about the shelf forming in the first place? If we could see 6000 years ago to the time that some believe dates to the age of the forming of the shelf would we have thought the ice age was starting? Or possibly the water was all going to accumulate there and not have enough to water our crops and people? Maybe the shelf was even larger then. I'm not trying to play light on the seriousness and urgency needed for global warming, but I want to make sure what we are seeing is not from the view of the pilot in the airplane but the view of the unbiased bystander. When we base the structure of our plane on one belief system and then attempt flight with those folkways, mores and sanctions, it is still a trial and error because only with time will we know for sure what was real and what was assumed.

Work Cited

Quinn, Daniel. Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. New York, NY: Bantam
Books, 1995.

February 27, 2008

The World's Greatest Lost Treasures are Cultural

An excellent example of paper two by M.J.H.

I recall reading about horrific genocides in grade school, practiced by colonizing European nations on the multitudes of Native American nations. Sometimes, it was found in my favorite childhood literature which included stories about Kit Carson, Calamity Jane, or in a T.V. miniseries special, such as The Last of the Mohicans. Bad traders would be introduced, who intentionally traded in blankets inoculated with small pox; with the horrific intent to "wipe out" entire tribes of Native Americans. Other times, the genocidal activities where retold in stories of the Trail of Tears, the name given to a historic U.S. government program, in which Native Americans where marched, the majority to their death, across huge expanses of America, in the dead of winter. Sometimes, the genocidal activities where more social or cultural, as in Spanish missionary schools, and Australian adoption programs, in which children were removed from their native cultures and families, and forbidden, often beaten or tortured, for speaking their own native languages.

I suppose, most would look on these tragic genocide stories as someone else's history and tragic loss, and not as my history, because I'm white. But, I've always viewed these early Americans as part of my history and the loss of such contacted peoples and cultures, as mine as well as that of the rest of the world. These people, and others like them, along with their knowledge and cultures, are the world's greatest lost treasures, and of infinitely more value than all of the world's treasures of silver and gold.
Aside from the heart wrenching pain and loss suffered by the direct victims of such human crimes, no one could ever know the toll of loss to all of humanity these lost peoples and cultures represent. Could some of these people have held the key to a cure for cancer or terrific diseases, or could some of these people have held answers to fighting global warming? What tales of ancient American History have been lost? How might descendants of some of these people have been able to change the world for the better, today? Might some lost American language have served us well in times of trouble, as did the Navajo language, one of the hardest to crack codes in history, used in World War II? Might one of their descendants have possessed the diplomatic skills needed to bring world peace? We will never know.

What is equally tragic is that genocides continue all over the world today. We have not woken up to the damage of some of these genocides, and permit many to continue without protest. Yes, there are the protested, obviously tragic and not to be trivialized murderous genocides, as in recent years in the former Yugoslavia, and today in Darfur - (and there are still more). However, perhaps because the brutality is considered less severe, on-going cultural genocides go on with less notice and little to no recognition by global political powers and media sources. Perhaps the problem is all in the label. We don't call it cultural genocide, we call it, modernization.

One of the most important articles I have read to date is the article "The Pressure to Modernize", written by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Director, at ISEC. (www.isec.org.uk/articles/ pressure.html Accessed 2/19/08). Helena Norberg-Hodge captures what I have been saddened to witness in the case of some indigenous individuals I have encountered, from cultures of the South Pacific... undermining of self-esteem as a cultural people, and a perpetuation of feelings of inadequacy, based upon racial differences, leading toward downward spirals into socially and sometimes criminally deviant behaviors... What I would describe as a failure to thrive, socially.
Andersen & Taylor describe culture as, "the complex system of meaning and behavior that define the way of life for a given group or society" (p. 54, 2008). In other words, culture serves us as compass through life, as it defines the way, of and through life. When the "modern" world sustains a collision with more traditional cultural worlds, and traditional cultures are decimated, as with Norberg-Hodge's Ladakh. Typically, what happens, according to Norberg-Hodge, is that traditional peoples are seduced by the material culture of a modern culture; in tangible things like cars, clothes, cell phones. Andersen and Taylor tell us that "Culture is taken for granted" (p. 55, 2008). As culture is taken for granted, though people of a traditional culture may be aware of their material culture, they are likely to be less aware of the intangibles of their cultural identities. As the traditional culture is made to desire the tangibles of a modern culture, they grow embarrassed of their own material cultural artifacts, and abandon them. As they abandon the material cultural artifacts, they also lose their sense of unity, and the symbolic meanings of their own culture. The elements of culture, as described by Andersen and Taylor, are lost; Language, Norms, Folkways, Mores, Beliefs, and Values (p. 59, 2008).

Interestingly enough, these things are also essential in maintaining order, much like with Quinn's Peace-Keeping Laws (1992). Thus, frequently, when a modern society collides with a traditional society, violence and crimes may erupt. When a people's compass is lost, it is very difficult for individuals, and even entire societies, not to lose their way. When a traditional culture in erased by the pressures of modernization, its people must find a way to recreate the intangible cultural traits of norms, values, mores and beliefs. Throughout the decades or centuries that it takes for them to do this, they are a weak, and broken culture.

Such people are unstable and susceptible to exploitation by outside groups; as a Brazilian woman once described to me, "A tree without roots...cannot stand in a storm. As indicated in Anderson and Taylor, it is natural for cultures to change over time (2008). However, a better transition for people within a culture may be had, if such cultures are allowed to transition more slowly, so that better informed decisions may be made by people of a culture, allowing for a more natural evolution of culture; and allowing for the people of that same culture to determine on their own, what changes may make their people AND their culture stronger and which changes would be a step backwards for the future of its people.

One instance of pressures to modernize that I have witnessed, would be on a visit to Western Samoa, in January 2000. Originally, we stayed in concrete hotels and concrete houses. My hosts were greatly amused, when I asked if I might stay with a family in a traditional fale (a house without walls)...Those with higher social status, had modern, concrete homes. The breezes permitted in by the traditional wall less fales, made the hot and humid climate immensely more comfortable, and they were less expensive to build, as well as being more environmentally friendly.

Quinn, in his book, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, describes modern cultures as, the Takers, and the traditional cultures as the Leavers (1992). Quinn indicates that people in modern societies would rather suffer extremely unpleasant lives in a Modern society, than live what they perceive as a frighteningly sparse and endangered life in a Leaver society (1992). I say, we don't have enough information to make such judgments. Unlike Quinn implies, I don't believe that Leavers have a better life than Takers. I believe the both have different lives, that both have traits of value to offer the world, and we should be studying the differences and making better informed decisions on how to exchange cultural traits and characteristics, while encouraging more cultural differences and preserving traditional cultural traits that work best for each people and culture, in their own unique environments.

February 25, 2008

Socialization: The Impact of Societal Forces

Excellent paper 2 example. Student's name withheld.

What is Socialization? Socialization is the process by which human beings learn the social expectations of society. (Andersen & Taylor) There are numerous social expectations that come across in everyday life. These expectations, either clear or unspoken, can pervade our entire presence and attempt to shape us. Who we are; how we define ourselves and the set of values we judge ourselves by is the product of multiple forces. What is the process by which socialization shapes individuals? How does this affect the world in which we live?

We as living beings, breed, consume and peruse the world for our own. As in "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn, one can assume we are the "takers" living as if the world was meant for man only. How did we become so greedy and heartless? Surely as infants one doesn't have the capabilities to decide such things as what resources we should seize, what to watch on television, what schools would be the best, or even what mom will cook for dinner. All these aspects of life to some extent are influenced by outside forces. As infants we are mere bare canvases; "tabula rasa" meaning blank slate. (Andersen & Taylor) This fact is an innocent yet very vulnerable state. Soon enough the innocence is replaced with massive messages filtering through a constant stream.

Messages are sent every which way one turns via social institutions. These institutions which include family, school, and media are placed to create order. Family is the biggest social factor to influence our development and create a sense of meaning to our lives. Our experiences and roles gives us meaning and creates an outline of how we're represented to others. Parents instill stories of which they were instilled as children. They place value on aspects of importance, bring meaning to their culture, and slowly shape our attitudes. They allow us to practice our role as individuals and give us a set of tools to enter the world with. In essence, they begin the sketch to the blank slate.
Schools are a huge socializing agent in that their role is significant in children's lives. School's impact is great that they consist of most of a child's life, and instructs one of their role in society. Schools at an early age establish gender roles by making a clear distinction with unspoken methods. Choices like Barbies and toy trucks, pink or blue, fashion designer or cop are all common in the day of a preschool or kindergartner. These children are just part of the cycle, each one being shaped internally by an outside force. They are reinforcing the message that anything beyond Barbie, pink, or fashion might indicate one isn't pretty. Yet life shouldn't consist of pure black or white concepts.

The media is yet another tool to bring order to a chaotic world. The T.V. is watched by millions on a daily basis. It's the source of news, defines fashion (what's hot or not), and provides a list of ideals. We're bombarded with images of the ideal marriage, body image, love, education, happy future, diets. Essentially our lives are routed and mapped for us through media. In the documentary, "The Ad and the Ego", we see many ads that display products and ideas that we need to have. It creates a constant inner crises, however, it's not apparent to us. Although we may want to disengage ourselves from the influences of media, unfortunately society is plagued by too many forces that can't be changed.

My socialization experience has been one that is very chaotic and multi-faceted. As a child and still to this day I am a very confused individual. Like most, my family had the most impact in my life. And being an Asian-American from an extremely "dysfunctional" family with an alcoholic mother was even more confusing. I grew up in an authoritarian household with traditions, values like everyone else. However, the roles I played were not "normal" to society's standards and left me feeling conflicted most of my life. I was an older sister, a daughter, a translator, a student, a provider for the family, a mother and (at times had decision making) like a wife. Having an alcoholic mother left me with extreme role strains and conflict. I was a daughter yet a mother at the same time. I couldn't be the best sister because I was acting as a mother. I wasn't the best student or friend because I was trying to help provide for the family. I felt that internally it was constantly leaving me feeling helpless and made it hard to identify who I was as one individual.

Also, culturally it was hard being the oldest daughter of two girls. The disappointment of having girls was evident in my father who would watch sports and discuss how if he'd "had a boy" they'd be able to watch and play sports together.

So as I matured I invested all of my energies and time to become what I thought my parents had wanted. I became very tomboy like, behaving and taking on the role as a boy would. I helped my parents with their business even at the sacrifice of a social life and education. It was my way of attaining to the expectations of my parents.

The socialization process is one that is very strange, particularly when one can take a step back and realize that in a chaotic world society simplifies what they think we need and how we can get it. We take in messages every waking moment on how we should think, feel, what we need, or who we should be. Socialization is an ongoing process and won't stop as long as we have society to continue manifesting the world. The important thing is that although we aren't able to avoid socializing agents, we do have the capabilities to limit how it affects our lives. Individuals have the power to oversee the overlying messages and begin to filter in our brain what is real or not. We are able to decipher the truths from what's an illusion. We can start making informed decisions by being selective on what products we buy, what programs we watch, what values we take from our family, and what ideas we take away from school.

Whether we want to believe it or not, socialization has a huge impact for us and our future. When one lives in a world where everything we need is relatively within one's grasp it can be fatal not only to us but to our world. Simple messages can bring distorted illusions and ultimately destructive ways of thinking. Our morale, our identities, our environment, our values are all at stake. The forces that bring about meaning can often times unintentionally present fallacies as a result of a single perspective lens. It is our responsibility to utilize the socialization agents as a means of guidance in our lives that can be left open to many interpretations.

Works Cited
Andersen L. Margaret and Taylor F. Howard. Sociology in Everyday Life. Ohio: Thomas Wadsworth, 2008.

Tattoos and Society

An excellent example of paper 2 by Keaton Snyder.

Getting a tattoo has long been a discussion for many individuals. It is a practice that has been around for centuries, yet is still an evolving part of society. Not too long ago in the US it was a practice that only lower class people participated in and was looked down upon by society. But more recently society has started to change the way that tattoos are seen. This is in part because it has become much cleaner and people know more about it, as well as tattoo artists being required to have a license to practice. In fact there are even schools that teach the art of tattooing. How does having a tattoo affect the way that American society sees an individual and why does American society see it this way?

When looking at tattoos it is important to note that they affect and express many different things about the way that individuals see themselves and how individuals have become socialized. Tattoos can signify many things, for some a tattoo is required or expected of someone to be in a certain group; others might use one to express a certain part of their life that is very important to them. Still others might see it as a way to express them, or as a form of beauty not unlike earrings or makeup. And yet there are still many more ways that tattoos can be used to create an image, communicate or identify them.

Tattooing probably became popular because it was looked down on by society. It was a way for a counter culture to express itself, a way for people to show that they were an individual and thus became very popular. This is in part because of the great desire and understanding that everyone is an individual in American society. Tattoos are a unique thing in that they can not be bought like a fancy car or a huge rock. They are in fact art. Much like there is only one "Mona Lisa", a tattoo is one of a kind and near permanent at that. Many people see tattoos simply as art that they wear, which is very easy to show off and attract attention. Which is also very important in American society, because with the huge population in the world today, it is very difficult to attract attention and distinguish yourself from others. People that have money try and attract attention by buying expensive cars, wearing expensive clothes, being very free with their money, etc. Because not everyone can be a rock star and even if you can afford a Ferrari, there are still countless people out there who have one just like you, a tattoo is fairly unique and therefore very desirable. These are great examples of status and identity, because they express the American dream of being the best, having the most or being the greatest.

Another reason tattoos are used by individuals is to become part of a group. This can include the very obvious like a gang, to being gay, to being a collector. Each has its own purpose and reason for existence. For example a gang might all get similar tattoos to form tighter relationships with its members and create a norm for that culture or counter-culture. This is not unlike being part of the cheerleading squad in high school. Only those who were cheerleaders, meaning they were very "beautiful", could wear that uniform. It creates a sense of belonging and unity among a group that is lacking in one or more socialization agents, in essence they become like a family. Tattoos are also used to label oneself in a much broader group, such as convicts. Many convicts who go jail use tattoos to label themselves as a convict, what jail they were in, maybe what crime they committed or how long or how many times they have been to jail. This group is trying to associate themselves with a certain image, or twisted mystique that few people belong to and even fewer wish for that experience to be known. Convicts might do this for many reasons, maybe they just want to feel like they belong to something or maybe they enjoy the fear that that symbol instills in some people. This fear is very important because it symbolizes the fear of going to jail and thereby puts more pressure on people to obey society's laws.

Tattoos can also be a very important part of non-verbal communication. This is because society says certain things about tattoos, which in turn says certain things about a person that has a tattoo. Some people think that having a tattoo represents low self esteem in a person. This is because of the knowledge that tattoos bring attention, which would be immodest, which is a value that is looked down on by society. Tattoos can also reflect how you see yourself or how you think other people see you. This also means that tattoos can be a means of impression management. Let's say for example that you wanted to look fierce because you were sick of people seeing you as weak and cutting you down. You could get a tattoo on your face, which would give the impression of being tough and people would immediately see this even if they were just passing by. Or maybe you are a little crazy and you know that you are, so you reflect that in your appearance with a tattoo. It could also be that someone that you look up to has tattoos and in a desire to be like them you might get a tattoo. In this version they would be a role model. For example: many freestyle motocross riders have lots of body tattoos along with huge gaping scars from wrecking. If you wanted to be like them you might also get similar tattoos that showed off any scars you had. In this way you create a connection between you and another person or role/status that you wish to be a part of. It may also be that you think that your friends or those in close proximity to you expect you to get a tattoo or that they see you in a certain way. An example of this would be if you were kind of small and chubby, you might start working out to change the way you think someone else sees you, so going from small and weak to quick and tough. Which can be a huge change in not only the way other people see you and treat you but also how you feel about yourself and how this affects your personality or the way you act.

Ever heard the saying "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder"? This may be a shock to some people, but not everyone that is beautiful to one person is beautiful to another person. Some people may see tattoos as ugly; this is probably because they think that society sees tattoos in a bad way. Where as the people that think tattoos are beautiful probably see tattoos in a good light. For example: an older person probably grew up with tattoos being very closely related to blood borne diseases such as AIDS. So it could be assumed that anyone with a tattoo has a high chance of having aids and therefore would probably be looked down on. Where as a younger person that has done a little research will probably know that much has changed and that as long as you go to a respectable artist, you do not have to worry about getting AIDS, and is therefore a safe practice. There are even some instances where tattoos are considered beautiful by almost everyone. Many women wear lipstick, some have decided to just have their favorite color tattooed on their lips, most people wouldn't even know the difference unless you saw them right after they woke up or finished taking a shower.

A very interesting experiment would be to see how people reacted to you based on having different tattoos. It would be especially interesting to see how people that you knew very well, such as your parents, would react to you getting a tattoo, or how having a tattoo might open or close certain relationships. Known as ethnomethodology, it would reveal what people's norms were. It would be very interesting to see how something as little as a tattoo might sway someone's perception of us. It would be really interesting if you could go to a job interview twice, once with tattoos and a second time without tattoos, with very similar resumes. You would essentially be the same person but would get different reactions.

February 21, 2008

The Mutual Exclusivity of Personal Autonomy and Diversity

An excellent example of a student research paper by Kerri Thorpe.

Absolute autonomy of the individual is a fanciful dream. At one point or another we all believe that we are sovereign beings, independent on our self governing islands of existence. A large majority of us also at one point believed that a large fat man would squeeze down our chimneys to give us candy and presents. As time went along, it was clear that the Santa Claus was our mother, but we wanted the presents so we decided to keep believing. Likewise we decide to believe in personal autonomy because it is so attractive. Our ego's have an appetite for control and have a thirst for recognition. Personal autonomy means that we cannot be controlled by outside forces, that our actions, decisions and results are governed solely by our individual self. We are in control of our life. The only thing that can bring us down is not taking responsibility for ourselves and looking for someone else to blame. Belief in the autonomy of the individual is a very popular thought mostly among people who belong to dominate groups. It is also an avenue dominate groups believe non-dominate groups should utilizes a means to break free from the subjugation of oppression. Ironically this focus on the individual and not the community significantly contributes to all forms of institutional oppression.

Institutional oppression grows out of the deep seated -though not always acknowledged- belief in superiority of one group over another. It is the abusive treatment of people based on their ascribed or achieved status that is supported by the social norms, behaviors and values of the privileged members of society. "Achieved status are those attained by virtue of independent effort...In conflict ascribed status are those occupied from the moment a person is born."(Anderson). The institutional forms of oppression like institutional racism occurs when the privileged white race abuses people of color. This is different then when a person of color is racist toward a white person, because the person of color does not have the social norms, behaviors and values of privileged society backing the racism up. Peggy McIntosh the associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women explains that privilege is when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the group they belong to. Privilege is a complex issue because the people who have privilege don't have to think about it. Privilege applies to the dominant groups within society not the individual, so it exists for individuals whether or not they want it. Dominant groups in society are the groups which experience privilege or are considered the norm. According to Jeane La France in the United states dominant groups included White people, Christians, Males, the non-disabled, heterosexuals, and middle class.

Many people in dominant groups do not feel like they are privileged because they they do not see how they benefit from their status. Often privilege is not about what you get, rather it is about what you don't get. For example if you are male one way in which you are privileged is that your odds of being raped are quite low(McIntosh) and if you are white you do not get a reaction of surprise if you are successful. James Sneed and student educator at PCC's multicultural center gave a great example of racial privilege when speaking about his own experience growing up African American in a middle class neighborhood. He said that when he was in school if he did as well as the white kids he was over achieving and if he did not do as well he was under achieving. James explained that he never felt like he could just achieve something it was always over or under in comparison with the norm of his white peers. This exemplifies how white privilege is not having to think about how your race affects how others view your grades in school.

As a student at Portland Community College I have witnessed daily forms of white privilege and racism. In the classroom I repeatedly hear white students frustrated and annoyed by discussions of race, many white students believe that racism is not a problem anymore that it is a thing of the past. Working with children I see them unconsciously being socialized according to their ascribed status. For instance children of color are often given praise and told that they are doing a very good job at their task and white children are given praise, told that they are doing a good job at their task and then encouraged to take the next step to see if they can learn more or or do better. This is a subtle difference. Many students a PCC would not consider this racist because the instructors are not aware of what they are doing or that they are not really doing anything detrimental to the children. It is important to understand that racism does not always come in the form of radical neo nazis, often it is in the form of our own denial.

Racism can be right front of our face and we can deny it. In December 2006 six African American high school students, coined the Jena Six, were charged with attempted second degree murder utilizing a shoe as a deadly weapon. (Franklin)

In a small highly segregated Jena LA in a black student asked permission from school administrators to sit under the shade of a tree commonly reserved for the enjoyment of white students. School officials advised the black students to sit wherever they wanted and they did. The next day, three nooses, in the school colors, were hanging from the same tree.... The students responsible had a three day suspension... Racial tensions remained elevated throughout the fall. On Monday, December 4 2006, a white student who allegedly had been racially taunting black students in support of the students who hung the nooses got into a fight with black students. Allegedly, the white student was taken to the hospital treated, released, reportedly attended a social function later that evening. As a result of this incident, six black Jena students were arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder. (NAACP)

Jena LA is an example of how real racism is happening today and how blind people can be to it. Through my research I have found that many white people in Jena don't believe race is a problem in their community in spite of the incidence of the Jena 6 and in addition to the fact that in Jena there is a white only barber shop, it is difficult for African Americans to get a job (Mangold) and the most subtle but screamingly significant, white people deny their privilege.

There is a paradox to privilege. The stratification of privilege happens in so many different social status groups that most people will be on multiple sides of the privilege coin throughout the majority of their lives. The question may be asked how can an African American, lower class , woman be privileged? The answer is if she is heterosexual she experiences privilege because she can get married if she chooses. Just as a middle class, heterosexual African American male can experience oppression because of his increased chance of being arrested. In Jena I believe the white community is experiencing a class/privilege conflict. According to the income statistics from the US census, most people in Jena are working/lower class. The people of Jena experience class oppression and race privilege at the same time. This can be confusing and frustrating, because their social mobility is limited by their class but not by their race. For the lower class the daily struggle for money can make it hard to see how they could possibly be privileged in any way and makes it easier for them to believe in individual autonomy a hard work as a means for success.

Individual autonomy is the idea that people are solely responsible for themselves, their decisions, morality and future. This concept is understandably attractive to non-dominant groups such as Women, People of Color, the Lower and the Working class. The concept of Individual autonomy gives them the illusion that that they can take back control and dissolve the affects of institutional oppression. It also gives dominant groups the privilege of denying the existence of oppression. This fuels oppression by focusing on the individual rather than the institution.

Institution Oppression affects the individual but it is not created by the individual. A white individual can say that they are not racist the just as a person of color may say they choose to not be affected by racism. That does not mean racism does not exist. The fact is a white person is still less likely to be arrested then a person of color, regardless of how they 'decide' racism will affect them. Racism is encouraged by denial because it allows the dominant groups to retain and ignore their privilege.

In Jena LA. we can see a crystal clear vision of the problems stimulated by the denial of racism. Let us look at the community and not at the legal issues concerning the Jena six. Even though there is a white only barber shop and students allegedly "joke around" about the white only tree, members of the white community including officials at the local high school claim that race is not an issue in Jena, but members of the Black community say race is an issue. This is an example of privilege. White people can choose to not see race. By claiming that race is not an issue in Jena the white community is dismissing the opinion of the black community. A white person can say issues surrounding the history of violence and racism are a thing of the past, but for a black person it is a part of their personal and their families past. This is an example of a form of racism that is alive today.

In interracial communication people of color are often spoken over and not actively listened to. Similar to the way you might passively listen to somebody younger than yourself, when you are assuming that you already know what they are going to say. As an individual you may deny that this happens, or say that you personally do not do this, but that doesn't negate the fact that the majority white people have sometime in their life done it whether or not they were consciously aware of their actions. This is the difference between racism and institutional racism. When a person of color dismiss a white person they do not have the backing of society, meaning the white person has not been dismissed and spoken over throughout their life by teachers, authority figures, sales clerks because of their race. In this we can see how all non-dominate groups can not always have complete personal autonomy over their decisions because often their opinions are suppressed, therefore their options for growth and opportunity are limited.

Autonomy of the individual is akin to the libertarian philosophical theory of Self Ownership. Self Ownership basically means that you own and control all aspects yourself, - morality, character, judgments, decisions- and your objects -property, possessions. This is a very en vogue theory we see in our personal and political lives. Wander down the self help section in your local book store, a large majority of the books will be on the topic of taking control of your life and indecently most of those books are not marketed toward marketed towards the privileged sex they are marketed towards women. In our political lives many U.S. citizens are currently unsatisfied with our two party political system and are looking toward alternative third parties. In Oregon popular third party's include the Green Party -which is to liberal for many¬ the Constitution Party (which is to conservative for most people) ¬and then there is the libertarian party which is just right. The illusions of the Libertarian Party attract liberals and conservatives alike because on the surface personal responsibility and free liberty sound good! Plus the party is a veritable super mega mall of politics. There is something for everyone. They are pro drug legalization, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and anti-gun control. The grand gravitation toward this the Libertarian party due to the desire for instant gratification in our culture. People are emotionally driven to the power the party gives them. Let's face it, we all want control and the Libertarian party says that we can have it! It takes the control out of the hands of the government and puts it in to the hands people. If we look beyond this surface level thought process a question arises. Which people? Think for a second about who would have the control. What type of people in our society could have total control over their lives and opportunities?

My first argument against Libertarianism is that we do not live in an egalitarian society therefore; the people with the most privilege would get the most control. Every individual with in society does not have the same opportunities or resources nor do they play an equal role in social hierarchy. Self Ownership in theory could only apply to people who belong to all of the dominant groups. So all the white, Protestant, middle class, attractive, able bodied, heterosexual, sane, Men between the ages of 25 and 55 would have the control thus discouraging diversity and encouraging oppression.

My second argument is that the greatest and most fundamental flaw in the Libertarian philosophy is that it completely evades the lifelong process of socialization. Socialization is the process from which we learn, what our culture is, our role and status within that culture and what is expected of us. Socialization is learned behavior, one is not born with the knowledge of work ethic, prejudice, or manners we learn this behavior though social institutions, such as family, religion, government, schools, and economics. These systems establish rules, goals and define the normative behavior that meets the needs of society. Absolute autonomy of choice can not exist for persons living within a society, when the basis of society is social interaction and all actions taken by a person are reciprocal results of a preceding effect. We make decisions based on all of past experience and interactions with people.

The community ecology of childhood socializes us and greatly effects what type of adult we grow into. In Jena LA, the white community is damaging all the children of Jena by dehumanizing the black community and trivializing the history of violence against them. Calling a noose hanging from an historically all white tree a prank and defending the students who hung the nooses by saying that they had no knowledge of what a noose represents in the deep south is abhorrent. 'To us those nooses meant the KKK , they meant, "Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,"' says Caseptla Bailey a mother of one of the Jena 6. Still the white community of Jena says that race is not a problem while they disregard and passively listen to the black community, speaking over them to explain that the Jena Six are playing the race card and should take personal responsibility for their actions. Once again this denial fuels racism and resentment.

There is an ideology of inequality in Jena LA. that presents a near perfect portrayal of why the concepts of personal autonomy and self ownership discourage diversity and encourage racism. Sure we all want to believe that we can control our lives and if we work hard achieve success, but the amount of hard work and amount of social opposition we face varies greatly with your race, class, sex, religion, sexual orientation and age. Everyone at one point is a member of a privileged social group. Whether or not you see yourself as privileged is irrelevant because privilege is about the group not the individual, it exists regardless if you choose to embrace it.

Racism exists. We all have different advantages and disadvantages instead of trying to isolate ourselves in the control of autonomy we should embrace diversity and recognize the problems we face as a society. We can not move forward if we are solely focused on ourselves and are in denial about troubles in our community. Oppression does not solely harm the oppressed it damages our entire society. At some point in our lives we are all oppressed. We should not choose which oppression to be aware of because it is the system of superiority that will eventually make it to us as individuals.

". . . within the lesbian community I am Black, and within the Black community I am a lesbian. Any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. .Any attack against lesbians and gay men is a Black issue because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black. There is no hierarchy of oppression.....I know I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that, freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you. . . ." Lorde)

For us to succeed in a global society we need to move away from the ideal that all we have to do is work hard as individuals to succeed and move toward looking success as success of the community but before we can really work as a community we need to break down socially constructed ideas about difference.

Works Cited and Consulted
Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard F. Taylor. "Social Class and Stratification / Race and Ethnicity." Sociology in Everyday Life. Mason: Thomsom Wadworth, 2005. 211-333.

Bello, Marisol. "Civil 'Jena Six' town braces for rally." USA Today 18 September 2007 15 November 2007 .

Best, Shaun. A Beginner's Guide to Social Theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003.

Burns, Roberta M. "Ecology of the Mass Media." Child, Family, School, Community: Socialization and Support. New York: Harcort College, 1985. 378-421.

Durkheim, Emile. "What is a Social Fact." Social Theory: Roots and Branches. Comp. Peter Kivisto. Los Angeles: Roxbury, 2003. 43-48.

Fox and Friends. Fox News. 25 Sept. 2007. 22 Nov. 2007 http://www.foxnews.com/video2/player06.html?092507/092507_ff_sharpton&FOX_Friends&Jena%2520Six%2520Controversy&Jena%2520Six%2520Controversy&US&-1&News&227&&&new

Franklin, Sammy, ed. "Chronological Order of Events Concerning the "Jena Six"." The Jena Times. \
11 Nov. 2007 .

Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power and Difference. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006.

LaFrance, Jeannie. Personal interview. 21 Nov. 2007.

Lorde, Audre. "There is no hierarchy of oppressions." Homophobia and Education. New York: Council on Interracial Books for Children. 1983

Menninger, Karl. Crime of Punishment. New York: The Viking P, 1968.

NAACP, http://www.naacp.org/news/press/2007-07-20/index.htm

O'Neil, Dr. Dennis. "Socialization." 19 Oct. 2007 .

Otsuka, Michael. "Self Ownership and Equality." Philosophy and Public Affairs 27 (1998): 65-92

Shoemaker, Donald. Theories of Delinquency. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1990. 79-302.

Sneed, James. Personal interview. 26 Nov. 2007.

"The Case of the Jena Six." Democracy Now. PBS, New York. 10 July 2007. 11 Nov. 2007 .

White, Michael. Agency and Integaty. Boston: D.Reidel Publishing Company, 1985.

"Who are the Jena Six." The Town Talk. 19 Nov 2007 . =

Wolff, Jonathan. "Fairness, Respect and the Egalitarian Ethos." Philosophy and Public Affairs 27 (1998): 97-123.

Zalta, Edward N., ed. "Libertarianism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 24 July 2006. The Metaphysics Research Lab: Center for the Study of Language and Information. 9 Nov. 2007 .

Video Games, Responsible Media?

An excellent example of paper 3 by Ryan Crab.

It is not hard to find a myriad of cultural stereotypes when looking at videogames. Stereotypes based on race are everywhere with in the medium. While in general, we as gamers might think we value diversity, what we ingest as entertainment is far from it. Could this be a factor of the general immaturity of the industry and its struggle to find its voice? Or is it a representation of an industry that is mainly in habited by white males, at least in the North American market ("Game"). I personally have a vested interest in the future of the video games industry. I am currently on a path to develop my skills to enter into the industry, to potentially one day become a game designer. So I am very much interested in finding new ways to tell stories from alternative perspectives.

Not until the last few years have video games tried to tackle tough stories or messages. Typically games are designed around a game-play mechanic or level design leaving the story to be arbitrarily attached to give the player a sense of progression and motivation to get to the end of the game. In the original "Super Mario Brothers", Mario was tasked to simply "save the Princess", telling the entire story of the game to you as a synopsis or a plot point on the back of the box. That was all that game needed though to be entertaining to a young child, the core demographic at that time. In the current market we see those kids all grown up, the audience maturing into adulthood, and so the game industry is also trying to mature in its game design as well. Part of the current problem, in my opinion, with storytelling and character representation in games is with the prolonged nature of game development. To bring a concept all the way through the development process to a playable and enjoyable state can take up to two years or more. Skyrocketing development prices and ever changing hardware platforms put the burden of product on corporations with the vested interest to create a highly sellable product. One of the side effects to this development process is that games tend to get homogenized and story elements get striped away to get to a product deemed "safe" for the average target consumer. What that leaves us with is a lot of the same types of games relying on the same well-known stereotypes with the impression from the developers of "if it isn't broken, why fix it?" These games, such as shooters (relying on killing enemies to further plot progression), role-playing and adventure games, as well as the typical lot of traditional and alternative sports games tend to be the best selling and most visible games, but also suffer from the same stereotypical crutches. Hopefully in exposing these games reliance on or unconscious choice of stereotypes then we can as game designers and players better understand what kind of choices we can make to help perpetuate a more inviting medium and further mature the storytelling.

One of the most critically acclaimed and best selling games of 2007 was a modern military first-person shooter titled "Call of Duty 4". The game gives a fictional account of a war between an allied force of U.S., British, and Russian Loyalists against a group of Russian Ultranationalists allied, weirdly enough, with a group of middle eastern rebels ("Call of Duty 4"). Playing as characters from either the British S.A.S. (Special Air Service), or from the U.S. Marine Corp. Force Recon, you travel to various locations battling enemies, but the game does an interesting thing. With the British S.A.S. sections of the game, you are given specific locations, and know who the enemies are, the Russian Ultranationalists. But when the game switches you to the U.S. Marine portion of the game, you fight in a completely unknown region in the Middle East without any specific knowledge as to the Nationality of the Middle Eastern characters, just that they are "rebels" or "insurgents". In an interview with Robert Bowling, the Community Manager for Infinity Ward, which developed "Call of Duty 4", he explains the creative decision to give the game's Middle Eastern antagonists their ambiguity, "We were very adamant about not connecting the conflict that's in our game with any current conflict going on in the world. That's why it's an unnamed Middle Eastern country. We wanted to make it clear that you're not fighting these guys for any political reason. You're fighting these guys because they're bad guys. They're bad guys doing bad things which we make clear from the beginning (Meacham)." Those bad things were presented in the opening of the game as the Rebels overthrowing the current leader of that unnamed country and start an uprising. They are given further vilification by being shown as a militaristic group, which aims at controlling the country and allying with known terrorists, transferring nuclear weapons to the other villains in the game, the Russian Ultranationalists. This choice of not giving the Middle Eastern rebels a Nationality could be construed as a way to avoid possibly political motivations, given that if the settings were in Iraq or Iran, then the game might seem as biased towards war or political upheaval in that part of the world. But unfortunately for the Middle Eastern people it represents, the ambiguity gives them a nameless faceless representation as "evil" or anti-American. Portraying the faceless foreign enemy is not a new concept. One of the many problems with character design is a game is giving individual "looks" to multiple N.P.C.s (non-player characters, the people you interact with in a game but do not control directly). In this game in particular, the enemy character models all have a very specific skin tone (lighter skinned for the Russians, darker for the Middle Eastern models) and generalized appearances, thus presenting them as all having the same ethnicity and race. While there might be variations of the militaristic garb they are wearing, ultimately we see them as a homogenized ethnic character, In contrast to the western forces in game, particularly the U.S. forces you fight along side, which are all White, African-American, and presumably Latino Characters with given names and voices.

What this ambiguity could in fact promote is the authoritarian personality type. With this generalized picture of an ethnic group, we as the game consumer might be reinforced that this is a reality faced by our current military in its conflict in Iraq. With the main allied characters, even the inconsequential ones, we are given names and visual cues distinguishing them as individuals as well as audio commentary by our N.P.C. comrades in the battlefield. These are great ways to engage us as players into the roles we play in the game. Adversely, we see the nameless, faceless enemy as a generic character, which can lead to dehumanizing them, making them easier to kill. With the young males who generally play these games, there could be a tendency to categorize these images and stereotype those enemies as a reality we actually face in life on the battlefield, possibly leading to a superstition of all ethnic minorities of Middle Eastern descent or physical appearance there of. Probably not very surprising is how Islamic countries are responding to this current trend in western game design. In an article entitled, "Islamogaming", Ed Halter gives us a seldom seen look into the game industry coming out of the Middle East. In Iran, in an attempt to counter the current trend of casting Islamic or Muslim people as terrorists in western games, a developer, with the backing of the Iranian government, designed a game concept in which a Commander is charged with the task of saving a captured Iranian nuclear engineer who was taken by U.S special forces while traveling through Iraq (Halter). According to the Iranian game developer, the game is presented to show people an alternative view as to the nature of their nuclear program, which they label as peaceful, and counter the image of Middle Easterners as terrorists.

While it is not my intention to lay blame directly at the feet of game developers, a possible shift in understanding the way in which people perceive game content could encourage a more balanced, positive story in games. One possible side effect to gaming is the nature of the gamer to become immersed in the game it self. The player can become so entranced that time loss is experienced (Woods), possibly allowing for a state of susceptibility, cataloging the character interactions in the subconscious. If we are constantly bombarded with generalized stereotypes, we might become numb to them as passively integrate those generalities into our perceptions of the world. In a psychology study performed in 2002, a simple concept was set forward to gage whether police officers have a racial bias in their perceptions in suspected criminal's hostility. The study's concept was to task officers to make split second decisions to shoot or not to shoot a suspect using only their visual assessments of the targets. The test suggests the dilemma of police officers to quickly respond to possible threats to their personal safety by viewing images of varying White and African-American subjects against complex backdrops with guns or non-hostile objects in their hands. Having only a few seconds to decide, the test subjects are told to "shoot", i.e. press an appropriate button; depending on whether they could identify the subject on screen was a threat (holding a gun). What may or not be surprising is the study found that White participants made the correct decision to shoot armed targets more quickly if the targets were African-American rather than if they were White (Correll).

How those officers became socialized to have an apparent bias towards one race to another I cannot say. But cultural portrayal of different ethnic and racial groups in the media can and do skew at times towards placing those groups into stereotypical roles. I hope that in understanding this nature of our culture that the ever-increasing popular medium of video games can assume a positive more reflective role in our society, helping to shape and influence a more balanced view of our world. The vary nature of video games are to challenge the player in skill and dexterity. So it seems like the perfect place to challenge them in there understanding of society.


"Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 12 March 2008, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 12 Mar 2008 .

Correll, Joshua; Park, Bernadette; Judd, Charles M.; Wittenbrink, Bernd. "The Police Officer's Dilemma: Using Ethnicity to Disambiguate Potentially Threatening Individuals." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. December 2002. Vol. 83, Issue 6, p1314-1329.

"Game Developer Demographics: An Exploration of Workforce Diversity." Igda.com. October 2005. International Game Developers Association. 16 March 2008. .

Halter, Ed. "Islamogaming." Computer Gaming World. September 2006. Issue 266, p38-41.

Meacham, Travis. "Infinity Ward Talks Call of Duty 4." Tomgames.com. 28 February 2008. Best of Media Group. 12 March 2008. .

February 20, 2008

The Role of Mass Media in the Lives of Americans

An excellent paper 2 example by Morgan Waldroff.

What is the first thing you heard when you were born? Can't remember? It was probably something like loud voices, crying, laughing, cheering, the television. That's right, the television, almost every room in hospitals across America have at least one television set. The average American consumes some form of media 71 hours per week; about 32 of those hours are spent watching television (U.S. Census Bureau 2004). That's more time than most children spend in school! In many homes across the country the T.V. is on most of the time, these homes are referred to as "constant television households", often being African American families (Gitlin 2001). Other forms of mass media are magazines, radio, Internet, movies, and advertisements.

It is reported that among all leisure activities watching television is the favorite among Americans (Saad 2002), why wouldn't it be? The television is where Americans get most of their information, the news tells us what kind of important evens are happening in our community while the advertisements inform us on the best products and services we should be investing in. Many Americans refer to the media for fashion and beauty advise, information on current politics, and the newest technology but much of that information can be untrue and/or misleading.

While the newspapers and other forms of media can be helpful when looking for certain information, not everything you see and read should be believed. The intentions of most newscasts are to provide their viewers with information about recent and upcoming events, local weather, and other "important" things happening in their community. However, many views are mislead by the information they receive; while crime is decreasing the amount of time spent reporting crime is increasing (Angotti 1997, Chiricos et al. 1997) leading viewers to believe the opposite of what is true. I have always wondered who decides what is important to viewers; certainly no one can know what everyone wants to see reported. Most newscasts consist of information that specific station feels is important so many viewers watch wondering "who cares?" nonetheless, they continue to watch! I personally find it disturbing that more people can tell you what's going on with Britney Spears than about our current presidential race, someone must have decided that Britney was more important to our country than Hillary!

It must be the same people who decide to report about Britney that decided what kind of roles people of color would play. Although minorities watch more television than whites they make up a small percentage of all television characters. People of color are often cast in stereotypical roles giving the general public negative impressions of smaller social groups. Asians are commonly depicted as quiet or silent and often play roles where they are secondary to some other main character. Native Americans are easy to spot while they are usually shown as strong, silent, warriors, and people who "live off the land" with clothing made from animal skins and other "native American" clothing. Latino and African American men tend to be stereotyped as criminals and athletes, women of these racial backgrounds are often shown in sexual or domestic roles. Finally Jewish women are almost never shown except when they are the targets of stereotypical comments (Kray 1993). Spending 32 hours per week viewing these stereotypes being played out can really have an impact on one's perception of others, I would be a perfect example. When I was four or five years old I remember seeing and African American man running from police on television, a short time later I was in the car with my mother and as she pulled over to let a police car with its lights and sirens on pass us I told her he was probably going to chase the black people. No one had ever told me anything about African Americans and I had never had a negative experience involving anyone of African decent but for some reason in my head they were all to be chased by police; thanks to mass media it took a few discussions to change that view.

Another scam being played out by mass media is in advertising. How else would we know what to buy? Its not like anyone knows how to make decisions for themselves, someone please guide us! The average American sees an estimated 1,500 adds per day (The Ad and The Ego). Ads contain everything from which soap you should use to which car to drive. Much research has been done to find out the most effective forms of advertising, and most ads essentially manipulate your mind into believing that you personally need whatever is being shown. They tell us we need to have the biggest car because every person must have a use for it; if you don't have ten kids to drive around you must need to move large objects or drive on mountain sides and if not, you will be more safe in an accident so bigger is better. It is also essential to have the latest and greatest cell phone; you must have a need for email, Internet, GPS, phone service, camera, music player, and text messaging in the palm of your hand! While these are only a couple examples it doesn't stop here, no matter what your looking for there is most likely an advertisement out there to tell you where you can get it and which one to get.

Finally I would like to talk about beauty in the media. Beauty is one of the largest markets in existence. When you hear the words 'Miss America' what image comes to mind? Is it a blonde, blue eyed, tan, twenty-something woman with a large white smile and perfectly straight white teeth? I wonder why...it probably has everything to do with what is considered 'beautiful.' Only certain forms of beauty are valued by the media and do not represent all forms of beauty valued by Americans. What is considered beautiful to one person is not to the next especially between people of different cultural backgrounds and social status. The men and women we see in the media everyday are "beautiful" and "handsome" and although that's great for them it is not necessarily so great for everyone else. Many people spend the majority of their time attempting physical perfection so they too can be "beautiful." The media rarely shows "beautiful" people with disabilities, living in poverty, or having ethnic background although this is a reality for many Americans. In recent years African Americans have become more prominent in beauty advertisements they do not represent what most African American women look like. The African American women considered "beautiful" are those with features similar to whites such as light but even skin tone, light eyes, and straight or wavy hair.

For most Americans media is purely a form of entertainment and most don't see the hidden message, it is secretly pounded into their minds day after day. It is all fun and games for you while institutions in our country take your money and tell you how you should spend your time and what to look like while doing it.


Margaret L. Anderson, Howard F. Taylor. 2008. Sociology In Everyday Life. Thomson Wadsworth/Thomson Corporation. United States.

"The Ad and the Ego." Video. 1997. Parallax Films documentary.

Dangers of American Socialization

An excellent paper 2 example by Dawn Duran.

Socialization is the process by which people learn the expectations of society (Andersen 83). In the past most socialization occurred within the family unit. We passed on our values, morals and beliefs to our children through daily interaction. As adults we received validation from our families and peers. In today's world we receive our socialization from many areas of society. In addition to the social institution of the family we receive socialization from school, the media, religion and peers. In American society the focus is put on individualism as opposed to collectivism as is done in so called "primitive societies." Our individualistic approach dictates that some must fail in order for others to succeed. In a collectivism society when everyone succeeds it serves the whole community (Wolf lecture 2/12/08).

We start being socialized from the day we are born. We learn from a very early age what is expected of us and where our place in society is. You can watch a young child start to imitate the adults in their life they start to develop there sense of self by receiving positive or negative reinforcement from the world around them.

Young girls watch their mothers and learn what it is to be a woman. You can watch a young girl imitate their mother, putting on makeup pretending to cook playing dress-up and so on. Through this imitation the girl internalizes what she sees as her role in society. But what happens to the child when the image that society presents to her doesn't fit what she sees in the mirror or at home? American children ages 8-19 spend 6 ¾ hours per day using or watching media in one form or another (Andersen 86). What does this young girl see in the media? Most shows on TV portray the American family as what we consider the typical family, Mom, Dad and 2.5 kids but increasingly this is not what children experience at home. The ads on TV portray women as slim, attractive, stress free super women. Usually this is not real life. Increasingly children come from single family homes often splitting their time between two homes. The images they see on TV of what it means to be a woman is not a realistic portrayal of their Mom.

So what happens when the images we see every day disagree with who we are? We internalize what we see. The ads and shows we watch let us know that we are not ok. They infer we will not be ok unless we look, act, or feel a certain way. And to look, act, and feel the way we should we need to buy this or that product. If we cannot afford to buy whatever it is we will not be ok.

It's not only the media that tells us we are not ok we receive this message from lots of different social institutions. Even the school system is guilty of letting kids know they are not ok. Boys receive more attention in classrooms than do girls. Working-class and poor children are perceived as not as smart as middle and upper class children (Andersen 90). Conflicting signals we receive result in role strain; we are confused about who we are and where our place in society is.

We can look at what has happened in Ladakh as a microcosm of what happens in our own society. Up until 1962 the Ladakhis experienced socialization through their immediate family members and the community in which they were a part of (Norberg). Every one had their place in the community and each person was valued on what they could contribute to the community as a whole. According to Helena Norberg-Hodge who lived and observed this community for a number of years these were a very happy, productive, serene people. I believe that this sense of contentment that they felt came from knowing what their place was within their society and knowing that what they could contribute was valued. The internalized the values of working together as a community, to being loyal to neighbors, friends and family. Their sense of self was not based on some unattainable ideal seen on a TV or in a magazine.

When Ladakh was exposed to the modern world and especially to the media their sense of self started to erode. All of a sudden what they did and who they were was not good enough. Add in schooling and numerous other social institutions and soon their whole society is turned upside down. They go from a happy content people to a society where depression, violence, low self-esteem and general discontent are rampant.

It would be easy to think this is only happening in Ladakh because they were a backward society but if we compare it to our own society we can see glaring similarities. Americans also experience all of these social issues. The United States has now and has had for some time the problems of depression, violence, low self-esteem. We tend to see these issues as personal problems. But if our way of socializing has produced the same social issues that we have shouldn't we take a look at our way of socializing?

We are shown from a young age what it is to be successful in our society. To be successful we must be beautiful or handsome have lots of money and things. We like to say we value things like family and loyalty and hard work but this is not what is portrayed as successful in our media. In fact these values we say are important are all expendable in the face of success. We say that anyone can live the American dream but if you are white, middle class and male this dream is much more attainable.

Our socialization techniques seemed designed to make people feel like failures rather than like they are succeeding in life. We can not all look like the people on TV, we can not all be from a white middle class family. We pay a lot of lip service to diversity in our society but it seems to me that what our culture deems as successful follows a very strict code. Is it no wonder that we have such social problems and that people suffer from depression and a lack of self worth? Maybe instead of trying to turn different societies such as the Ladkhis to our way of thinking we should be trying to turn our way thinking to how their society used to be. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could feel like success if we were happy and content with having good friends a loving family and a roof over our heads? It would be wonderful if our success were measured by the smiles on our faces and the love in our hearts as opposed to the size of our bank accounts and the number of cars parked in our garages. If being a good person was valued more that a nice body and a pretty face. It seems to me that maybe we are the "primitive society" not the other way around.

Works Cited

Andersen, Margaret L, and Howard F. Taylor. Sociology in Everyday Life. United States: Thomas Wadsworth, 2008

Norberg-Hodge, Helena. "The Pressure to Modernise." ISEC 2 Feb. 2002 http://www.ised.org.uk/articles/pressure.html

Wolf, Rowan. Portland Community College, Portland. 2 February. 2008

Sociology Paper #2 - Birdcage

An excellent paper 2 example by Natalie Stager.

Marilyn Frye's birdcage analogy is meant to represent oppression. She talks about how, when looking at a birdcage microscopically, there seems no reason that a bird couldn't fly out of the cage. It would seem the bird was stuck due to the fact that by looking at it this way, all the observer would see is one wire and they wouldn't be able to see that, in actuality, the bird is surrounded by a series of wires that contain it in a certain space. In Frye's writing entitled "Oppression" she concludes, "It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere..." (Frye). In the original work, Frye speaks about the oppression of women, but her comparison of social structures that keep people from reaching certain levels or leaving certain spaces to a birdcage can be used to describe many other types of oppression found in society today.

This example really reminds me of a common problem that is seen today among high school dropouts or the unemployed. The unemployed worker, let's call him Joe, never graduated high school. When he was 16 he dropped out of school and started doing mining work with his father. Joe has been working for the same company for 10 years when suddenly, the company goes bankrupt and shuts down. Joe is unable to find another job in his town due to the fact that so many are unemployed. He decides that he needs to go back to school to get his GED because many other employers won't hire him without it. Joe does some research and realizes that he can't afford to go back to school and he has already taken out a loan in order to buy a house for him and his family. This puts him in a frustrating predicament. He can't get work because he is not educated enough, he can't get more education because he can't afford it, and the reason he can't afford it is because he doesn't have a job. It is a horrible circle of circumstances that contain him in the place that he is already at: unemployed and stuck.

One occasion that I experienced constraint by social structures is when entering into college. My parents help me pay for college and luckily I decided that I wanted to go to Portland Community College and was fortunate enough to be able to. Although, had I wanted to go directly to a four year university, I would have had to take out some kind of loan in order to afford it. If I had wanted to go to a more prestigious school or maybe a school that was further away, I don't know if it would have been possible due to financial limitations. Although we are able to get by paying at PCC, it is still difficult, so I apply for financial aid. Trying to receive financial aid is a frustrating process. My family tries to make enough money in order to pay for my schooling, but along with other bills and my parents contributing to my sister's financial needs also, that money doesn't go very far. Due to the fact that my father tries to make enough money to help us with schooling costs, I was unable to receive some financial aid because my dad made too much money. While I can see how it is sensible to base aid given on the person's financial situation, it isn't taken into account how much of the money made is even available to use for schooling. This situation reminded me of Frye's analogy. The first wire that I saw that seemed to block me in was the cost of going to college. I thought to myself, "By applying for financial aid and receiving help from my parents, I can get around this," but when I tried that, it was another roadblock. If I pull back and look at the whole situation from a wider view, I seem to be stuck in this situation.

While it seems like speed bumps on the road to college can be surpassed by going around them, it isn't always true. Let's say an Oregon citizen wanted to go to college in New Mexico. This student wanted to try to break out of their lower class lifestyle and go to a new state in order to start fresh. Firstly, they need to find a place to stay. They look into the dorms at the college and find out that they have applied too late and won't be able to be accommodated. So they think to themselves, "Alright I'll find another place to stay and then I'll be all set." The student decides to get a small apartment near campus, which will cost them more money. Due to the money they had to pay for the apartment, and the out of state fees for going to college in a state they haven't lived in, they don't have enough money to pay for tuition. Getting a student loan is their only option, but by getting a loan they will have a major amount of debt. In order to offset the debt they will receive from the school loan, they look into getting a job that will help them make enough money to stay on top of the payments. Getting a job will in turn make them have less time to go to class and therefore make them have to spend an extra year at the college in order to get their degree. By staying that extra year, they would have to pay even more tuition and rent. Finally, seeing that their situation isn't improving, the student decides to stay in Oregon for school where they can afford it and they are stuck right back in the position they started in. The way that the social structures work together and intertwine makes change extremely difficult and these structures are oppressive.

Emile Durkheim argued that what gives groups a sense of solidarity is something called a collective consciousness. This consciousness makes people feel like they are a part of something and they are then obligated to act within its beliefs and restrictions (Andersen 130). The negative effects of these common ties are that they can hold people back from transforming into something different or perhaps even better. For instance, if a teenage girl is part of the Christian religion and has discovered that she is a homosexual, she may be inhibited by her religious beliefs and the beliefs of those that surround her. Since she was little she may have been told to accept herself as one of God's creation and to love herself, but if she does so, she risks being shunned or being looked at with disgust for doing so. This young woman may feel like she is sinning by lying to her friends and family. Durkheim's idea of collective consciousness has a connection with Frye's analogy of oppression as a birdcage because being part of a group can contribute to the enclosures by which someone may be confined. By looking at this situation microscopically, you might say that the girl just needs to tell her family and friends the truth and get around her feelings of deceit from lying, but if she does so she will risk all that she has. The situation is actually much more complicated than it appears. The wires in this situation are not tangible, but they are definitely present.

Social structure, "...the organized pattern of social relationships and social institutions that together compose society," can lead to many situations of oppression (Andersen 129). These different types of relationships and social institutions can cause confusion and contradictions that may cage someone into a certain place. In the story of the teenage Christian girl, family and religion are the social institutions that are affecting her social relationships. If looked at microscopically, you may just think her family is homophobic, but if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, you may see that there is a huge religion base that makes them feel a certain way. Whether their opinion is right or wrong doesn't matter because both the family and the girl are being influenced by outside sources that contribute to their feelings and actions. Frye describes why you can't look at situations from only one perspective; you must look at all the contributing factors and the social structures that may cause certain things to happen a certain way or people to react in the ways they do.

Works Cited
Andersen, Margaret L. and Howard F Taylor. Sociology In Everyday Life. USA:
ThomsonWadsworth, 2008.
Frye, Marilyn. "Oppression." 13 February 2008 . http://www.terry.uga.edu/~dawndba /4500

The Life Challenge

An excellent paper 2 example by Chelsea Fuller.

From a young age our parents and family always asks, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Many answer extravagantly with occupations like a doctor, a super star, a pro athlete, and sometimes even an astronaut. Often, we are then told that we can be anything we want to as long as we work hard. That is until we get a little older, and our dreams undeniably doubtful. As we go through adolescence we begin to be asked the same question, but this one comes with a little extra, being asked to discover who we will be as an adult and how will we contribute to society. Having just recently turned eighteen I am personally facing many obstacles in answering that question. Realizing it is a lot more complicated now than when it was asked as a child. The multiple social locating factors that we use to identify ourselves cause many challenges as we shift into our adult lives.

Get an education, find a career, form a family, and live happily ever after are the common expectations most Americans are to accomplish. It seems as time goes by the pressure to get higher education is enormous and considered almost necessary. However, myself, and probably many others are facing large role conflict as we start our new lives. We are trying to be the student, as well as the adult. We are being asked to focus completely on school and at the same time expecting to start an independent life, and for many of us that means a job. I personally feel overwhelmed as I'm sure many others as well. The looking-glass self is worried how others would see them if didn't go on to receive a higher-level education. But there are so many different aspects that effect our individual decisions as we begin to define "who we are."

Wanting the best in life more and more Americans are choosing to get that higher education, to reach a higher status. Unfortunately, because of social inequalities, doing so for many is a difficult task. Depending on your economic standings can limit your options in the level of education you receive and the quality of it. Even with scholarships and loans college is extremely difficult for most to pay for. Also, many people because of their locations have limited opportunities in their public education and are then challenged when trying to go on to higher education as well. When I started high school I lived in a very small rural town where the education was less than average. There were a very small variety of classes to choose from and not a lot of classes to challenge. When trying to get into prestigious colleges even the valedictorians had difficulty because what we got was not enough. However, because of the confinements of our location many sought to leave the small town, not as "good" life to reach higher status, tiered of being "hicks".

So now I am here in college, where I have to decide what course of education to take so I can get a career in my field of choice. But I wonder, is it really all my choice? We all want to make our parents happy, and we all want to be successful, and above all we all want to be accepted, undoubtedly these factors influence our decisions as we conform to societies expectations. In my situation I started school with the idea of studying political science. After being moved by people like Michael Moore I decided that I myself wanted to try and change the world, or at least America, too. However, the very same people who told me I could become whatever I wanted to become as a child suddenly seem to have changed their minds. Now they tell me that most activist don't make a lot of money, and they question what kind of life I would be living. On top of that there is also the underlying factor of it being a "mans" job. After much pressure, I too began to doubt my dreams. So I changed them to a safer occupation. I am now going to be a teacher, a much more accepted occupation for a woman who wants to have a successful life and a family.

I feel like most of the pressures have an underlying base that goes back to our social status. I believe this is the factor that drives many of our decisions and determines how we live our lives. For if I truly chose to be what I wanted to be I would be hippy that traveled the country and enjoyed life. But honestly, with all societies expectations I feel it would be impossible to be happy. Judgment placed would ruin your self- esteem and your personal identity. If you devalue yourself it seems a little hard to be happy in life.

I want to know who decided what was the "right" way of living, and why did they get to say what other ways of living where wrong. Sometimes the alternatives that are looked down upon seem much more appealing to me.

February 19, 2008

Cyberculture--The New Subculture

An excellent paper 2 example by Christine Jones.

My 23-year-old son, Shaun, is a charter member of a new subculture--the cyberculture. (or virtual culture). I intentionally use the term "charter" because he began his involvement in this particular culture at the beginning of its formation around 1995, when he was only 10 years old. At that time he took an after-school class to learn how to use personal computers and then encouraged his teacher to start an after-school computer club, which he attended until we moved the next year. He learned quite a bit from his mentor and acquired his own computer and convinced his father and I to set up an account with AOL, which connected him to the internet and the cyber world of which he has been a part of ever since. It has played a major role in his life, and though he may at times take part in other groups, the majority of his social interaction takes place in this subculture. He has also earned his income through it since he was 12 years old. Therefore I thought I would do my second paper on cyberculture with the objective of gaining a better understanding of it as a subculture.

A subculture is one that exists within a larger culture but that has beliefs, values and norms that are different from the dominant one. The members of a subculture usually interact frequently amongst themselves and have cultural markers--language, appearance, or behavior--that identify them (Anderson and Taylor 66). Cyberculture or virtual culture is one such subculture. They communicate with each other via computers using e-mail, web sites and online bulletin boards or forums, chat rooms, blogs, virtual communities and online computer games. Members form many kinds of relationships, from casual to intimate, without ever meeting each other face to face. It has it own set of rules for behavior, language, ideas, practices and rituals (121). The majority of my son's friends, clients, and business dealings are within this social structure.

In order to get a better understanding of the various aspects of cyberculture, I decided to interview my son and drew up a list of questions. These questions were formulated to find out about the language, norms, beliefs and values that make up cyberculture--these being the sociological elements that define a culture (59). I decided to explore these elements with an emphasis on the language to see how they inter-relate.

Language is a very important aspect of any culture because it is the major means by which the members of the culture communicate and interact with each other. As explained in our text, "Language is a set of symbols that, put together in a meaningful way, provides a complex communication system" (59). To be a part of any society, culture, or group, it is essential that you know the language. In fact many sociologists think that language may be the most elemental part of a culture in that it does not merely convey meaning but actually shapes it. According to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, "...language determines other aspects of culture because language provides categories through which social reality is understood" (59). For this reason I will focus on the language of cyberculture, and through it examine the other three elements.

When asked about the language used on the Internet, Shaun said that the use of acronyms is very common because it saves time in typing. The form of cyber-communication, and where and between whom it is taking place, determines the degree acronyms are used. E-mails may contain none or many, depending on who is using them. On the other hand, in chat rooms, close knit forums and in gaming they are used a lot. Some common acronyms used in cyberculture are TTYL (talk to you later), AFK (away from keyboard) and BRB (be right back). Ones that are not as commonly known are QFT (quoted for truth) or IRL (in real life). I will come back to their use and meaning later in this paper. A person's status can be assessed by their facility with cyberculture acronyms because they are numerous, and just like with American slang, certain ones come into popularity and then fall out of favor. An example of this is LOL (laughing out loud) that is apparently considered old and over-used, so now those that are "in the know" in cyberculture might use ROFL (rolling on floor laughing) instead. In other words using LOL might mark you as being in the out-group rather than the in-group of cyberculture just as using the outdated words--groovy or boss--would in our young dominant culture (143-144). Currently, it is also considered savvier to write these acronyms in lower case rather than upper case letters.

Another form of language used in cyberculture is what is referred to as nerdy speak. Nerdy speak are terms that are used in cyberculture communications and are specific to it in some way. One example of this is the use of numbers in the place of certain letters in words. An example would be to use a 4 in the place of an 'A' or a 3 in the place of an 'E'. For example one might write re4lity for reality, or s3x for sex. According to Shaun this began as a form of encryption to thwart spam blockers trying to prevent junk e-mails and to confuse those who might be trying to bust porn sites or others who were participating in deviant Internet activities. In time it came into popular usage. However, it has apparently become a marker for those who are trying too hard to be cool in the cyberculture world and has fallen out of favor.

In nerdy speak a person in cyberculture might be referred to as a noob or a leet. A noob is someone who is new and inexperienced to the culture and a leet is an established and respected member. How well a person uses the language of the cyberculture in their communications will mark them quickly on this particular continuum. Another example is the term owned. Owned refers to any unfortunate incident that befalls a person and is derived from the gaming arena of cyberculture. If a person playing one of the virtual on-line games gets knocked out of the game or loses all they had acquired, they are said to "have got owned" by an opponent. Gradually it's use became broader and now if someone gets thrown in jail, loses their home or girlfriend, or has some other misfortune befall them they might tell others in their cyber community that they got owned.

Norms are the particular expectations within a culture that govern how to behave in given situations. These expectations may be implicit or explicit. Implicit norms are those that are simply understood by members of that culture and need not be stated. Explicit norms are rules that are more formally communicated or laid out and may involve specific sanctions if violated (62). Norms in cyberculture vary depending on where and what you are doing but many of them are focused around the rules governing communication. According to Shaun one of the major rules governing the norms involves communicating in a way that is easily understood. Since members are not seeing each other they must rely on the written form of communication because body language, voice tone, gestures and other forms of nonverbal communication are not involved (122). People do not want to spend a lot of time and effort trying to decipher what a person is actually trying to communicate. Grammar and syntax is important, though not necessarily like that expected by an English literature professor. For example it is expected that people will use spell-check, good punctuation and not use run-on sentences. Using the cyber language that is appropriate for the group is important. It is also a norm that people will be polite. If a person is entering a chat room or forum in which they are not known it is expected that they will introduce themselves--not just barge in with whatever it is they are seeking or wanting to say. When the norms are not followed the person may be subject to such sanctions as being ignored, corrected, criticized or even blocked from that community.

Beliefs are what shape reality or a group's view of the world. They are certain ideas that members of a culture more or less share that form the basis of that culture's norms and values (63). When asked about beliefs, Shaun said there was one major one that would be comparable to the dominant US belief in the importance of individual freedom. It is a belief in the freedom of information. The right to have free access to information is a basic underlying belief in cyberculture and though its members may differ on ideas about how it is accomplished and what restrictions should and should not be permitted, it does seem to form the foundation of their worldview.

Values are closely connected to beliefs. The beliefs of a culture form the basis for the values of that culture--standards of what is desirable or morally correct (63). What is good or bad, held in high or low esteem, is determined by a culture's values. To help illustrate some of the values of cyberculture I will go back to two terms I used earlier in this paper--QFT (quoted for truth) and IRL (in real life). The Internet is a means for the exchange of information, and cyberculture, which is closely associated with the Internet, is a subculture built on that exchange. However, information covers a very broad range in this medium. In chat rooms and computer games as well as other areas, you may create a great deal of information that would not be considered factual or acceptable in the dominant culture, but is acceptable in cyberculture. You can make up a whole new identity for yourself--different name, appearance, gender, age and even appearance--and this is acceptable (120-121). However, there has to be delineations made and that is the source for these two terms. If a person writes something that is indeed factual, in both the cyberculture and the dominant culture they will stress it by labeling it QFT (quoted for truth). This term originated in forums that maintain permanent records of the posted communications of its members. If someone writes something that they present as factual, others may reply that they are being QFT, meaning that they will be held responsible for that information being true and if it turns out not to be, they will lose credibility. Since cyberculture values access to information, those who prove to be a reliable source of it gain status and are valued in the community.

On the other hand, IRL (in real life) helps maintain the boundary between the cyber world and the real world. A person will use this term to differentiate them by pointing out that what they are saying pertains to the real world or the reality of the dominant culture. For example, if they are telling another that a close friend died they will say IRL, meaning that a friend in real life died versus someone who plays in their game was killed off or a certain person is simply no longer a participant in their cyber community.

It has been very interesting to learn about cyberculture and gain a better understanding of what makes it a counterculture, albeit one that most of us have some interaction within. I have enjoyed learning more about it through its language, norms, beliefs and values. It is a significant subculture of our dominant culture and the interaction and influence between the two is vast and promises to become even greater.


Anderson, Margaret L. And Taylor, Howard F. 2008." Sociology in Everyday Life" Thompson/ Wadsworth,: Portland Community College, US.

Cameron, Shaun. Personal Interview. 10 Feb 2008.

High School Norms

An excellent paper 2 example by Megan Chambers.

Question: Identify a group on you campus that you would call a subculture. What are the distinctive norms of this group? Based on your observations of this group, how would you describe its relationship to the dominant culture on campus?

Clackamas High school is located in the suburbs of Clackamas, Oregon. This school would be a sociologist dream to study because of the norms associated with subcultures and dominant culture of the school. First let me explain Clackamas, the city has been rapidly expanding over the last ten years. Expensive houses and a newly redone mall make this city look very neat, seem "American dream" like, and become a very costly place to live. A brand new high school was built in 2003 to accommodate the ever increasing student population, to give an idea of growth the new high is already overpopulated and they are joining the middle school building with the high school. In the last ten years I would make an educated guess that the city of Clackamas has at least doubled. Before this fast and large expansion, the city was a farming community and evidence still remains on the outer layer. Because the town is very expensive the majority of the people who attend Clackamas high are middle class and above. There is probably about 15% of the high school population that is not middle class and above. Therefore the interactions of the dominant culture, subcultures, and countercultures are fascinating and an obvious reflection of the society around it.

The dominant culture of Clackamas high school consists of a large wealthy population. The students come to school with flashy clothes, cars, and technological devices. Clothes commonly worn among the dominant culture is Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle, and Nordstrom. People drive Mercedes and BMW and have IPods and nice phones. To not dress, drive, or own expensive devices puts you outside of the culture and generally makes the person who doesn't have these things an outsider. The popular thing to engage in, in mainstream Clackamas is sports, student body, and serious academics'. Among the dominant culture of the wealthy kids' theses activates all split into their own subculture. Each wealthy student picks one popular activity to be rigorously involved in and does above average in the rest. Although each activity is a subculture and strengths the relationship between students specific to the activity, all wealthy students still funnel into a common dominant culture. That dominant culture reflects the society around them. The norms include owning expensive clothes and gadgets, money not being an object, not interacting with people outside of their culture, and being very involved with the school specific to the activities listed above. Something commonly seen in the classrooms is the dominant culture continually shunning and excluding those not a part of the dominant culture or popular subcultures. Ethnocentrism is practices not only by the dominant culture of the student population but the faculty allow the students to behave accordingly. A student not a part of the dominant culture at Clackamas high is facing four years of serious seclusion. The dominant culture can be witnessed in the cafeteria has herding together in one specific section. If another student approaches the dominant group, depending on what status level in the population they are, they will most likely be turned away which could be polite or not. The fact that the dominant culture of the school is a large part of the population of the school not being a part of the group makes it very difficult to avoid the norms, and ethnocentrism on campus.

One of the subcultures of the dominant culture is the athletes of Clackamas. The most popular sports are there very successful football, baseball, basketball, dance, and soccer team. When looking in the cafeteria athletes are easily identifiable, they wear matching jersey and tend to "rule" the school no matter what the context . The more popular sports are the sports played by men so the majority of these groups consist of boys. When there aren't grouped together you can easily spot them in the hall or in the classrooms. They are the apple of the schools eye and therefore can get away with more than other students. In classes teacher are more reluctant to discipline the students and therefore athletes tend to be louder, rowdier, and overconfident. When involved in the dominant culture of the school the subculture of athletes treated very importantly.

Another main subculture is the student body counsel. Created to represent the student population and make decision is a direct reflection of the dynamics at Clackamas high school. The students involved tend to be athletes, good friends of athletes, and the wealthier students. The people who get elected are responsible for minimal responsibilities in decision making but are of equal importance in the dominant culture. To get elected almost pushes you to an athlete's status. Students elected are known by everyone and looked up to by all cultures in the school. The norms of the people involved in student counsel is trying to be polite to people outside of their subculture, helping around the school with tutoring and community service, and usually be very successful in academics'.

Academics are something very important to the dominant culture at Clackamas high school. This involves succeeding above and beyond in your classes. To not do well at school is viewed in the dominant culture as a flaw. Other students and teacher care significantly about the success of your grades and if you do not do well you are associated outside of the dominant culture. People who fail have serious ethnocentrism aimed toward them. If you are a C average or below people automatically view you as stupid or a loser. You are placed as an outsider and not accepted by the dominant culture as acceptable. Punishments for such things are serious and can even include being held back or not graduating. The entire culture focuses in being as successful student as possible. The people who do not meet the standards are usually identifiable because their either have a very small subculture or are cast aside and seen as "loners".
There are many subcultures at Clackamas high school and a common belief of success in school, being a good athlete, and being involved in culture. Having money and being able to support yourself financially in the future is a common value among the population. A value common among the subculture is beauty and success and is reinforced constantly by the dominant culture in the school and community around the school.

Although there are large subculture that feed into the dominant culture as I have stated there are also other small subcultures that aren't as closely related to the dominant culture. This involves people involved in music programs, science groups, and art programs. Although these groups are not a subculture not considered important to the dominant culture the people involved have created a strong subculture for themselves. These subcultures are well established with specific people and faculty and are thriving in the dominant culture. They aren't considered a norm to the dominate culture but are under the radar of being a target of ethnocentrism. They have become a functioning subculture that is an alternative to students who don't want to be involved in the mainstream dominate and popular subcultures.

Because of such a strong dominate culture countercultures have formed as Clackamas high. This usually involves students who do not participate in extracurricular activities, have money, dress accordingly, or get good grades. There are many small groups of countercultures and when the study population is all together these groups are very east to point out. There are groups of students who rebel against the norms of clothing by getting piercings, developing their own fashion style, and dying their hair odd colors. This subculture is very easy to see when standing next to a person who is a part of the dominate culture. This people usually don't eat in the cafeteria completely removing themselves from the main group. It is a decent subculture in size and most involved in the group still so dress very similarly. A counterculture might choose its way of rebelling by failing classes, vandalizing, skipping school, or fighting with the people in the dominate culture. The counterculture's usually disrupt the life's of the dominate culture's either purposely or by just being completely against the norm's of the dominate culture.
Another subculture is divided by races at the school. There is a small Hispanic and Russian population and they have both formed their own subculture. When looking in the cafeteria these groups all sit together every day and do not venture outside of their subculture. These subculture's stick to themselves and don't get too involved in the norms of the dominate culture. They speak their first language to each other and do not usually let anyone who is not a part of their group in. If someone outside of their subculture attempts to join these groups it usually strongly rejected.

Clackamas high is a school that has a very large and enforcing dominate culture. Having money, material items, being an athlete, good students, and active in your culture are all norms involved in Clackamas. Subcultures and Counterculture have established but are strongly looked down upon. It is hard to be a subculture and counterculture but when looking from an outside perspective both groups are very obvious. It is also apparent how and what is important to be successful; becoming a part of the dominate culture. Clackamas is a changing and growing communtiy whose dominate culture, subculture, and countercultures will be changing just as fast as the city is growing. With a large growing population the students that live within this community will be subject to continual culture change. The lower and middle class are shrinking and with the expansion of the city may continue to shape and change this culture as a more wealthy population. A census of this school would be very interesting. I would be curious to see the race, gender, and income levels of the students to further my sociological analysis of the infrastructure of culture among student life there.

February 7, 2008

Brain Wash

An excellent Paper 1 example by Thao Mai

" Guess what? The Nazis didn't lose the war after all. They won it and flourished. They took over the world...This took a long, long time, but when it was all over, everyone in the world was one hundred percent Aryan, and they were all very, very happy. Naturally the textbooks used in the schools no longer mentioned any race but Aryan or any language but German or any religion but Hitlerism...After a few generations of that, no one could have pit anything different into the textbooks...because they didn't know any thing deferent. But one day two young students were conversing at the University of New Heidelberg in Tokyo....Kurt said, " I'll tell you, Hans. There is something that's troubling me- and troubling me deeply"... "it is this" Kurt said. " I cant shake the crazy feeling that there is some small thing that we are being lied to about" (Ishmael, 27). If one day Kurt can get out of that Hitlerism planet, he will find out what he has been lied about; Based on my own story, I can guarantee this. In past seventeen years living in Vietnam, lot of things in society did not make sense but I had no ideas what I had been lied about. One day, an airplane took me thousands miles away to America where I have enough critical distance to realize that my brain has been "washed" pretty well.

In the past seventeen years living in Vietnam and studied about our country, I was taught Vietnam is the most wonderful and has a perfect political system . "We have a brave and heroic country with a fair political system which had been set up to serve Vietnamese", my mind shaped to see society this way. Thousand of years being colony of Chinese, five hundred years colony of France, then colony of Japan and America ," we has small size of both lands and body, though we had never lost a war," my history teacher taught me, " it is the most obvious evidence to be proud of." Besides, this slogan is everywhere "serving Vietnamese is mission of the government." Each years, the government spent billion dollars each year in propaganda the law "citizens have right to vote". Beware of capitalism may be formed, government must control everything, prices, salary, schools, factories, transportations, communication service... Being middle agent to keep balance between the rich and the poor is the main roles of the government. Moreover, the national phrase "Independent- freedom- happiness" was everywhere to remind me how our society presence. Still in my memory, "all citizens are equal", citizens have freedom to speed and freedom to choice religion" was the first law that I was taught. All the resources from books TV, newspapers, magazines, and teachers...admired our political system. I was proud to be next generation of Vietnamese who are socialist, equality, freedom, ethical, hard working and brave.
Until I arrive America, my basic knowledge, belief and pride is crashed so hard like a glass bottle falls on a hard ground. An American came to me and ask "your country is communist, right?" I frown "No, we are Socialist Republic." I have never heard about the word "Communist" before. I go online to find a proven; Surprisingly I find out that I has been fool. When I was in my country, my teacher never told us that we swiped out Champa and robbed their land around 1472. They said America was an invader after French but did not mention that America was the Southern benefactor. September 2rd, 1945 was not a national independent day but it was the day the southern lost the war. There were terrible pictures, songs, poems what it had never saw, heard or read before, about those black days after 1945. From the youngest child into the oldest senior whoever still wanted to follow Cong Hoa was killed cruelly: the Communist, we were, buried our people alive. Kids were forced to picked gun and kill their brothers, sisters. Thousands of Vietnamese bodies were buried in Pacific Ocean on their way to cross the ocean. There was lot of people and businesses which were took away because the government need more fund. Now, there were still so many debunk Vietnamese society that I have never seen before. "Vote", somebody wrote it is a luxury play which replays every years because the new leader is selected before citizens voted for them. Receiving brides are so popular that people accepted them as a policy. Many people who live on country side are put in prison because they want to switch their religion into Christian. When I was young, my dad slapped hand my hand and make me promise that I would never repeat this sentence again " I don't believe Ho Chi Minh is that much perfect" as long as I still living in Vietnam. For sure, he was not a big fan of Ho Chi Minh but I could not know what was wrong.
What if I didn't have the opportunity to go to America, what if I grown old in Vietnam, I will never know the truth. All the books, poems and songs about Cong Hoa was burn along with their author. All the radio channels and TV news are selected by the Government. My government even writes textbooks and resource for education system. No one dared to speak up the truth. Every evidences hit on my brain said "this is the truth, believe, live with it." I don't even doubt that I am being lied, therefore I don't even mind to find a critical distance. Only when I moved to American or any other country so I have the opportunities to build up the critical distance; in another words, I watch my country under another point of view. Come back with the story in Ishmael, can Kurt find his critical distance while the whole world belong to Aryan?
We are, human, who write up a story of our society and we got stuck inside. Daniel Quinn is right to define " a culture is a people enacting a story." " A story" can be rewrite. The lies survive after generation and generation; it will be assume to be the truth. Because the truth always be accepted, no one want to bring them out and dissect them again. We don't want to be pressure; we lived without wondering "how things came to be this way." How does it affect me after we know the truth? Nothing, I am upset and disappointed for couples days then it gone; History could not change. However, because a story can be rewrite, we write up a better future; where kids desire to learn the truth.

February 3, 2008

Reality is Fake, Sociology is Real: Or, How to Make a Sociologist

An excellent example of paper 1 by Mandy Dye.

What I am about to tell you may seem shocking. Indeed, you might be tempted to label me an armchair conspiracy theorist or a perma-baked dilettante junior hippie. But before you judge, consider the evidence that I use to support my outlandish claims. The peculiar point of view I propose is this— what we call reality is fake, but its consequences are real. Of course, I am engaging in hyperbole, but only to help shift your brain into a different gear. Trust me, it will help when I begin to explain myself. What I really mean by my statement is that most people don’t tend to think about why the world seems to operate as it does, and how this has shaped their own experiences and respective positions in life. Nor do they go on to consider that they also affect reality through their action, inaction and ideas.

That’s where sociology comes in. This particular social science attempts to analyze and explain the social world (28 Anderson and Taylor, 2008), it attempts not to merely consider all that we see and experience to be the unchangeable, natural order of things. To break the habit of taking the state of things for granted one must first develop a sociological imagination. That means realizing that nothing that goes on in society is necessarily random or new. It also means taking that realization a step further and looking at how these non-random occurrences play into the lives of people as individuals and groups.

Sociology makes this possible by breaking the social world up into pieces that can be defined and classified. These words already exist in our vocabulary, but sociology applies new meanings to them that are more scientifically specific. One of the most important definitions in this science would be that of society. According to the lecture notes on January 10, 2008, in Professor Wolf’s Soc 204 class, society can be defined as “people sharing a culture, a social structure, and a territory.” Equally relevant is the idea of culture--people sharing rules of interaction and meanings of things (Wolf’s lecture notes, January 10, 2008). Or, more simply put, a shared reality.

Even these basic explanations of these concepts of society and culture might be enough to lead one to ask some questions that may not have came to mind before one started looking at things through the sociological binoculars. Questions like “What is this ‘shared rules of behavior’ thing, anyway?” Or “Well, it seems pretty apparent that not everyone shares the same reality. Why is that?” This is when it becomes really necessary to step back, to establish critical distance (8 Anderson, Taylor, 2008). When we do this, we are able to begin to see that there are patterns in society that impact peoples lives. It is easier to do this when looking at a culture or society drastically different from one’s own.

And that’s when it starts to get really interesting. Because that is when we get to the classical sociological theories such as functionalism, conflict theory and symbolic interaction that help us put what we see around us into a scientific perspective. We are able to draw conclusions by applying these theories and various methods of research. At this point, we can assume that the “reality” we experience is more or less constructed by people, groups of people, and the meaning we attach to seemingly mundane functions and items. We can now start to look deeper at social structure, that is, the rules that function to fit the needs of and to organize society. But keep in mind, this structure is not static, it is constantly changing on many levels.

To illustrate this, consider “The Body Ritual of the Nacerima” by Horace Miner. He writes about our own culture and society (circa 1956) in a fashion that is usually reserved for small groups of brown people who most likely live in jungles or on islands, or, sometimes both. Given his ironically hyper-literal descriptions of things, it’s easy to assume it’s not about us. I’m sure most readers would ask “Why would anyone talk about us like that? We’re not savages.” That, however, is not my point. I actually found myself struck most by the fact that, circa 1956, toothbrushes were relatively simple devices made of hog hair and hairdryers were cumbersome, stationary devices.

These are material artifacts of society, yes, but still important examples of how things change and how they can change quickly. Fifty years ago, it seems, very few people would have owned their own hairdryer. They were simply too big and expensive to be marketed on such a large scale. Today, however, even my dad and I own and use hairdryers in the comfort of our own homes. We’re not the most fashionable people alive and I certainly am not the most feminine woman alive, but still, we both find the devices necessary and convenient. This is one of the ways in which the “reality” of the American beauty ritual, and thus something in society, has changed. In the 1950s, hairdryer use was confined mostly to women, and even then they had to go to salons once a week for the treatment. Changes in both the material and ideological aspects of our society and culture are responsible. First the material, hairdryer technology has improved quite a bit in the intervening 50-or-so years, making it possible for me to own one that folds up and fits in a fairly small drawer in my bathroom. Astounding! Our collective understanding of acceptable behavior as applied to gender roles has also advanced to some degree. In the 1950s, I might have been arrested in some jurisdictions, given that I rarely wear 3 or more articles of “women’s” clothing. My dad’s masculinity would have certainly been in question had he attempted to seek out hair drying service in that era.

That’s what I meant before, when I hyperbolically stated that “reality is fake”. What is accepted as true, right and normal largely depends on what version of reality a group of people happen to be adhering to in a given time, location and situation. People are in charge of constructing this reality, which is better and more familiarly referred to as society. And reality, or society, is constantly informing our experiences as individuals and groups. The effects of our own particular shared reality begin at birth. We are taught, explicitly and implicitly, how to act, what to wear, who to associate with and what to results to expect in our own lives. Sociology helps us to shift our way of thinking so we can see through the things that we may not even realize we are looking at and start to analyze these things scientifically.

Anderson, Margaret L. and Howard F. Taylor. Sociology in Everyday Life. Thomson Wadsworth.

Wolf, S. Rowan, PhD. Lecture, January 10, 2008. Portland Community College.