Why should I bother with social media?

Our social media savvy tweeters dominated at ASA and keep our blog lively with new posts weekly.  This article from ASA answers the question: Why bother with social media at all?

Bv0dL79IEAAsHmvBlogger Marc Smith’s Twitter Analysis Graph from the ASA annual conference.

Blogger Philip N. Cohen’s Family Inequality blog post on the twitter graph.

Why should I bother? (link to ASA article)

The shortest, simplest answer to the question “why should I bother?” is “You don’t have to.” Really, you don’t have to be on television if CNN calls. You don’t need a Twitter account. But, there are some reasons you might want to do these things.

Here are just a few.

Using social media can facilitate:

1. Establishing yourself as an expert

2. Conceptualizing and developing ideas

3. Developing a reputation for your thoughts, ideas and interactions

4. Building relationships

Media Sociology Blog – ASA pre-conference summary

UTAustinSOC party at ASA bringing together old friends and new

Brandon Andrew Robinson Writes for the HuffPost



Fourth year doctoral student, Brandon Andrew Robinson, writes for the HuffPost. Robinson’s piece is entitled, “Online Foreplay and Bringing Sexy Back.”

Excerpt from the piece:

Although the actual offline sexual encounters may not go according to the ways people discuss online, online foreplay can help lessen some of the fear or embarrassment of discussing sexuality, HIV, sexual practices and other aspects of one’s sex life. In a time of managing sexual risks, finding pleasurable and sexy approaches to discussing and experiencing one’s sexuality is important in order to counterbalance the now-common fear-driven approach to thinking and talking about sex.

To read the rest, follow this link: Online Foreplay and Bringing Sexy Back


#BlackTwitter/#BlackPolitics: the Lifeblood of a Community

black twitter

by Eric Enrique Borja

This post is based on a larger paper I wrote for AFR/LAS 381: Black Radical Traditions.


In a stirring introduction to the multi-disk collection Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs, 1960-1966, the scholar, musician, and activist Bernice Johnson Reagon wrote that the “struggle for freedom” revealed “culture to be not luxury, not leisure, not entertainment, but the lifeblood of a community.” It was, she added, “the first time that I know the power of song to be an instrument for the articulation of our community concerns.”

– Ruth Feldstein, “I Don’t Trust You Anymore”: Nina Simone, Culture, and Black Activism in the 1960s.

hashtags like #DangerousBlackKids #solidarityisforwhitewomen #girlslikeus and more prompt INTERNATIONAL convos about real issues.

– Tweet by Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh)

Over the past four years unprecedented large-scale movements have challenged states across the globe, and social media has been an important component in their development and articulation. With the advent of social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, people have the technological ability to instantaneously transcend space, time and resources (Aouraugh and Alexander 2011; Castells 2012; Earl and Kimport 2011; Eltantawy and Wiest 2011; Gerbaudo 2012; Hands 2011; Holmes 2012).

According to the World Bank, there are nearly 2.5 billion Internet users worldwide[i]. And according to Facebook’s Investor Relations site[ii] there are over a billion monthly active Facebook users. Furthermore, among African-Americans between the ages of 18-29 40% of them report using Twitter, which is much larger than the 28% of young whites who say they use it (Smith 2014).


The questions I explore in my research are: are we currently living in a historical moment where a new repertoire of contention is emerging? If so, how is social media changing the way we collectively contest for our interests? Therefore, my research focus has been political contention (Tilly 1986, 1995) – how “ordinary people[iii]” contend against the state for their collective interests. But it has been largely limited by how sociologists approach and define political contention. The course AFR/LAS 381: Black Radical Traditions with Dr. Minkah Makalani has expanded my understanding of political contention, reframing how I approach Tilly’s concept of a repertoire of contention.

Is Twitter the underground railroad of activism?

From Richard Iton’s (2008) book In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics & Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era to Shana L. Redmond’s (2014) book Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora, we see a reframing of what it means to collectively contend against the state. Where Iton (2008, 2013), Redmond (2014) and many other scholars (Cohen 2004; Feldstein 2005; Griffin 2013; Neptune 2007; Sweet 2011)  explore the cultural forms/protest tactics of music, literature, religion and dance, I argue the advent of social media in the 21st century has produced a new cultural form where Black politics is developed, expanded and rearticulated. I claim, in other words, that the cultural forms/protest tactics of music, literature, religion and dance constitute an old repertoire of contention, which is today being replaced by a new repertoire of contention that primarily utilizes social media, specifically hashtags (#). This is best illustrated by the social phenomenon popularly referred to as #BlackTwitter.


Adopting a similar understanding of the signifier “Black” that Redmond (2014) uses,  “Black” is “a way to call attention to the overlapping projects of diaspora and racial formation that actively seek recognition in mutual struggle” (Redmond 2014:5). With this understanding of the signifier “Black” we can better understand the political potency of #BlackTwitter. In other words, the signifier “#BlackTwitter” refers to those users who are within the diaspora, and who actively articulate their political claims through the use of # such as #DangerousBlackKids, #DonLemonLogic, #girlslikeus and #solidarityisforwhitewomen, to name a few. I claim #BlackTwitter, similar to the Black anthems analyzed by Redmond (2014),  “negotiate[s] and announce[s] the ambitions and claims of those whose very bodies [throw] into crisis the normativity of rules and liberties“ (Redmond 2014: 4).

The 21 Biggest #BlackTwitter Moments of 2013

The political potency of # for Black politics resides in the new space/time (Massey 2006) it creates. Which, in turn, fundamentally shifts the process of nation-ness (Anderson 2006) and marks a new phase in the mediazation of modern culture (Thompson 1991); two fundamental shifts comparable to the structural and cultural shifts that formed the modern repertoire of contention (Anderson 2006; Della Porta and Diani 1999; McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly 2001; Swidler 1986; Tarrow 1994; Tilly 1986, 1995; Young 2002).

Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind the unique historical position of Black people when working through Tilly’s concept of a repertoire of contention. Therefore, the new space/time created by the # also provides the place where Black culture and Black politics are rearticulated, forming a community that encompasses the Black diaspora.


So similar to Redmond’s Black anthems, # “constitute differently configured diasporic formations that link people to one another through and beyond race into communities organized by imaginations of freedom from and an end to hierarchies of difference,” (Redmond 2014: 14). The # used by #BlackTwitter are the spaces where such communities are created – where the nation can be rearticulated, subverted, and transcended.


Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. 2006. Imagined Communities. Brooklyn, NY: Verso.

Aouragh, Miriyam. 2011. The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the Internet Revolution. International Journal of Communication, 1344-1358.

Castells, Manuel. 2012. Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Cohen, Cathy J. 2004. “Deviance as Resistance: A New Research Agenda for the Study of Black Politics.” Du Bois Review, 1:1, 27-45.

Della Porta, Donatella and Mario Diani. 1999. Social Movements: An Introduction. Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishers.

Earl, Jennifer and Katrina Kimport. 2011. Digitally Enabled Social Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Eltantawy, Nahed and Julie B. Wiest. 2011. “Social Media in the Egyptian Revolution: Reconsidering Resource Mobilization.” International Journal of Communication, 1207-1224.

Feldstein, Ruth. 2005. “I Don’t Trust You Anymore’”: Nina Simone, Culture and Black Activism in the 1960s.” The Journal of American History, 1349-1379.

Gerbaudo, Paolo. 2012. Tweets and the Streets. London, UK: Pluto Press.

Griffin, Farah Jasmine. 2013. Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists & Progressive Politics During World War II. New York, NY: BasicCivitas Books.

Hands, Joss. 2011. @ is for Activism. London, UK: Pluto Press.

Holmes, Amy Austin. 2012. “There are Weeks When Decades Happen: Structure and Strategy in the Egyptian Revolution.” Mobilization: An International Journal 17:4, 391-410.

 Iton, Richard. 2008. In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics & Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univerisity Press

Iton, Richard. 2013. “Still Life.” Small Axe, 40, 22-39.

Massey, Doreen. [2005] 2006. For Space. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

McAdam, Doug, Sydney Tarrow and Charles Tilly. 2001. Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Neptune, Harvey R. 2007. “Book Review: Caliban and the Yankees: Trinidad and the United States Occupation.” Caribbean Studies, 37:1, 310-314.

Redmond, Shana L. 2014. Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora. New York, NY: The New York University Press.

Smith, Aaron. 2014. African Americans and Technology Use: A Demographic Portrait. Pew Research Internet Project.

Sweet, James H. 2011. Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

Swidler, Ann. 1986. “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies.” American Sociological Review, 51:2, 273-286.

Tarrow, Sydney. 1994. Power in Movement. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 

Thompson, John B. 1990. Ideology and Modern Culture: Critical Social Theory in the Era of Mass Communication. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Tilly, Charles. 1986. The Contentious French. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Tilly, Charles. [1995] 2005. Popular Contention in Great Britain 1758-1834. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Press

Young, Michael P. 2002. “Confessional Protest: The Religious Birth of U.S. National Social Movements.” American Sociological Review, 67:5, 660-688.

[iii] Tilly defines “ordinary people” as those who do not have access to the formal political mechanisms.

Esther Sullivan Writes for the London School of Economics American Politics and Policy Forum on Informal Homebuilding in Texas


Esther Sullivan discusses housing informality and self-help homebuilding in Texas in her recent post for the London School of Economics American Politics and Policy blog:

Owner self-building plays a crucial role in the production of affordable housing internationally and is widely recognized as a crucial source of housing production for the world’s poor. The concept of informal development has largely been relegated to settlements in developing countries despite its role in producing owner-occupied housing in the U.S. and in Europe, where self-provided housing accounts for over 50 percent of new housing production in countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Germany…

The little research on informal homebuilding in the U.S. focuses primarily on the ways cities restrict such housing development and regulate informal development out of metropolitan areas. While these studies hypothesize that urban housing restrictions channel poor and immigrant populations to other cities or to rural hinterlands, our research shows instead that residents maintain economic ties to central cities while settling in county lands surrounding city centers where lax regulatory climates accommodate self-built, low-cost, informal housing.

Informal housing remains largely unstudied in the regions outside the U.S.-Mexico border and the communities where this housing is developed have thus not benefited from the policy interventions … To better understand the self-help housing stock found in informally developed communities we analyzed housing processes and housing conditions in two such communities in Central Texas.

Read the entire piece in the LSE APP here: http://bit.ly/1qCKS7B

There you can find a link to the entire article:  “Informality on the urban periphery: Housing conditions and self-help strategies in Texas informal subdivisions” in Urban Studies.

Before You Know It: On LGBT Aging

Before You Know It Pic 2

by Kathy Hill

Before You Know It is an award-winning 2014 documentary film directed and produced by PJ Raval, an Austin local and assistant professor in the RTF Department at UT Austin. It premiered at the 2013 SXSW and showed at the Violet Crown Cinema this summer. In this film, Raval documents the lives of three gay seniors – their challenges, adventures, and their relationships.

Ty is an LGBT activist from Harlem, New York. Though he is in his 60’s, his passion for gay rights and hope for his own marriage is youthful. He is skeptical, but happily surprised when his advocacy for SAGE, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, is received well in the Harlem community. Ty is enthusiastic when gay marriage passes in New York. He is eager to serve as the best man for his best friend’s wedding, and he won’t stop asking his partner about their own potential marriage. Ty’s starry-eyed hope is confirmation that you’re never too old to dream of love and marriage.

Robert the “Mouth of the South” is a feisty bar owner in Galveston, TX. Robert’s Lafitte is a welcome stage for drag queens in Galveston and home to many of the LGBT community there. They hold Thanksgiving dinners and life commemorations of drag queens and friends who have passed on and “moved to California,” as Robert warmly puts it. Robert struggles to feel well as he deals with a lawsuit for which he might lose the bar, but his LGBT family keeps the spirit of the bar alive with the continuing of drag performances and festive gatherings.

Dennis is a soft-spoken and kind-hearted widower who lives in Niceville, FL. After his wife died, he began to explore his sexual identity and started dressing in women’s clothing under the name “Dee.” Dennis takes trips to Portland, Oregon where he lives in an LGBT retirement home and explores online dating, gay bars, and even goes on a gay cruise. At the age of 70, Dennis is not afraid to try something different and new. Dennis lives a solitary life in a small old house when he goes back to Niceville. One day, he comes back from Portland to find his house covered in mold. He walks away from the only home he’s ever owned, all of his material possessions and memories. For me, Dennis’s story was the most inspiring; he shows us that self-discovery happens can happened at any age.

Before You Know It Pic

“Before You Know It” is about aging, yet it will make you feel more alive as you watch and listen to each person’s story. Robert’s “Mahna mahna” drag performance made me laugh hysterically. Ty, always asking his partner about marriage, made me blush. And Dennis’s bravery, as zipped up his hot pink go-go boots and walked around the gay cruise ship alone, made me cringe with fear, and then, sigh with admiration. Each story is a reminder that hope for love, discovery of self, and passion for change can happen at any stage of life. “Before You Know It” shows the life as a learning process, specifically in the lives of three gay seniors, but also in a way that relates all people, old or young. We continue to learn more about ourselves and how we can connect with our social world, and that doesn’t stop when we get older.

PJ Raval is named one of the Out Magazine’s “Out 100 2010” and Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 new faces of independent film 2006.” His credits include “Trinidad” (Showtime) and The Christeene video collection (SXSW). Raval’s cinematography work includes Academy Award-nominated “Trouble The Water” and “Bounceback” (SWSX 2013).

Watch the trailer of “Before You Know It” and be sure to catch the film the next time you can: