Sociology of the National Arboretum

Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra

One of the themes of my visual sociology is the representation of science. Conservation is as much about social practices as it is about earth science, biology and other natural sciences. Today’s post is about the sociology of the National Arboretum, which sits on Ngunawal country. Ngunawal people are the traditional custodians of this part of Acton, west of the city in Canberra. Less than a seven minute drive central business district, this is one of the world’s largest arboretums for rare and endangered trees. I am no arborist. I cannot even claim to be a fan of gardening. I was interested in the Arboretum first in an attempt to capture a visual sociology of Canberra, and second to see how people interact with this place as a science centre. The focus of my post today is on the social dynamics of the Arboretum, especially on community aspects of conservation and the trees that drew the greatest interest amongst the crowds I saw: the Bonsai and Penjing Collection .
National Arboretum (18)

Continue reading Sociology of the National Arboretum

Wendy Saddington: Underground Icon

This exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery contains memorabilia collected by Canberra artist Peter Maloney of the Australian singer heralded as “The Face of 68” at the age of 18. She performed with many influential art rock groups in the 1970s. She eventually travelled to New York where she went on to join the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and adopted the name Gandharvika Devi Dasi and continued to perform under her Anglo name but shunned the music press. Continue reading Wendy Saddington: Underground Icon

“Secret histories” of Australia

Ongoing human rights crimes have been committed against Indigenous Australians, starting with their dispossession and decimation within the first few years of European colonialism. Featured here are six historical incidents. Continue reading “Secret histories” of Australia

Rethinking the Narrative of Mars Colonisation

Rethinking the Narrative of Mars ColonisationBiologist Dr D. N. Lee has been doing an amazing job educating on how enthusiastic narratives of “colonising” Mars are problematic. On her Twitter, Lee notes that the dominant ways of talking about colonisation add to the marginalisation of under-represented minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). If we want to make science more inclusive, we need to better understand how the stories we tell about STEM may exclude and damage under-represented groups we are trying to support.

Continue reading Rethinking the Narrative of Mars Colonisation

Meet the “Chinese Joan of Arc”

Meet the “Chinese Joan of Arc”

“Qiu Jin (秋瑾) (1875-1907), a radical women’s rights activist who defied tradition to become the leader of a revolutionary army. Qiu Jin boldly challenged traditional gender roles and demanded equal rights and opportunities for women. She was the first woman to lead an armed uprising against the corrupt Qing Dynasty, for which she was arrested and executed.”

Via: http://buff.ly/1A86azv #socialscience #women #history

Failure in Science

I’ve been thinking about how we often paper over the flaws in science because they don’t fit into 7,000 to 10,000 word journal articles. Failure and mistakes in science don’t invalidate the scientific process. Not talking about the things that go wrong can be damaging for early career researchers.  

The beautiful aspect of this quote by Columbia biologist Stuart Firestein is his celebration of the messiness of scientific discovery.

“Much of science is failure, but it is a productive failure. This is a crucial distinction in how we think about failure. More importantly is that not all wrong science is bad science. As with the exaggerated expectations of scientific progress, expectations about the validity of scientific results have simply become overblown. Scientific “facts” are all provisional, all needing revision or sometimes even outright upending. But this is not bad; indeed it is critical to continued progress. Granted it’s difficult, because you can’t just believe everything you read. But let’s grow up and recognize that undeniable fact of life…

So what’s the worry? That we will become irrationally impatient with science, with it’s wrong turns and occasional blind alleys, with its temporary results that need constant revision. And we will lose our trust and belief in science as the single best way to understand the physical universe. . . . From a historical perspective the path to discovery may seem clear, but the reality is that there are twists and turns and reversals and failures and cul de sacs all along the path to any discovery. Facts are not immutable and discoveries are provisional. This is the messy process of science. We should worry that our unrealistic expectations will destroy this amazing mess.”

Quote via Brainpickings: http://goo.gl/SsHPIW

 

Symbolic Capital of English Spelling

Why are spelling conventions in English so peculiar, such as with the silent “b” in “doubt”? It’s due to the influence of Latin culture and symbolic capital. Symbolic capital describes the immaterial resources that people draw on in order to maintain or improve their social status. Language, literature, the arts and other forms of culture act as symbolic capital that signal our belonging to a particular class. Language and culture are also used to elevate the authority and economic achievements of dominant groups.

Throughout history being able to speak and write Latin has been a sign of being upper class. Latin was also important to the religious elites who acted as scribes that documented culture and history.

Latin drew on French language rules as French grew out of Latin. The French word for doubt has a “b” which is why Latin scribes used it when they started to catalogue English in written texts. English is a Germanic language that was spoken by the masses long before it was written down and so the elites reflected their own linguistic norms on the English written form rather than following the spoken rules.

This Chalking Points video documents this history on brief.

Day of Mourning

Day of Mourning – Australia Hall, Sydney, 1938. Protest of 150 years of colonialism.

On 26 January [1938], as Australia celebrates the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove, Indigenous Australians attend a Day of Mourning and Protest in Sydney. The mourners wait for the sesquicentenary procession to pass, then march in silent protest from the Sydney Town Hall to an Australian Aborigines Conference at the Australian Hall. The Australian Aborigines’ League and Aborigines Progressive Association of New South Wales use the meeting to speak out about the denial of civil rights for Indigenous Australians. The protest is the culmination of years of campaigning by Aboriginal leaders including William Ferguson, William Cooper and John Patten. Patten and Ferguson circulate a pamphlet, Aborigines Claim Citizen Rights.

Top photo via Indigenous Rights. Document and quote via Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

The Surprising Cultural History of New Year’s Resolutions

By Zuleyka Zevallos, PhD

In a fun rummage through vintage sociology, I found an interesting study by Isidor Thorner. Writing in 1951, he used a survey of Americans from various backgrounds to determine the relationship between New Year’s Resolutions (NYR) and Protestant values. Below I take a look at the major findings of Thorner’s study, exploring the historical and cultural variations of resolutions.

Protestant culture highly valued the idea of being in full control of one’s emotions. This meant being organised and denying oneself frivolous pursuits so as to be free to fulfil religious duty. Not adhering to these strict values brought about great personal shame.

Thorner argues that the New Year’s resolutions helped Protestants to manage their emotional baggage, and that over time, this practice lost its religious connotation and spread more widely.

Photo by Steve Davidson via Flickr.
Photo by Steve Davidson via Flickr.

Continue reading The Surprising Cultural History of New Year’s Resolutions

Indigenous Mental Health

Indigenous culture has for a long time had a holistic understanding of mental health. Within this are concepts of the cultural importance of the connection between the mind and body as well as the land, ancestors and other spiritual connections…. What I admire most in my family and all the communities is Aboriginal people’s great resilience and generosity of spirit, not only to their own people but to everyone. Despite a terrible history that is still very close for Australia’s Indigenous people, this spirit of generosity and resilience are something to celebrate and acknowledge.

Prof Pat Dudgeon, National Mental Health Commissioner.