Thursday, January 18, 2018

Immunity and Community

HW: Read and annotate Michael Schwalbe's Sociological Mindfulness (pages 23-26 of Unit 1 packet)

As you enter class, please turn to the back page of the Roseto reading and answer these questions:

1. Describe life in Roseto.

2.  What did Dr. Wolf set out to study originally?

3.  What did he find instead?

4. Were the people aware of these effects? Explain.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell uses a sociological imagination to understand extreme success stories (aka Outliers). Using the introduction to understand sociology we see a few important ideas.
First, sociologists study how people are affected by their social groups. People are influenced by the groups they are a part of, whether it is family, a church, a town, etc. This often contradicts the idea that people are the sum total of their own individual genes and decisions. An important sociologist, C Wright Mills, calls this having a sociological imagination. He says that one must understand the history and the biography of an individual to understand who they are. That is, people are influenced by when and where they live.
Second, we see that sociologists do not simply make opinions or philosophical ideas, rather they make claims based on research and data.
Lastly, understanding sociology can change how we think about the world and who we are. For example, in this excerpt, one might change how he thinks about good health.
Do you see how the excerpt highlights these three ideas? Can you use your sociological imagination to think about your own life or your own troubles?
The rest of Gladwell's book uses a sociological imagination to explain extreme success stories. For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs tremendous success and wealth stemming from the development of computers:
Gladwell describes how being born in the mid 1950s was particularly fortuitous for those interested in computer programming development (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both born in 1955). It also helped to be geographically near what were then called supercomputers, the gigantic predecessors to the thing on which you’re reading this post. Back in the 1960s, when Gates and Jobs were coming of age, a supercomputer took up a whole room and was not something most youngsters would have had a chance to see, let alone work on. But because of their proximity to actual computers, both Gates and Jobs had a leg up on others their age and had the chance to spend hours and hours (10,000 of them in Gladwell’s estimation) learning about programming.
We can apply this model to more than just financial success. Think about what opportunities your own biography and history have afforded you. How has when, where, and to whom you were born shaped your life today?

The Outliers reading provides an example of how the people of Roseto were affected by where and when they live. Because they lived in the town of Roseto at that time, they lived in a way that affected them (without even knowing it) so that they had a much lower chance of getting heart disease and living longer than the rest of the country.  In sociological terms, understanding the effects of when and where people live is called a sociological imagination.

The "sociological imagination" is an important theme throughout our semester. The idea of the sociological imagination was developed by C. Wright Mills who said that having a sociological imagination helps one to see the connection between history and biography. That is, who we are (our biography) is determined by where and when we live (history).

Think about your plans for the weekend or what you brought for lunch.  How is it affected by where and when you live?  What are the influences shaping your plans and what you eat?  Do you see how it is not simply your choice?

Another way to examine the connection of biography to history is through the Beloit Mindset list. Every year, Beloit College publishes a list of how the current year's freshmen will experience and have experienced the world differently. A couple examples of this are from the NY Times: Here is an article about students not writing in cursive. And, this link is about the changing role of the wristwatch.  Both show that being born in a different time means students will experience the world differently.  This might sound obvious, but there is a tendency for people to think that they are simply who they are regardless of time or place.  Something you can write about is how kids being born today might experience the world differently than you have.  Or, how might kids being born in 2013 be influenced differently than you have?  And yet another way to think about this is, how might you have been different if you grew up somewhere else?  Especially for those of you who have moved, try to imagine what your life would be if you still lived somewhere else.

Another example that supports Jones' poem is this video of a child who is trying to use a magazine like an ipad:

Student Notes:

What is a sociological imagination?

            What does it mean to be the intersection of history and biography?

            What is does SI have to do with personal troubles and public issues?

Refer to Ferris & Stein (textbook) pgs. 9-13, 17 for more info.

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