Wednesday, March 28, 2012


This past week, the Sociology Department embarked on a perilous journey through hostile terrain, seeking a mythical land rumored to hold untold riches and danger.

No, we didn't go to Skyrim, or Narnia, or even Peru. We went somewhere better: New Orleans. Oh yes, that place filled that's with danger, strange folk speaking in strange tongues, and millions upon millions of little plastic beads.

Just to recap, last week we went to the annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society (SSS, or S-cubed) in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference was held at the historic Hotel Monteleone, a confusing jumble of hallways and salons situated in the middle of the French Quarter. If you missed out, fret not! There's always next year.

Here's a few pictures, to showcase some of our experiences.

The view from our
 hotel,the Bienville House

Roughing it in New Orleans.

You might not want to see what they're looking at.

She didn't smile after she
 realized it was alligator.


Bourbon Street...on a Wednesday

Another view from the
Bienville House balcony

Dr. Chiareli & Kate about
to give their presentation

Monday, March 26, 2012

You Mustn't Choose

It seems like such an intuitive answer. As the use of the Internet for things like news and current events, the use of traditional media like newspapers and television decreases. Why would you pay for a newspaper subscription when you can just google it and read it for free? 

Every few weeks, there seems to be a newspaper article or television special (if you use such archaic contraptions anymore) about the decline in readership for traditional medium. Take, for example this article from the New York Times about the drop in newspaper readership, and what companies are doing about it. Or this one in the Guardian. Or here on Wikipedia. I'm not sure if it's ironic that all of those links came from a Google search about "dropping newspaper sales", mainly because I've been informed several times I don't understand how to use the word ironic correctly.


So, reader, you might be asking what exactly this post is about, if the conclusion seems inevitable. It seems obvious that newspaper readership is declining, and perhaps television will be next. Heck, there's even a website dedicated to keeping up with the death of newspapers.

Despite all of this, a recent post on boldly proclaims that "Internet does not make young people abandon traditional media." Really? If that's true, that would sure make the New York Times blush for crying wolf.

But while the title of the post may seem definitive, the reality is much more nuanced. The article states that "Admittedly, people in this age group (9-24) do watch TV and listen to radio and recorded music somewhat less today than 30 years ago." So that trend seems to be undeniable. However, later on in that same thought, the author states that "it seems like people use the internet to complement and not substitute older media" (italics added).

Taking a step back from objectivity (whatever that is), the author of this particular post feels that this matches his experience precisely. While an avid consumer of online media, it's not like I never pick up a newspaper or flip on the television. Indeed, speeches are better to watch live than see on the internet, where the buffering demon knows no mercy. And while this take on the issue may not be taken into account as much in the popular media, that does not mean there isn't any research on the subject.

So how do we explain this? First off, it is helpful to notice that oftentimes the percentages of dropping readership mentioned in the earlier articles are more-often-than-not in the single digits, and usually over a period of the last decade or so. Looking at it that way, it seems less like we need to put the newspaper industry on life support, and more like the market and consumers are simply making space for the rapidly maturing online media industry, which is more convenient for those with internet access, and usually cheaper as well.

And while we will miss the Encyclopedia Britannica, it's not like the New York Times or the Washington Post are going anywhere anytime soon.

Despite what these crybabies may say.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Britannica & the Matrix

Quick! What happened in the year 1768? If you can't name any, it's ok. Unless you're a history major, in which case you might want to do some serious soul-searching.

Only kidding. Here's a bulldog puppy to cheer you up.
But seriously, to name a few events that happened in 1768:
  • Philip Astley staged the first modern circus in London.
  • Saint Isaac's cathedral founded in St. Petersburg.
  • The 1st Methodist church in the US opens in NYC.
  • 1st Edition of the  Encyclop√¶dia Britannica published.

For the rest of the events, visit this page. Did you catch that last one though? Recently it Britannica may have fallen out of vogue with many younger generations, in lieu of the seemingly-omniscient Cyber-trinity of Wikipedia, Google, and Siri (I might be starting to push it with these religion jokes). However, older generations remember Britannica as the encyclopedia that one owned if they were anybody. A definitive source for general knowledge, compiled from thousands of authors and with a history spanning centuries.

No literally, Britannica was in publication in four different centuries, beginning in 1768. Think about that for a minute. This encyclopedia is older than the United States and the modern states of Germany & Italy, and outlived Prussia, the Ottomans, and the British Empire.

Unfortunately, it was just announced yesterday that the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica will go out of print. To quote that article I just linked, this decision comes as "an acknowledgement of the realities of the digital age" not to mention competition from the bane of many purist academics, Wikipedia. The editors of Britannica announced that instead of print, they will instead focus on the online edition of Britannica, which is able to be updated continuously, rather than annually.

This blog has talked before about the effects of digitalization of stuff in the modern world. And while digitizing books may not be a huge shock for many (e-readers have been around for years, after all) it may still be a hard blow to many for something as much a part of Western history as tea (we stole from China) and gunpowder (we also stole from China).

They also release educational material.
And while there may be dissidents to digitizing books - such as this older article which criticizes the e-reader fad - it seems to be a unstoppable tide. While it is doubtful that printed material will disappear entirely, the industry has certainly taken many hits over the last few years. Take, for example, the website While originally a print magazine meant to be a counterpart to the popular MAD Magazine, it was forced to give up the printed part of its production in 2007, and now exists solely as a website (that you should definitely check out). And this is by far not the only example. Most magazines or newspapers worth their salt at least have a website, because they recognize the need for it. Even the newspaper in my hometown has it's own website and even a mobile app, which isn't too shabby for a newspaper of a town of less than 200,000 people.

I'm not sure if there's a lesson in here somewhere. I, for one, am not too crazy about e-readers. Maybe it's just because books are usually cheaper, or perhaps I am just trying to give myself an ego boost by having display cases full of books with fancy titles and authors.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Introverts & the Church

Hello all! We are back from a brief break and ready to start feeding you your daily bread of sociological knowledge (I hope that isn't sacrilegious or anything).

Today's blurb comes from a website known as the Aquila Report. In its own words, the Aquila  Report describes itself as an "independent source for news and commentary from and about conservative/orthodox/evangelicals in the Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches."

This particular article is about introversion, and where people who would describe themselves as such fit into the church. While there are several definitions of what it means to be introverted, the basic premise to remember is that an introverted person is drained by extended social contact, and seeks relative solace in order to "recharge". Though relevant to the social sciences in general, knowledge of different personality types is particularly applicable if you interested in fields like Interpersonal Counseling.

The introvertus solitarius in her natural habitat

Also, if you are especially interested in this kind of thing, here is a link to a blog that deals specifically with introverts in the church. Speaking in third person, as someone who is very introverted, the author of this post considers this kind of resource very helpful and  comforting.
My kind of church.
Here is the first part of the article.