Sunday, December 6, 2009

Freedom of the Press

Written in September 2009

Freedom of the press is considered one of the most essential rights Americans enjoy under the Constitution. The concept of freedom of the press dates back to the colonial era of America and is at times taken for granted by Americans. The internet has been one of the most important inventions in the history of the world. The internet has impacted about every era of human life as it has come to further and further prominence. Freedom of the press is one area that has been especially impacted by the area, as the internet has shaped a big impact on how the press and the freedoms of the press.

Freedom of the press in America is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment in the Constitution. Despite the guarantee in the constitution of press freedom there have been some famous attempts by the government to limit this freedom. The Sedition Act of 1798 and the Pentagon Papers were attempts by the government to limit press freedom. The advent of the internet age though has made it harder for the government to limit press freedom and has also made it easier for news to get out that otherwise would not be widely reported. Prior to the advent of the internet individuals didn’t have the ability to get their thoughts easily broadcasted to a wide audience. For example, one of the most controversial aspects of the internet press is the ease that racist groups can broadcast their message to people on the internet. This was one of the earliest attempts to see what can and can’t be published on the internet. The internet has democratized the flow of information and allows virtually anyone to broadcast their views to a wide audience that they otherwise would not be able to reach for the most part. At the same time as the internet has risen as a venue for people to get news, the mainstream media has consolidated more with each year. The last 20 years has seen a rise in media conglomerates such as Rupert Murdoch’s Sky/Fox network which has outlets in newspaper, local, national and international television. As Robert McChensey pointed out in a 2003 piece, the rise of media conglomerates has also led to a reduction of information that was once reported in the mainstream media. The best way to find out certain information has become to search it out on the internet. The information being presented by the mainstream media has become reduced to a certain few who can disseminate the news how they wish. One of the popular aspects of the internet is that it also affords a certain anonymity that is almost impossible to duplicate in other media forms. Bloggers until recently can publish whatever content they want without fearing their identities being revealed. The mini controversies over whether Barack Obama is a Muslim or whether he was even born in the United States started on the internet and grew large there before it was reported in the mainstream media later. While journalists in the mainstream media such as Christiane Amanpour have admitted that the networks had censored their coverage of the Iraq War, the internet was rife with criticism of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. With bloggers showing little self-censorship the internet is the place where people can find access to news and photos that the mainstream media has decided not to air. The mainstream media for the most part has agreed voluntarily not to air images of dead soldiers coffins being returned to America from the Iraq War. Bloggers and others on the internet have not followed this convention and show these images regardless.

In February 2008 one of the first major cases of internet censorship occurred in the United States when the website Wikileaks was temporarily shut down due to a lawsuit by Bank Julius Baer. The wikileaks website is well known for leaking government and business information. This temporary shutdown was soon met with protests by many different groups in favor wikileaks. On February 29, 2008 the judge who had ordered the site shut down removed his injunction against wikileaks. A major battle about internet press also broke out in 2009 when Google was forced by a court to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who was accused of defaming a model. The blogger who had her identity has planned a lawsuit against Google for revealing her identity. This case of Google revealing the identity of an anonymous blogger has far-reaching consequences beyond someone being called a name on an blog. This could also set a precedent of more regulation and control over the internet that currently does not exist so far.

The internet has changed and is changing the way how the press functions in this country. The internet is almost a frontier area in the area of freedom of speech as the battle to see what can and can’t be said on the internet. The next few years will certainly see more on the front of possible internet censorship.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Indian movie "Water"

The film “Water” is a film that can be enjoyed not only for its story and its filming, but also for use in cross-cultural and psychological studies. Through the use of Bronfenbenner’s Ecological Theory of Development a greater understanding and appreciation of the story is possible. It can also help us to garner a better understanding of the changes that India was going through during their late colonial period under Great Britain.

The film Water is set during the late 1930’s in India. India at the time was a colonial possession of Great Britain and known as the crown jewel of the British Empire. The independence movement was underway in India led by Mohandas Gandhi who was organizing a number of nonviolent protests aimed at undermining colonial rule. Under British rule laws were made to change parts of Indian society including the abolition of the practice of suttee and infanticide, and allowing widows to remarry. But, in more rural and poor parts of India, traditional culture still reigned supreme and this was the world in which 8 year old Chuiyha lived in and was developed under.

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory of Development consists of a five part system consisting of microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chromosystem. The character Chuiyha’s psycho-social development was influenced clearly by chromosystem and microsystem. Chromosystem which refers to patterns and transitions and changing sociohistorical influences clearly had a development on young Chuiyha. Chuiyha was raised in a time between the transition of change from old India to British India to the modern independent India, and all of those affected her. Cultural traditions led to her being married at eight years of age and then being sent to an ashram when her older husband died since widows are traditionally supposed to be kept apart. She was at the same time exposed to the changes going on in society at the time through Kalyani and Narayan’s impending marriage, as people were rebelling against society’s standard that widows should not remarry and that they should be shunned. The specter of Mohandas Gandhi and his revolutionary work also hung as a specter throughout most of the film as one of the forces destined to have a major impact on Chuiyha’s life. This was also shown in the rebellious and questioning attitude of some of the characters in deciding whether they would follow the current status quo or challenge it for something more beneficial. Microsystem also played a huge part in Chuiyha’s social development. Her direct interaction with the people in her life played a huge role in how her life was turning out. Being married by her parents to an older man at age eight was bound to change the way how she viewed her parents. Chuiyha’s husband dying and her parents abandoning her even though she still felt her parents would come to get her would change her view of adults and possibly cause her to become a more cynical person. The influence of each of the widows also changed her life tremendously. The influences of Narayan, Shakuntala, and Madhumati were also change her life perhaps even more than the influences of her parents. Their influence led to her being used as a prostitute and going off after Mohandas Gandhi with a new name and new look on life. Being around the widows all day she gained an outlook into Indian society that most people could never have in their entire life and doing it an very young age.

The way how a person ends up depends on their situation, the times they are living in and the people they are living with. Such situations directly affect the development of young children and their world outlook. Cinema is a medium that can help us to appreciate this, and the film Water is an excellent work of cinema that can help us analyze such issues further.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tuskegee Experiment

Race has always been one of the most troubling questions facing America. Blacks for many years were seen and are still seen by some people as inferior to whites. Films are sometimes used as simple tools of diversionary entertainment, but films often provide an excellent lens at looking into society especially when they give a look into America’s race problem. Films can be studied on a deeper psychological and cross-cultural basis to see the values and way in which a society treats its members. The 1997 film “Miss Evers Boys” which was based on the famous Tuskegee Experiment in which the American government did a research project on African-American males without fully informing them about what they were doing is an excellent example of a film that captures the deeper issues that film can capture.

The Tuskegee Experiment was an experiment that took place for 40 years from 1932-1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama. The goal of the experiment was to test what would happen for untreated syphilis in Black males, and to see if syphilis affected Blacks differently than it did for whites. The subjects of the experiment were never fully told what was going on in the experiment. At the time when the experiments began, Alabama was under Jim Crow law. Blacks and whites were segregated in almost all aspects of public life, and were treated as second class citizens throughout Alabama and other Southern states. The film “Miss Evers Boys” is based on the experiences and point of view of a Black nurse who worked on the study named Eunice Evers who knew what was going on but failed to let the subjects of the research know that they were misled by the government. The film shows her struggle to “care” for the patients despite the fact that she did not truly care for them because if she did she would have informed them about what was really truly going on. Miss Evers helps the men out of a sense of duty as she feels as though she can’t abandon them, though the government has already abandoned these men.

The role of culture and gender played a key part in the film in examining the actions of Miss Evers. The time period when most of the experiment took place was before the rise of the feminist movement. Traditional women stereotypes were more prevalent in American culture then and Miss Evers was expected to follow them. One gender role Miss Evers was expected to confide to was the role of conformity and obedience. Miss Evers had to conform to the way of life in the South and expected to obey the rules and wishes of the doctors conducting the experiment. As Matsumoto and Juang wrote in their book, “In short, females were expected to conform to decisions imposed on them by males or by society In general.” (Matsumoto, 2008, p.161) Despite her willingness to do more to help the subjects, Miss Evers was ultimately constrained and followed the norms of society. Bronfenbrenner’s theory of development and the chromosystem theory can also help to gain an insight into the film. Miss Evers was directly affected by the changing sociohistorical influences of her time. As a Black woman living in the 1930’s-1960’s there was not much she could to stand up. But, by the time of the Senate hearings in the 1970’s, the changing scene of America had opened up new rights for Blacks and for women and she could speak out more forcefully and advocate why she did what she did. And the movie can be seen through the lens of showing the importance on racial relations to America. Blacks were not seen as the equals of whites and therefore it was not a big deal to conduct such an experiment on inferior people. It was highly unlikely that such a deceptive study would have ever been performed on whites or allowed to last for as long as it did. Despite race being a social construct, that social construct played a huge role in how Blacks were treated even by members of their own race.

In watching this film on The Tuskegee Experiment it showed me the dangers of just going along with conformity to expected roles. Miss Evers had the chance to stand up and do something more brave and change the way how things are going and she didn’t. The enculturation process that people go through is so lasting and permanent that it’s hard for many to do something different and take a stand. The movie also helped illustrate just how hard it is for those who change society, because it’s so much easier to go along with the flow.

Matsumoto, David & Juang, Linda. Culture & Psychology 4th Edition. Wadsworth, 2008.

Black English

I chose as the article for this project a New York Times article from November 27, 1979, written by Robert Blair Kaiser and titled, “Wrestling With Meaning Of ‘Black English”. The article ties in closely with some of the works we’ve been studying so far as the article is about a lawsuit in Michigan regarding Black English. Eleven children in the Ann Arbor school district were classified as retarded because they spoke Black English, and a lawsuit was filed against the school district. The lawyers of the children argued that Black English was a separate language and the judge agreed with the lawyers and ruled in favor of the children.

The article itself uses the Ann Arbor case to go into whether Black English is a separate language as the judge ruled in the case, or whether Black English was a dialect as many linguists who testified in the case stated. The lawyers in the case their goal was to stop having Black kids who spoke Black English from being classified as retarded and to have the teachers sensitized to that. According to a director for the Ann Arbor public schools as a result of the trial teachers were made to undergo a 20 hour course on language variation and sociolinguistics. The article stated that 80% of Black Americans at the time spoke Black English and that most linguists agreed that Black English was just as good as any other language. The article also went in depth on some of the characteristics of Black English such as dropping the sound th from words which is explained by there is no th sound in African languages.

Black English is now mostly referred to as African American Vernacular English. This article about the treatment of the school kids in Ann Arbor, Michigan is similar to what was going on with the Puerto Rican kids in New York City being studied by Ana Celia Zentilla. The Puerto Rican kids were being stigmatized because they had not mastered standard English and were seen as deficient. Children seen as not speaking standard English were not being treated properly by the education system even though experts agreed that there was nothing wrong with the standards of the children’s speaking. In the years that have passed since this ruling AAVE is more recognized around the country but still controversial as shown in the 1997 Oakland school board ruling. Teaching kids to speak English properly should not lead to educators denigrating children for their speech or classifying them as retarded. There is no evidence that this enhances the school system or improves the lives of the students. More understanding should be made to help kids who speak English differently and stigmatization should be completely avoided.

Kaiser, R. (1979, Nov 27) Wrestling with meaning of “Black English”. The New York Times pp. C1, C4

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The world of newspapers

Written in May 2009

In choosing a media issue to write about, it is kind of hard to narrow down an issue to just one as there are many important media issues right now that are well known. But, an important media issue that is picking up more traction is the issue of the collapse and possible impending demise of the newspaper industry. The newspaper has played an important role in shaping the development of the United States of America since the colonial era, from the John Peter Zenger trial, to the publication of the Federalist Papers, to the Watergate scandal, newspapers have been there in shaping the growth of the American nation. But, almost with every new technological invention from the radio to the television to the internet, the newspaper medium has taken hits that threaten its position, and now seems to be facing the position of a veteran fighter trying to last just one more round as the very survival of the newspaper is threatened.

Having a successful newspaper was once likened as having a license to print money, but as with all things times have changed that former situation. There had been a lot of talk in recent years that the newspaper industry was in serious trouble. Some have even said that the impending demise could have been seen as far back as the 1970’s. Newspaper columnists had been getting bought out by their papers as a quarter of newspaper jobs have disappeared since 1990, classified departments have been getting smaller and smaller, and newspaper size had also been getting smaller. Writers have been predicting the collapse of the newspaper industry for years now and in just the first five months of 2009, it appears that the prophecy has started to come to fulfillment as there has been a staggering amount of newspaper collapses. The oldest newspapers in the states of Colorado and Arizona both went out of business. The Boston Globe came close to closing its doors, and several large newspaper companies such as the New York Times and Tribune Corporation have been seriously devalued. Major cities are facing the impending possibility of having no major newspapers for the city. In the city of Detroit home newspaper delivery has been reduced in a model that could eventually spread to other cities as a cost reducing measure. Newspapers such as the New York Times have also had to increase prices in an attempt to retain ever shrinking profit margins. The advertising revenue that the newspapers depended on for so long is drying up and the model for newspaper profitability appears to be broken and in need of serious repair.
The newspaper has been a part of America since 1690, even before the establishment of some of the colonies. For many years newspapers thrived in America as they were the main source of information for Americans to know about the globe and even other parts of America that they had never visited. Newspaper writers helped shape public opinion and provided entertainment, sports, critiques, weather, advice, and comedy. The power of the newspaper was so great at one point that William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer filled their newspapers with incendiary headlines to help get the U.S. involved in the Spanish-American war of 1898. Newspapers were also instrumental in social reforms such as the abolition movement and the temperance movement among others. Ethnic newspapers helped spread the news that was significant to a specific group such as immigrants or racial minorities and keep them informed of relevant issues. Newspapers were published with an morning edition, and a afternoon edition to provide news for the whole day. The relative length of time it took to get the news from one place to another helped the newspaper industry tremendously. But, one thing that the newspaper industry has not fared well with is technological developments in media.

Radio was one of the first mediums to deliver a blow to the newspaper industry as radio served some of the same functions that newspapers did. Radio also delivered news, sports information, weather, and entertainment. Unlike newspapers radio delivered this package in real-time and could be enjoyed in a setting where the whole family could enjoy it, unlike a newspaper which was designed for one person to read. The radio also provided listening as voices that were just words on a newspaper page came to life with rich sound. The newspapers in particularly the Associated Press tried to battle back against the advent of radio before realizing that they were in a battle they could not win and that it was better to cooperate with the rising industry.

Another technological advance that would put a serious dent on the newspaper industry was the invention of the television which started picking up popularity in the late 1940’s. Unlike radio which was just sound, television also provided picture images, and unlike newspapers television provided moving images. Television provided footage all over the country and the world and broadcast them streaming into the comfort of your own home. Television took the words read on a newspaper and provided the picture moving and had a much stronger effect on the populace as was shown in the Nixon/Kennedy debates of 1960. Reading and listening to the debates without the broadcast conveyed that Nixon won the debate, but watching on television the popular consensus was that Kennedy was the winner. The newspaper could never hope to have a similar effect. The evening news reduced the importance of the afternoon newspaper and the visual advantages that the newspapers retained even with radio were forever gone. Television did some of the same things that radio and newspaper did except on a bigger scale. Cable television and 24 hour news channels such as CNN and FOX have also hurt the newspapers. You could now get the latest breaking news at any hour of the day in your home further reducing the need for newspapers. But, the medium which has struck the newspaper industry harder than any others is the Internet or World Wide Web. The newspaper is not much different than television or the radio which is also had its influence wane due to the internet. The internet provides the exact same service as newspapers except in most cases you can get it for free on the web. Very few people want to buy something that they know that they can get for free. Classifieds can go on the internet for much cheaper than it would in the newspapers on sites like Craigslist and reach potentially a much larger audience. The news is updated much faster and the internet is interactive in real-time. The news in a newspaper does not update after it is printed like the news on the internet which is always updating. Newspaper stories themselves are printed on the internet and read for free. Newspapers have started their own web sites but they have yet to come close to the profits formerly generated by the printed papers. Blogs dedicated to a specific political point of view provide the slanted news that certain people want to read. One of the things that the internet and cable TV have brought about is the furthering of niche categories for people who are interested in only one subject, while most newspapers are of general interest trying to appeal to everybody. Another problem that the industry has faced is a failure to pick up newer younger readers which is a problem that has confounded the book industry also. Newspapers have a stigma of being outdated and out of touch. With inventions such as cell phones and portable videogames, young people have more things to keep them distracted on places like subways where in the past they would have most likely read newspapers. There has not been much of a fight to save the newspaper in America, just a series of countermoves to hope to stop the bleeding. In Europe there has been a much more concerted and successful effort to try to save the newspaper. Polish newspaper designer Jacek Utko has radically redesigned newspapers throughout Europe and has helped boost newspaper circulation by as much as 100%. But, even a dying patient may make a brief show of strength, and whether something as simple as a newspaper redesign which might be viewed as a gimmick, can work in America is unknown.

I started reading newspapers when I was 6 years old as form of current events homework and eventually I started reading newspapers for fun. My favorite newspaper was the New York Daily News and I liked the general quality of their pictures and the articles were easy to read. My own personal views on the apparent impending demise of the newspaper as it has traditionally been known are mostly that the newspaper is a great tool but facing the possibility of becoming a relic. I used to read a newspaper everyday at one point, and I always made sure to never miss the Sunday newspaper as they have the best classifieds. But, as time has gone on I now rarely buy the newspaper. I mostly only read the newspaper when I can get it for free or at a library. With the new ipod, I just read the New York Times articles on an app for free. I can go on craigslist to find job listings and things for sale. The Sunday newspaper which was so important no longer means anything to me, and the rising prices have been a turnoff for me in purchasing a newspaper and most of the news I need I find online. Also online there is a greater variety of news stories that you would not generally find in a regular newspaper. I worked in the advertising department of a community newspaper that had been recently purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. My job was to get people to buy space in the classified section listing cars, homes, or jobs and I did it during February 2008. The manager who hired me told me that community newspapers were still going strong despite the decline of the newspaper business and things were still going robust for them. Once I started how different that was from the actual reality. What was once a business that sold itself now was something extremely difficult. Many people were reluctant to pay the advertising rates of the paper and expressed the opinion that they could advertise on the internet for cheaper or free. Some people even questioned whether anyone still read the newspaper or felt that the newspaper was becoming obsolete. I did not have too much success at the paper and I quit working there after a month as I felt that despite Murdoch’s billions the newspaper industry was a sinking ship that I didn’t want to stay on. The newspaper can be a great historical resource as a lot of historians use newspapers as a primary source. Newspapers are printed on paper and you can always look back at the paper some time later to see what was going on that time and they are easy to archive. Community newspapers are a great way to keep local communities abreast of situations facing the community and local events. Local businesses who might not have enough money to advertise on television or the bigger newspapers, can get their advertising placed in a local newspaper. But, the newspaper is another medium that it at a point where it faces becoming obsolete as its time has passed it by. The newspaper in my opinion can possibly survive, but not with the value and profit margins it was once capable of reaching, as there is too much service being provided for free on the internet for that to be possible. The business model that the newspaper uses is a model that is very old and obsolete. Technological advances have rendered them useless and there is no need to feel sympathy for something that has no use and needs to be changed. Trying to relive past glories that are no longer capable of being achieved is not the way to go, the industry must realize that those profits and influence it once wielded is gone and undergo a transformation to reach a level where they can somehow manage to remain in business. For the industry to survive they must manage to provide something that only they and no other industry can provide.

The future of the American newspaper industry is one that is full of uncertainty. Some people in the industry are convinced that newspapers can make a comeback based on their brand names and traditions surrounding them, while others are of the opinion that the newspaper resembles a patient that is terminally ill. It’s hard for old technology to remain viable in an era when new technology replaces it or it has every one of its strengths be replicated by something else. Only time will tell if we are seeing the newspaper continue a march toward obsolescence, or if there is a way to avert this fate.

The New Yorker. [cited May 19,2009] Available at
New Communications Review [cited May 19, 2009] Available at
USA Today [cited May 19,2009] Available at
Rodman, George. Mass Media In A Changing World, 2nd Edition. McGraw Hill, 2008

Media Use

Written in the spring of '09.

The media has an profound effect on the lives of virtually all Americans. The media casts messages to effect people of all ages from preschoolers to the oldest of Americans. The media can affect our relationships, political views, and the way how we view the entire world. In this paper I will discuss how the media has affected my life from the earliest times I can remember to the present day.

I am currently 24 years old and I have been affected by the mass media for my entire life. During my preschool days my media use was limited only to radio and television and the advertising that takes place on both mediums. I listened to the radio stations that my parents listened to and was thus exposed to the music they listened to which was mostly R&B and adult contemporary music. My parents listened to artists such as Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson and that affected me in the way that I am still a fan of those artists today. I watched television shows such as pro wrestling like a lot of other kids and I remember during preschool days doing wrestling with other kids and my brother imitating what I saw on television. I watched public television programs such as Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and other programs. These programs taught values such as tolerance, getting along with others and teaching kids how to recognize numbers and letters. I also watched a lot of cartoons such as G.I. Joe, Transformers, and DuckTales. This had a major effect on me and my peer group as during those cartoons there were a lot of toy commercials and the toys that were shown in the commercials were the toys that everybody wanted. Cereal commercials for brands such as Rice Crispies made me want to ask my mother to buy me cereals like Rice Crispies and I still eat many of the same cereals now like I did 20 years ago. McDonald’s used to advertise heavily during children’s programs with Ronald McDonald, the Hamburgler and the other McDonald’s characters. I used to think McDonald’s was the greatest place in the world and used to be extremely excited to go to McDonald’s to get a Happy Meal. I also used to watched reruns of old shows such as Happy Days and I learned the jingles to all the different products that were being pitched even if I didn’t use many of them. Looking at it now the media has a profound effect on the minds of young preschoolers. A lot of brand recognition is built during that time and relationships can be built with consumers. I built a relationship with many brands during that time that I still use to this day, and watch some of the same programs. Advertisers can reach the parents of kids by reaching out to kids.

During my elementary school years I started making more choices on my personal media use and using a greater variety of media. At this time period I started to have my first tinges of race consciousness and became attracted in my choices to things that had Black people or things Black people did and the release of the movie Malcolm X had a strong effect on that. I started listening to radio stations and music on my own without the decision of my parents. I started listening to rap music which was a very controversial form of music in that time period of the early 90’s and had a stigma attached to it. My parents were not fans of rap music so I listened to it whenever they were not around. Rap music definitely had an effect on me as I was attracted to the storytelling and anger and hopelessness expressed in the lyrics by artists such as Wu-Tang Clan and the Notorious B.I.G. These artists were young Blacks who were getting money and had the persona of not caring what anybody thought and that definitely attracted me. The rap world also seemed to be centered right on New York and that was a strong lure. My favorite radio station was Hot 97 which seemed to be the only station that cared about the thoughts of young Blacks and the whole station approach from advertising to music to personalities seemed to be catered to us. I also started reading newspapers when I was 6 years old as form of current events homework and eventually I started reading newspapers for fun. My favorite newspaper was the New York Daily News and I liked the general quality of their pictures and the articles were easy to read. I started reading magazines around the same time period. At first I only looked at pictures and then started reading the actual articles. The early magazines I read were Sports Illustrated, the WWF Magazine, and magazines I used to see at doctors offices. I also became a big fan of reading books during my elementary school period. Around the time when I was in 3rd grade I started reading a lot. I read kids books such as The Hardy Boys and The Cat In The Hat. Then when I was in 4th grade I started reading sports history books just so I could find out more information on the past, who did what and how did things come to be the way they were. Then I started to read general history books to find out more about the past. My favorite books though were a series called Choose Your Own Adventure where as reader you made a choice of how the story turned out, and your choices could lead to disaster or success. I started watching movies on television and on a few occasions in movie theaters. I didn’t pay any attention to the violent and scary movies I watched. But, it did leave an effect as for many years I was deathly afraid of ghosts and the supernatural, and I had my first experience with death during this time period. I watched all kinds of movies in this time period from dramas to romance to comedies to fantasy movies. Even as a kid I wasn’t too fond of most children’s movies as I felt they were dumb and even then I could see they had far too many plotholes and inconsistencies. In this time period I started to pay attention to the broadcast news around the time of the 1992 elections. I became an ardent observer of current events and was shaped by the political views of the newsmen that I watched and read. My favorite TV show at the time was The Simpsons and what I enjoyed most about the show was the absurdity that took place in the lives of The Simpson characters. I enjoyed the tales of character redemption that happened in some characters and the strong bonds that tied the characters. The show was also extremely funny and it wasn’t too unrealistic of a show. At the time I paid no attention to the effect the shows on TV were having on me and I used to hear reports of the media’s effects on kids and I disbelieved those reports. The media continued to have an effect on my views as the way how the cool characters dressed and acted in tv shows was the way I wanted to act. I also was a big fan of Power Rangers and all the ancillary products that was anchored to the show from toys to food. Another big part of the media that affected me was videogames. At that time period violent videogames started to get a lot of publicity about corrupting the youth and I played some of the early violent videogames which now seem tame. I spent hours playing games like Mortal Kombat, StreetFighter and others.

It was during my junior high school years when I first heard word of the internet. I already knew how to use a computer and I had my first limited experience with the internet which was much slower and less advanced than the way it is now, so it had as of yet to affect my life. During this time I became much more aware of the media and the way how it influences people. I started to notice on TV shows how they tried to get people to think a certain way such as what was right and what was wrong. I started to read religious literature that said the media was a tool of Satan to undermine faith and so I started paying closer attention to what I was watching. As a result I started watching less television shows and also because I started to find most television shows boring and predictable. I noticed most shows had the same plotlines, the same twists and turns and everything that if you saw once you’d become bored to see it again. My favorite TV show was still the Simpsons because it could still captivate me in the same way it did when I was in elementary school. I became a big fan of movie dramas during this time as I was interested in stories of conflict and how people deal with adversity. I wanted to watch stories of how people can redeem themselves or find themselves victims of their own hubris. I was a big fan of rap music during this time and it continued to have a big impact upon myself and peers. This was the time of the East Coast/West Coast rap war and the realization that the music meant more than just the songs started to spread as rappers lives started to be put in danger. I started actively reading magazines such as Newsweek, Time, other general interest magazines, sports magazines and just about anything that I found interesting. I started to read less fiction books and read almost exclusively non-fiction books with the exception of what is still my favorite book, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. The book had everything from class conflicts to racial conflicts, to moral situations, to the redemption of a racist kid who decides he’ll go to hell even if he’s going to have save his Black escaped slave friend. I became a big fan of the comic book genre during this time after being exposed to comic book characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four through cartoons. My favorite comic books almost immediately became Spider-Man and X-Men books. I was strongly attracted to these characters because they were outcasts and strongly mistrusted by the general populace. Despite this they still tried their best to be heroes even though the characters being easily discouraged. Spider-Man used humor to cope with the danger of what he was doing, and he didn’t want to be a superhero as he was always quitting. Even though he was always quitting there was almost a sense that he loved being a hero too much to stop and he had a responsibility to help others. The X-Men seemed to be based on the civil rights movement as the X-Men’s founder Professor X and their main “villain” Magneto seemed to be based on Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. as Professor X wanted peaceful coexistence and Magneto wanted mutant separation. The X-Men fought to save a world that hated them and there always seemed to be a lingering question, what if Magneto’s right? These comics had a strong impact on me as they helped me to understand diversity and tolerance and other aspects of the human psyche.

During my high school years I became much more cynical on life and the media. The book “Catcher In the Rye” had a strong effect on me as I started to notice how phony many people are. The Bible book of Ecclesiastes also had a profound effect on me as it helped me just how pointless so many of the things people strive in life for actually are. “Of Mice And Men” also had a strong effect as it was just a sad book that showed no matter how hard some people try, they’re just not going to reach their goals and things can end up so badly. I started to read more books about race relations, sociological issues, crime and more in-depth about American and world issues. At this time period I also started to use the internet heavily getting involved with chat rooms and talking to people on the internet. I started finding out info on the internet and became entranced with the internet. I started branching out in my music listening as I was now listening to all kinds of music from R&B to rap to classic rock to all kinds of music dating back to the 1950’s with the exception of jazz, classical, and country. I kept watching all types of movies with the main criteria for me to watch a movie being that the movie had an interesting story. I stopped watching new TV shows almost completely until I discovered the Sopranos in 2001 and it quickly became my favorite TV show. I loved the raw language, the sexual situations and that it seemed to be so completely different from regular broadcast TV fare. Tony Soprano seemed like a real guy with a real family with real problems and it never seemed fake like most broadcast TV shows are. He was like a guy that anybody could know and no punches were pulled. It didn’t really affect my perspective on life as I was already aware that there are some criminals who have families and lives away from their lives of crime.

My current media use is heavily internet based. I now use the internet for banking, social networking, school, discussion forums, researching, maps, and just about anything. If there’s something I need my first thought is to turn to the internet. The internet has almost completely replaced magazines and newspapers for me as get my most of my news online. I don’t buy magazines anymore except for FEDS magazine and magazines I can’t find in a library. My television watching has dwindled to the point where I watch no new television programs that are scripted. The only TV shows I watch are The First 48, Gangland, real crime television shows, the news, sports, and documentaries about history. If it’s not real then I don’t want to watch it. The only sitcom I watch is Cheers and I have rediscovered my love of The Twilight Zone. I also watch movies on TV but rarely go to movie theaters. Most movies out have stories that do not captivate me and I have no interest in paying a lot to see a bad movie. I have become convinced that most television is a waste of time and an unnecessary distraction from real life. The news now I also notice is almost purely entertainment as there is very few reporting on the issues that really matter. The music industry is almost dead to me as I don’t but any new albums and borrow CDs from the library to get songs or just download them. The music that is now out is unimaginative and slickly packaged and the terrestrial radio playlists seem to shrink more and more every year to the point that I no longer listen to the radio unless I am in a car. I listen to satellite radio on the TV sometimes as there is a greater variety in the music and there are no annoying commercials. I no longer read fiction books unless I am doing so for a class as I just prefer to watch the film version if it’s available. My perception of life is now no longer clouded by fiction as I pay almost no attention to fiction. I’m mostly interested in reality and don’t really try new things that are not internet based.

The media has changed a lot since the late 1980’s when I was in preschool and so has my usage of the media. The internet has been the biggest innovation of my lifetime and it has taken over a lot of my mass media usage. Looking back at it my usage of the media has shaped me more than I’ve thought and it probably will continue to shape my life.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Franco-Prussian War effect on World War 1

Written in December 2008

World War 1 broke out in the summer of 1914 and it was at the time one of the bloodiest and largest conflicts in human history and it had far reaching effects on the future of not just Europe but the entire world. Every one of the major European powers, Japan, the United States, and the African and Asian colonies of the European powers all sent soldiers into the conflict. The devastation of the War left millions of people dead, the map of Europe changed, the end to some of the oldest dynasties of Europe, and an end to the myth of European cultural superiority. World War 1 lasted for four long years from 1914-1918 but the buildup to the war was many years in the making. There were many factors leading to the war breaking out but one of the biggest factors leading up to the War was the hostilities between France and Germany as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, and the resulting alliances and entanglements that proceeded as a result of the hostilities between the two nations.

The rivalry between France and Germany and the bad blood between both nations following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 was a turning point in the history of Europe. Prior to the war France was the dominant European power and Prussia was the most powerful of several German states. The Franco-Prussian War was the culmination of several wars won by Prussia that led to the creation of Germany. The Treaty of Frankfurt ended the war with Prussia emerging victorious and the ramifications of that victory did not take long to be felt. The Franco-Prussian War led to several changes in Europe including the end of France’s Second Empire and the rule of Louis Napoleon, the end of the old European balance of power that had existed since 1815, the long awaited unification of most of the German states with the exception of Austria, and France losing the territory of Alsace- Lorraine to Germany. Most importantly France’s role as the leading power of Europe ended and they were replaced by Germany. France was also forced to pay Germany an indemnity of one billion dollars, which would greatly help German industry. The Treaty of Frankfurt aimed to end France’s reign as a dominant player in European politics. France would become a republic as a result of the aftermath of the war. Prussian Prime Minister Otto Von Bismarck the architect of the unification of Germany would take on the role of German Chancellor and Prussian King Wilhelm I would become the 1st German emperor or Kaiser. France after the war desired revenge on Germany and a return of the Alsace-Lorraine territory, and Germany wanted to keep France weak and isolated. This would set the course for the hostilities between the two nations that would simmer until exploding into the Great War.

As a result of the Franco-Prussian War, the French government put in place a universal military training system in preparations for a rematch down the road with Germany. War came close to breaking out during 1875 as Germany was alarmed by France’s military buildup and their rapid economic recovery from the Treaty of Frankfurt. Revenge against Germany became a major theme of French politics of the period following the war with Prussia, and there was a strong desire to regain the territories of Alsace-Lorraine. The feelings in France at that time gave birth to the word Revanchism. Georges Clemenceau who was one of the French deputies during the Franco-Prussian War who refused to ratify the Treaty of Frankfurt, became one of the leaders of the politicians who wanted revenge on Germany. The German government although the strongest country in Europe at the time knew that they were more powerful than France but were wary of a war with France allying itself with other countries. The German government under Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck decided to isolate France diplomatically and deter French aggression by entering into peacetime military alliances. In 1873, two years after the Franco-Prussian War, Germany entered into an alliance with Russia and Austria-Hungary called the Three Emperors League. This alliance would not last long due to tensions between Russia and Austria in the Balkans leading to the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, and having to choose between Russia and Austria, Germany chose Austria a country to which they held close historical ties as Austria was also a German state. In 1879 Germany formed the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary, and three years later Italy joined the Dual Alliance and the Alliance became known as the Triple Alliance. The alliances provided Germany with protection against a possible French attack and left France isolated diplomatically which was Bismarck’s goal all along.

In 1888 Wilhelm II became the new German Kaiser. Unlike his predecessor Wilhelm I, Wilhelm II wanted to take much more of a direct role in government affairs and that would put him into direct conflict with Otto Von Bismarck. The relationship between Bismarck and Wilhelm II would only last for two years as Bismarck resigned from his position in 1890. Wilhelm II was determined for Germany to have its “place in the sun” and he pursued a much more involved role in domestic and foreign affairs. Wilhelm began building up Germany’s colonial possessions in Africa and Asia which would put Germany into conflict with their rival France who already had a substantial empire in Africa and Asia. Wilhelm II also desired that Germany have a powerful navy so he began building up the German navy. This would put Germany into conflict with Great Britain, who were the possessors of the world’s largest and most powerful navy. Germany and Britain would soon enter into a naval arms race as Britain sought to maintain its dominance of the seas.

Without Bismarck, the carefully orchestrated isolation of France would soon come to an end. Russia who had been dropped out of an alliance with Germany would enter into an alliance with France with in 1892, as Wilhelm II let a secret agreement between Russia and Germany expire in 1890. Germany was now placed in the position that if they had to engage in a war with France it would have to be a two front war as they would also have to fight Russia on the Eastern Front. France and England had been rivals for hundreds of years but their long period of hostility was coming to an end. Great Britain who had long favored isolation and neutrality for most European affairs of the 19th century watched with nervousness the growing extent of the power of Germany. Great Britain had initially favored Germany over France changed course and their relationship with France grew stronger while Germany also grew stronger and in 1904 France and Britain signed the Entente Cordiale which was an agreement but not a formal military alliance. France now had two of its own allies in case of a war with Germany. Russia would join the Entente Cordiale in 1907 and the alliance of France, Great Britain, and Russia would become known as the Triple Entente. The cooperation between France and England would be tested immediately as German ruler Wilhelm II made it known that he did not recognize the Franco-British agreement and he would attempt to undermine it during the First Moroccan crisis of 1905. As a result of the Entente Cordiale, France was allowed to eventually take over the country of Morocco. Germany opposed this move and Wilhelm II made an appearance in Morocco supporting Moroccan independence. A conference was called to settle the dispute and it was a major loss for Germany as France’s rights in Morocco were confirmed and the Franco-British alliance managed to survive the German test. The Germans were not pleased with the results of the First Moroccan crisis and it would be four years until the Second Moroccan Crisis of 1911. Germany sent a warship into Morocco to challenge the position of France in Morocco and wanted territorial concessions from France in Africa. England pledged support of France in the face of the German demands. Germany was facing the possibility of a war with both France and England but the crisis would be solved with France agreeing to give portions of its territory in the French Congo to Germany. The crisis would have the effect of further strengthening relations between France and Great Britain. Tensions between Germany and France remained at high levels and Europe was close to exploding with a war due to the Franco-German tensions.

In the end the event that would lead to World War I breaking out would occur in the Balkans when on June 28,1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary along with his wife was killed in Bosnia by a nationalist Serb who wanted Bosnia to be part of Serbia. But, the military alliances of Europe brought about as a result of the tension between France and Germany would soon blow Europe into a full-scale war. Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the assassination and would soon declare war on Serbia. Russia which was a Slavic nation like Serbia was pledged to defend Serbia and soon began mobilization of its troops against Austria-Hungary. Germany issued an ultimatum both to Russia and Russia’s ally France and both countries rejected the ultimatums. Germany would declare war on Russia the next day and two days later Germany declared war on France. Germany had prepared for the eventuality of a two front war with the Schlieffen Plan which called for Germany to attack France by invading Belgium which was a neutral country. France’s ally Britain demanded that Germany retreat from Belgium and Germany refused. This gave Britain the pretext needed for joining the War and they followed it up by declaring war on Germany on August 4, 1914. A war that took years to buildup would explode in less than two months where Europe as a result of the many alliances brought about as a result of the tensions between France and Germany would become involved in one of the most destructive wars of European history.

Most wars that have happened in human history did not just happen overnight. Most wars are the result of years of tension and posturing on two sides ultimately ending up in conflict. World War I was no different as the long standing tensions between France and Germany led to the War breaking out.

Guerard, Albert. France A Modern History. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1959, 1969
Bentley, J., and Ziegler, H. Traditions And Encounters: A Global Perspective On The Past, vol. II, from 1500 to the Present, 4th Edition. University Of Hawaii: McGraw Hill, 2008
Mt. Holyoke. [cited December 13, 2008) Available at
WWIaccordingtoBob. [cited December 13, 2008) Available at
KBismarck. [cited December 13,2008] Available at
FirstWorldWar [cited December 13,2008] Available at

Student Learning Outcomes

Written on March 1,2008.

“The Effect of Computer Mediated Conferencing and Computer Assisted Instruction on Student Learning Outcomes” by Darrell L. Cain and Paul E. Pitre, was an article published in the Journal Of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 12: Issue 3-4. The article was about a research study conducted among college students between May and September 2003. With the increased use of technology taking place in college classrooms by both teachers and students from 1995 to 2000, there has been criticism by some that the increased use of technology does nothing to enhance student learning. There had been few studies examining whether these tools enhanced learning. The researchers set out then to examine how the use of technology contributed to student learning outcomes after controlling student demographic variables. The researchers had a hypothesis that a sample of students who frequently used newer communication tools would achieve significant gains in learning outcomes as compared to their peers. The dependent variables for the study were personal and social development, general education, intellectual development, science and technology, and vocational preparation. The independent variables were frequency of interaction via email, frequency of collaborative work online, frequency of computer use to prepare papers or reports, and frequency of use of the Internet for course related information.

Previous studies in the past have shown that collaborative learning with the use of computer technology has the potential to increase learning. A study published in MIS Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun., 1994), pp. 159-174 by Maryam Alavi titled “Computer-Mediated Collaborative Learning: An Empirical Evaluation” found that the use of a group decision support system enhanced learning greatly in a study of 127 MBA students. Bebe F. Lavin in the Teaching Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jan., 1980), pp. 163-179 wrote an article titled, Can Computer-Assisted Instruction Make a Difference?: An Analysis of Who Benefits. This article was written before several of the modern advancements in computer technology and computer learning were made but it still sought to answer the questions for its time. This study showed that students using self-testing computer programs did better than those using computer programs.

It is very evident why Cain and Pitre’s study is an important one to do. The internet has revolutionized the world and its impact on college classrooms is one that has never been well defined. For America to retain its leadership among the nations in the world, it is imperative that American students have the best possible opportunities to learn. Even though there was not a lot of research to look to as a guide, Cain and Pitre made extensive use of previous studies. The objective of the study was clearly stated as well as the research hypotheses. The study was conducted by utilizing the 2003 College Student Experiences Questionnaire Database and sending an invitation to participate on the survey website, and the website was open for three months. The survey was measured on the Likert Scale which is numerical and ranges from 1-4. The only demographic variables that were used for the study were gender, race, and education level. Since demographic characteristics were analyzed to determine the impact of student background on learning outcomes, I believe an important factor that could have been used but was not used was income status. The sample consisted of a sample of students who completed the CSEQ survey. A majority of the participants in the study were White females and was similar in overall percentages to those who took the CSEQ survey. Cain and Pitre’s study showed similarly to previous studies that the use of technology in the classroom does aid learning and that student background variables can help increase that gain even more. The researchers had assumed that the relative effect of technology on student learning gains would have been greater than what the study showed. The researchers proved everything that they had set out to prove in their hypothesis.

The report itself was clearly written and very understandable, and the language was not biased at all. Among the report’s flaws were the few variables that were used in determining learning outcomes. Financial status would have been a very helpful thing to use, as many people don’t go to college at all or last there a short time due to poor financial health. Marital status and living situation would have also have been very helpful if the researchers had decided to also utilize those variables. Another flaw was the study took place for a very short time of only three months. The study would have been much more better if it had taken place for an entire semester. The study was also not that diverse or representative of the entire college population of the United States, as it featured 60% White females. The language used was very poor on the term word processor and using it as an independent variable. Most computers purchased now come with pre-installed word processors and other types of software. Another thing to consider in the study is that it took place in 2003 and internet use has grown even larger since then. The report’s strengths lay among that it was very clear and had a clear set of goals it was looking to test. The study did not try to prove too many things and it was well-defined. The implications of the research are that technology can be a huge assist to aiding learning and that more use should be made of this technology. Also instructors must decide what is the best way to implement technology to enhance the learning experience. The study also paves the way for future studies to build upon the foundation that was set with this study, with more room to learn about how this best research this issue.

1.Alavi, M. MIS Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun., 1994), pp. 159-174
2.Lavin, B. Teaching Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jan., 1980), pp. 163-179

Friday, April 24, 2009

Roger Clemens & Barry Bonds

Written on December 15, 2007

Barry Bonds was villified by the media for using steroids long before there was ever any proof that he did it. Roger Clemens got a free pass even though to anybody with eyes he was obviously doing something to keep getting better with age like Barry did. Now with the proof that Roger Clemens did steroids, it only makes sense for Roger to be villified like Barry was or else it will show that the main reason they got after Barry like they did is because he was black. Not only black but a black man who refused to be subservient to the white media. Time will tell how they treat Roger.

NCAA Football ’07

I wrote this on December 2,2007 in response to that wild Division I Football Season. No team seemed to want to win the national title that year and all the top teams fell week after week like a stack of falling dominoes.

"This is the craziest year I have ever seen in any sport, I don't understand how every team loses the games they are supposed to win compared to the NFL where the good teams like the Patriots destroy the teams they are supposed to beat. I don't think that's exciting and until they put a playoff or at least have a year where some teams can actually win games that they are supposed to division 1 college football is a joke."

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Kite Runner

I wrote this on 12/17/08.

The story “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini is a piece of historical fiction that reads all too true as a story that could have actually taken place. The novel is a work that can draw on many sociological perspectives as it has so many issues especially about race and ethnic conflict in Afghanistan that can be discussed. It is the story of an upper-class Afghan boy Amir growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970’s along with the son of his father’s servant Hassan. When he is 12 years old Amir watches Hassan get raped by another boy named Assef and does nothing about it . Feeling guilty and unable to face up with his own inaction Amir eventually has Hassan and his father driven from Amir’s home. In this same time period political turmoil started to envelop Afghanistan and Amir and his father flee Afghanistan in 1981 after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. They wind up first in Pakistan and then immigrate to the United States. In America, his life is a complete turnaround in class as Amir and his father become working class people. Years later after his father dies and Amir gets married, Amir travels to Pakistan and meets an old friend of his father who informs Amir that Hassan was actually was his brother, and Hassan is now dead with a son who has become an orphan named Sohrab. Amir travels back to Afghanistan for the first time in many years with the mission of leaving the country with Sohrab. Amir finds his nephew living with Assef who has become a member of the Taliban. Amir then fights Assef and manges to escape with Sohrab’s help. At the end of the novel Amir ends up adopting Sohrab.

For this Final Project I have decided to focus on a paragraph on page 25 of the novel where a young Amir talks about how despite how he and Hassan would have seemed to actually be friends, Amir never thought of Hassan as a friend and nothing could change the fact that they were of two different ethnic groups, one superior and the other one inferior. This section of the book elaborated just how fixed and closed the race relations and religious differences are between the ethnic groups, the Pashtun tribe and the Hazara tribe in Afghanistan.

“The curious thing was, I never thought of Hassan and me as friends either. Not in the usual sense, anyhow. Never mind that we taught each other to ride a bicycle with no hands, or to build a fully functional homemade camera out of a cardboard box. Never mind that we spent entire winters flying kites, running kites. Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame, a shaved head, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile.
Never mind any of those things. Because history isn’t easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi’a, and nothing was going to change that. Nothing.”
From this section of the book we see it clear the distinct class distinctions that existed between the majority Pashtun tribe and the Hazara. The Pashtuns make up about 42% of the overall Afghan population, and Pashtun has sometimes been synonymous with Afghan. The Hazaras are smaller in number and make up about 9% of the population. Despite Amir growing up with Hassan and sharing so many things during childhood, their relationship was that of one between and a servant and master not that of two friends, since a Pashtun and Hazara could not be friends as Amir learned from his father. The distinction between Pashtuns and Hazars was clear and it was definite and unchanging. Afghanistan has different ethnic groups but the country is dominated by the majority Pashtun tribe. Smaller ethnic groups in the country include Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras. According to the constitution of Afghanistan all Afghans are considered equal in front of the law but reality has shown that has not been the actual case. Afghanistan is a heavily socially stratified country with discriminations going back centuries as in the case of the Hazaras who have been brutually subjugated by the Pashtuns in the past and subjected to social exclusion. Hazaras are discriminated against not just because of their race but also because they are Shiite Muslims while the majority of the population are Sunni Muslims. The hatred between Sunnis and Shi’as goes back even farther than the rivalry between Hazaras and Pashtuns, and has sparked a lot of violence in other Muslim lands. Hazaras were considered to be the lowest group on the social scale, and relegated to jobs as servants with no social status. According to Max Weber’s theories the Hazaras fit the very definition of being a pariah group. The opportunities provided to other groups are denied to the Hazaras. Hassan didn’t go to school as he was expected to be like his adoptive father Ali was, a servant for life. Being born and living such a life also shows a lack of social mobility in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan for the Hazaras there exists no upward social mobility for their group due to the hatred felt for the Hazaras and their status as second class citizens. Afghanistan doesn’t have situational or symbolic ethnicity as a Hazara will always be a Hazara. The fact that Hazaras are Shi’a in a Sunni society where religion matters strongly also does not help out their situation also as the rivalry between the Sunnis and the Shi’a is a centuries old rivalry which has seen a lot of bloodshed. As mentioned later in Kite Runner the Hazaras were also the victims of ethnic cleansing in Mazar-e-Sharif in 1998, and Hazaras were massacred during an uprising in 1892 which also saw large numbers of Hazaras displaced from their homeland of Hazarajat. The situation of the Hazaras is very similar to that of lower groups in a caste system. A lot of people avoid associating with Hazaras and even those who are familiar with Hazaras do not consider them as friends. Assimilation does not exist in Afghanistan as shown so clearly by the thoughts of Amir. In Afghanistan pluralism is the order as all the different ethnic groups exist side by side with very little mixing. With the amount of hatred and mistrust and centuries old rivalries that exist in Afghanistan it is very difficult to ever picture an Afghanistan that has all the ethnic groups living peacefully side by side.

It can be shown by statistical data that countries like Afghanistan which are not considered free as defined by the Freedom House survey of freedom in 2006 (Giddens, 2007, p.396) are generally proven by statistical data to be some of the poorest nations on Earth, while also being some of the hungriest nations on the Earth as listed in the UN FAO map of 2003. (Giddens, 2007, p.264) (Giddens, 2007, p.268) Afghanistan also had the lowest life expectancy in all of Asia as of the year 2002. (Giddens, 2007, p. 637) On the reverse side, from the World Bank Development Indicators Map of 2005, almost every country in the high income range is also listed as a free country. Almost every country listed in the high income range also is listed with hunger as an extremely low problem. In those statistics it is easy to see a trend that exists. Generally the poorer the country the less free it is, while the richer the country the more free it is for the most part. The work of Rostow applies heavily in the case of Afghanistan as it looks as it is the traditional cultural values of Afghanistan that is holding the country back. The hatred of Hazaras due to race and religion, and the rise of religiously backed governments who rule to the detriment of the country at large has definitely hurt the country and hurt development. It can be argued that if Afghanistan were more of a free country striving to protect all of its citizens then Afghanistan would be more of a modernized country. Afghanistan has taken steps forward in this decade under the presidency of Hamid Karzai progress has made been made in race relations and more freedoms for the populace. Hazaras have been allowed to join the army and some have started to hold government positions. But, with the progress that has been made there is still a long way to go in Afghanistan.

Ethnic tensions and also religious tensions sometimes go a long way in defining a nation’s identity. The country of Afghanistan is a country that has been shaped by its ethnic and religious tensions. By understanding these tensions it’s easier to come closer to an understanding of Afghanistan.
4. Giddens, Anthony. Introduction to Sociology 6th ed. New York, 2007.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Life On Other Planets

I wrote this originally on 12/08/2008.

For thousands of years man has pondered the possibility whether life exists on other planets, usually with the question are we alone? To this day the thought of extraterrestrial life intrigues scientists, scientific writers, and the general public as that question has never really been answered. If extraterrestrial life were to actually be discovered in this 21st century life as we know it and our way of looking at things would make a major change as we would have discovered that we are not alone.

As of today there is no evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. “ Earth is the only place in the universe where we know for certain that life exists, and we have no direct evidence for extraterrestrial life of any kind.” (Chaisson McMillan, 2008, p.758) But if life were to be discovered elsewhere it would have a huge impact on life, religion, and politics. One of the areas where it would have the biggest impact is on religion especially here in the West. The whole concept of God creating life on only one planet here on Earth would have to be completely disregarded and the perception of the Earth having a special place in the universe would finally disappear once and for all. Understanding of Biblical stories of angels descending from the heavens or people rising into the heavens would come to be interpreted as stories of aliens from another planet visiting Earth and men being taken into spacecraft. The discovery of extraterrestrial life could also possibly lead to a serious decline in religion in around the world as people’s who had their worldview shaped by religion could possibly come to lose faith in their religion and everything they believed in. Extraterrestrial life discovery could also change our very conceptions of life and existence, and it would make a huge impact also on the field of philosophy. Other aspects of human life would also change depending on whether or not humans are advanced compared to the discovered life or whether the extraterrestrial life is advanced compared to us humans. If they are advanced it could lead to rapid discoveries in fields such as science and medicine.

The discovery of extraterrestrial life could rapidly change our existence here on Earth. It would be the type of discovery that was only dreamed about by men for centuries coming true. It would truly make the 21st century a century of discovery.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

WMAP Satellite

I wrote this originally on 11/21/2008.

The WMAP satellite originally known as the MAP satellite has been very significant in our understanding of cosmology and galaxy formation. Since its launch in 2001 it has been at the forefront of some exciting discoveries in the field of astronomy. The WMAP satellite has also provided answers and opened up new questions and ideas for scientists to consider.

WMAP stands for Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and its main objective is to measure temperature differences in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation also known as CMB. WMAP was launched in 2001 and its mission is scheduled to end in 2009. The WMAP is positioned in the L2 orbit which is very beneficial because that position helps keep its sensors away from both the Earth and the Sun. Scientists have estimated that CMB radiation has taken 13 billion years to reach the Earth. Using WMAP scientists were able to take the best photo ever taken of the early universe and made some startling discoveries. Discoveries from WMAP have put the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years. Scientists also have come to the conclusion that the first stars from the Big Bang came about 200 million years after the Big Bang. Indeed the WMAP has helped to strengthen the entire Big Bang theory, and it also helped bolster the cosmic inflation theory. The WMAP also gave some of the first real clear insight into dark matter, which is currently mostly unknown. Scientists have also come to the conclusion that neutrinos play no part in the evolution of structure in the universe. Another important facet of the WMAP is that it is helping to help understand the actual size of the universe.

The WMAP satellite has offered new insights into the size and age of the universe. It is helping to open doors that were previously closed and bringing up intriguing new things to study. The WMAP is scheduled to end its mission in 2009, so only time will tell if it will be at the forefront of another discovery.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Computing in 2018: A prediction

Originally written by me on September 17, 2008

Advancements in computers have changed the way how people live time and time again in human history. Computers have made several advancements in the last 10 years. In the next 10 years computers can be expected to make several more advances in the next 10 years.

Changes in computers have always come and gone rapidly. 10 years ago broadband internet was virtually unheard of, DVD burners were unheard of and few people even knew what a DVD was. MP3s and MPG format movies were rare and didn't have much of an impact. Now in 2008 all of these technologies are widespread. In the year 1975 Gordon Moore said the increase in computing power would double every two years. That means in 10 years we can expect downloads of 100+MB files to take place in only a few seconds time. The amount of information that can be placed on a chip will expand, with laptops holding only 30 GB or less of memory becoming a distant memory. There is even talk of dna being used instead of silicon chips all making computers more interactive. The current complexity of writing software programs for certain microchips which is now plaguing certain software developers can be expected to fall aside, as hardware makers work better with software developers to overcome these problems.

In conclusion technology has made rapid jumps in the past, and the capacity for what the computer can do hasn't been fully tapped into yet. As time goes on the amount of people who were born when the computer wasn't an important tool will continue to diminish and the computer will continue to grow and provide new technologies.


Large Hadron Collider

Originally written by myself on 9/22/2008.

I’ve chosen to do this writing assignment on the article “The Origins Of The Universe: A Crash Course” written by Brian Greene and published by The New York Times, appearing in the print edition on September 12, 2008. The article is about the Large Hadron Collider Project taking place in Geneva, Switzerland which is supposed to revolutionize our knowledge of the universe, as scientists try to recreate the conditions that led to the Big Bang.

Work on the Large Hadron Collider began over a decade ago, and it has involved thousands of scientists from many different countries. The cost of the Collider is about 8 billion dollars. The Collider is supposed to work at full power by having trillions of protons racing at each other at opposite speeds faster than the speed of light, producing over a half a billion head on collisions. Scientists hope that when this happens they will be able to produce particles not seen since the Big Bang.

One of the biggest mysteries to scientists right now is the origins of mass. The mass of almost any object or particle can be determined, but where mass itself originates is actually unknown. Peter Higgs an English physicist came up with a potential answer for this question when he suggested that space is pervaded by a field similar to electromagnetic fields that act like invisible molasses. Brian Greene explains in the article that according to Higgs theory, when we push something to try to make it move faster, the Higgs molasses exerts a drag force and it’s that drag force that we call mass. In the 1970’s scientists incorporated this theory into the theory called the standard model of particle physics. Scientists also hope to see sparticles for the 1st time that have evaded detection, but scientists believe exist and can help further understanding of dark matter. The Collider is also hoped to maybe reveal the existence of transdimensional particles which have never been confirmed to exist. The biggest fears of the Collider is that they might be able to produce micro black holes that could possibly lead to the destruction of the planet. But, there exists little evidence that would actually happen. The greatest hope for the Collider is that instead of proving an existing theory, that it will produce something totally unexpected to change our working knowledge of the universe.

I found this article to be very informative because it provided me a lot of knowledge with what the Large Hadron Collider is actually about, and what they are hoping to discover from it. A lot of news media reports I saw on the Large Hadron Collider simply refer to it as a doomsday machine that could lead to the end of the world. The Large Hadron Collider I’ve seen after reading this article is the type of project that can either totally confirm pre-existing theories, or it could be the type of project that completely changes notions and renders all theories existing right now completely obsolete.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Originally written by myself on September 25,2008

The 1800’s were a changing time for the Western World. The entire societal order seemed to be in upheaval, technological changes were brought about by the Industrial Revolution that rendered some jobs obsolete, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars brought the old European system to an end and also brought on new ideas such as nationalism. Religion which had once played a huge part in Western life was being increasingly de-emphasized, with science taking the role of religion. In this upheaval there began to be new ways of looking into the question of human nature and why do people do things certain ways, it was in this era that sociology was born.

“Sociology is the scientific study of human social life, groups, and societies.” (Giddens, 2007, p.3) Sociology is fairly new compared to the other sciences, since sociology started only in the 1800’s. Sociology came about as thinkers began using science to understand why human nature is the way it is, why society is structured the way it is, and why do societies change. They also wanted to predict human behavior and use these answers to make life better for everyone. In the 1800’s advances in science had already transformed different disciplines like medicine, astronomy, engineering and other fields. Sociologists hoped to use science to also transform the human being. “Science is the use of systematic methods of empirical investigation, the analysis of data, theoretical thinking, and the logical assessment of arguments to develop a body of knowledge about a particular subject matter.” (Giddens, 2007, p.24) Also important in science is the use of theories. “To be effective a theory-the framework of ideas and assumptions used to explain some set of observations and make predictions about the real world-must be continually tested.” (Chaisson McMillan, 2008, p.6) This was something very important for the early sociologists because they wanted to make predictions for the future based on human behavior and how they could hopefully make aspects of human life better. The actual term sociology was invented by French author Auguste Comte. “Comte originally used the term social physics, but some of his intellectual rivals at the time were also making use of that term. Comte wanted to distinguish his own views from theirs, so he introduced sociology to describe the subject he wished to establish.” (Giddens, 2007, p.13)

Emile Durkheim came along after Auguste Comte and built on his work establishing new ideas such as organic solidarity, which states that society depends on cooperation among its members. He also was a proponent of social constraint where it’s said that society puts constraints on the actions of the individual. Durkheim was also one of the first people to write extensively about division of labor. Durkheim felt that division of labor took the place in society that was once held exclusively by religion. Division of labor increased interdependency among people because if one person does only one certain function such as working in a factory, he is highly reliant on a person who’s growing food because the factory worker does not do food production, and the food grower is reliant on the person working in transportation to ship his crops. Durkheim also analyzed suicide rates which he felt were explained by feelings of helplessness many people feel in a modern society where religion no longer had the place that it once did to give people’s lives meaning. Karl Marx was another important early sociologist. “Marx’s viewpoint was founded on what he called the materialist conception of history.”(Giddens, 2007, p. 15) Marx believed that history was based on conflicts between classes. He thought that in the future the proletariat class would rise up and overthrow the dominant class and create a classless society. The teachings of Marx came to be known as Marxism.

In the modern world there is similar upheaval similar to the upheaval experienced at the dawn of sociology. Large numbers of people are immigrating from poor countries to richer ones, new technological advances are rendering certain jobs obsolete and changing the way people live, jobs are leaving communities after years of being in one place to relocate elsewhere. Terrorism and mass shootings have become a fact of life and people are having problems coping with life in the modern world. Just like when sociology was formed there are many questions about human beings that are being asked and sociologists are looking for answers.