Monthly Archives: February 2013

Technology and Society, Social Change, & Government

How has technology and rapid social change impacted or affected:

  1. Geography, Demography, Ecology, Economics and Stratification?

The ushering in of technology  has produced astonishing results in societies around the world.  The Industral Revolution was instrumental in changing how people of yesteryear lived.  Because technology has continually built upon itself since this time, society has continued to transform itself as a result.  The rapid social changes that have occurred and continue to occur as a result of technology have effected literally every discipline of the social sciences.  In terms of geography, technology has been extremely influential in the process of globalization.  The physical space and distance that separates countries like Japan and Mexico is quite immense.  Crossing the Pacific Ocean to “the integration of world economies” (Colander, 2011) would be completely impossible without proper technological advancements.  Also, in terms of geography, our advancements have lead us to transform (and often degrade) landscapes and live in marginal environments. These impressions we make on the earth are long lasting and alter the environment for the foreseeable future.  The aforementioned concern is an essential one to the discipline of ecology and includes, mining, mountain top mining, and even intensive agricultural practices.   In terms of demography, technology has enabled our local living arrangements to be quite different.  Before the widespread use of the automobile and public transportation, those that worked in particular sectors needed to live within a reasonable distance to their respective jobs.  It made little sense for someone to take a job they couldn’t feasibly get to.  Now, most people are capable of living long distances from their places of work.  This resulted in the development of the suburban family.    This, in turn has fueled segregation in economics and stratification.  Those that cannot afford technology as it is implemented throughout a society can be disadvantaged considerably.  For instance, if someone is capable of performing a high-paying contractor job, but lacks a cell phone and a car, they’re likely not a good fit.  Technology has completely transformed the economic sector in many ways, including “standardization, interchangeability, and mass production” (Colander, 2011).  Mentioned briefly before, not all of the changes to economics that technology have brought have been good.  As more technologically advanced machines are devised, workers are being displaced at an alarming rate.  Also of key concern is that of outsourcing, the process of exporting jobs to countries where cheap labor can be exploited as a means of maximizing profits.  The social stratification that results from these technological innovations and institutions can be quite conspicuous and stark.  Technology aids the continuation of social stratification in that it assists those who have buying power, and widens the gap between them and those who are without.  It effects many aspects of “domestic life” (Colander, 2011).  “Social scientists…argue that the social class structure of capitalism is inevitable with the capitalist means of production” (Colander, 2011).  Class warfare and struggle are imminent results of technology’s implements and how they affect social structures. Counter arguments have been made regarding technology and social stratification.

  1. What stimulates “Social Change?” 

Social change is stimulated by solutions of problems posed to a given society.  “For a social problem to exist, two conditions must be fulfilled” (Colander, 2011).  “There must be…some condition that adversely affects the welfare of a significant number of people” and “there must be a belief that this condition can and should be changed” (Colander, 2011).  Technology aids in stimulating social change, because it can often be either the answer itself to a problem, or can assist in the transmission of potential solutions.  For instance, infrastructural issues faced by a society can be solved by technology in its purest sense and a public internet forum can be a place where townspeople congregate to express societal concerns or potential solutions, respectively.

  1.  What issues prevent change from occurring?  Are all societies equal when change occurs? Why or why not? 

Habits, societal norms, attitudes, organization, and cultural lag all contribute to the prevention of social change.  Because societies around the world are different from one another, they’re acceptance or defiance concerning social change is particularly subject to their own cultural and societal problems and organization.  No two societies and peoples are alike for the most part and equality is a term that should be used to delve into a conversation on cultural relativism.

  1. Why are these questions valuable to understanding human relationships and society?

These questions are important because they help us to understand and envision a much larger scope of societal reality.  “Necessity is the mother of invention”.  This statement aims to explain that technology is meant to assist.  It is meant to make our lives better, to improve the human condition.  In this way, the central quest of all technology is essentially the same as that of social science.  In terms of social change, it’s value to understanding human relationships and society is also to understand how to improve quality of life.  Its focus, is the “how” in “how to get there”.  The social changes that a society is capable of making are pivotal to the growth and progressivism as well as the increasing quality of life of said society.

In addition… 

  1. The role of Governments has been said to impact all aspects of human life and interaction. How and why is this true?

This is true to a certain extent.  “Government is the set of institutions by which a society is ruled” (Colander, 2011).  The concept of society is incredibly complex and multifaceted.  Thus, a government must concern itself with most aspects of its respective population.  When social problems and solutions are assessed and devised, the basis for social change, it is largely government that is the vehicle by which these changes occur.  A government is particularly useful at organizing the concerns, thoughts, problems and solutions of a society.  As a society gains in complexity, so too does the responsibilities and presence of that society’s government.

Can governments affect the political, social and economic outcomes that researchers often study?

Yes governments have an excruciatingly important role in the way that societies function.  “Government is by far the most powerful of all social institutions” (Colander, 2011).  Thus, outcomes are radically altered by the actions and legislation of government forces.  This is why government is such an important area of study to social scientists.

How does the role of a government impact:

  1. Economic change

Government is instrumental in evoking economic change in a number of ways.  Perhaps the most significant is the use of taxes, which remove a specified amount of wages from an individual’s pay in order to subsidize government programs, finances, and spending.  In keeping with this, some members of society may be responsible for more than others in terms of their input of taxes.  This can either be the result of unbalanced earnings (which in turn may be the result of a caste or class system) or can result in unbalanced earnings.  In many countries the government perceives a great need for social programs, including medical, sustenance, and educational services.  These forces contribute greatly to economic changes within a society and are the result of government’s actions.

  1. Political ideology

Because government is so powerful, it has the ability to categorize concerns of citizens within a society.  Although, much of society may differ in opinion from their fellow members on any given subject, their governments have neatly “boxed in” and categorized political ideals.  Political ideologies are essentially “deeply held beliefs in an idea…held…with…conviction” (Colander, 2011).  Often, governments present information and subjects of debate in ways that force its political subjects to decided their standpoint on a number of issues, rather than simply one at a time.  An example of this categorizing of political issues that may or may not be similar and citizens may or may not be in agreement with all that is encompassed by such categorizations is the concept of “democrats” and “republicans”.  Often, these classifications result in confusion and ultimately undesirable legislation being put forth because of a stance on a particular issue.

  1. Religion

History has recorded an awful lot of governments’ toiling with religion.  It is because of their devotion to religion and lack of toleration for others’ religious affiliations that much of America was settled by the English.  Also, the Spanish King Charles I was particularly damning of the natives and their religion when the conquistadores began settling Mesoamerica.  It was their central focus to institute Catholicism at any cost.  Many governments throughout the history of the world were closely affiliated with and shared advantageous ventures with that of religious institutions.  More recently, the landscape of government and religion is that of polar opposites.  Much of the western world, including that of Europe, North America, and Australia, and many eastern countries, such as Russia, China, Japan, and Korea are devote in their government’s attempts to reconcile with this past by staunch separatism; that is, they do not affiliate religion with that of government.  Many of these countries do, however, attempt to appease and accommodate different religious groups, allowing for freedom of expression and religious tolerance.  On the complete other hand, many Middle Eastern countries, and countries in Africa, rule with an iron fist and closely align their governments with religion.  In fact, much of their political doctrine is borrowed from sacred texts.  This often results in a complete lack of tolerance and violence and other potential social problems.

  1. International Relations

International relations are effected primarily by diplomatic interaction that occurs at the government and political levels.  More often than not, a country’s leaders in government are the focal point of the international stage, so to speak.  This has serious implications, because the international community can (and does) make inferences about the society based on their representative and his or her words/ideologies.

Works Cited

Colander, D. C. (2011). Social Science: An Introduction to the Study of Society. Boston: Pearson: Allyn & Bacon.

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lil’ Margaret Mead paper

Margaret Mead was a United States Anthropologist and pioneer for the social science discipline.  She “was arguably the most renowned anthropologist of all time, contributing to the development of the discipline” (University of Southern Florida Anthropology Department, 2006) and conducting meaningful ethnographic studies of indigenous populations of which most in the developed world would and could only dream.  As anyone in the spotlight for their achievements, Margaret Mead has taken criticism as well as praise for her research.  Despite opinions of her work, for better or worse, the woman and her bountiful legacy remain cherished by Americans and those who have read and have been a part of her work.

Mead was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 16, 1901 (University of Southern Florida Anthropology Department, 2006).  “Margaret benefited from being her parents’ firstborn child, as well as having been born a girl” (Lutkehaus, 2008, p. 32).  Her knack for knowledge and aptitude for intelligence started quite early.  Not surprisingly, “both of parents were educators” (Flaherty, 2006).  She graduated high school in 1918 at the age of 17 and went straight to college (Flaherty, 2006).

 “Mead earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology at Barnard College in new York” (Flaherty, 2006).  Her vigorous education eventually led her to obtain her PhD in 1929 from Columbia, also in New York.  “Following that she earned many honorary degrees and was a member of the American Academy on Arts and Letters.” (Flaherty, 2006).  “Mead, along with [her] mentor Franz Boas [at Columbia was] illustrating the importance of culture in shaping and influencing human behavior” (Scupin, 2012, p. 235).  This work that was being conducted by Mead, Boas, and fellow researcher Ruth Benedict, was undoubtedly quite influential to social scientists that would follow. 

Much of Mead’s work was “focused on fairly isolated, small-scale societies” (Scupin, 2012, p. 234).  By far her best known work is her first ethnographic report, entitled Coming of Age in Samoa, published in 1928.  “Her mentor, Franz Boas…wanted her to investigate…adolescent development…in Samoa” (Scupin, 2012, p. 234).  Her publication focused “largely on her interviews with two young Samoan women” (Rising, 2000) with a great emphasis on “sex, a taboo topic in Samoa” (Rising, 2000) and “child-rearing and personality” (University of Southern Florida Anthropology Department, 2006).

 “The central research question” of Mead’s work in Samoa was “To what extent are adolescent problems the product of physiological changes occurring at puberty or the result of cultural factors?” (Scupin, 2012, p. 234).  It should be said that the work of Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, was extremely influential during his studies of hereditary that would later become known as “nature vs. nurture” in the early 1900s (Psychology – Macalester College, 2013).  Because Mead’s research ultimately yielded results that showed “the wild stories of the young women [of Samoa]” (Rising, 2000), young men and women began to question that of their own sexual behaviors, in particular constraints.  The results of Mead’s flagship work in Samoa resulted in a sexual revolution of sorts amongst adolescents in Western culture. 

The influence on human behavior that culture has is reflected in just about every social science and the work that Mead was a part of helped to sculpt our very ideas about these concepts.  She “was one of the most influential contributors to the field of culture and personality” (Scupin, 2012, p. 234). Today, more than ever, the seeds sown by Mead are beginning to flower as these fields of study become increasingly important in modern thought.

“The anthropological community” to which she was a part of found her research quite well and it even was widely adopted as a university text in anthropology” (Rising, 2000).  Her contributions are well numbered in the fields of social science, especially anthropology.  Many of the works conducted by Mead were valuable to a country largely geographically isolated, America, despite our “isolationis[t]…polic[ies that]…reigned supreme” (Colander, 2011, p. 376).  During the 20th century, Margaret Mead was able to bring forth accounts of people from all over the world essentially on a silver platter for the American public.  She went on to become a most “prolific writer, she  produced 44 books and more than 1,000 articles” (University of Southern Florida Anthropology Department, 2006).

Mead’s other works include ethnographic research in Bali, New Guinea, and many other corners of the world.  She was also very important in that she incorporated the use of photography like few in anthropology had done before (University of Southern Florida Anthropology Department, 2006).  The power of photographs is incredible to any form of study, but perhaps particularly in this case, as much of the subject matter was so distant, it was largely inconceivable to its intended audiences.  Photos being a form of presenting reality and an accurate means of recording information, was particularly effective for Mead’s advancement as a prominent force in social science and helped her to achieve new heights in her work.

The work that Mead did on the island of Samoa began to come under fire from an anthropologist by the name of Derek Freeman in what ultimately became known as “The Freeman-Mead Controversy”.  His book was titled Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth.  Freeman’s own findings in Samoa contradicted that of Mead’s work.  Thus, he argued that her work was altogether a farce.  Ultimately, both Freeman and Mead took considerable heat from the anthropological community via academic juries and paradigms in respect and thought.   Many anthropologists criticized Freeman the worst, saying he “studied Samoa years and even decades after Mead did” (Scupin, 2012, p. 236).

Anthropology itself was a fairly young discipline during Margaret Mead’s early days at Columbia University (O’neil, 2012).  The world knew little about cultural practices of the world compared to knowledge accumulated and accessible today’s global community, let alone the predicament of adolescents in Samoa.  While there is much debate as to whether Freeman was correct in his assumptions about the nature of Mead’s work, the small island that he had apparently come to know in ethnographies of his own was strikingly different.  After much debate and an equally long amount of time, solutions to the inconsistencies of Mead’s work began to present themselves.  “Unfortunately for Freeman’s critics,” one of the Samoan girls that the young anthropologist had spent so much time interviewing “remained alive and in a 1991 interview the elderly grandmother confirmed everything that Freeman had said” (Rising, 2000).  “”Samoan girls,” she confessed, “are terrific liars when it comes to joking. But Margaret accepted our trumped-up stories as though they were true. Yes, we just fibbed and fibbed to her.”” (Rising, 2000). While a great number of Mead’s findings in Samoa were valid and very much important in terms of information, the realization that the two local informants she’d been working so closely with were putting her on, so to speak, shed dismal light on her anthropological work.  The reality is that the young Samoan girls knew very little of why Mead was so curious about them and of course, meant no harm in what they had done.  Fortunately for the legacy of Mead and the discipline of anthropology, the social scientific community has learned a great deal from this scenario in Samoa and thinks less of the ordeal as problematic for the scientist and even our understanding of the island’s peoples.

Criticisms of her work have extended to other areas as well.  Modern criticisms of Mead’s work in Bali with Gregory Bateson in the late 1930s haven’t been quite as harsh as Freeman’s words, but they’re harsh nonetheless.  “Although they wrote relatively little about their work in this place,” a scholar writes, “they did leave behind a…photographic record of their time there” (Sullivan, 1999).  Other followers of Mead’s work with Bateson and their photographic excursion to be essential to “subsequent generations of anthropology and film students who continue to be intrigued by the aesthetics of the film” (Lutkehaus, 2008, p. 178).  Certainly the body of work was influential to the use of cameras in this line of work; an aspect of society and anthropology that is now virtually indispensible. 

 “In 1978, Mead died of cancer” (Flaherty, 2006).  Being that she was “born in 1901…her life spanned the greater part of the period Henry Luce first referred to as “the American century”” (Lutkehaus, 2008, p. 1).  Indeed her influence was great on the world she called home.  “Time [Magazine]…named her ‘mother of the world’ in 1969” (Flaherty, 2006).   Future generations of social scientists, ethnologists, and anthropologists owe a great deal of respect to the work of Margaret Mead.  Particularly long lasting is her inspiring passion for the work she did amongst the diverse people of the world.  Undoubtedly, without her, we would still be waiting for Margaret Mead.

 

 

Works Cited

Colander, D. (2011). Social Science: an Introduction to the Study of Society. Boston: Pearson.

Flaherty, T. (2006, November 17). Margaret Mead. Retrieved from Webster University Psych: Women’s Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society: http://www2.webster.edu/~woolflm/margaretmead.html

Lutkehaus, N. C. (2008). Margaret Mead: Making of an American Icon. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

O’neil, D. (2012, November 19). What is Anthropology: Overview. Retrieved January 17, 2013, from http://anthro.palomar.edu/intro/overview.htm

Psychology – Macalester College. (2013, January 17). Neuroscience of Intelligence. Retrieved from Behavioral Science Web Ring Macalester College: http://www.macalester.edu/academics/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/intelligence05/rheredity.html

Rising, G. (2000, June 23). Margaret Mead. Retrieved January 17, 2013, from http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~insrisg/nature/nw97/mead.html

Scupin, R. (2012). Anthropology: A Global Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Sullivan, G. (1999). Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Highland Bali: Fieldwork Photographs of Bayung Gede, 1936-1939. Retrieved from University of Chicago Press Books: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo3632000.html

University of Southern Florida Anthropology Department. (2006, September 5). Margaret Mead. Retrieved January 16, 2013, from http://anthropology.usf.edu/women/mead/margaret_mead.htm

 

 

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NewsFeed

She was called “bear woman,” “the bearded and hairy lady” and once described as the hybrid of a human and an orangutan. Throughout her life, her husband exhibited her as a freak of nature on a worldwide tour.

She passed away in 1860 but was never given a proper burial — instead, she was mummified so she could continue being displayed as a circus object. But on Tuesday, more than 150 years after her death, she was finally buried. Now she rests with the dignity that life had rarely afforded her.

This is the story of Julia Pastrana, known as the world’s ugliest woman. Born in Mexico in 1834, Pastrana suffered from two rare diseases that were undiagnosed in her time: generalized hypertrichosis lanuginose, which gave her copious facial hair and gingival hyperplasia, which thickened her jaw, Reuters reported.

(MORE: Bigfoot Is Part Human, and Here Are the…

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February 13, 2013 · 12:12 am

Short notes on the Mexica and the Aztecs

The Mexica were presumably a people from Northwestern Mexico/Southwestern United States, of course, before either Mexico or the United States were conceived.  Their nomadic existence led them to a great number of encounters with other natives living similar existences, sans nomadism.  Once the Mexica reached the basin of Mexico, they began to put down roots, however difficult it may have been.  Eventually, their warrior-like way of life earned them “jobs” as mercenaries, essentially doing the dirty work for those that were established there.  This allowed them to A) further earn respect and a reputation throughout the valley area as a tough, warrior-like people who were resilient in times of battle, and B) earn a stake in the area.  Their cultural developments mishmashed with that of the other inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico.

The Aztecs were Mexicas specifically from Tenochtitlan, who were devote followers of the Mexica God, Huitzilopochtli, who originally led them to inhabit an island in southern Lake Texcoco, in the Valley of Mexico.  The Aztecs of Tenochtitlan soon became the dominate Mexica people in all of the area, taking over more “towns”, land and resources than any other, along with their Mexica allies in the nearby cities of Texcoco and Tlacopan, also known as the “triple alliance”.  They commanded conquered peoples in the area to pay tribute in goods, crops, women, and other necessities.  Scholars have viewed this as a sort of tax system.  If I may, I would probably compare this a little bit to “taxation without representation”. 😉  The Aztecs were truly gifted in a number of ways and have left a long-lasting legacy, which researchers have studied extensively since the Spanish “discovered” them in 1521.  They had grander canals than that of Venice, and an ingeneous earth-enriching gardening technique called ‘chinampas’ farming, in which they dredged Lake Texcoco’s extensive lakebeds to fertilize and build agricultural islands.  Several of the Aztec nobility took it upon themselves to re-write a selective history throughout their time of dominance.  When doing so, it is thought that they largely destroyed the bulk of historical accounts and specimens to preserve their glorification throughout time.

 

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Short notes on Monte Alban and Teotihuacan

Monte Alban was founded by the Zapotec in about 500 BC in southern Mexico, the Valley of Oaxaca.  The city served as the Zapotec people’s capital and was home to nobility from all Zapotec settlements of the region of the Valley of Oaxaca.  It served the people well for well over 1200 years, shrinking in population by the year 700 AD.  The city was home to as many as 25,000 people at its height in the 6th century AD.  The city was made up of a number of different residiential districts, pyramids, and the famous Palacio de los Danzantes, Palace of the Dancers.  The culture of the Zapotecs of Monte Alban was significantly influenced by the Olmec.

Teotihuacan was a vast city in the basin of present-day Mexico.  Its founders and original inhabitants are completely unknown.  Its name means “place of the gods” in Nahuatl.  Nahuatl is the language of many indigeneous peoples in Mexico, particularly the Aztecs, who donned the city with its name after they began its occupation.  It was home to as many as 200,000 residents.  It’s landholdings covered 12 square miles.  It had about 600 pyramids!  The two most famous pyramids of the city were (and are) the Pyramid of the Sun, which is more than 215ft high and half a million square feet at its base, and the Pyramid of the moon.  The city was an economic powerhouse and was home to a considerable force of artisans, agriculturalists and craftsmen.

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The most significant Pre-Columbian peoples of the Americas

In spite of the large number of civilizations in the Pre-Columbian Americas and their collectively important contributions, certain groups stand out. 

First and foremost, The Olmec were incredibly important to the development of Mesoamerica.  Their contributions in art, tools, the tortilla (!!!), architecture, and culture in general left a lasting impression on the region for millennia to come.  Their influences were so instrumental in developing a culture and way of life for those that would follow, such as the Toltecs and eventually the highly-studied Aztecs, that the Olmecs are known as the “mother culture” of Mexico.

Another “group” that was important to the era was the inhabitants of the Andes that collectively gathered (and permanently settled) in Chavin de Huantar in what is today central Peru.  While the permanent settlers (the Chavin people) “never surpassed 3000”, the highly organized ritual center that was Chavin de Huantar was likely a site for many pilgrimages from the Andes region.  Because of its predating the later civilizations of the Moche, Wari, Nazca, and Tiwanaku in the vicinity, Chavin de Huantar was key to further social organization and trade networks that would enivitably inhabit the area in spite of its small size.  The Chavin are particularly important to these other groups and ultimately, the Incas, because of their mastering of the extreme altitudes of the Andes, a feature of the are that has proven to be somewhat of a double-edged sword, yielding crops that varied their diet greatly at different altitudinal zones, while making everyday living more harsh and inhabitants vulnerable.

The Maya were undoubtedly one of the most important and “great civilization[s] of the Classic Era”.  By far, their largest contribution to the natives that would follow was their written, phonetic language of glyphs.  This was also quite significant in terms of our ability to study the Maya and Pre-Columbian civilizations.  They effectively preserved a great deal of information for future generations.  With it, scholars have been able to study their culture and way of life at great length.  The language of the Maya has been instrumental in fostering developments in study of other cultures in the region as well.  Because we know certain things about Maya society and culture, we can consider these concepts when faced with challenges and unknowns about civilizations with similar cultures and realities.  The Maya also had an advanced numbering system, in which they developed the concept of “0” completely independent of outside influence or prexisting knowledge.  Their mastery also extended into warfare, landholdings and agriculture.

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