Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism

Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism
Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism

Dehumanisation and “super-humanisation” are two sides of the same coin serving a racist agenda. Dehumanisation is the process by which conscious and unconscious bias leads people to see a racial minority as less human – less worthy of respect, dignity, love, peace and protection. Psychology research finds that White police officers and young White students are more likely to see Black children as young as 10 years of age as being less worthy of protection and inviting violence in comparison to White children. Super-humanisation is on the other end of the dehumanisation continuum. It is when majority groups harbour latent ideas that minorities have special qualities or powers that make them less deserving of bodily consideration and pain relief. Research finds that White people have a tendency to see Black people as being stronger and therefore more able to withstand pain. These two twin processes, that place Black people outside of humanity, are steeped in colonial practices and they contribute to excessive policing and violence aimed at Black bodies. There are implications of dehumanisation and super-humanisation on the ongoing events in Ferguson. This social science research speaks to the issues raised by the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Continue reading Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism

Hapiness and Health

A UK study of 10,000 people aged over 50 years of age finds that older people who report being unhappy are three times more likely to die (over the study’s nine year period) and they are more likely to have adverse health outcomes than people who report being happy. Strong social networks also correlates with overall happiness as well as with better health outcomes.

Self-report measures of happiness are problematic because the concept of happiness is subjective – people may report being unhappy because they already suffer poor health, so there is no direct cause and effect relationship as reported in this article. Nevertheless, making people more aware of the relationship between psychological well being and physical health is always useful.  

 

 

Social Science and Agent-based Modelling

Philosopher of Social Science, Daniel Little, provides a nice overview on some of the problems with agent-based modelling and how models might be improved with a more nuanced understanding of historical relations between social actors. Little encourages social modellers to go beyond the economic rationalist principles which dominate this field. He sketches how sociological insights might improve computational models of human behaviour:

“So maybe the great centers for complexity studies around the country would be well advised to begin including anthropologists and cultural sociologists within their research teams. And maybe the result will be a fertile marriage of modeling with greater cultural specificity.”

Social Networks of Hermit Crabs

Photographer Steve Simonsen has captured this astonishing video of hermit crabs at Nanny Point at St. John in the Virgin Islands. Read this interesting research from Tufts University which shows that hermit crabs exhibit social networking behaviour. Sometimes there aren’t enough shells for hermit crabs to climb into, or in some cases the only available shells are too big. In such cases, hermit crabs will wait until a larger crab approaches and they “piggyback” along, picking up other crabs, and forming “chains.”

“69 Billion Friendships” on Facebook – How Sociology Can Make This Meaningful

By J.C. Duffy, Night Deposits.

Last week, the Facebook Data Team released its social network analysis research, Anatomy of Facebook (on Facebook of course!). They have annotated their algorithms in two academic papers The Anatomy of the Facebook Social Graph and Four Degrees of Separation. Facebook claims their data show that connectivity between people around the world has dramatically increased – so much so that we are only four links away from someone in the most remote part of the world, whether that is a tundra or rainforest. A sociological look at the data dispels this notion. Despite its impressive sample, which includes 721 million active Facebook users and their “69 billion friendships”, Facebook’s findings replicate widely-held sociological knowledge about the way people form social ties. Nonetheless, Facebook’s data has great potential to address important social questions, if we can just set aside those pesky social science concerns about research ethics, informed consent and privacy…

Facebook’s study has an extraordinary sample of ‘active users’ representing one tenth of the world’s population The term active user is defined by Johan Ugander and colleagues in one of the aforementioned academic papers. This refers to someone with at least one friend who had logged on once in the past 28 days from the study’s commencement in May 2011. This is less frequent than the Facebook’s company definition of an active user, but the divergent definitions are not explained. For the record, Facebook currently reports it has 800 million active users and 50 percent of them log in at least once a day. Lars Backstrom, computer scientist and one of the Facebook Data Team’s lead researchers in this study, reports on the aims and key findings. The Team found that only around 10 percent of active users have less than 10 friends, while half have a median of 100 friends (the average is 190 friends). See below for more detail.

Continue reading “69 Billion Friendships” on Facebook – How Sociology Can Make This Meaningful

The Sociology of Unfollowing on Twitter

Agent X Comics (2009)

A new sociological study finds that unfollowing people on Twitter has little to do with frequency of interpersonal contact between two parties. Rather it has more to do with people who break specific social norms of Twitterverse etiquette. This got me thinking about the unique aspects of Twitter connections, as well as the ways in which unfollowing on Twitter might be similar to the way other social networks operate offline.

The International Data Group has blogged about a study by Professor Sue B. Moon from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Moon took daily snapshots of 1.2 million Korean-speaking Twitter users for 51 days and she also conducted 22 in-depth interviews to get a qualitative understanding of their behaviour. Moon’s study finds that 43 percent of active users ‘unfollow’ someone at least once in 51 days. The average person unfollows 15 to 16 people in that time period. According to the article, people are more likely to be unfollowed when the relationship is:

Continue reading The Sociology of Unfollowing on Twitter