A Year in Review and Best of 2017 – Inequality by (Interior) Design Edition

Well, Inequality by (Interior) Design turns six this year. Like 2016, I haven’t been as regular of a blogger as I’d like to be. But I was able to write more than 2016. And I’m happy with that. Each year, I like to take stock. Initially, I started taking stock of the blog posts. But a couple years ago, I used it as an opportunity to take stock of research and writing too. The big news is that I’m now at a new institution. I moved to the sociology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It’s been a big change, but it’s a wonderful and supportive department that specializes in gender and sexualities (among other things).

This has been a bit of a whirlwind of a year. It started with me agreeing to take over as editor of one of my favorite sociology blogs of all time – Sociological Images. The now former editor, Lisa Wade, was touring around the U.S. giving talks on her new book (American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus) and asked if I’d manage the site for a few months. So, I did that January – March 2017. And it was intense. I only had to write one post a week, collect a guest post or cross-post from someone else on the web and share an old post on Fridays. But it was enough of a taste to realize that I am not cut out for that work in the long run and for me to truly appreciate just how amazing of a sociologist, blogger, writer, and person Lisa Wade is. I can’t believe she did that (alongside so much else) for over a decade! Three months, and I was exhausted. But I learned a lot about blogging and trusting myself to come up with ideas.

cover.jpgLike last year, many of the posts I wrote were associated with the introductory textbook in sociology that I was writing with Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson. And the really big news this year is that that book will be out soon – Sociology NOW, third edition by Michael Kimmel, Amy Aronson, and Tristan Bridges. I’m really so thrilled to have been a part of this project and still sort of can’t believe my name’s on the cover. And I learned more about the field than I ever thought I would (particularly for chapters that were farther outside my areas of expertise). And it was a LOT more work than I could have ever imagined. But it was really rewarding and I was excited to help us highlight the work of the next generation of sociologists in this edition, highlighting loads of cutting edge work by scholars who represent some of the diversity that make up our field. The book comes out digitally and in print – and the digital version is where a lot of the really fun stuff is. We made a host of interactive maps, graphs, and figures throughout the book to give students the ability to play with figures. My hope is that students gain a bit of data and visualization literacy through interacting with the text.

And new to this edition is a new framework for teaching the field that we call “iSoc.” So many textbooks continue to teach sociology with the “3 frames” approach (functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interaction). These theoretical paradigms are important and we still include them in the text. But they don’t organize the field, and I’m not completely sure they ever did. iSoc replaces this narrative about what the field is, what sociologists actually do, and what makes the sociological perspective so unique.

Michael recorded introductory videos for each of the chapters. And Amy and I recorded audio for a series of animation videos in each chapter too. Those were a lot of fun and I’m hoping they’ll be fun for students learning about sociology for the first time. In the Sex and Gender chapter, we produced a short animation about Agnes, a transgender woman who met with the sociologist Harold Garfinkel and helped him change the way we thought about and studied gender. Here’s a screen shot from that video (thanks to Kristen Schilt and Chase Joynt for feedback on the appearance of Agnes and for information about how to represent the recording device Garfinkel used). I recorded this one and I’m so excited for students to hear a message thanking Agnes for how sociologists think about gender.

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Another I really liked was in the research methods chapter. We produced a short animation of Janice McCabe’s research on college student friendship networks in Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success to talk about network analysis as a research method. Amy recorded this animation and it’s a great one (screenshot of McCabe talking with a college student about his friendship network below). It’s a fascinating book if you haven’t read it, and a really wonderful illustration of research of what social networks can tell us that people can’t. That chapter in the textbook has not only summaries of each research method, but short examples of really interesting research like McCabe’s that show students what the methods are capable of doing and discovering!

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The posts I wrote at Sociological Images often drew from materials I’d been putting together for bits of the textbook, like my post on the curious alignment and stall associated with gender gaps across a variety of different measures, my post visualizing new data on shifts in the size and composition of the LGBT population in the U.S., or my post visualizing how racial and educational segregation overlap in the U.S.

The other fun thing that happened while blogging this year is that a few of my posts turned into publications. I was really honored to have the tribute post I wrote with James Messerschmidt about Joan Acker’s work and theory included in a forthcoming symposium on her work and influence in Gender, Work, and Organization (here). James and I also wrote a short post on President Trump fluid performances of masculinity and how they contribute to the kinds of inequalities he has upheld at Democratic Socialists for America (here). And that piece will be a part of the next edition of Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner’s wonderful anthology, Men’s Lives (about to be in its 10th!!!!! edition if you can believe that). C.J. Pascoe and I wrote a short post on Trump and gender inequality in a symposium of sociologists responding to his election in our association newsletter (here). Tara Tober and I were invited to write a short piece at Quartz.com on mass shootings and masculinity. Quartz_shooting (1)And part of that work involved getting to work with their data visualization team a bit to develop a figure. They ended up wanting more bells and whistles than we had in our figure. But I always learn something new when I get to interact with people who think outside of the box when if comes to graphs. And, finally, I’m really excited about a short post I wrote on the racial and gender dynamics associated with shifts in the LGB population once the new 2016 GSS data became available this past year. Mignon Moore and I collaborated on a trends essay that will be coming out in the next issue of Contexts.

I published a few other things you can read about on my website if you’re interested. On to the top posts of 2017. All of the blogs I follow have a post (or collection of posts) at the end of each year celebrating some of their biggest and best posts of the year. And I’ve done it each year. I still write for different sites, but I continue to share all of that work here as a sort of central hub for anyone interested (okay… mostly this is for my parents).  Below are my top five most popular posts of the year along with an assortment of my personal favorites.

Top 5 Most Popular Posts from 2017

  1. Why People Are So Averse to Facts
  2. Possibly the Most Exhaustive Study of “Manspreading” Ever Conducted
  3. Just How Big Was the 2017 Women’s March? (with Tara Leigh Tober)
  4. Shifts in the U.S. LGBT Population
  5. Visualizing Gender Inequality in a Feminist Bookstore

My Personal Favorites from 2017

Some of these posts didn’t generate much interest at all. But they all helped me think through something, prepare for a course, summarize an idea for the textbook, research, or just something I felt compelled or excited to share.

I’ll conclude with the words I wrote last year at this time: Blogging is one way that we can reach audiences not possible with scholarly writing – attempting to have an impact on the forms of inequality we study and to help other people connect with sociological knowledge, research, and theory. Increasing the number of feminist sociological imaginations in the world can only make for a better place. Looking forward to 2018. As always, thanks for reading!

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