Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year - 2011

Well it is 2011, although being 4.5 hours ahead of GMT it is a bit of an artificial experience.

Hope 2011 is good for everyone, and I wish you all health, wealth and happiess.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

'Social Sciences : The Big Issues' by Kath Woodward - Chapter 3

Ciitizenship & social order..... This chapter discussed what citizenship means, what benifits it gives and who is included or excluded through it. It also discusses equlity, and how equlity can disadvantage people or exclude them. The simple example is the law on motorcycle hemets and the Sikh community, saying that approaches to citizenship which treat everyone equal do not take notice of cultural, sexual, racial or body differences and so can lead to inequalities.

This is a bit of a cicular argument as to say that treating people the same leads to inequality is one thing, however how can treating people differently lead to equality. The question is which right 'trumps' other rights. For example the right for the religious owners of a B&B to insist same sex couples have separate rooms on their religious grounds against the right of same sex couples to use the B&B - this is currently goping through the courts - does a religious right have more or less 'power' than the right to express your sexuality, and who should decide.

The chapter has much discussion about inclusion v. exclusion, equal treatment for all v. exceptions due to difference, but does not answer any of the questions it poses. I think I may need to read it again, as it was a bit hard going at times.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Oh well, it's now Christmas day,  in a land far away ......

Merry Christmas everyone.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

'Social Sciences : The Big Issues' by Kath Woodward - Chapter 2

Identity matters: us and them..... This chapter is about identity, how it is created and what it means. For example the book says that the 'me' is created from a mix of gender, race, ethnicity, difference/same, job/life chances, body, place and the visible/signs.It then asks you to think of 5 things that identify you, I thought of partner, father, my job, nationality and hobbies. Being white and male, did not figure in the first 5 and the book would say that this is typical/normal as these are seen as the 'dominant' identities. Had I been of an ethnic background, female, disabled etc these facets of identity may have been far more important - and I can agree with that as an idea.

There was also an interesting discussion about children who were adopted, born through IVF, via surrogates or with the help of donors (sperm or egg)  - what is their identity, who is the real mother ? There was a further discussion about people who have gone through transgender changes or gender re-assignment, and what does this mean to their identity and even the identity of their partners/family ? This was all pretty hypothetical really until I thought about it and realised that we have adopted children in the family, but I just think of them now as our family - not 'the adopted children'. I also know a person who had undergone gender re-assignment, but again I know them as who they are now. So I guess that I think that 'identity' in these sorts of cases is more a issue for the person to define for themselves, but I can agree that for practical matters the state does need to, possibly for legal reasons, define very personal aspects of peoples lives for them, and possibly in a way that would be against their wishes. For example the natural mother versus the adopting mother, legally who is now the 'mother' ?

There was also, in this chapter, an exploration of identity through advertising and consumerism, i.e. how we wish to adopt an identity as portrayed through the media and the constraints that would stop this i.e. financial, body, disability. Then an exploration of the context of identity and how it can change depending on the situation and people involved.

The disappointing parts of this chapter was a large chunk of text regarding 'Cyborg Thinking'. I have read this 4 or 5 times now and it makes no sense to me at all. It just comes across as some new age 'emporers new clothes' type theory. 'Are people who wear glasses part machine?'

The other disappointing thing about this chapter is that, at times, it seems to have been written in an over elaborate and 'flowery' manner. Big words added in for effect that do more to harm the understanding, rather than aid the understanding, of the ideas put forward. However, this may just be that I need to adjust to a 'Social Science' style of writting, so it will be interesting to see what the next chapter is like.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

'Social Sciences : The Big Issues' by Kath Woodward - Chapter 1

Introduction..... Having had a lot of time to kill at airports recently, a serious amount of time in fact, I decided to make a start with this book.

Chapter 1 is a good and interesting introduction to the themes and content of the book, and crystallises around the case study of 'life in a tower block'. It was so interesting that I read the entire chapter at one sitting and was very pleased that it was not as dry or impenetrable as I feared it would be.

The case study looked at how the make up and lives of those living in the block had changed due to various outside influences such as the 'right to buy', immigration and owners becoming landlords. It explores how the previously stable community, while the block was entirely social housing, has now become much more fluid. Property ownership changes the reasons why people would want live there or move out, and how the 'right to buy' has been a huge advantage for some, a disaster for others and a disappointment for those who were unable, for various reasons, to take advantage of this scheme.

Not exactly rocket science, but it certainly brought up ideas and issues that I have never had reason to contemplate before 

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Course Materials - Books, CDs, MAP & TMA

Now that the Course materials have arrived it is all feeling very real, but as the course does not start until the end of January, a bit remote as well.

I have flicked through the assignemnet booklet and the first two TMAs are covering areas I know nothing about and have never given much thought to. So it should be a fairly steep and challenging learning curve completing these assignments.

The first part of the third assignment looks to be about manipulating and understandiong statistics which is far more in my comfort zone, so much so that I have started entering the data on to a spreadsheet in advance. The second part is a bit less familiar - so a lot of reading to be done.

So between work and Christmas/New Year te plan is to get as far ahead of the study plan early, to allow for time management problems later on.......

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Prep For Study Marerials Arrive

The 'CDA/Prep for Study' course materials arrived today. This is about a week sooner than expected, which is always good. So I now have the 'Preparing To Study' book and CD, the 'Society Matters' (No.13) magazine and some introductory paperwork.

At last, something to gte my teeth into that is relevant to the course. Next lot of course materials expected 10th December.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Final Book Purchase ?

This really is the last book that I intend to purchase for this course, my wallet can't take any more !!!

I had been searching for information on the course and found some websites/blogs from others who have studied or are studying this course - I have listed these on the link area of the page.

I also came across the "Getting Ready for DD101" page on the OU website, and they suggested the book "Social Sciences : the big issues" by Kath Woodward as a useful text, so after visiting Amazon again, I now have more than enough reading materials to see me through to the end of January and the start of the course proper.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - A Little Pre-Reading

In a bid to satisfy this new, and at present enthusuastic, thirst for knowledge I have purchased a couple of books already.

 Good Essay Writing - A Social Sciences Guide

The book 'Good Essay Writing - A Social Sciences Guide'  would seem to be an obvious choice for this course and having flicked through it looks a worthwhile purchase at less than £10.

I have written assignements and reports before, but far more on a technical and literal level, and my fiancee really doubts my ability to get in to the fluffier and less 'absolute' discipline of Social Science.

Essays on Philosophy, Politics and Economics

I was a little impatient regarding receiving the course literature and thought that this book would be an ideal introduction to the course. This has been a huge mistake, both finacially and motivationally.

The book looks a bit stern and austere, but that is nothing to the near impenetrable text within. 

Having struggled to keep interest through the Introduction, I jumped to Chapter 1: Utility and Utilitarianism.

The were two problems with the first page of the first chapter. My understanding of the word 'utility' and then my disagreement with the basic arithmetic premise of the argument.

To me 'utility' means something of 'many uses' (utility belt, utility knife) or a public service such as utility companies (water, electric, gas). However, according to Wikipedia (and I don't normally turn to them for confirmation) "In economics, utility is a measure of relative satisfaction”, how could you be expected to know this – have 'they' just made up a parallel language to confuse non-economists. Whoever 'they' are.

If you want to find out about the arithmetic problem presented, don't buy the book, just find it in a reputable book store and flick to page 15.

The Spirit Level  - Why Equality Is Better For Everyone

I didn't buy this, my fiancee did - seeing what a struggle reading the essays book was, she thought this would be a little more 'entry level', a sort of 'Social Science for Dummies'. 

It is a much less frightening read - partly because it has goldfish on the cover and they don't frighten me - but also because I've understood the first chapter and didn't have to resort to Wikipedia to see if curcial words actually had alternative meanings.

It's about 2 weeks until the course material is mailed out, probably 3 weeks before I receive the stuff. I've learned my lesson and will stay away from Amazon until the package arrives......

Friday, 19 November 2010

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - All Signed Up

Well there you go...... remarkably easy...... a couple of minutes on the internet, a quick phone call and I'm now £650 lighter and starting Introducing the social sciences (DD101) in late January. 

Late January! I want to start now, especially after I got my OU login and found out that the course material is not due to be sent until December, and the course website doesn't go live until late January either.

So what to do....... I've picked the rest of the courses I think I want to do to complete a BA (Honours) Politics, Philosophy and Economics, with the Qualification Planner,


Current modules

Introducing the social sciences (DD101)                                    

Intended modules

Level 2
Economics and economic change (DD202)
Exploring philosophy (A222)
Power, dissent, equality: understanding contemporary politics (DD203)
 Level 3
A world of whose making? (DU301)                   
Doing economics: people, markets and policy (DD309)                   

....... and I've played around with the Predict Your Degree Classification, but all that has achieved is confirming how much work there is coming up.

So not much else to do now except wait.