Friday, December 30, 2005

principles of social change

(from a list)...

To demonstrate what I am talking about with developing principles of social change, i will use Rokeach's values test as an example. The overriding principle is something like:

When people's awareness of contradictions in their personal values is increased, the likelihood of changing one or more of the values also increases; the value that changes is in all likelihood one that is liked least (or something to that effect).

see, with something like this, we have a generalizable proposition that we can use to develop specific interventions; we can take something like this along with us when we are encountering different situations that someone wants changed. let's develop some more!

caveat(s)...of course, this will not necessarily apply to ALL situations; it is predicated on several underlying assumptions that I don't know that we have data on -- people prefer values consistency to values inconsistency, people are uncomfortable when their values are in conflict (i think this is where cognitive dissonance comes in), etc.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

more sociological practice thoughts (so i wont forget)

in response to a colleague...

I do think that there are social change principles that can be identified and then interventions developed in concert with those principles that will result in social change. I think this is a very realistic and reasonable goal for applied soc/soc practice.

in response to another colleague...

I am familiar with Rokeach's work -- even used it in a class; I am also familar with how values change. My point (in these apparent last 90 days) that a trip to the library WON'T assist, because it doesn't exist, is empirical applied sociological literature on the efficacy of these methods to facilitate change.

I know that there are numerous disparate interventions that exist; to my knowledge, they do not exist in a "social change" handbook, nor have they been empirically evaluted for their efficacy. I am simply advocating for the development of both of those things.

If you recall (I guess it was 90 days ago), i posted a little test...i'll update it using your example -- ask an applied sociologist to provide you with five empirically validated ways that they can change values in 30 seconds or less and see what happens. Other professional change folk (physicians, counselors, etc.) would probably pass a similar test in their respective disciplines. I wonder how many of us could?

Yes, I know that the discipline is young, however, like much of our parent discipline, we seem to lack some agreement on how to proceed in regards to developing it as a science. Maybe some don't want it to be a "scientific" enterprise; that's fine, too. I do because otherwise we have only anecdotal and experiential data to fall upon in determing our course of intervention. Not bad things, but I feel much more comfortable when working with someone, attempting to facilitate change with/for them, when i know that the methods i am using have some empirical backing.

i know this FROM experience working with substance abusers -- it was a heck of a lot more reassuring using evidence-driven change methods than just shooting from the hip using theory and or a smattering of "this seems to have worked in the past;" also nice for liability purposes.

"What are the principles of social change?" seems to be a good place to start. Finding out what they are, through empirical means is IMO, the way to go. I am planning on proceeding in this direction; if others are, too, maybe we can build something together.

in case you haven't heard about this, there is a free VOIP program that allows anyone to talk with someone else who has the software (anywhere in the world) for free. i got it yesterday.

give me a call, my "number" is johneglass. oh, and i have voice mail, so if i'm not there, leave a message.

it's called skype.

Monday, December 19, 2005

a real holiday gift

these folks make very good use of the money they get. All of the people in the service need some care packages from us, especially now.

give till you feel like you've done something good.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

simple, but not easy (a reprise)

this is in reference to a new book by Theodore Roszak...

Okay, so much of what Rozsak says is not really new, is it? World dominated by a small group of people intent on securing self-interest above all else? No surprise, eh? What else is new?

What can we do with this info as far as informing an intervention to THIS social problem (there's one that is NEVER recognized, right)? IMO, it is getting people to REALLY realize their sociological imagination. How? By getting them to realize that they are indeed a collective and have the power of a collective IF they act as a collective. Those yahoos intent on world domination only have power if WE permit it. This is what is conveniently forgotten all the time.

The issue is NOT education, it is REALIZATION. I KNOW that I am part of a greater collectivity (my education has given me that), but I haven't realized it yet; if I did all of my daily actions would be fundamentally different. Realization speaks to a profound change in behavior; it is an action, it is not mere knowledge that one can retain. So, what we need to do is to create an opportunity for ourselves and other people TO realize it. I think it would only take one event to achieve this kind of realization.

So, what to do? This is where having established, testable (as Mindy notes) methods of intervention would come in REAL handy. Lacking those, however, here is something that I bet would work. Not a new idea, just never been successfully pulled off (that I know of) on any signifcant level (with the one exception of the Harmonic Convergence back in the middle 80's — this event managed to get over 140,000 people, around the world doing the same thing, at the same time, on the same day).

The intervention is to get millions of people to do something that will jerk our leaders' chains (and voting is NOT it); we need to get their immediate and undivided attention. Some suggestions...get millions of people to not buy gas for a day, get millions of people to boycott anything made by General Electric for a day. Nothing violent, nothing anarchic, just something to demonstrate that we DO have power and we WILL use it. IMO, the best demonstration would be economic — don't mess with us or we will stop buying X. Would that get someone's attention? Yup. Would people then have a tangible, visceral experience of the sociological imagination? Yup. Would it put those in power on notice that they DO, indeed work for US and not the other way around? Yup.

Now, before you say, "that will never happen, imagine what would be involved, that's naive, yadda, yadda, yadda..." think about all of the other seemingly insurmountable problems that other sciences have encountered and succeeded in overcoming. We can't rely on the "we lack resources" argument, not in this day and age of the internet, instant, world-wide communication, instant online payment, etc. If we lack any resources, it is in figuring out how to use what we have — the resources are there, we just haven't figured out how to tap them.

Our job is not to figure out what the specific action would be, our job should be to figure out how to do it. How to get those people to do the same thing, at the same time, on the same day. Would that be a method of social change? Yeah, an IMMEDIATE one.

Now, IMO, we DON'T know how to do this or else we or someone else would have done it already. IMO, this is one of the things that we should be figuring out. We need a Manhatten project on the science of social change (to paraphrase some wise person making the same observation about poverty in the US).
my little boy is #@!$% smart!

Last night, my son ask me what "ours" meant (recall, that he is 3 years old). I thought he meant "hours" so I started talking about time, the passage of time, etc. But then he clarified (I don't recall how) that he meant, "ours," like possession.

I explained to him that if we had something, then it was ours.

He then asked what if we stole something, put it in our car and drove it home...would it be ours? I told him, no, because for something to be ours, we have to get it the right way, by buying it, receiving it as a gift, etc.

He thought for a minute, then said....

What if someone else stole it, gave it to us, and we drove it home (we were driving, so I assume that this where the whole, "drive it home" thing came from). I told him that if we knew it was stolen, then it wouldn't be ours; if, however, we didn't know it was stolen, then it would be.

Nuances aside, that is one hell of an example of some serious logic. That boy was thinking.

Am I proud? You bet your $#@!% ass I am.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

i think i finally got it!

a colleague writes...

"Objectivity is not mere culture. Objectivity is "making individual sensory experiences social experiences."

And this is where the rub those sensory experiences are transformed into social experiences. as each of us is embedded in different social realities, mediated by differing linguistic and experiential histories, there can not be universal agreement on what those "sensory experiences" are. Furthermore, it is a SOCIAL process in which they become "social experiences," even when this occurs within us.

IMO, any SOCIAL process is inherently contextual, inherently cultural, inherently definitional — these limitations, by their definition, deny any kind of sense of universal objectivity. Now, this is not to say that we cannot suspend our own bias, prejudices, beliefs, etc., when we are conducting an analysis. Furthermore, this is not to say that others when reviewing our methods, engaging in the same suspension of these things, agree with our findings that we have not achieved something that is commonly called "objectivity." What we forget is that this notion of objectivity is defined, through cultural means — it is a process that we engage in, a process of bracketing (if you will). It is still bounded by cultural/inguistic parameters, however; if it were not, we would never know if we achieved it.

It is assumed that objectivity is a particular stance that is somehow inherent in any situation, i.e., it is there and can be accessed if one simply looks for it or aligns oneself with it. It is assumed that this stance is independent of any other considerations, a "univerally true" assessment of what is under observation. Presumably, when learning how to do science, one learns how to access this objectivity in any situation. How? By letting go of preconceived ideas, suspending beliefs, etc. Note that in order to attain objectivity, we must DO something; it is not a "natural state." In fact, it is supposedly an unnatural state, hence the need for extensive training ob how to conduct reserach. If we look at the process of how objectivity is achieved, however, we notice that we can never be sure if we have actually attained it and that others will attain the very same stance that we attained when conducting our observation.

I guess what I am saying is that it seems to me that unviersal objectivity, when considered phenomenologically (and how else COULD it be considered), is essentially what Husserl referred to as the transcendental ego. From my reading of this idea, it is purported to be something that exists independent of culture, as objectivity, in its purest definition is.

If, however, we must go through a bracekting process to get to it, and everyone else who is interested in attaining objectivity must go through the same bracketing process, how then do we know that whomever is interested in observing the phenomena that we did, bracketed the same things that we did? We don't and we can't.

I am not suggesting that we abandon the heuristic of "objectivity," but merely note that it is not as fool-proof nor as "universal" as we think it is.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Now, some REAL freakin' heresy

RE: Intelligent design...I like it for several reasons. 1) It challenges us, as scientists to be very precise in defining what we know, what we are talking about, how we arrive at knowledge, etc.; I think that is a good thing 2) It notes that an underlying assumption of science is naturalism, i.e., that all things have natural (VS supernatural) causes; inasmuch as we are bound by our language, we cannot reject any notion of God, Creator, etc., as we cannot know if these things exist indepdent of culture (or at least by linguistic methods; personally I think Buddhists and other meditators hit on a non-ordinary reality that sounds like a hell of a place to live - screw science at that point! Hell, if I can live in peace, equanimity, and universal compassion, I'll take it, even if it can't be "empirically verified") 3) I think if they have what they think are reasonable data on intelligent design, they should be allowed to present them 4) evolution IS a theory after all; granted it is widely accepted by many scientists, but big deal, acceptance doesn't mean accuracy and 5) I don't think it should be taught in school until it has been thoroughly vetted in the public-scientific discourse, which if everyone automatically rejects it, it will never have a chance.

I don't think "real" scientists should be afraid of it; if they are pissed about it because it smacks of religion, that is a different matter. Lastly, I think the real issue is the powers that are pushing it - promoting something that has not been thoroughly vetted as having equal standing along with their persistent attacks on traditional science and scientific methods.

All of the above said...until I am enlightened (!!!!), I consider myself to be a humanistic, evolutionary, behavioral scientist and promote all of that in my teaching. God, religion, etc., are not relevant to science as epistemologies because they cannot be empirially verified. And yes, from a cultural standpoint, these are my biases/prejudices, and I am aware of that.
it all depends on how ya look at it...and that sucks

a colleauge writes...

"My concern is helping people with and preventing them from experiencing social problems. Social problems such as date rape, AOD problems and "mental" illness."

I don't think it is that simple. Can we all agree that date rape is a social problem? On the surface, the answer is YES! However, think of the people who commit date THEY think it is a problem? No. Most of them don't even think it happened, right? "it wasn't rape, it was consensual." Of course for the person who suffered the rape it is a problem, a serious, life-changing one.

The intervention then seems obvious, right? Get people to understand that date rape does happen, is wrong, and they shouldn't do it.

Herein lies the problem; there are several "work-arounds" to that in the mind of a potential rapist which increase the likelihood of occurrence. He doesn't see it as wrong, because he doesn't see it as rape; he might see it as wrong, be he thnks he won't get caught, so he proceeds anyway; he intends to rape someone, so he drugs her to increase his likelihood of committing the rape and decrease his likelihood for getting caught afterwards; he knows that if he is caught, SHE will be put on trial, too, and in all likelihood, will drop the case (think Kobe). All of these increase the chance that rape will occur and continue.

Fear of jail time does NOT deter people who are intent on crime from committing crimes. That is why they commit the crime — they aren't concerned about getting caught. Fear of jail time probably works for many people (like ME!), but for those people who are interested in doing something illegal, it is just another problem that needs to be overcome before the crime is committed, hence the work-arounds.

These are the actual realities that need to be intervened on. When looked at this way, the target of the intervention becomes much clearer and it takes on a different tone entirely. Since we know that men rape, we must target men; not only that, but we must target the way men can and do make sense out of situations; we must target how men use power and force, etc.

So, the social problem, when carefully analyzed moves from DATE RAPE to MEN RAPING WOMEN AND NOT BEING THAT CONCERNED ABOUT IT FOR ANY NUMBER OF REASONS.

Hmmm, is THAT going to be recognized as a social problem as easily as "date rape?"

I doubt it, yet that is much more accurate of a description of what is happening. And, again, is illustrative of the need for behavior change, IMO.
geez, I can be wordy...

I wasn't joking when I said you could take a sentence as a way to introduce students to sociology and use an entire semester to do that. IMO, THAT is the sociological imagination at work. Allow me to demonstrate...

take the word...ME

first how do we understand that word? those of us who speak English, understand it because of the joining of the two letters, M & E.

Our understanding of those two letters speaks to our individual embeddedness in a linguistic/social reality; a linguistic/social reality complete with millenia of history that links us (through the understanding and internalization of those two letters) to millions of people who came before us; those people who "brought forth" our language, that same language (having gone through countless iterations) that we now use to create meaning in our lives. The soc imagination is the intersection of biography (me — this body which sits here and types this in 2005) and history (all of those people and all of those iterations of our current language). My personal experience of life is mediated by thousands of years of social history and in some respects is ONLY possible because of that past history. so, I use something thousands of years old, that has been passed through millions of minds, to understand MY CURRENT EXPERIENCE. Pretty freaking amazing, if you ask...ME.

Then think of how you learned those letters — how they were taught to you, in what situation? in school? in your family? why is it that those two letters, in particular represent something that we find to be so personal? what is about those two letters in particular...why not S & E? what were the consequences you received when you misused those two letters?

Moving on to the word itself, ME...think of this personal and social history of this word. How many millions of people have used it? What were they referring to when they used it? was their ME the same as my ME? if not, how did they differ? what do I currently think about ME? as a word? as a sociological concept? as part of a theory of self? as a reference to this thing, this "self" that allegedly inhabits my body? how are the different ideas of ME that i have had reflect my social situations? how about the ME's that others have had?

IMO, we can do this with any object. Granted it is a rather micro use of the SI, but I use it to demonstrate how pervasive social reality is. it is inescapable. and it inflitrates ALL of what we do, who we think we are, how we make sense, how we think, etc.

in sum, the fact that we can even talk about something called, "the sociological imagination" is evidence that it exists.

Friday, December 02, 2005

more heresy...(I can't stop it!!!)

yes, I am familiar with the work and some of the approaches (of clinical sociology). My contention is that we don't have a coherent body of knowledge about how to effect social change. Nor is much of it empirically validated. I am all for pragmatic, "the proof is in the pudding" strategies; to my knowledge, however there is not a substantial body of work that demonstrates the utility of specific interventions.

Little test...ask three applied/clinical sociologists to name, off the top of their heads, three established intervention strategies to increase family bonding/attachment; give them each one minute to do it.

Compare this with a physician who can tell you three ways to decrease your likelihood of having a heart attack, in less than thirty seconds.

This is what I am talking about. This is why, IMO, we have an identity crisis in this field.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

sociological heresy...(mine, of course)

RE: deviance...I have never understood the reason to have any entire class devoted to "deviance." deviance is pretty simple to explain and then it's just a parade of different forms of deviance — like a freak show. i always tell my students that deviance and conformity are two sides of the same coin — they fuse when one takes into consideration how they are both relative and neither is absolute; you can cover that idea in one class period.

RE: SP vs Social work...i made this statement some time ago on the list (or the SAS list, rather) and it seems to make the distinction for me. SP/AS should be about changing/modifying institutions — patterns of social behavior, on whatever level. Social work is not about that, it is about assisting specific individuals; yes, they might do some advocacy for groups, etc., but their focus is not on collective, institutional change(s), it is one individual change.

I think the reason that we continue to be bewildered about what AS/SP is, is the fact that, as far as I know, we have no established theory nor methods for effecting different kinds of social change — we don't have a science of social change. IMO, to be a "real" discipline, we need to have some general principles or ideas about how we go about creating change, what works, what doesn't etc. We do not have a systematic body of knowledge like this. Again, IMO, it goes back to my suggestions about developing manuals or handbooks on how to create social change(s) at different levels of social reality. You want to change your familial behavior? Do this. You want to change your classroom behavior? Do this., etc. We don't have a tested, agreed-upon body of work to build on. Other disciplines do, but we don't.

This, however, is how I see our entire discipline — disparate and fluffy — no grounding. Yeah, we have data on everything social, but we still think (and teach) students about these three perspectives all of which are much more conceptual than empirical. You can't build a science on concepts alone. Functionalism is a conceptual scheme; conflict is, too. This is not to deny the evidence of inequality nor of stratification, but do we really believe that patterns of behavior are responsible for this? Patterns of behavior are "disembodied" ideas; we are really talking about people and what people are doing. Seems to me that is what we need to find out more about — how and why do people change? Once we know that, we might be better able to begin building some testable ideas about how to change the social behavior of those people.

I recently finished reading Skinner's Walden Two and am now reading Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner was ahead of his time, IMO. He was not the monster I understood him to be. Many of his ideas have tremendous relevance for sociology and AP/SP. I think he was found to be distasteful because his perspective pulled back the covers of social/human reality — something that no one wanted to see or seriously consider — we are all controlled by something, mainly through fear, so it is an issue of who is doing the controlling, not whether or not we are controlled.

Skinner knew about how people change and so do many people who adhere to a behavioristic approach. I think it is very worthwhile to investigate. After all, what are "social rewards/benefits" and "social sanctions" but reinforcers and punishers?

Hmmm, maybe I'm going to start calling myself something else...