Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Politicians, Celebrities and Social Media

Nathan Manning and Ruth Penfold-Mounce have had a journal article published in Journal of Youth Studies. The article has been written over the last 2 years and is finally out! 

Ruth Penfold-Mounce
Nathan Manning

See the abstract below:

With electoral politics no longer organised by social class, politicians increasingly seek to relate to a broad spectrum of citizens and part of their relatability is conjured through more casual, informal performances aimed at cultivating authenticity. The various platforms of social media promote forms of authentic communication by blurring the public/private divide, creating ‘spontaneous’ and instant access to ‘real life’. This article seeks to investigate the informalization thesis (Wouters, 2007) by applying it to data from young people aged 16-21 years in Australia, the UK and the USA asked about the way politicians and celebrities use social media. Findings reveal respondents’ desire for more authentic and accessible politicians, but this was in direct tension with traditional views and expectations of politicians needing to be professional, informed and worthy of respect. Informalization amongst politicians is evident and welcomed by young citizens but persistent traditional views means it also threatens their credibility.

The article draws on original data gathered by Brian D. Loader, Ariadne Vromen and Michael Xenos as part of The Civic Network Project (Grant 201300029) funded by the Spencer Foundation.

Making the Difference Award

Ruth Penfold-Mounce, Daryl Martin and Clare Jackson have received the Making the Difference Award. This award is part of the University wide recognition scheme of excellence among its staff. The award was granted on the basis of the Ruth, Daryl and Clare's work as a team on the implementation of the York Pedagogy (YP).

Ruth Penfold-Mounce
Daryl Martin
Clare Jackson

Katy Mann Benn, part of the ProPel team and a member of University Teaching Committee nominated the team on the basis of 'their sheer hard work, commitment and outstanding achievement in ushering in the York Pedagogy.' The University Teaching Committee working group were ‘very impressed by the work and output’ and the Programme Learning Outcomes and Statement of Purpose for one of the programmes was selected to be used on the York Pedagogy website as an exemplar. 

Katy Mann Benn
Katy described working with the YP team as having been a 'consistently productive experience and have been impressed by the collaborative, diligent and thoughtful approach they have consistently demonstrated. Their ability to engage constructively and meaningfully with the review process has been outstanding. I have been particularly impressed by the dedication of the team and the well-organised, conscientious review that they have enabled. Moreover, they have sought feedback from colleagues across the university to inform their plans to enhance the programmes.'

John Robinson
The leadership demonstrated by the YP team has been widely noted including by John Robinson Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students who said 

I know of the contribution of Clare, Daryl and Ruth indirectly through the reports of the ProPEL team and.... can confirm that it accords with the evidence, and that I judge it to be an excellent appraisal of a team who are making a difference in learning and teaching.’

Many congratulations to Ruth, Daryl and Clare.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Congratulations Class of 2016

On thursday 14th July our Sociology Department Graduands gathered at Central Hall for their Graduation Ceremony. It was certainly a memorable event with too witty and fairly political speeches by the Honourary Doctoral recipients - Dr the Lord Victor Adebowale and Professor Sir Ian Kennedy. Victor talked about wanting to look the future in the eyes and to encourage the graduands to make sure they went to places they shouldn't go and make a difference. Ian meanwhile reflected on the Brexit and the challenges ahead. Nik Brown did a fine job presenting our Sociology students and got most of the names pronounced correctly - its a nerve wracking job!

By the closing of the ceremony our 2016 graduands became graduates and we couldn't be more proud. Congratulations to you all.

Ruth Penfold-Mounce, Wes Lin and Steph Lawler

Wes Lin, Ruth Penfold-Mounce and Nik Brown

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The carnival of uncertainty

It is probably not too dramatic to say that the UK’s EU referendum result has sent a wrecking-ball through the political order. Many articles have made such proclamations. We are now left adrift in the wreckage, a wreckage that is documented in the rapidly multiplying reams of Brexit news stories, commentary and explanation. It is hard to be sure of where we stand – or what we stand upon. Echoing an observation made by Foucault in the mid-1970s, there is ‘a sort of general feeling that the ground is crumbling beneath our feet, especially in the places where it seemed most familiar, most solid, and closest to us’. We have probably all had moments, in recent days, when we have felt disorientated amongst the wash of comment, opinion, claim and counter claim. What permeates through this flow of information and chaotic wrangling is an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. This uncertainty is writ large in the many attempts to explain what has happened and why. It just seems impossible to pin down the reasons and the consequences. The cross-cutting divisions seem too hard to grasp, the old notions of social divisions somehow seem to radically over-simplify what is happening or they just seem outmoded as a framework for coherent explanation. The party political divisions currently offer little hope to those seeking some sanctuary, especially as the parties themselves have imploded over the results. The various attempts to explain and understand the malaise reveal just how impossible that task actually is.

Perhaps then, we can think of the moment we are experiencing in terms of this existential and inescapable sense of uncertainty. In short, we can’t easily explain what is happening because we are not sure. And neither should we be sure. It seems a good moment to revisit and question a range of our established certainties. There seems to be particularly profound danger in any recourse to blunt and ill-informed certainties in this moment – such things could easily fill the vacuum as people try to give themselves a feeling of security and certainty in the onslaught of gusting insecurity and uncertainty. There have been calls for greater understanding, and these should certainly be heeded. But they won’t come easily given the current circumstances and how they might unfold in the coming weeks and months. The difficulty of such a task is revealed when we think of the emergent class divisions and the sociological complexity of the task at hand.

We can begin by trying to think of how we might imagine and understand this prevalent state of uncertainty. By doing so we might be able then to develop new types of understanding along with a less certain form of social knowledge and even an ability to sensitize ourselves to the direction in which things might be heading. There is something of the flavour of Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnival unfolding. The carnival, according to Bakhtin, provides a moment in which the rules and norms of society are subverted, mocked, disregarded and played with. The carnival, Bakhtin claims, brings the ‘realization that established authority and truth are relative’. The carnival provided the opportunity for the hierarchies and social orders to be temporarily disrupted. This is no celebration, but rather the release of frustrations.

As I write this we seem to be living in a kind of carnival of uncertainty in which the disruptive effects of the referendum have led to the unfurling disruption and subversion of the social order. This might explain why the chaos seems to be contagious and why we are finding hierarchies and social orders being so frequently challenged. The carnival is being made possible by the shared sense of uncertainty and the possibilities for reordering and redrawing the rules and breaking established structures. The prevailing sense of uncertainty is allowing the carnival to spread. It is facilitating the disruption, and meaning that the uncertainty then comes to fuel its own presence.

The carnival of uncertainty is playing out in various ways and with far from predictable or playful consequences. What will happen once the carnivalesque moment has subsided, what of the previous social order will be left? How different will things look once the subversion and disruption passes? These are questions that will be difficult to answer. But they would suggest that we will need to develop a new understanding of that emergent order and what it will bring. It seems unlikely that we can or should retreat to the safety of existing conceptions of the world and of how we can understand it through categories, concepts and ideologies. As certainty returns, it doesn’t mean that our certainties should return with it. We have glimpsed too much in the last few days to know that the ‘fragments of modernity’, as David Frisby once called them, don’t necessarily fit together in the patterns and formations that we may have thought that they did. It is going to take care and urgency to ensure that the response is empathetic and progressive rather than destructive and pathological. Social divisions never went away and neither did the tensions between those, but they could easily get out of hand if blame becomes the means to placate fear ease precarity.  As the fragments fall into place we are already seeing, in the form of scapegoating and rising racially motivated violence and abuse, that the fractions could open up in scary and damaging ways.

Bakhtin’s point about the carnival was that it brought with it a temporary period of disruption and a suspension of the social order, but he does not say that society then goes unchanged by the carnival’s presence. Things don’t necessarily go back to exactly how they once were. In the case of this extreme version of a carnival, driven itself by the conditions of uncertainty, it would seem highly likely that the disruptions, subversions and re-orderings have already been far too great for this particular carnival to leave no traces. One thing is clear, in the current conditions it is going to be very difficult to be sure of what we are seeing, and it we do feel sure of what we are seeing then we are probably misleading ourselves.

 A shorter version of this piece was originally published in OpenDemocracy.
David Beer is Reader in Sociology at the University of York, UK.

Sociology and YUSU Excellence Awards

Sociology has been recognized for its excellence in 2016 though the YUSU Excellence Awards.

There were a range of staff and postgraduates who teach (PGWTs) to be nominated this year by anonymous undergraduates. There was a total of 18 nominations in a range of categories:
  • 5 nominations for Teacher of the Year
  • 4 nominations for Supervisor of the year
  • 2 nominations for Most Inspiring
  • 2 nominations for Most Enthusiastic
  • 3 nominations for Most Supportive
  • 1 nomination for Best Communicator
  • 1 nomination for Promoting Diversity
Staff were genuinely honored to receive this recognition from our students. Thank you to those individuals who took the time to nominate us.

BSA Postgraduate Forum Event: The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues

20 November 2018 (09:00-17:00) Call for papers Research concerning sensitive and emotionally demanding issues is vital but challenging...