Sociology essay

timer Asked: Apr 18th, 2017

Question description


Choose 1 of the following activities and the accompanying writing assignment. You will also present an informal report to the class at the completion of your activity. Class reports will take place in the final week of class, May 2-4, although if necessary, we will have time in exam week for class reports.

You may work individually or with 1 other classmate. Each student must write and submit their own report.

Your written report should be around 1000 words, plus a bibliography. It should be typed and proofread before submission. You may use any recognized referencing system, so long as you use if consistently throughout your report. Some activities specify a particular reading that you must reference in your report, while others allow you to find your own sources. You should draw on a minimum of 1-2 sources in your report.

Your informal class report should be around 5 minutes, and may include a visual presentation (eg: powerpoint or video) but this is not a requirement. You should explain your activity to the group, how you answered the questions and what you found most interesting about your activity.

Grading Criteria:

Paper: 80%

Class report: 20%

Options - choose 1 of the following:

1. Breaching Experiment

Reading: Jason Carr, ‘Sociology in Action: The Breaching Experiment’


For this assignment, you will break an informal social or cultural norm and write about your experience. When choosing a norm to violate be sure that your norm is a relatively minor one (please don’t break the law!) or what sociologists refer to as a “folkway.” You must violate the norm in a public place. In your description of your experiment, address all of the following:

1) the social/cultural norm (What is it?)

2) how you violated it (What exactly did you do? Where did you do it? Who were witnesses to your violation?)

3) witnesses reactions (How did people respond? Did they stare? Try to avoid you? etc.)

4) your own reaction (How did you feel? Why did you feel that way? What does this tell us about the internalization of social/cultural norms?).

2. Holidays and Kin Work

Reading: Michaela di Leonardo, ‘The Female World of Cards and Holidays: Women, Families and the Work of Kinship’, Signs, Vol. 12, No. 3. (Spring, 1987), pp. 440-453.

Conduct an observation (participant or non-participant) and analysis of a special occasion or celebration (eg: a holiday, family birthday etc.) in your family, using the concept of kin work developed by di Leonardo. Consider such questions as: Who facilitates family visits on this day? What preparations are made in advance of the day? Who makes these preparations? What types of rituals does your family enact in celebrating this holiday? Are gifts, cards, or other tangible items exchanged? Who facilitates such exchanges? Are intangible items (affection, phone calls, etc.) exchanged? Who facilitates these exchanges? How does this holiday help to strengthen kinship ties? How are relationships of power produced through kin work in your family? You may consider other issues as well, depending on the nature of the celebration in your family. Be sure to make connections between your family’s celebration and di Leonardo’s article.

3. McDonaldization in Society

Reading: HYPERLINK ""

Writing about McDonaldization, Ritzer claims that rational systems ‘deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them’ (1994:154). In your own words, explain Ritzer’s meaning. Then select a site in which you might observe the phenomenon of McDonaldization, as outlined by Ritzer. Some examples might include a fast food restaurant or large discount store. Describe your observation and how the 4 elements of McDonaldization (efficiency, calculability, predictability and control) are at work.

4. The Social Life of Urban Spaces

Watch the short video ‘William H. Whyte in his own words’ - YouTube link: HYPERLINK ""

Then conduct an observation of a public space such as a park, plaza, bus stop, or library. Choose a location in which there is plenty of activity and people to observe. You task is to consider the physical and social factors that influence people’s use of the space. Answer the following questions:

-how is the space structured to direct activity? (eg: park benches may encourage or discourage people to linger in the space)

-how is the space structured by activities? (eg: boom boxes used to ‘stake out’ an area)

-how do people respond to the way the space is structured? (eg: people on bikes tend to stay on the paths)

- did you notice any of the elements of public spaces mentioned in the video (such as water, seating, entertainment, sunlight and plants)? What impact, if any, do these elements have on the social interactions in the space?

5. Media Representations of Family

What messages does popular culture give us about families today? About good/bad, functional/dysfunctional families? About parents and children, grandparents, extended family, working families, ‘non-traditional’ families? Do these messages help create norms around families or do they simply reflect family life today?

You will need to select a particular topic/example (such as same-sex families in tv sitcoms, or working mothers in print advertisements). You will then conduct a content analysis of the images/text at the pop culture site you have chosen. Some examples of pop culture sites include music videos, Valentine Day cards, cooking magazines, TV shows, and movies. You might also consider images of diverse families (e.g., by race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexuality and so on).

A guide to conducting a content analysis is included below.

How to do a content analysis of media images


Images should be analyzed on several levels. Visual analysis is an important step in evaluating an image and understanding its meaning. It is also important to consider textual information provided with the image, the image source and original context of the image, and the technical quality of the image. The following questions can help guide your analysis and evaluation.

Content analysis

What do you see?

What is the image about?

Are there people in the image? What are they doing? How are they presented?

Can the image be looked at different ways?

How effective is the image as a visual message?

Visual analysis

How is the image composed? What is in the background, and what is in the foreground?

What are the most important visual elements in the image? How can you tell?

How is color used?

Can the image be looked at different ways?

What meanings are conveyed by design choices?

Contextual information

What information accompanies the image?

Does the text change how you see the image? How?

Is the textual information intended to be factual and inform, or is it intended to influence what and how you see?

What kind of context does the information provide? Does it answer the questions Where, How, Why, and For whom was the image made?

Image source

Where did you find the image?

What information does the source provide about the origins of the image?

Is the source reliable and trustworthy?

Was the image found in an image database, or was it being used in another context to convey meaning?

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