A Guest Post by Sheena Iwamoto
In the summer of 2013, I returned home to Kaua’i after finishing my second year at Scripps College. I was born and raised on the island, the oldest in the Hawaiian chain. That summer, my dad had finally, reluctantly, agreed to teach me how to drive.
Because he grew up on Kaua’i, he is familiar with many of the older, hidden roads that go through the rural mountain areas. He decided to have me drive on the back roads of Kapa’a town, which are less travelled than others. As I drove along curved roads overshadowed by trees, I noticed that something had been spray-painted across the gravel: “NO GMO.”
Continue reading There’s a Long History of Racism and Exploitation Behind Kaua’i’s GMO Controversy
My Black Is is a sound project created by Ayana Powell, a recent graduate of Pomona College who majored in sociology. For her senior thesis, Ayana interviewed black students at the Claremont Colleges about their identities and lives. Her goal was to challenge media representations of black people and blackness, by allowing black people to define themselves and their race. Doing so also challenges the idea that there is one black identity or experience.
Ayana Powell is a recent college graduate on the quest to find a job. She is especially fond of all things colorful and YouTube web series. Find her on Linkedin.
A Guest Post by Kimberley Africa
This is for all those who once wished, or still wish, to be someone they are not.
“Huwag ka magpapa-araw. Iitim ka.“ “Don’t go into the sun; you’ll get dark.” For years, I heard this phrase again and again, urging me to protect my skin. It was white, like the inside of a coconut, they told me.
By the time I was five, I knew exactly why. I held my daddy’s hand as we waited in line for a ride at an amusement park. Two men standing next us turned to the couple on our other side and commented that their little girl was beautiful. It was then that I realized that I, too, had to have light skin—in addition to blonde hair and blue eyes—so that strangers wouldn’t skip us in the line, and would tell my dad that I also was beautiful. I didn’t know how I was going to get the blonde hair and blue eyes, but I knew that I was definitely not going to go into the sun. I could at least have one of the three attributes.
Continue reading To the Little Girl Who Wished for Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes
Sharon Zukin, chair-elect of the section on consumers and consumption, is a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She started out as a political sociologist, became an urban sociologist, and now combines those interests with studies of institutions, spaces and cultures of consumption. She has received the C. Wright Mills Award, the Robert and Helen Lynd Award for career achievement in community and urban sociology, and the Jane Jacobs Award for urban communication. Her most recent book is Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, and her most recent article looks at restaurants and racial identity in a gentrifying area of Brooklyn.
Nicki: You began your academic career in political science. How did you come to study consumer culture and its implications?
Continue reading Sociologist Sharon Zukin Discusses Her Love/Hate Relationship with Consumer Culture
“I have one chance at a career, and I want one with an impact for people that I really care about.”
Emilie Dubois is destined to be a change-maker. Driven by her working class roots and experience growing up in the post-industrial community of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, she is revolutionizing how sociologists approach and understand the phenomenon of “connected consumption.”
Emilie, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Boston College who works closely with Juliet Schor, was driven to our field by class inequities. She took her first sociology class at Columbia University while working in admissions at Columbia Business School. Appalled by the directive to give preference to wealthy candidates, Emilie sought conceptual tools to help her understand the situation she found herself in. She enrolled in “Power and Politics in Organizations,” experienced in her words a “massive consciousness shift,” quit her job, and applied to graduate programs in sociology.
Now, Emilie is in the midst of her dissertation research and works on Schor’s research team for the MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Research Network. The team is studying the phenomenon of “connected consumption,” which Emilie explains is a new system of exchange premised on “economic connections that are not mediated by an organization in a demonstrative way.”
Continue reading Understanding Radical Peer-to-Peer Consumption: An Interview with Emilie Dubois
On Friday, September 20, the new iPhone models 5S and 5C were presented for sale at Apple stores around the world. An onslaught of media coverage of customers waiting on line for and purchasing the new devices ensued. Yet, we have still seen very little coverage of the report published by China Labor Watch on July 29 that documented rampant abuse of laborers and violation of Chinese labor law at Pegatron Shanghai, where these new iPhones are produced. The photo pairings that follow–each composed of a photo from media coverage of Friday’s iPhone launch and a photo from the China Labor Watch report–are meant to close the loop between production and consumption. The information included with each pairing is taken from the photo captions provided by the Los Angeles Times, and from the China Labor Watch report titled “Apple’s unkept promises: cheap iPhones come at high cost to Chinese workers.” They are presented without editorial comment for your thoughtful consideration.
Continue reading Closing the Loop: iPhones in Production and Consumption
Despite the recent scandals regarding Apple’s business practices, it has succeeded at cultivating a brand to which we feel positive emotional attachment. In three previous posts, I showed that the company accomplishes this with commercials that associate its products with playfulness, sentimentality, and cool youthfulness. The most prominent theme, however, and I suspect the most powerful aspect of the company’s emotional branding strategy, is the hope it cultivates in each of us of who we could be by virtue of using the company’s products. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.
I cannot watch this 2003 Apple iPod commercial without shaking my hips, even in the midst of delivering a lecture or conference presentation. In fact, I struggle deeply to refrain from jumping around in an ecstatic dance of joy.
This commercial moves me. But, why? Yes, it has rocking music and popping colors. But, I suspect, more importantly, it has hip young things gyrating to the music, lost in the euphoria provided by an iPod and earbuds, with seemingly no cares in the world. For four years Apple aired a string of these, which became known as the “Silhouette” commercials, each featuring a different soundtrack and style of dance. In my previous posts, I’ve focused on two important elements of Apple’s brand promise: whimsicality and sentimentality. In this post I spotlight another key finding from our research: the association of Apple products with coolness, hipness, youth, and a carefree attitude. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.
In a recent post on the Apple brand and its cultural significance, I drew on my study with Gabriela Hybel of over 200 Apple television commercials aired between 1984 and the present to argue that Apple excels at what branding experts refer to as “emotional branding.” I pointed out that Apple commercials cultivate happiness through whimsical depictions of products and their users. In this post I focus on another key finding from this research, which is the prominence of sentimentality in Apple commercials. Both of these things — whimsicality and sentimentality — are key parts of the promise that Apple makes to its customers. To this end, an important part of the promise that Apple makes to its customers is that using their products will strengthen the customer’s relationships with loved ones, and that the customer will experience positive emotions because of this. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.