SOC102H1 Lecture Notes - Social Constructionism, Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Media Manipulation

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11 Nov 2011
Chapter 1 Notes
Objective and Subjective Elements
Objective elements: the measurable features of a negative social condition. Such a condition
might include crime, poverty, or alcohol abuse and can be considered an objective reality
can study its causes and effects
we can study changes in social life that cause the numbers or rates of these events to increase
and decrease
Subjective Elements: people's evaluations of objective conditions and the processes that
influence their evaluation. They include the moral labels that people apply to particular acts or
situations and the accounts they give for these acts and situations
e.g. That multiculturalism is good, that homosexual are sick then these beliefs are aspects of
social realities
“claim-making” a process by which people try to capture attention and mobilize public opinion
around particular problems and their solutions
Social Problems and the Sociological Imagination
Social imagination: (C. Wright Mills) is the ability to see connections between one's own life
(micro-events), the social world in which one lives (macro-events) and between personal or
private troubles and pubic issues.
e.g. Unemployed people may view their lack of a job as private trouble involving only them,
their immediate family members and their friends but it is not a private or personal trouble, it is
a public issue
sociological imagination makes a connection between our personal lives and larger social
context in which we live in
A post modern approach is to ask youth to give personal account
a traditional scientific manner is to p. 6
Subjectivist or constructionist approach: to determine the reasons why few people consider
youth homelessness a major social issue, despite the efforts by some to raie public awareness
about this issue
Social Problems Research as a moral enterprise
moderizaiton itself carries heavy cost for the natural environment
Sociological reserach on social problems is guided by seven value preferences
1) life over death
2) health over sickness
3) knowing over not knowing
4) cooperation over conflict
5) freedom of movement over physical restraint
6) self-determination over direction by others
7) freedom of expression over restraint of communication
media is turning public issues to private issues
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e.g. Why homelss youth be blames for running away from home, there are reason why they ran
away .
Mental illness of every kind is growing and its not personal when it is shared by a huge and
growing fraction of the population
we try to find ways to prevent problems since efforts to correct them later have been
Social Construction
Thomas dictum: when people define a situation as real, the situation will be real in its effects
some social problems are not real problems but they are “social constructions”, some people
view them as problems some don't but they have important social effects
social constructionism: that examines the way people interact to create a shared social reality
moral entrepreneurs: are elites, interest, groups or community leaders, who discover and
attempt to publicize deviant behaviours. Who are disturbed by particular types of evil they see
in the world and who will not rest until something is done to correct the problem
claim-making: a procedure that describes, explains and blames people who are involved with
the problem, often labelling them as deviant or wrongdoers.
- people do to propagate a view of who or what is a problem and what should be done about it
goal: to examine they ways people interact to create a shared social reality
any idea, natural or obvious it may seem to the people who accept it, is an invention of a
particular culture or society
Symbols: gestures, artifacts and words that represent something else (children learn to interact
with others by learning system of “” )
humans react not to physical objects and events themselves but to the “shared meanings of these
objects and events” -- they are socially imposed or constructed meanings not the physical
outlook of the objects
Social Group: a set of people defined by formal or informal criteria of membership, who feel
unified or are bound together in stable patterns of interaction
we cannot understand the meaning people attach to witchcraft in the burning times without
understanding their politics, religion and gender relationship
when people interact they share they views of reality and act on these shared views
when people act on their shared knowledge of this “reality” they reinforce it or lock itin . To
think those terms becomes habitual and seems natural even unavoidable
1) as sociologist we need to have the clearest possible understanding of reality, even if our own
understanding challenges “common” sense
2) we need to learn as much as we can about the social process by which real social problems and
imagined social problems come into being
Institutional ethnography: explore the social organization of every knowledge. The purpose of
this approach is to make the familiar strange and call into question taken for granted assumption
about social organization that unexplore, serve the interest of the dominant groups in society
Enhanced interrogation: a term intended to legitimate the action and sound professional
institutional ethnography is to deconstruct the language used to confuse and obscure public
understanding of reality
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