Sunday, November 29, 2015

Language Videos

Video #1 (How language evolved):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWDKsHm6gTA

Video #2 (The language of lying):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0-WkpmTPrM

Video #3 (Texting and language)(Can skip to 5:00):
https://www.ted.com/talks/john_mcwhorter_txtng_is_killing_language_jk?language=en



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"The Big Heart" and "Human Geography: Chapter Five"

Conner Lewis
November 15

Video: Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave?

Black women wanted to succeed in the business world at all levels but many companies refuse to hire them due to color blindness and sometimes racism so they asked companies to be color brave and accept other minorities, then two major companies began to have black female CEO's as more and more black women were accepted into the business world.

Map:
The Balkans, especially the nations of the former Yugoslav nation, is a perfect example of how one's identity can be closely tied to ethnicity, as many people fought and died to see their identity and ethnicity gain their own nation. It is also an example of how multiple ethnicities can have separate identities and still be ruled by a single state, as well as being an example of how this can be problematic.


Essay:

Readings:
Human Geography: Chapter Five
The Big Heart

Essay Question: What do The Big Heart and Human Geography: Chapter Five have to say about how an identity is formed,  and how it can change over time.

         "Be unique, by a [insert product]" is a common line used to sell cars and clothes alike. To many, one's identity is determined by how one acts, looks, and by what their beliefs are, but this is not all there is to identity. Identity is how we and others define someone. It is much more than physical belongings. It is a meshing of the experiences, emotions, connections, and rejections we have throughout our lives, and because of this it is constantly changing. One's identity is also different at every scale across the world stage, with people of different areas viewing others by larger and more broad terms such as nationality or ethnicity. Identity is also how someone associates sexually and in terms of their gender. While some may refute identities' ability to change, and state that people cannot change their identity after a certain age, this is not the case. Human Geography: Chapter Five proves how identity can change by identifying the processes through which identity is formed, some of which are also key roles in changing existing ones too, and by showing how this identity manifests its change in different scales across the globe. The article The Big Heart, by Tony Perrottet, then shows a modern example of how the city of Houston and its residences are changing their identity at every scale right now.
          Though it happens to everyone, identifying how identities form is crucial as it allows for predictions of how the cultural landscape of a region will change and why it has before. According to Human Geography: Chapter Five, identity can form through several different methods, which all can contribute to changing an already existing identity as well. One important way that identities can form is through the process of identifying against another group of people.
By identifying what is considered "Other", and then opposing one's self against that, an individual or group can set the boundaries of what they do and don't do through clear cut distinctions. By identifying the natives of other lands as mystical savages, Europeans during the Age of Exploration were very easily able to define what is European and civilized as well as being able to categorize themselves against everyone else who they believed to be lesser to themselves. This way of forming an identity is very powerful as it instantly creates tension between groups, as it defines one way as wrong and the other as right, leading to conflict over ideals and ideologies. This way of identifying one's self allows for a person's identity to change all the time as the group which they identify against also changes, a good example of which is how Americans opposed their identity to Nazi Germany during WWII, and then towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This shift lead to several changes in how Americans identified, as they shifted from the land of the free to the land of the free capitalists, to oppose the Soviet Union's communist economy. Another very powerful tool for defining one's identity, especially at the global level, is nationality. Nationality is a concept that is only 300 years old, yet is already one of the primary methods for someone to identify themselves, especially when traveling abroad. By associating with one's state by stating that one is French, British, Chinese, etc. a person can instantly create an identity for themselves in the eyes of others as by defining where they come from, other people can make assumptions on nearly every part of their identity, true or not. This can be dangerous, as it often leads to stereotypes about identities, as can be seen through the stigma there is towards Mexicans from many Americans, as by defining one's self as Mexican, they receive all of the baggage that the Mexican identity entails. This allows for one's identity to change as the stigma and stereotypes around their nationalities change, as well as allowing them to change their nationality altogether. As the Irish became more and more accepted in America following their large chain migration into the nation, their identities changed in the eyes of themselves and others. They began to see themselves more as Americans, and so did other other Americans begin to see them less as foreigners and more as fellow Americans. Another way that many people's identities are defined is something that is decided for them before they are even born, a person's race.
This is the product of the viewing minor genetic differences as a deciding factor in how someone acts and who that person is. Unfortunately, race is still a strong factor in forming many people's identity. It is important to note that while a person's race is decided by social norms and thus by others, this does not mean that one's race cannot change. A perfect example of this is with Hispanics in the United States, who were previously considered a separate race and were given their own box on the United States census, however as of 2000 Hispanics began to be considered as white, meaning that for all intents and purposes Hispanics changed to white, at least in the eyes of most Americans. This is how race can also aid in changing the identity of a person, even after birth, and even though they cannot do anything to change their appearance itself, unless you are Michael Jackson. The next way through which a person's identity can be decided is through their ethnicity, which is interesting as it is decided for a person by themselves as well as others. Ethnicity is a concept based on the idea that a group of people are connected and even related in a certain place overtime. For nation state's, this is closely tied to nationalism. The reason that ethnicity is decided for a person by themselves and others is due to the fact that a group of people choose if they are an ethnicity or if they and another group are, and then this is reinforced as these groups of people are continuously identified by others as associated with that ethnicity. An example of an ethnicity is that of the French in France. One's ethnicity can change as the ethnicity experiences change to who it applies. For example, it used to be that the ethnicity of American applied to only Anglo-Americans from Great Britain, but over time it came to include Americans of German, Irish, Swedish, and other European origin. The last two very important ways through which a person forms their identity is through their sexual orientation and gender. Gender in terms of identity is used to refer to how a person views themselves as either male, female, or neither. This can change as a person changes their own gender through either medical procedures or just through how they see themselves and present themselves to the world. Sexuality determines someone's identity through who or what they are attracted to sexually. This cannot truly change as it is not a choice, but it can change socially as the perceptions and names for different sexual orientations shift based on the culture at the time. Through all of these methods a person's identity is both formed as well as changed over the course of their entire life.
          Almost all of these vectors for change can be seen occurring in Houston right now in the modern day. For a very long time, Houston has been seen as a very white, Republican, conservative, and sometimes down right xenophobic city built off of the oil industry which boomed there for the longest time. This identity was actually true for a while, as many white Americans worked in factories and oil refineries across Houston, however in recent years this perception could not be farther from the truth as Houston, and more importantly the people of Houston, has changed its identity from that of a primarily white city to that of one of the most diverse cities in the nation. Studies by the Kinder Institute of Urban Research have found that the most equitable location for
America's for major racial and ethnic groups (Asian, Hispanic, and white and black people who are not Hispanic) was not New York or Los Angeles, but rather Houston. This is the result of a change in identity which has occurred across Houston. Over the past couple decades, more and more people of all backgrounds have moved to Houston, changing its diversity and identity as a whole. One way this change is occurring is that as there is more and more racial diversity in Houston, as more Asians, Hispanics, and African American people move to Houston in search of jobs. This diversity causes the whole outlook on how races are treated as well as how they are seen to change. It is very hard to create "us vs them" situations when there are so many groups that make up so much of the population. This causes many people's view of the identity of Houston to change from that of a white dominated city to that of a racially diverse and accepting one rivaling New York and Los Angeles. Another way the change in identity is occurring is through the addition of more and more ethnic groups to Houston. This is occurring as several different Hispanic and Asian ethnicities move into Houston and transform parts of Houston into areas for Vietnamese, Chinese, Cuban, Mexican and other ethnicities to stay. This also changes the identity of Houston as it is again becoming a more diverse and accepting place, with several different forms of Asian and Hispanic restaurants appearing from several different ethnicities. All of this is changing Houston as its people begin to define themselves against others differently, for as the diversity increases the people of Houston stop defining themselves against Asians, Hispanics, and African Americans as they are consisted of all these forms of people. They rather begin to define themselves against other places, and not against the races and ethnicities that have moved in, such as defining themselves against the North and other parts of the United States. This change affects the identity of Texas as a whole, as it is seen on a regional level as less white dominated, and more accepting.
         This example, along with the explanation of the underlying processes which cause it, are a clear cut example of how identity is not a rigid and defining aspect of a person and place, but rather a fluid definition which is defined by many different factors at any given time. Identity is not just defined through what a person wears, but how they act, as well as by their nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality, all of which are subject to change at different times and for different reasons. This distinction of identity as a fluid definition is important, as it allows for us to look at how we define others and whether that definition is correct, or if, like Houston, the identity has changed. It tells us as a world to always challenge our views on a person and place, as it may be that a person truly has changed.

Extra Credit:

Extra Article and Mormonism and Homosexuality:
"To bar a gay man or woman from communal acceptance and access to religious practice is hopelessly misguided." - Observer News

Homosexual Mormons wanted to have homosexual marriage and practice their faith but recently the Mormon Church has banned married homosexual members as well as their children from going to Mormon churches so the homosexual Mormons were forbidden from practicing their faith, then they decided to march on Mormon churches protesting the rule prohibiting married homosexuals from practicing the Mormon faith.

Extra Credit Video:

This is a perfect video showing how someone's identity can be both religious and homosexual despite perceived conflicts. It shows how someone can have a multi-faceted identity and how each part can interact with the other, for example the man in the video is both very religious, Mormon, as well as homosexual, meaning that he will not be able to marry another man and must live a celibate life.

Yugoslavia Activity

Group: Conner Lewis, Sean Costello, Hayden Kayyem
November 16, 2015
Ethnicity played a critical role in igniting the Yugoslav conflict (1991 - 1999). There were a lot of ethnicities that inhabited Yugoslavia, such as Serbians, Croatians, Bosnians, Slovenians, Macedonians, Italians, Hungarians, Albanians, Turks, and Roma. To make matters worse, many of these ethnicities were fiercely nationalist. As these ethnicities lived in close proximity under one government, there was bound to be conflict to due the misrepresentation of most groups. Previously, before the introduction of communism, the Yugoslav government was a relatively fair union between Slovenes, Serbs, and Croats, however after the introduction of Communism the Serbs took over the government and military entirely. This caused other ethnic groups to be misrepresented in the government and they were often oppressed by the Orthodox Serbian government as they lost their place in the nation’s government.. This caused the Croats and Slovenes to create their own military and both declared independence over the course of a year. This conflict is a result of these different ethnicities.
A map of the ethnic divisions in Yugoslavia

The second major cause of this conflict was the lack of religious unity between ethnicities and the entrenchment of religion. Serbia was Eastern Orthodox along with Montenegro and Macedonia, while Bosnia and Kosovo were Muslim, and Croatia and Slovenia were Roman Catholic. The religious unity within these autonomous regions were very high as well, from eighty to ninety percent of the inhabitants of these regions were the main religion, with the exception of Bosnia-Herzegovina. These divides only exacerbated already existing tensions as the Serbs attempted to ethnically cleanse Yugoslavia to preserve their identity, justifying it through their false religions among other things. Another factor contributing to the conflict was the lack of unity within Bosnia & Herzegovina, which had over 40 political parties and no predominant nationality. Its population was 40% Muslim, 33% Serbian and 19% Croat. This split in control caused friction as the Muslim population felt that they were not being represented as the Orthodox Serbs still held most of the public offices in the Bosnian branch of the Yugoslav government. As the conflict began, both the Croat and Serbian armies moved to take parts of Bosnia, which caused the Muslims to band together to defend their faith and land.
Even in the midst of the Cold War, the
actions of WWII were not forgotten.

Another reason for the conflict was the rivalries which had been created in previous years. Anti-Semitism was strong in Croatia and Slovakia during the 1930s and 1940s and the Nazis were welcome there. Croats sided with the Germans against the Serbs during the war. This left a deep divide between the two ethnicities, and with the destruction of equality between the three groups in the Yugoslavian government, many Croats and Slovenes feared they would be punished for their ancestors actions, and many Serbs believed that they should for siding with the fascists who had caused so much harm to them. This fear of being harmed for their ethnicities actions, however, was also felt by the Serbs. In Croatia, local Serbs believed that fascist Croats would repeat Second World War atrocities. This led Serbs in Croatia to desire freedom from Croatia, and to be safe under their own nation. As the Serbs began to take control of Yugoslavia, the Serbs in Croatia feared they would suffer the wrath of the Croats first should a conflict occur. This lead many Serbs to long for the creation of a greater Serbia, one which would include the enclaves of Serbs living in Herzegovina, Bosnia, and Croatia. This was just another part of the reason which drove the Serbian army to attempt to take much of the lands that were historically Croat and Bosnian, as they were driven by the idea that all Serbs must be united under a single nation, no matter where they lived in the region. In addition to this, the Yugoslavian army, ideally supposed to be composed of an equal union of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was dominated by Serbia. This greatly detracted from the other non-Serbian autonomous regions’ ability to organize defense forces and protect against Serbian advancements and encroachments.
Many refugees found themselves leaving war zones and entering another

Another major reason why the Croats and Serbs could not agree upon being governed in a certain style is that as the Serbs continued to favor the communist system, partly because it clearly favored their regime,  the Croats prefered a free market capitalist system akin to that found in the west. Part of this desire for change was driven by the fact that there were 600,000 war refugees in Yugoslavia, putting a massive strain on the Yugoslavian infrastructure and economy. The strain is partly what lead many Croats to desire a different economy, one which they believed would aid their economy in dealing with the refugees as well as the people. This caused a lot of strain as it was in the Serbs best interest to keep the current economic and political structure, despite how much it was struggling. These war refugees also experienced a lot of tension as they were seen as a part of the problem in Yugoslavia at the time, leading to more conflict. These refugees were seen as part of the major economic crisis which was occurring in Yugoslavia, which was one of the few major economic factors which contributed to the conflict. In 1990, the annual inflation rate in Yugoslavia was 2600%. Unemployment was in excess of 20%, the national debt was in excess of $23 billion, internal debt was over $14 billion and personal income had fallen by over 20% over the preceding ten years. This lead many groups of people to grow desperate, and was part of the reason that the Croats and Slovenes desired change so much, as they saw this economic crisis as an example of how communism had failed as a whole, and believed that a new government and economy could help solve this problem. It was also an example of how the Serbs had failed to the Croats, driving their desire for independence even farther than before. These were the major contributing factors to the Yugoslavian civil war, and as can be seen are for the most part ethnic and nationalist in nature.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize", "The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture", and "Chapter Two: Population"

Conner Lewis
October 13

Article:
"United by faith, family ties and a desire to succeed, members of this seldom-seen community continue that assimilation today." - Mountain Xpress


Many Eastern Europeans wanted to religious freedom in their countries but many of their government's would not allow it, so they moved to the United States, specifically Asheville, then they created an Eastern European subculture which is now having a lasting impact on the cultural landscape of Asheville.

Map:
In the south western provinces of Canada, primarily Alberta and Saskatchewan, there is one local culture which has managed to survive and thrive against the advances of popular culture. This culture is that of the Hutterites, an Anabaptist group which withstands popular culture by existing in rural and isolated communities, as well as using their more fundamentalist religious views to keep the old culture in place.

Essay:

Readings:

Human Geography: Chapter Four

The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize

The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture

Essay Question:  What do The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize, Human Geography: Chapter Four, and The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture have to say about how modern popular culture changes an existing community and why?

          To many living in America the affects of modern popular culture are so ingrained in everyday life that it is nearly unnoticeable, and how it has changed our way of living has been forgotten by many. Its affects on most communities in America and around the world, however, should not go unnoticed. Through the assimilation and destruction of local and folk cultures, and the attempt to homogenize the ever globalizing world, popular culture has caused rifts between genders, religions, ages and communities. Many still cling to the belief that popular culture is what brings large communities together, and that it is simply the product of cooperation and assimilation between cultures. This is not the case, however, as can be seen through its affects on a individuals and on a community as a whole. Human Geography: Chapter Four shows the methods by which popular culture spreads, as well as how it assimilates local cultures into the norm. The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize shows how the adoption of popular culture over local culture can tear apart communities as well as harm individuals on a personal and psychological level. Finally, the article The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture shows how modern pop culture can divide communities, and no longer serves the purpose by which many believe it does and should.
          While it is not new, the way by which popular culture spreads and absorbs new communities, ideas, and traits is one that is very important to understand in order to aid in both why popular culture spreads, and what its affects on the places it spreads to are. According to Human Geography: Chapter Four, popular culture spreads through several different methods, the main of which being cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is when one culture absorbs a trait from another and use them for their own benefit. This occurs very often in popular culture, when unique traits from local cultures are absorbed by the larger culture and become a part of the homogenized whole. While it may seem like this is a good thing, as it gives the larger group the ability to connect with the smaller local culture through this adopted aspect, in reality it harms the local culture as it degrades their sense of uniqueness and community. If this appropriation continues long enough, the local culture may lose its identity all together, as all of the cultures traits are adopted into the larger pop culture. This can be seen partially in the culture of inner city minorities through traits such as hip hop. commodification in this capitalist society. Commodification is when an object without any previous economic value begins to be bought, sold, and traded in the world market. While its effects are often disregarded by those who are a member of pop culture, it can actually be very harmful to a local culture's sense of identity. As traits of a culture begin to be commodified, and sometimes even the culture itself, that culture begins to become more and more stereotyped. This causes for the authenticity of a culture to come into question, and all of this can harm a culture's identity as a whole. This is due to the fact that as the traits of a culture are appropriated and commodified, they cause the local culture to be degraded as the community begins to see itself as a part of the popular culture rather than a tight knit group. The time-space compression that has occurred due to advances in modern communication technology have only exasperated this problem, as now ideas can be discovered, appropriated, and commodified in a matter of days through companies such as MTV. This causes local cultures to be assimilated and absorbed at a faster rate than ever before, and causes the people involved in a local culture to lose much of the psychological aid which all people truly require. Hip hop began as a way for the minorities to express their dissatisfaction with their lives and their situation, but quickly became absorbed into popular culture. After being absorbed, much of the unifying aspects that hip hop once held for the urban minorities were lost, as now there are many hip hop artists from many different backgrounds. Another reason why cultural appropriation is harmful is that it inevitably causes
          The Pressure to Modernize and Globalize perfectly shows how the absorption of a local culture and the adoption of popular culture through globalization and modernization can destroy both a community and a person's sense of self. This is part in due to what local culture does for a group, as well as what popular culture in its current states simply fails to do. Local culture provides a lot for a person psychologically. It gives a person a sense of self when addressing both into and out of their culture. When looking in, it allows a person to be themselves with the people they know as they are an instrument in defining their own local culture. When looking outward it gives a person the ability to identify and associate with a group of people with which they belong. It gives them a protective circle through which they can look out and both observe and endure the world. In popular culture this cannot be found. What is now called popular culture is so large, and so homogenized, that both of the aspects previously stated are lost. As popular culture aims to homogenize, no person can truly be very different, be truly unique, as to do so would be classified as strange and wrong. Unlike local culture,
no one person can define and change popular culture as they can in local cultures. While people like celebrities are often cited as the sources of popular culture, in this globalized world popular culture is simply too gargantuan to be defined by even that influential a group of individuals. In reality it is the purveyors of cool, the large multimedia corporations such as MTV that truly define what popular culture is and should be. This is what causes such a loss of self for people in popular culture, just as it can cause a sense of placelessness to a location, it can cause a sense of selflessness to a person due to the fact that in popular culture people should appear as the same as all their peers. Popular culture also does not satisfy the needs of a person when looking at the world as a whole. To many, this is exactly what they believe popular culture exists for. To make everyone the same so that they can connect with everyone around them. However, modern popular culture has spread to such a size that rather than feeling connected to those around you, a person simply feels disconnected in a sea of homogenized others. Rather than deeply connecting with a small group, people are becoming artificially connected to a large group of indistinguishable others who are defined by popular culture. This lack of a home base can cause stress and anxiety as a person feels alone in the world. This can be seen in what has occurred to the Ladakhi people, who as they began to lose their local culture, they have began to lose their sense of community as they no longer share the intimate bond with their peers that they once had. Without their sense of uniqueness and kinship, many find themselves more alone than ever as they attempt to fit in to the encroaching popular culture. This loss of kinship is also what leads to much of the intolerance found among groups previously coexisting very peacefully. As the Muslim and Buddhist Ladakhi people began to lose the Ladakhi parts of their identity, they began to rely more and more on other bonds which could tie them to a small group. For many, this was religion. This is why religion often finds itself coming to the forefront of internal strife so much, as people attempt to create a new identity through their shared faith, and this intensity as well as the loss of bonds with people of other faiths breeds contempt and intolerance. It is obviously not the entire reason but it does contribute. While popular culture should bring more people together, it does the opposite, and drives us apart.
          The article, The Rise and Fall of Pop Culture, shows exactly why popular culture no longer performs the function for which it was created. Rather than uniting many groups together under a single umbrella, it simply fractures each person from the world even more. This is directly due to the effects which globalization and the internet have had on popular culture. The internet allows for popular culture to grow very rapidly in every direction, from TV to music to games. This is due to the fact that it not only allows for the world to record all previously created forms of art and culture, but then also allows for the rapid communication and collaboration on the creation of new popular culture. Memes are a perfect example of this, as a meme can be found, created, spread, and
popularized in a matter of days or even hours. This has caused popular culture's size to explode, as more shows, movies, games, pictures, and ideas are made and spread than ever before. This explosion in size is the reason that modern popular culture no longer serves its purpose as a blender of peoples, as before one could understand and keep up with all popular culture had to offer, and thus be considered "culturally literate", allowing for them to freely converse with people of any class on the subjects of popular culture. This size explosion has made the understanding and absorbing of all popular culture impossible, and thus the concept of "complete cultural literacy" can no longer apply, as it simply is too gargantuan a task for one to truly perform. Due to this, the development of niches occurs. This development is the main issue that can be found in popular culture today. As niches form to satisfy an audience desiring particular forms of popular culture, there is a fracture in the unity of the popular culture itself. This is why a teenager from the Bronx would find it very difficult to have an offhand discussion with an elderly man from Buffalo, as instead of absorbing the same materials and being able to converse on it, these two people now absorb very different material developed for only their niche. This is why popular culture no longer succeeds in its goal to unite people, as it attempts to homogenize people through shared knowledge and taste, while creating art and material for only specific groups, which then divides them from the rest.
          All of this information leads to the same conclusion, the spread of popular culture no longer unites but rather divides a population more and more. When it spreads, it undermines the identity of a community, when it is adopted it undermines the identity of an individual, and now it again divides people along niches. What can be done about this is a very different question entirely, as the existence and use of the internet means that popular culture will continue to spread and grow, but what can be said is that our culture needs to find a way to provide for a person psychologically, because as of this moment popular culture does no good.

Extra Credit:

An interesting video on how the internet changes and evolves culture, and how cultures can form separate of the real world on the internet, and can act as a small subculture. It also touches on how influential the internet has been on pooling information and fueling social change and advancement.