Archive for October, 2011

Bankers in the dock: Moral storytelling in action

October 27, 2011

From Human Relations

This article examines the role of storytelling in the process of making sense of the financial crisis. Taken for granted assumptions were suddenly open to question. Financial products and practices that were once assumed to be sustainable sources of economic growth and prosperity swiftly became de-legitimized. Highly respected individuals and institutions (bankers, regulators) suddenly became widely detested. The moral stories crafted during a public hearing in the UK that was designed to uncover ‘what (or who) went wrong’ during the recent financial crisis are examined in this research. Micro-linguistic tools were used to build different emplotments of the ‘story’ of the financial crisis and paint a picture of the key characters, for example as ‘villains’ or ‘victims’. The stories told by the bankers had assigned responsibility for the crisis and what should be done about it. These stories shaped both public opinion and policy responses. The study illustrates when a crisis of sensemaking occurs, and the dominant and well-established storyline is no longer plausible a new story must be crafted to make sense of what happened and why. The plot and characters of a story, only start to form a meaningful story when discursive devices(linguistic styles, phrases, tropes and figures of speech) build up a moral landscape within which the events unfold.

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The sociological interest and significance of the 2012 London Olympic Games

October 26, 2011

Special Issue: Sociology and the 2012 Olympic Games

From Sociology

The 2012 London Olympic Games provide an exciting focus for sociological analyses of the personal and public, local and global. This special issue of Sociology contributes timely theoretical, empirical and methodological reflections on the sociological interest and significance of this global event in both UK and comparative context. It brings together a variety of strong contributions from across the field of sociology, demonstrating the ways in which the discipline is uniquely placed in relation to understanding contemporary processes and events.

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Making friends with Jarvis Cocker: Music culture in the context of web 2.0

October 25, 2011

From Cultural Sociology

Recent years have seen some significant changes in music culture, the Web 2.0 movement has been a catalyst. The general shift has been toward virtual cultural artefacts, where individuals download digitally compressed music files from internet sources or ‘rip’ them from CDs(or even audio tapes and vinyl records). By focusing specifically upon the presence of the popular music performer Jarvis Cocker across various Web 2.0 applications, this article seeks to open up a series of questions and create opportunities for research into what is happening in contemporary music culture. Of significant interest to cultural sociology is how senses of ‘belonging’ and ‘taste communities’ are altered as music cultures move out onto the web-top in the Web 2.0 context. This exploratory article lays out an agenda for research into music culture and Web 2.0 that is not only concerned with the implications of Web 2.0 for music. It concludes there is a need to think in some detail both about the implications for other cultural spheres, and the possible ways in which each of these spheres might in turn come to affect the nature of the connections that make up Web 2.0 itself.

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Coping strategies of race-related stress among African American Women may actually increase stress

October 21, 2011

Coping strategies as moderators of the relation between individual race-related stress and mental health symptoms for African American women

From Psychology of Women Quarterly

Race-related stress has been studied extensively. This research looks at the various methods of coping with the effects of race-related stress among African-American women to determine whether the use of various methods of coping were more successful. It reveals how coping strategies may actually increase their stress instead of alleviate it. Coping strategies were categorized as: collective-centered coping, such as asking for advice from elders or the community, cognitive-emotional coping, such as seeking out people who could draw out emotions like laughter or happiness, spiritual-centered coping, such as prayer and ritual-centered coping, such as lighting a candle. The results showed that the use of one particular method of coping, the use of ritual-centered coping, actually increased stress levels. The author observes that “African American women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of race-related stress, given their socially constructed identities as African Americans and as women. Thus, it is critical to the overall well-being of African American women that coping efforts are identified that assist in alleviating the psychological impacts associated with race and the intersection of race- and gender-related challenges.”

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Fat talk exacerbates body image disturbance in young women

October 19, 2011

“If you’re fat, then i’m humongous!”: Frequency, content, and impact of fat talk among college women”

From Psychology of Women Quarterly 

College women who engage in “fat talk” (women speaking negatively about the size and shape of their bodies) face greater dissatisfaction with their bodies and are more likely to have internalized an ultra-thin body ideal than those who engage in fat talk less frequently.

 This study found that while frequency of fat talk was associated with increased dissatisfaction with women’s own bodies, over half of the participants reported that they believe fat talk actually makes them feel better about their bodies. It’s concerning that women might think fat talk is a helpful coping mechanism, when it’s actually exacerbating body image disturbance. “Fat talk” is overwhelmingly common in the college-age women studied, with more than 90 percent reporting they engaged in “fat talk.” An additional interesting finding was that the frequency of “fat talk” was not related to a respondent’s BMI. The authors concludes “These results serve as a reminder that for most women, fat talk is not about being fat, but rather about feeling fat.”

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Overconfidence pays when the audience knows the least

October 18, 2011

Complex Social Consequences of Self-Knowledge

From Social Psychological and Personality Science

Job applicants are taught to project confidence in interviews, but can overconfidence trip them up and put off employers? For this research participants read application materials to join a competitive swim team in one study, and apply for employment in another. Both studies featured two applicants, one overconfident, and the other more modest. Other participants were introduced to make the hiring decision at two points once immediately after reading the applicants’ self-descriptions, and again after information that revealed over-confidence or over-modesty on the part of the applicants. Other participants introduced to make the hiring decision were asked to make a choice at two points, once immediately after reading the applicants’ self-descriptions, and again after information that revealed over-confidence or over-modesty on the part of the applicants. When they had little information but the self-description of the applicants, they overwhelmingly preferred the confident candidate. But then raters obtained new information that revealed the exaggerations of the overconfident applicant, and the rather gentle modesty of the other applicant. In both experiments, there was a significant shift away from the overconfident toward the modest applicant. Whilst the authors recognize that sometimes overconfidence is helpful—positive illusions about one’s self can contribute to mental and physical health and success at school and finding work. But when overly positive beliefs about one’s abilities meet up with reality, one can lose the respect of others. Positive illusions might be good only when others also believe that the illusions are true.

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Trade practices key in deciding a trade’s moral legitimacy

October 13, 2011

Markets, Morals, and Practices of Trade: Jurisdictional Disputes in the U.S. Commerce in Cadavers

From Administrative Science Quarterly

How goods are traded, not just what is traded, is a principal consideration when deciding the legitimacy of a particular industry. This study examined the commerce of corpses for medical, education and research in the US to explore variations in trade legitimacy.

Commerce of corpses was created by medical schools that trained future doctors in anatomy. Finding an adequate supply is an ongoing challenge. Researchers visited and observed programs, interviewing almost fifty cadaver market participants. Then the data was analyzed in-depth. The research found that cadaver marketing professionals rely on narrative distinctions to differentiate and legitimize their own pursuit from alternative spheres of commerce. The study challenges the usual view on morals and markets by shifting the focus of moral assessment away from the good itself toward the practice of trade.

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Inadequate vitamin D recommendations

October 12, 2011

Is the Institute of Medicine report on calcium and vitamin D good science?

From Biological Research for Nursing

This editorial reveals that recommended vitamin D intakes and target blood levels were set too low in the November 30, 2010, Institute of Medicine (IOM) report of the National Academies “Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D”.

The author found that the criteria stipulated by the Federal sponsoring agencies for the IOM committee’s selection of studies to review in formulating their new recommendations were inadequate. They included randomized controlled trials and prospective observational studies but not ecological studies, case-control studies with vitamin D status at diagnosis or studies considering exposure to the main source of vitamin D in humans, sunlight.

The IOM’s report states that the only health benefit of vitamin D is for bone health. It recommends that those aged 1–70 years take 600 IU of vitamin D each day (800 IU for those over 71. This paper however argues that there are many non-bone-related health benefits associated with a higher intake (or a higher production) of vitamin D, such as reduced risks of contracting—or dying from—colon, prostate and breast cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, diabetes mellitus types 1 and 2, neurological disorders, several bacterial and viral infections, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Over 30 vitamin D experts and 9 organizations agree with this position and believe that vitamin D has many more health benefits than just for bones, and that recommended daily reference intake levels will continue to rise.

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All-out war: A case study in media coverage of for-profit higher education

October 11, 2011

From SAGE Open

Views on the role of for-profit colleges have been varied, opposing and very public. This debate had played out primarily in the media, and those sentiments have been researched and analyzed in this article. Using neutral, positive and negative classifications, the study author tracks the life cycle–or rather news cycle– of the topic of for-profit colleges in US media. The catalyst for coverage seems to be a May 2010 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Critics’ perspective is that for-profits were predators taking advantage of low-performing students. An analysis of articles from this time period shows that after months of relatively no coverage, there was a sharp spike in negative coverage for months to come. The trend shifted in August after the Washington Post, which owns Kaplan University, wrote an article about the for-profit institutions’ fight against regulatory action. The battle in the court of public opinion is still being waged today, and the author asserts that it will continue “as long as conservatives and progressives fail to find common ground that places decision making in the hands of students while establishing effective quality control of for-profits.”

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Fukushima: Reflections 6 months on

October 6, 2011

The Fukushima issue

From Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

When the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on March 11, 2011, the world witnessed the largest nuclear incident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. In this special Fukushima issue, experts examine the current and future impact of Fukushima, what might have been done to lessen the scale of the accident, and the steps we need to take both in Japan and worldwide to prevent another nuclear tragedy.

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