Natural selection: Charles Darwin’s great-great-great-granddaughter on how the ‘new atheists’ sparked her return to Catholicism

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Internet memes and networked individualism: A perfect couple?

Social Media Collective

Memes are conceptual troublemakers. While academics have been debating over their theoretical usefulness ever since Richard Dawkins coined the term back in 1976, internet users speak of memes daily, as uncontested givens. Recently, I’ve been thinking of ways to bridge the yawning gap between academic and popular discourses on memes. I agree with some of the criticism of the ways the term has been used so far, but still see it as a powerful concept for unpacking many aspects of digital culture. Users are on to something, and I believe that researchers should follow – carefully and critically, of course…

As an initial step, I’d like to highlight three points that I made in a recent paper, An Anatomy of a YouTube Meme, each relating to a different question about memes:

What’s the difference between “memetic” and “viral”?
While “viral” and “memetic” are often used interchangeably, disentangling them may…

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Gender Bias- Enough!

Research confirms what many of us already knew, mothers have a much harder time getting promoted than single women and men with children.  There seems to be a strange correlation with single men having issues moving up, as well, although I could not find a reason for this specifically in the research.  From The Chronicle of Higher Education comes this:

“Take two equivalently qualified job candidates. One is known to be a parent. The other is not a parent.

With experimental scenarios like these, researchers have found substantial evidence of bias against mothers. In the studies of Shelley Correll, a professor of sociology at Stanford, childless women were roughly twice as likely to be called back or recommended for hire by an employer. And when childless women were recommended for a job, they were offered salaries approximately $11,000 higher”.

It is a scenario that plays out all too often and is perpetrated by people who are supposed to know that stereotyping and discriminating is just flat-out wrong, academia is mentioned and this is troubling.  This is a double-edged sword with women who happen to be mothers, yet it doesn’t define them and they may be (hypothesis) not exactly accepted by the more (how do I put this?)- maternal? mothers who have made a career out of parenting or portraying themselves as good parents or forgetting that it is their kids that are in high school or middle school not them…yes those women.  I have come to despise those women and it because, yes, they fit a stereotype and they help perpetuate it.  I know I am supposed to feel some solidarity here, but I hate them for it sometimes.  Just like a person who has fallen on “hard times” and is receiving assistance all the while hearing about what scum they are or whatever other people that FEAR the same fate call them, just like that feeling they get when they see a stereotype…or any ethnic group that has had to overcome hatred only to find themselves hating one another, because they HATE themselves and they are just destroying a mirror.  Yes Fear and Hate, capitalized, all-caps even, because these are the most powerful “forces” out there.  I say forces, because these aren’t feelings when they are permanent….they are states of mind.  What sort of progress can ever be made if I fear going outside this maternal box or toward a better future and I end up hating the women that appear content with themselves as a mom and a wife.  Sure everyone deserves to be happy…but my guess is that you are raising the self-entitled jerks that will be oblivious to anyone else, even you, yes you.  This is why some of us (this is for the non-parents)some of us decide to have children, because we are terrified, this is our fear, the fear of “cool women” anyway-this is hard to define but I’ll go on-OUR fear is that THOSE stereotypical and oblivious people will multiply…ever wonder why there is all this obsession with zombies in the popular culture?  Think about that for a second…

It’s a tightrope of being reminded when you go outside the norms of a social group with overt comments like “do you think you’re better than me?” “who do you think you are?” translation: know your place and most importantly do NOT EVER remind us that we may be oppressed in some way.  More covert forms of social control exist as well, being excluded for instance and no one wants that…if your family or peers won’t even talk to you because you are a reminder that MAYBE aspiring to be something different is not the worst goal, how confident can one possibly be with a group of more “superior” aka not oppressed and oblivious people with whom you have nothing in common with?  No wonder people scramble back to a dysfunctional life just to be accepted…being dysfunctional is better than being invisible.  Then you are pigeonholed back into a stereotype that ensures that your kids are stuck…if you have them and I understand why people don’t.  Moms can be as exclusive as any group I have ever met, I would probably have a better chance breaking down barriers with a motorcycle gang…I also have less of a chance of getting promoted and being taken seriously.  I talk about my kids (because they say the darndest things just like ADULT people sometimes) and I get the cold shoulder from the snobs who are above this, those who probably read Tolstoy’s later work and were influenced by the not having children thing and by that I mean the stuff he wrote when he was totally insane and also decided having kids was a bad idea after having 14.  I talk about Tolstoy with a group of mom’s and how the Kreutzer Sonata was also an actual Sonata and how Teddy Roosevelt considered Tolstoy a sexual moral pervert and…. if it doesn’t involve a story their kids wrote about their stuffed freaking dinosaur it is of no importance.  Really? Of course I said this is a tightrope, not every mother is self-absorbed and not every academic will freak out when you mention how your kid’s new hobby has something to do with campaigning for our street name to be changed because they didn’t like it for some forgettable reason, because they have moved on to campaigning for the driving age to be lowered to 10.

We are expected to act like two distinct people, both of these in the public sphere, three people if you act differently in private and gossip about people or whatever some people do… WEB DuBois talked about this idea of a “double consciousness” and as it pertains to race, it makes sense.  This is why Sociologists put gender with race and class….it makes us who we are, divides us, stereotypes us, and brings out fear and hate and strict social control in whatever group you are forced to be pigeonholed into…the illusion of choice is not an illusion if you realize this.  It doesn’t make me feel a deep seated (almost but not quite) hate for these mothers any less knowing this… I don’t think it makes me less of a Feminist for feeling this way either.  I understand the strategy of divide and conquer, but when there is nothing left to divide (if you are a mother with career aspirations and your budget literally leaves nothing TO divide)…all there is left is to conquer and if you aren’t with me, you are against me.  If you aren’t outraged by discrimination or outraged about anything at all, because it isn’t “ladylike” or if you are a snob who feels that outrage is SO low rent, you are an idiot,  Things don’t get conquered by peace, the etiology of the word does suggest a level of high emotion….peace is when the fight is done.  Read the comments on these ‘micro mechanisms” by the ASA. They seem to put this is a more “even” way…I’m still pissed about it.

Students relying less on mom and dad and taking on more debt

Financial Post | Business

The good news is that Canadian students are relying less on the “Bank of Mom and Dad.” But the bad news is that they’re also less likely to be depending on their own savings and more dependent on borrowed money to pay for university.

A new BMO survey suggests that 44% of students this year were relying on parental support for school, down from 52% in 2012. Instead, 55% are depending on loans, as compared to 49% last year.

Janet Peddigrew, a vice-president at BMO, said she was surprised by the statistics, and said young adults are more knowledgeable about their options, more independent and more comfortable with debt.

“Culturally, it has become more acceptable [to have debt].”

Students expect to graduate with $26,297 in debt and anticipate paying it off in 6.4 years. Those in B.C. expect the most debt ($34,886) and are the most stressed about their finances…

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5 rules for productive conflict

TED Blog

Margaret Heffernan speaks at TEDGlobal 2012

Rob Manning did everything in his power to screw up the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars last night. Manning not only cut radio signals to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s control room, but also simulated a hole being poked in the rover’s fuel system and solar flares flying toward the spacecraft.

Why would he do this?

Because he is the chief engineer for the rover mission, and wanted his team to be able to handle any worst-case scenario.

“Being a gremlin allows me to soul-search and look at all the things that I missed,” Manning told the Chicago Tribune in the days before last night’s landing.

Manning’s mischief would certainly get a thumbs up from management expert Margaret Heffernan. In a thought-provoking talk given at TEDGlobal 2012, Heffernan shared a counterintuitive lesson learned in her years running businesses and organizations — that conflict and opposition are essential for good thinking.

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A Team Player? How Does THAT Happen?

Having a “team player” attitude is what most work organizations want and obviously what sports coaches want.  After doing this sports parenting thing for over a decade and deciding to grow up personally and actually have a career and not just a job has led me to the conclusion that I probably am not the best role model for a team player.  As a person who has always been drawn to Sociology and who teaches it, dealing with groups is difficult, because the idea is that we study them; obviously.  When we are part of them (whatever group) terms like “group-think” and “norms”, and “social control” are always there.  More disturbing is the reminder of Zimbardo’s study or the Milgram experiment; i.e. our human capability to just “go along” and become Nazis.  Absolute obedience is something to be feared, maybe not all Sociologists feel this way, but I do….
I remember my first Sociology course and the only college course, where there was a “bell curve”…actually there was no bell curve, because I kept getting 100% on tests  therefore taking away the curve and also giving the Professor an experiment to work with.  He told the entire class what grade they MIGHT have gotten had I not gotten that 100%, yes he used my name so everyone knew who was to blame.  He referenced the “prisoner’s dilemma” in this case and I understood I could either continue doing well or do less well for the good of the rest of the class.  I chose to continue acing tests, because I am competitive and what I found pointless to do in sports (after the time I broke a 3rd baseman’s leg sliding into the base and realizing that even though I did exactly what I was supposed to do to get on base, leg-breaking was not the best skill to hone unless I joined a mafia), I did however find the competitive spirit in getting better grades than others.  Actually, knowing how to run fast and slide did turn into a good skill set when I had to run from a certain classmate, who decided that I was the reason she would fail the Sociology “bell curve” class since I continued to get 100%.
The valuable lesson I learned too is that the class became split, between those who were passing and admired me and those who were failing and hated me.  I could deal with both those things.  Is it better to be loved or feared?- that question has never really been answered, but if you want to be a team-player, you better be loved instead.  You sometimes have to downplay your abilities and you can’t go around breaking your teammates legs (did I mention this was in a scrimmage game Varsity V. Reserves and not against a rival team?)- even if I used perfect form when I slid into base and did just what my dad told me and my brother to do in baseball/softball and obviously he knew what he was talking about since my brother’s picture hangs on the wall at the High School for being a superstar player.  My dad and his dad were also Letterman in sports and evidently so was my uncle until he ran away to New York and finally Florida where he currently lives under an overpass.  My cousin though from the same side of the family is also on the wall of fame for wrestling.  I have obviously surmised that genetics play a big part in this too.  It is split between wondering who will become homeless and live under a bridge in Tampa or who will be a superstar in life.
So having three boys is not some misguided Feminist attempt to allow myself to live vicariously through them in all the things I could not to (or at least play with teammates with sturdier legs) or to prove that a single mom can guide kids just as well as a father could do – well I am competitive, so I do want to prove I can at least teach them some things.  Teaching them to be team players has proven the hardest.  I made that mistake with my oldest, but granted I was still in Graduate School when he started sports and being a younger parent and being confused as my oldest son’s sister led me to begin randomly yelling things out, because no one’s sister actually cares enough to do so.  More education in Sociology and my fear that if my son just went along” with everything, he could become a Nazi, led me to even more sideline yelling and coach confrontations.  That fact that he is an “all about me” teen at this point, should be no surprise, but he should do alright, considering his father owns a business and business-owners don’t have to be team players anyway.
Enter in the middle kid and my sudden understanding that people with grown children, no children, or men did better in their careers, because they had the time to put into them…basically work was their life.  The “women can have it all” myth was shattered and I dealt with it by appointing myself the boss of absolutely everything I was doing, including “coaching” kid 2.  Unlike kid 1, who I put upon a pedestal (and he was a good athlete), kid 2 was not put upon the same pedestal, instead I became obsessed with things like his technique or even worse his coaches choices for plays.  There were times I flat-out told coaches that he would not do “x” play, because “x” play was not working and even hand out a PDF of what plays would work better.  Inadvertently he has become a team player, since his teammates and coaches were obviously more normal than I was at the time and they were an escape from my insanity.  It is also important to mention that this son is from a second and also short marriage and his father also ended up in Florida.  I once thought after not hearing from him in years that he was in the Witness Protection Program, but then he popped up on Facebook and I had to tell kids 2 and 3 that he was not in fact working to build homes for orphans in Africa, but he was in Florida and….changed the subject.  So kid 2 cares about his coaches even more because they are father figures and at least is no longer jealous of those imaginary orphans with new imaginary homes, which is ridiculous anyway.
Kid 3 came as a surprise from the second he was born, firstly I was advised that I was now the parent of a redhead (how is this genetically possible?), secondly the moment I held him, he had a deathgrip on my finger from which I had to literally peel his tiny fingers away to give him to the nurse thinking this one will be the football player and not ever changing my mind because thirdly, he was not a natural athlete at every sport he played (how is this genetically possible?), but the first time he ever got to tackle a kid, it looked like he had been doing it for years.  Therefore, kid 3 became about intensity.  I was at a point in my life where Recession and the knowledge that my CV just-sucked- made it easy to want to give up. I also realized that I was such a competitive student that I actually married “case studies” to have something to do outside of school, because just being married for the sake of being married never actually made any sense to me.  Of course, I can say that my kids are all legitimate and that was important, I suppose.  So, I watched motivational videos and began being a huge Ray Lewis fan (wondering what sorts of things I might have learned from him if I would have picked better case studies).  I didn’t try to overanalyze every thing with kid 3 or put him up on a pedestal, but instead saw that his lack of fear and genetically unexplainable toughness and the rest made him into a natural leader.  Every team needs one, but a leader is still a good team player…because they care enough about their teammates to bring out the best in them by example and from a parenting aspect; quite by accident.  I also realized that as long as they didn’t end up in Florida (which I always say with the same unsubtle distaste as I do when I say “Nazi” or “soccer”) then it can’t be THAT bad.