What's happening in the Department of Sociology, January 2024

aerial of Eugene campus

Wrapping up the 2023 fall term was no small feat—and I am still working on it! The department was busy this fall, maybe as busy as I ever remember it since 1996 when I arrived.

As far as academic and intellectual activities go, we enjoyed a real buffet of insights and sociological inspiration from our colloquium series. Events sponsored by our undergraduate peer leaders kept us nourished students and faculty alike. Everyone—staff, graduate students and faculty—was engaged in seven job talks for the two new faculty positions in our department.

Below you can read about some of the research our faculty and students are doing, though I will draw attention to C.J. Pascoe’s recently published book, Nice is Not Enough: Inequality and the Limits of Kindness at American High (University of California Press, 2023). This stimulating account of a contemporary U.S. high school digs deep into the social worlds of teachers, students, parents, and administrators to explore how a “regime of kindness” fails to dig deep into the inequalities and fault lines impacting youth today and contributes to a shallow cultural environment that conceals as much as it soothes. Really quite a powerful read.

-Michael Dreiling, Professor and Department

Faculty Research Notes

Check out the next issue of the Journal of Academic Freedom with an Introduction by Dr. Michael Dreiling and Pedro Garcia Caro (co-editors), "Landscapes of Power and Academic Freedom," here.

Clare Evans, along with sociology graduate student Natasha Erickson, had a research article accepted to Social Science & Medicine: “Intersectional Inequities in the Birthweight Gap Between Twin and Singleton Births: A Random Effects MAIHDA Analysis of 2012-2018 NYC Birth Data.” Read more here.

Evans also recently had a commentary accepted at Social Science & Medicine exploring the application of MAIHDA analysis (which she proposed) to clinical research and study design, to promote inclusivity and attention to equity in medical research: "Overcoming Combination Fatigue: Addressing High-Dimensional Effect Measure Modification and Interaction in Clinical, Biomedical, and Epidemiologic Research using Multilevel Analysis of Individual Heterogeneity and Discriminatory Accuracy (MAIHDA)."

Jocelyn Hollander's latest research, “'I Have the Right to Defend Myself': The Underlying Curriculum of Empowerment Self‐Defense Training,” has just been published in the journal Sex Roles. Read more about the article here.

In 2023, Professor Emeritus Ken Liberman published four chapters in books. “Rules as Instructed Actions: The Case of the Surfer’s Lineup,” (Instructed and Instructive Actions, London: Routledge, pp. 100-117) was first presented as a departmental colloquium. “Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau- Ponty” appears in the Routledge International Handbook of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. “Negative Dialectics in Madhyamaka Buddhist Practice” is part of the Festschrift, Knowledge and Truth in an Empty World: Essays on Epistemology and Madhyamaka in Honor of Tom Tillemans (Boston: Wisdom Publications). And “Rereading ‘Galileo’s Inclined Plane Demonstration,’” appears in The Anthem Companion to Harold Garfinkel, pp. 201-214.

Jiannbin Shiao published “Over-educated or Overly Invested in Education?: The Role of Educational Commitment in Asian American Socioeconomic Attainment” in Race and Social Problems. He uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to explore how cultural capital associated with Asian Americans affects respondents’ high-school GPAs, their degree attainment, and their incomes in adulthood. The findings identify GPA as a critical mediator between family background and racial disparities in adulthood and show that academic performance (GPA) is a “bottleneck” for the relative advantages of the Asian second-generation in both education and the labor market, particularly for Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese Americans.

Exploratory analysis also suggests an important role for cross-racial social capital, indicating that if Asian Americans represent a “model” to other minorities, it may not only be for their commitment to education but also for their relative acceptance by Whites in the critically important socioeconomic domain.

Professor Emeritus Don Van Houten passed away in August. Van Houten's research informed a generation of critical studies about work and organization in the U.S. and Sweden. Many of his publications were coauthored with three other esteemed—and now-deceased—colleagues at the UO, including Joan Acker, Steven Deutsch, and Paul Goldman, among others. All their contributions defined a critical sociology that would stretch across generations.

Recently published in Criminology, Stephanie Wiley and colleagues consider how race interacts with prior experiences to understand how youth update their perceptions of the police. They find that the complexities of Black youth’s experiences with the police are not neatly explained by current theories. Read more about the article here.

Student News

Shiv Issar published an article exploring the social construction of algorithms on TikTok through the lens of algorithmic experiences in everyday life. The TikTok algorithm is a social construct that exists due to a range of psychosocial, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical experiences that are utilized in narratives about what is perceived by the platform’s users as “algorithmic.”

Through a qualitative analysis of 100 TikTok videos, Issar’s article evaluates how variations in TikTok users’ levels of “algorithm awareness” affect their understanding of the platform’s algorithm. The implications of this analysis extend beyond TikTok and highlight the importance of developing algorithmic literacies and understanding the relationship between algorithm awareness and trust in algorithmic systems. Overall, this study provides critical insights into the complex nature of algorithmic culture, underscoring the need for a greater understanding of algorithmic systems in contemporary society. Read more about the article here.

Brandon Folse published an article examining the increasing ubiquity of gamification in everyday life and its normalization as a motivational tool. While much scholarship supports gamification, labor sociologists have long problematized the phenomenon. In this mixed-methods action research study, Folse and colleagues explore the results of gamifying a lesson on gamification in a sociology of work course.

They designed two gamified activities with varying degrees of consent that followed a lesson on gamification and consent. Students rated how problematic a series of gamified work scenarios were before and after the intervention. The quantitative data did not show a significant increase in students’ ability to identify consent after the intervention, but they did discover that students took either an employee’s or employer’s perspective in their rating justifications.

Furthermore, these findings were gendered. This article highlights the need for a more critical take on gamification in the classroom. They conclude by suggesting ways practitioners can teach about gamification in other contexts. You can read more about it here. 

David Purucker’s piece, "Reviving the Mass Organization for Social Movements? The Meaning of Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America,” was accepted for publication in the journal Interface, and will be published online in the winter issue.

Amanda Ricketts published an article in Environmental Sociology titled, "Land Means the World: Narratives of Place and Colonial Ecological Violence in the Media Framing of the Bears Ears National Monument." You can read more about it here. 

Nicholas Theis published an article with alum Dr. Kenneth Hanson titled, "Networked Participants, Networked Meanings: Using Networks to Visualize Ethnographic Data" in Sociological Methodology. Here's an extract from the article: Researchers can use data visualization techniques to explore, analyze, and present data in new ways. Although quantitative data are visualized most often, recent innovations have brought attention to the potential benefits of visualizing qualitative data. In this article, the authors demonstrate one way researchers can use networks to analyze and present ethnographic interview data. Read more about it here.

The authors suggest that because many respondents know one another in ethnographic research, networks are a useful tool for analyzing the implications of respondents’ familiarity with one another. Moreover, respondents often share familiar cultural references that can be visualized. The authors show how visualizing respondents’ ties in conjunction with their shared cultural references sheds light on the different systems of meaning that respondents within a field site use to make sense of the social phenomena under investigation. Read more about the article here.

Jinsun Yang published the article "Creating a Non–Gender Binary Sports Space: The Nonbinary Policy of Korean “Queer Women Games” in Transgender Studies Quarterly. The paper was recognized with an Honorable Mention for the International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA) Graduate Paper Award. You can read more about the paper here. Jinsun was also elected as Student Representative-Elect for Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS).