Paper

Due April 14, 2015

The term paper for this course will be a 20-25 page analysis of the relationship between community and a technology of your choosing (or some other topic of your choosing, relevant to the study of community, with my approval).

Format your papers in the style of the American Sociological Association.

Some thoughts on how to proceed with the term paper…

Students often ask where to find literature on their specific topic, say they have trouble finding anything specifically on their topic, etc. Remember, your job is largely one of synthesis of different sets of literature.

Imagine that it is the case that blenders are the new craze – everyone seems to be getting into buying cool new blenders, and we’re even starting to hear about blender enthusiasts getting together and forming clubs.

Thesis: the blender, through blender enthusiast’s clubs, is promoting community in suburban America.

(You should have a single sentence thesis like that, one that tells the reader what the paper is about.)

Elaborating on this thesis: there is a burgeoning cultural phenomenon whereby people are gathering in homes with blenders, comparing models, serving each other blended adult beverages, having friendly blending competitions, doing blender tricks for the amusement of others, etc.

Synthesize from the literature on blendering – which is likely newspaper feature stories or articles in popular magazines, since this is new. Maybe there is already one book out there from an academic perspective. And synthesize from the literature on community – which is in sociology journals and other scholarly journals and also in scholarly books like the ones we’ve been reading this semester.

Then pick one or two aspects of the blendering/community nexus that you can usefully discuss in the space of 20-25 pages.

Item: the blendering subculture is a manifestation of the idea of “communities of interest.”
Draw on the recent sociological literature on that idea – how do blenderists fit the concept or deviate from it?

Item: community is increasingly defined in terms of patterns of consumption, rather than production (class), or residence (urban ecology).
Draw on the literature on the sociology of consumption, show how the blender is an example par excellence of the idea. Maybe you have a passage in your paper that sounds like this: “Baudrillard (1984) noted that people increasingly identify themselves, and situate themselves in the social context, in terms of the culture they consume. The blendering movement is an unusually clear corroboration of that premise…”

Item: blenderists are a diverse bunch, whose only common interest is blending.
Draw on the literature about cross-cutting allegiances, bridging social capital, and the strength of weak ties to argue that this is a good thing – blendering helps to promote a broader sense of community – doing the work of the bowling leagues of old…

Maybe you also draw on a feature story about the blendering phenomenon that you find in some newspaper. That would be appropriate in this context. It’s better to have some documentation, even from lowly newspapers, rather than no documentation. Maybe you’d find some quotes from blenderists in such a story that would nicely illustrate some point you are trying to make.

Item: community continues to differentiate in a society like ours – already there are signs of fragmentation within the blendering community, as some cliques emphasize the sociability of blendering and trading drink recipes, whereas other cliques are focused more on hotrodding – making blenders more powerful, with more efficient blade designs…