Seeing Sociologically Contest 2016
This year’s Seeing Sociologically contest produced some impressive entries from undergraduate students in the sociology programme. We asked students to use their sociological imagination to provide a photo which captures a sociological view, represents a sociological idea or a way of seeing sociologically, along with a caption that explains what the image means to them. Students responded imaginatively and creatively, applying their sociological imaginations to the world around them. The judges – Professor of Media at Northumbria University, Karen Ross and Dr Abby Schoneboom from the Department of Social Sciences – deliberated long and hard over the thought-provoking entries. They commended all of the entries but first prize was awarded to Dionne Smith for her image The Daily Grind and the runner-up was Matthew Rowan for his image Before the Beauty.
The images and text provided by the students are shown below:
Dionne Smith (1st Prize)
The Daily Grind – Shields Road in Byker
Sociology for me is the hidden and obscured, whether the structures that bind agency or the hidden world and lives behind the obvious. It is the lives that lie obscured by perfect adverts of a polished world. It is the anger bubbling under the surface of the ‘everyday’; the acceptance of poverty and the ‘daily grind’ of the world obscured purposefully from the limelight.
I think most understanding of society can be found by leaving the city centre to the outlying areas and seeing people living their everyday lives in the areas that don’t get photographed as they paint a different and less appealing view of modern society.
Finally, sociology gives me an understanding of my own life and the decisions I have made. So, this photo shows my neighbourhood with shuttered failed businesses, and pawn shops preying on the poor. It shows the lives of people like me, continuing their own ‘daily grind’.
Mathew Rowan (Runner-up)
Before the beauty: Elmina, Ghana.What may at first appear as a beautiful sunset on the south coast of Ghana is actually painting a vivid picture of the reality of life within the Global South. The rocky outcrop? This is no rock; this is the means by which many unfortunate women and children must scour in order to make ends meet. If you take a closer look you will notice that the ‘rocky outcrop’ is actually a dumping ground for commercial and industrial waste with people rummaging through to find recyclable materials to be exchanged for a mere tuppence – the harsh reality.
This is a picture I took when I was in Paris on a college trip in March 2015. The image shows a global brand in a street that was also filled with traditional French buildings and shops. For me this image sums up what Sociology is about because in society today there is a mixture of traditional and modern ideas being combined. Postmodern thinkers in sociology believe that individuals have the ability to choose between traditional and modern aspects of society, for example you can shop in places like Mac but there is also the opportunity to buy products from traditional market stalls. However, this change could be negative as globalisation has meant that huge global brands like Mac are becoming more significant and taking over from smaller businesses; in modern times there is a ‘consumer culture’ which is taking away the traditional aspect of people’s lives.
Consumption has become an important aspect of society which we use to form our identity, and is seen as a route to personal happiness, social status and success. Unsustainable consumption of clothing uses a disproportionate amount of the Earth’s natural resources and is having detrimental effects upon the environment, especially with regard to water usage which is expected to exceed the supply by 30% in 15 years. The clothing industry uses an excessive amount of water as cotton alone uses 2.6% of the world’s water supply and the waste product causes poor water quality, water shortages and pollution. Despite legislation existing to tackle the environmental costs, it is flawed in its lack of understanding of the complexity of the processes involved. It is imperative climate change is tackled as the effects of a deteriorating environment will result in mass migration of people from areas which are hit hardest from climate change. While the global north is not expected to experience severe consequences due to climate change, the unsustainable consumption to gain social status has contributed to the deterioration of the Earth’s environment and means we have a social responsibility to respond to this social problem.
For myself the bridges show the different time periods, which have passed and how they impacted the landscape. For example the Tyne Bridge is a domineering force on the water, which can be seen from far and wide. Personally I can use this as a metaphor for society, as the large infrastructures dominate and rule this shows that people do not necessarily have the power over their own environment.
In addition as the Tyne Bridge is a symbol of cultural heritage of Newcastle, it often goes unnoticed by everyday people, I would symbolise this as that often we don’t see what is straight in front of us as it is so internalized it becomes a product of human nature.
The recent floods have highlighted more than simply a lack of preparation or an overly-naive government; these recent floods have illustrated the continuous struggle of the North/South divide. Though we’re led to believe that society is becoming more and more equal, as long as our government persists to deprive the North of attention society’s inequalities will continue uninterrupted. The North/South divide has featured for years in our country and illustrates a clear class divide, it would be fascinating to have seen the reaction to floods had they hit more economically affluent areas of the south; furthermore the likelihood of the government cutting funds to flood defences would be significantly lower. As long as the Conservatives remain in power the divide will continue to grow as they mirror the tyranny of Thatcher during her destructive years in power.
Dr Abigail Schoneboom