Monday, 28 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Week 8

The suggested time table for Week 8
     Introduction to 'Connected :Lives' strand of Making Social Lives  (45 mins)   
     Chapter 4 of Making Social Lives (7 hrs)
     Online activities 16 & 17 (2 hours)
     Studying Identities' (Audio CD 2, 30 - 45 mins)
     Learning from Feedback (Audio CD,25 mins)
     'Reflections on Material Lives' (Audio CD 45 mins) 
     Online Quiz - Making Social Lives, Chapter 4 (10-15 mins)
To be completed by 1st April.

Well, that was a bit of a slog. Partly because I'm still suffering from the 'post submission slump', partly 'cos there was loads of football on the TV this weekend and partly because it reads like Stephanie Taylor, author of Chapter 4, was paid by the word. There seemed to be a lot of reading that was going over already trodden ground. However, it was well written and must have sunk in as I managed 5/5 in the end of chapter quiz, so no complaints really.

Section 1 introduced identity, how people can have several identities depending on the situation and audience. The theories of Goffman and Garfinkel were discussed, and this is probably worth noting for the TMA. There was a bit about how identity is constructed (nature v nurture) and is it fixed or evolving.

Section 2 discussed negative value identities and group identities through the example of New York 'Street People'. This introduced the ideas of 'unmarked identity' and 'Othering' and how this could lead to discrimination. The identity 'given' through race and ethnicity was also discussed, and why this is far from clear cut.

Section 3 was about identity through 'place' - where you live, were born, came from etc. and also brought up the notion of the 'performing self' and 'impression management', alongside the statement that in modern society we have to make an identity for ourselves as traditional identities have disappeared or lost validity.

Section 4 was the hardest going. It discussed identity through family photographs, generation and gender hierarchy as well as re-enforcing heterosexual stereotypes. It also showed how photos can fix an identity to a location or give an idea of tradition.

So that's this week 8 out of the way, less than a week ahead of schedule now, so need to crack through chapters 5 & 6 and then get down to the TMA03 which is in two parts.

Part 1 is about working with quantitative data and having been given a range of tables the question is "What can you say about the identities of the people of Stratford, based on the tables provided". With only 500 words that should not be too difficult, but it is for half the marks so you may have to look behind the obvious to bring some insightful findings to the assignment.

Part 2 is a page and a half of text (not read it yet) and we're asked "Based on the information contained in the text and photograph below, what can you say about the identity of Stratford, its residents and prospective visitors?". At 1000 words the assignment will be longer than this text, so I guess we need to see what identities are written about and reference this back to theories and concepts in Chapters 4,5 & 6.

Both parts have their own challenges, I think it may be easy to over simplify Part 1, and Part 2 is about sorting the useful information from the dross and then seeing how that relates to theories in these chapters.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Post TMA Submission Slump

I put in a lot of hours in to get this assignment finished in good time, and now it has been submitted I have found my motivation levels drop significantly. So rather than getting ahead by reading the next Chapters I seem to be finding lots of other things to do that are more interesting. This happened with the first assignment also, maybe there is some sort of medical name for it, 'Academic Apathy' or ' Studious Stupor' -whatever it is its not helpful.

The other thing about getting assignments in early is that is seems an absolute age to get them marked. Anyway, the next TMA looks to be about anaysing quantative and qualitative data, so that should be fairly straight forward, although I guess there will be a twist on it and somebody will have some theories or concepts that we will have to identify and reference. I suppose the best thing is to get on and read the next chapters........

Saturday, 19 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - TMA02 Submitted

Re-read the TMA having left it for a couple of days and by and large there was little more to be done with it  as far as I'm concerned.

I did bulk out the conclusion slightly, just really ensurng the reader could easily see in summary all the areas I'd covered, before the final concludng statement. This took me within a handful of words of the absolute maximum word count of 1375 (1250 plus 10%), but as with the last TMA if you have a bit extra to play with and need it then why not take it to the max.

I could have trimmed it further, but it would have taken a lot of effort for no reward, so it has been sent in as it is. Now on to the next section of course - "Connected Lives".

Thursday, 17 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - TMA02, coming together at last

I have pretty much started again. I read through what I had done so far, and at the end of each paragraph I asked myself "has this paragraph addressed any issue of consumer society effecting our choice", in doing this I realised that the second paragraph was actually a far better introduction than the introduction was - not sure how that happened but fortunate that it did.

The Essay plan was really the key to the re-write. I wrote down everything I though was relevant in what I thought was a sensible way of addressing the question, keeping in mid the Assignment Book advice that you should define consumer society, discuss the unequal choices and then the role of supermarkets in relation to choice - pretty obvious really.

I have then written pretty much to the word count plus 10%, so fiddled about and dropped some 'well crafted paragraphs' on weaker arguments in favour of what I hope is more important arguments.

The only thing I'm unsure about is that the conclusion is a bit short at about 70 words, but all it is doing is wrapping up all the previous paragraphs and providing a suitable concluding statement.

Time to leave it for a couple of days, and then re-read it at the weekend, even then there is a week to go before submission is due.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - TMA02, more difficult than expected

"'Consumer society gives people choice', Discuss this claim" is proving to be more difficult than expected. I'm pretty sure I know the arguments and theorists/concepts that I wish to include in the essay, but getting it written in a manner that flows from one section to the other is proving a challenge.

Also, after worrying that the 1250 word count would be restrictive, I wrote everything down in a sort of rough draft and starting point and barely made 900 words.

I think I need to re-read chapters 1 & 2, and the online activity with FoE and see if that gives a clue on additional content and better flow.

It all looked so promising from the essay plan :-(

Saturday, 12 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Tutorial 2

Another interesting and useful tutorial. I was a bit surprised that the attendance was down, in fact there was about half the number there was at the first tutorial, so maybe others on the course are finding the course pretty straight forward - however, I was glad I went along.

The general discussions on course the content so far were useful, it is always good to hear alternative points of view. It was also useful to get clarification of what is required in TMA02, how to structure the essay and some key theories and concepts that need to be included.

So I have two weeks to get the next TMA written.

Friday, 11 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Week 7

The suggested time table for Week 7
     Conclusion to Material Lives (30 mins)
     'Reflections on Material Lives' (Audio CD 45 mins) 
     OnLine Reflection Quiz - Making Social Lives, Material Lives
     Assignment 02
To be completed by 25th March.

The assignment question is,
'Consumer society gives people choice', Discuss this claim (1250 words),
provide the Essay Plan & Self-Reflection (50 words)

The remainder of the reading and other work for the end of Week 7 was pretty easy to get done in one evening, so I am now about two weeks ahead of where I need to be, so plenty of time to concentrate on TMA02 and 'Consumer society gives people choice - discuss this claim'.

The first thing to sort out is what is required from the OU in terms of a discussion essay, which can be found here,

The next thing is to concentrate on a concise definition of 'consumer society', then work in theories, concepts and evidence in a sensible way and then tie it all up in an evaluation and conclusion.

Sounds straight forward, but I think getting it all in with the word count being 1250 will be a challenge.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Week 6

The suggested time table for Week 6
     Chapter 3 of Making Social Lives (7 hrs)
     'Rubbish Society' (Audio CD 45 mins) 
     Making Connections (Audio CD 30 mins)
     Online Activities 13-15 (2 hrs 30 mins)
     Online Quiz: Making Social Lives, Ch 3 (15 mins)
     Reflection: learning through assessment (45 mins)
To be completed by 18th March.

Our second tutorial is this weekend, so I am trying to get all the reading for TMA02 done prior to that - hence the push on to Chapter 3. 

"Chapter 3 : Rubbish society: affluence, waste and values" - this chapter was not really that interesting and it is not needed for TMA02, I suppose we may need it later in the course but hopefully not. It starts off simply enough, saying rubbish is stuff we used to value, but don't value any more - value can be financial or emotional, value is not a simple thing to define - but if something has no value to us we call it rubbish and dispose of it - as Aleksandr would say 'simples' !!!

The chapter then links the growth in rubbish to the growth in consumerism and ties this to growing affluence, but it doesn't explain if this growing affluence is averaged across the population or is suggesting everyone is now more affluent - which is incorrect. The chapter states that disposable income after tax has increased by 150% between 1971 and 2006 - but later in the chapter the author shows that over the last 30 years (1979 to 2006) the poorest 10% have had an increase in weekly income of 39%, but the richest 10% by 80%, those in between by 50%, the figures do not add up and seem contradictory.

The weakest part of the chapter was the explanation of Michael Thompson's 'Rubbish Theory'. He said that items have 3 states, 'transient' (in use but with falling value), 'rubbish' (things with no value) and 'durable' (items that gain in value over time due to rarity for example). This makes sense, however, he then says that items can move from 'transient' to 'durable', but do so via 'rubbish', which does not make sense, even with the example given of the Stevengraphs. The Stevengraphs were silk woven pictures made in the late 1800s, but are far more valuable now than they were originally - an example of 'transient' moving to 'durable', but how could they ever have become 'rubbish', as they would have been thrown away - rather than what has happened, people have held on to them for about 100 years until the price has risen and they are now selling them to collectors. So if they have been kept for 100 years they must have been emotionally valued, if not financially, so they could never have been' rubbish'.

There is then a fairly sensible discussion on factors influencing Demand and Supply, and then a discussion on aesthetic revaluation talking about rubbish being turned in to art - Tracey Emin & Chris Jordan.

So a bit of a mixed chapter, the most disappointing aspects being contradictory arguments and very weak and unchallenged theories.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - Week 5

The suggested time table for Week 5
     Chapter 2 of Making Social Lives (7 hrs)
     'Evidence in the social sciences' (Audio CD 45 mins)
     Online Activities 9-12 (3 hrs 30 mins)
To be completed by the 11th March.

This week's work was just as 'full on' as last week. The chapter 'One Stop Shopping - the power of supermarkets' was quiet a mixed chapter, it started discussing Tesco-Towns and the proposal for two Tesco supermarkets, one which on the face of it was unnecessary and could harm the community, and one which would be of great benefit to another community. Both sides of both arguments were discussed along with the notion of supermarket power.

The next part of the chapter discussed what makes supermarkets powerful and introduced important terms like 'market power', buyer power', positive and zero sum gains. Also under discussion was the concept of a monopoly and how and who measures this, and what 'damage' or 'benefits' does this bring to communities.

The last part of the chapter talked about the 'dominance of suppliers around the glode', and are third world workers exploited, or not, by big chains looking for cheap labour - is it a positive sum or a zero sum gain for these relationships.

At this time due to the current financial climate in the UK there is much discussion about the UK's role in providing foreign aid especially to countries like Indian who have an expanding economy. While it is easy for some to point to the continued poverty in Indian and say we 'must do more', I would suggest that due to the caste system and culture in Indian foreign financial aid will do little to lift the poorest out of poverty - as the caste system exists to keep them there.

If people are really interested in helping the poorest in Indian then it is a far more complicated social solution that is required - financial aid will not do it alone, and for this reason I would suggest that the third world workers producing cheap goods for UK supermarkets are in a positive sum gain relationship at present.

This chapter also introduced the concept of quantitative and qualitative data or evidence, and encourages the reader to question the source and motive of so called 'evidence'. This is where I find 'Social Science' a bit difficult to take seriously as a 'science', the chapter discussed 'evidence', that I would class as opinion, and conclusions seem to be based on untested or unsubstantiated 'facts'.

Anyway, a lot to take in and the bulk of the reading for TMA 02 is now complete.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences - TMA01 Marked and Returned

I just managed a borderline good/excellent mark, which was a huge relief as I put a lot of effort in to this first TMA and a lower score would have been discouraging.

Some encouraging comments from my tutor, although apart from 2 referencing errors I'm not sure where the other marks were lost.

I think the next TMA is going to be a bit more of a step change of a challenge though.