ISA Publications in Digital Worlds




To know more about the ISA Social Justice and Democratization Space and ISA e-publications, you are welcome to join the XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology session on “ISA Publications in Digital Worlds”.  The session is organized by Kelvin Low (National University of Singapore). Brigitte Aulenbacher (Johannes Kepler University, Austria) and Johanna Grubner (Johannes Kepler Universitat Linz, Austria) will join the panel.

Date                 :           July 17, 2018 (Tuesday)

Time                :           19:30 – 20:50

Location          :           John Bassett Theatre (102) (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)

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XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology



“Power, Violence and Justice: Reflections, Responses and Responsibilities”

Toronto, Canada, July 15-21, 2018

For more information, please visit the ISA World Congress of Sociology homepage (


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When Does a Moment Turn Into a ‘Movement’?


Five or six decades ago, a big crowd meant something big. When 250,000 people gathered for the 1963 March on Washington, or nearly a million showed up for the 1982 anti-nukes rally in Central Park, it symbolized a certain power and legitimacy, a collective coming-of-age. A major protest presented a huge organizational challenge, and pulling one off delivered a potent message: Here was a force to be reckoned with.

Today, the mass protest is often seen as a beginning, not an end — a moment of “bursting onto the scene, but only the first stage in a potentially long journey,” as the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci writes in her 2017 book, “Twitter and Tear Gas.” Getting people onto the streets remains difficult and time-consuming, but in the era of social media, it’s far easier than it once was. Now the real challenge comes after the grand event: Will the passion of the crowd translate into a “movement” capable of being sustained over the long term?

That’s the question being asked of the many and varied protest efforts that have sprung up in recent months. “The Parkland Teens Started Something,” a Washington Post headline noted in mid-April. “How Can It Become a Social Movement?” The Hollywood Reporter asked the same about the campaign against sexual harassment in the entertainment industry — “What’s Next for Time’s Up: Making a Moment Into a Movement?” Even the most dramatic mass actions are often interpreted as mere shows of enthusiasm: Instead of settling doubts about a movement’s significance, they seem to pose the question of whether a movement — something disciplined, tactically savvy and in for the long haul — might someday come into being.

This has made it hard to judge the significance of any given demonstration, no matter the size or the energy of the crowd. In Arizona, the RedForEd teachers’ revolt, which won higher wages and increased school funding, has been declared both defunct (“RedForEd movement comes to an end, teachers not ‘thrilled’ ”) and also loaded with promise (“What will #RedForEd movement do next?”). It has also produced a cycle of rapid obsolescence. In July 2016, just two years after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo., some commentators were already asking: “Does Black Lives Matter still matter?”

The rise of “leaderless movements,” especially on the left, has only made impacts harder to predict and challenged more established institutions to keep up. After last year’s travel ban sparked airport protests and a flood of contributions, the American Civil Liberties Union began to flirt with a new identity. “Can the A.C.L.U. Remake Itself as a Mass Movement for Progressive Change?” The Nation asked recently, describing plans to “go beyond the courts — and into the streets” as a leading force against President Trump.

For most of modern history, constructing a major protest required months if not years of painstaking effort. During the 1960s, being part of “the movement” meant committing, heart and soul, to this sort of work, showing up wherever bodies might be needed. The label conveyed a sense of purpose, even an entire worldview: antiwar, pro-civil rights, power to the people. Today, joining or even making a movement is often pitched as a far more individualistic enterprise, available to anyone with the requisite outrage and promotional skills. “Leading Female Activists Tell You How to Start a Movement,” Cosmopolitan magazine recently instructed its readers, advising them to “post about your movement on your social-media feeds” while dutifully including a warning that “nobody can carry a movement by themselves.”

But even showing up in the street, in great numbers, does not necessarily earn much credit in the current environment. Making “your movement” has become easier; making it stick, gaining public respect and effecting concrete change, has arguably become harder than ever. If turning out thousands, or even millions, of outraged citizens merely indicates potential, how and when do we decide that a movement actually exists?

The early 19th century produced many varieties of collective action, from abolition to temperance to anti-Catholic crusades. But at the time, the words “social movement” meant just one of them: the effort to address “the social question,” an all-encompassing category that swept inequality, urbanization, the effects of mass immigration and all the burgeoning ills of industrial capitalism into a unified whole. This “social movement” had something to do with socialism, or at least with the idea that labor conditions and class relations would determine the social order. This idea never quite captured the full range of activity bubbling up during those years, but it did establish a vision of history as something full of motion and progress, in which “the people” would prod society out of its benighted state into a more enlightened future.


Since then, the basic idea of collective action and forward progress has taken such a dizzying variety of forms — liberal and conservative, grass-roots and top-down, “poor people’s movements” and “rich people’s movements” — that scholars have a hard time settling on a single meaning for what a social movement is and does. “The term has multiple definitions,” write the editors of the Encyclopedia of American Social Movements, “but perhaps the simplest one is the best: the coming together of large numbers of people to pursue a goal that they believe will improve society.” Movements are supposed to be different from other modes of citizen engagement, less beholden to elections and hierarchies, more fluid and open to transformative ideas. Often their goals are explicitly political, but the word is also used more casually these days, describing almost any group effort aimed at changing cultures, lifestyles or habits. There are craft-beer and slow-fashion and furniture-free movements. The ad firm Ogilvy & Mather champions the “wellness movement,” with “the new space it creates for brands and marketers,” while employers of all stripes proclaim their membership in the workplace “diversity movement.”

Even the most traditional social movements tend to change over time, further complicating the problem of definition. One commonly identified shift came in the 1960s, when “new social movements” began to experiment with street protest and consciousness-raising and nonviolent direct action in new ways. As initially understood by sociologists, these social movements came almost exclusively from the left. But the postwar era also proved to be fertile ground for movements on the right, ranging from the student activists of Young Americans for Freedom to “massive resistance” in the white South. Leaders of the self-identified “conservative movement” spent at least part of that decade policing their own borders and defining their ideological tenets, and by the 1980s, these “movement conservatives” were running the Republican Party.

On the right, many activists focused their energies on transforming or taking over existing institutions, including national parties and local school boards. On the left, movements sometimes rejected such institutional goals, pushing for sweeping changes in hearts and minds, perhaps with legislation or court decisions to follow. In his 2011 book, “American Dreamers,” the historian Michael Kazin identifies a persistent historical divide in outcomes as well, arguing that the left has been far better at “helping to transform the moral culture” than at presenting “a serious challenge to those who held power in either the government or the economy.” This distinction has basically held true for more recent movements. In the wake of the financial crisis, the Tea Party took control of a large share of the Republican Party, while Occupy Wall Street proved most effective at promoting a popular language to criticize the “1 percent.”

One thing they have in common, though, is that each came and went relatively quickly. Less than a decade from their origins, the Tea Party and Occupy already seem like anachronisms. Micah White, one of Occupy’s founders, argues in his 2016 book, “The End of Protest,” that today’s movements need a thorough reinvention if they hope to withstand the slings and arrows of opposition over the long term. From another perspective, though, the rapid turnover of today’s movements may actually be a sign of their success. “Occupy begat We Are the 99% begat Fast Food Forward begat $15 Now begat the Bernie Sanders campaign,” wrote Eric Liu in last year’s “You’re More Powerful Than You Think” — while the Tea Party “harnessed a radical anti-establishment spirit that seized and then consumed the Republican Party, fueled Donald Trump’s election, unleashed a new populism and created a ‘none-of-the-above’ opening for libertarians.” In this vision, we’re already living in a golden age of citizen activism, when even high school students have the tools to organize a nationwide protest in five weeks flat.

Whether that protest, or any other, will finally be deemed a “movement” no doubt depends on what it ultimately accomplishes. One open secret of social activism is that nobody can ever really predict when, where, how or why any given issue will change from a lost cause to a cause célèbre. As my Yale colleague and gay rights pioneer Evan Wolfson often reminds students, ambitious goals have usually seemed “impossible” until they were achieved, at which point they suddenly became “inevitable,” a matter of simple justice and common sense. The movement is what happens in between.


Beverly Gage is a professor of American political history at Yale. She is the author of “The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in Its First Age of Terror” and is currently writing a biography of the former F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover.


By            :               Beverly Gage

Date         :               May 15, 2018

Source     :               The New York Times

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Forget Kindness. Schools Need to Foster Social Justice


We know kindness when we see it: someone performs a generous deed, listens with a sympathetic ear, offers a heartfelt compliment to a friend, family member or even a stranger. We see kindness promoted visibly through public awareness campaigns like Random Acts of Kindness, The Great Kindness Challenge and Choose Kind, linked to the popular children’s book Wonder.

Conversations about kindness abound in schools and can be part of character education instruction and social and emotional learning skill development. The acts of kindness that take place in schools (e.g., holding the water fountain for someone, reading a book to a younger student, bringing a treat to someone, asking the teacher if they need help) are regularly encouraged, affirmed and applauded. Many parents feel it is their obligation to instill this trait in their children from a young age. Indeed, kindness is something our whole society can get behind–it is a worthy aspiration to raise children who are helpful, generous and caring.

Sometimes in schools and in society at large, kindness and social action get conflated. They are not the same. It is important to make the distinction because many schools hope to engage young people in social action work, yet mistakenly focus on kindness because they think it will lead to social justice outcomes.

Kindness, defined as being “of a sympathetic or helpful nature,” usually involves an action between one person and another. It’s typically a solo act. Social action, defined as “activity on the part of an interested group directed toward some particular institutional change,” generally involves a group of people who work together to bring about institutional change so that society advances and people experience improved safety, freedom and equity. Institutional or systemic change can take place in a school, a community or society as a whole.

The aftermath of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS provides a useful example of the difference between kindness and social action. The acts of kindness directed toward the survivors, victims and their families included notes of sympathy and concern, kind quotes, tree planting, coupons for free items and more. As this was taking place, the world watched as Parkland students engaged in social action and activism in order to address the root of the gun violence problem and to enact systemic change.

These actions included walkouts and protests; meetings with lobbyists and members of Congress; petitions, op-eds and letter writing; and deep engagement on social media and with the press and various media outlets. Further, they sparked activism in others, which shows how social action can be contagious and that the affected parties are not the only ones who should get involved.

While kindness can set a foundation for social action because it fosters empathy in young people and motivates them to help others, the two are not the same and action does not happen on its own. If we want young people to understand how to engage in changing systems and society, it is critical that adults encourage them to do so by providing opportunities to practice while imparting the necessary skills and knowledge. The first step is to facilitate students’ learning about the issues in a rigorous and complex way, and then to get them involved in action, advocacy and/or activism.

For example, if students are passionate about the problem of homelessness, the tendency might be to have young people volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen or read aloud to children who are homeless. These are wonderful activities that will promote empathy and a sense of connection on a human level. But if we want children to consider how to transform the problem of homelessness, we need to help them understand the economic and social roots of the problem and consider ways to advocate for affordable housing and improved economic conditions for all people, especially those living in poverty.

Similarly, if students want to tackle the issue of educational equity, they can’t stop at a helpful activity such as tutoring children. That will definitely help some individual children but in order to effect systemic change, students need to analyze and challenge the opportunity/achievement gap, school funding inequities and the school-to-prison pipeline (to name a few). After that, they can consider ways to address those issues through policy and legislation, leading to local and national solutions.

We should teach, model and promote kindness as much and as often as we can. But we also need to teach and empower young people to engage in social action: that is the only way we can ultimately change societal inequities and bring about a truly just society.


By            :               Peter DeWitt

Date         :               June 3, 3018

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How To Democratize Healthcare: AI Gives Everyone The Very Best Doctor


The greatest problem of health care in United States — the world leader in health inequality – isn’t actually about the quality of care. The greatest problem we have is access to care. According to the CDC, nearly 20% of adults in the United States have no regular source of healthcare. One of the places this is most stark is in lifespan – where the wealthiest Americans have benefits from steady gains, about five years of additional longevity from 2000-2014 – versus the poorest, for whom, during the same period, life expectancy hasn’t changed at all.

There are many factors that contribute to this growing divide in mortality, socioeconomic and medical – but one of the biggest is simply not enough physicians in the right places. The best doctors and providers are drawn to similar circumstances: top hospitals, with the top tier of colleagues, in the most desirable places to live, with patients that can pay for services. But soaring prices of medical care is also a critical part of the growing problem. The costs of treating chronic conditions like diabetes continues to grow with the aging population. The rising cost of doctors (already high, and rising at 7-10% per year), pharmaceuticals, and expensive medical technology lies squarely on what’s referred to as Eroom’s law, the evil twin of Moore’s law, where the cost of healthcare exponentially increases over time.

This leaves us with more needs, but fewer, more expensive providers. The pressing question today is: Can new technologies slow or even reverse the exponentially rising costs to help truly democratize healthcare? The wealthiest patients today benefit not only from being able to afford the top medical services – but also maybe even to fly somewhere to get the opinion of more than one of the top doctors in the world. Imagine we could all do this – if to diagnose any condition, every patient called in, say, a conference call of the top 50 specialists in their field, who all drew upon their unique experiences and knowledge to confer and reach a consensus on an accurate diagnoses and treatment for that patient – who they had been following for years and years. Pretty good medical care, right? And probably the current best possible treatment for that patient. Unfortunately there’s no way in which this kind of approach or scenario is cost feasible – or scalable.

Magnifying and speeding up the human skill of evidence gathering and analysis is exactly what Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning do best. They can bring 50 experts to bear for a single patient – by codifying the knowledge, taxonomy, and understanding of those experts. Machine learning is built on what the best doctors have learned, and now know: whether a suspicious looking mole is malignant or benign, whether an irregular heartbeat might be atrial fibrillation. Machine learning would be nothing without this essential human input; the technology trains on and scales the knowledge of the best doctors. And modern AI has the remarkable ability to keep learning, continuing to identify new features in the data which will give the most accurate diagnoses. This data is drawn not from a handful patients seen in an exam room but from thousands and thousands of examples – more than most specialists will ever see in a lifetime.

Now imagine that your doctor had the ability to follow your individual history over time, thinking not just about the heart flutter that brought you in, or the suspicious mole, but knowing your entire history with perfect memory and recall. This is what’s called longitudinal data: understanding what your health has been like over time, and what’s anomalous for you versus what’s anomalous for the broader population. Like the best doctors, AI can constantly be retrained with new data sets to improve its accuracy, just the way you learn something new from each patient, each case. But the unique ability of AI to apply time-series methods to understand a patient’s deviation from baseline on a granular level may allow us to achieve a statistical understanding of causality for the first time – figuring out exactlywhat elements of your particular lifestyle and/or treatment have led to your current state. In other words, while a good doctor might guess that a man might have prostate cancer because his PSA levels have risen above a “normal” threshold, a great doctor might suspect prostate cancer not because his PSA levels were high compared to the population, but high compared to his own baseline. In fact, this is precisely how doctors discovered Ben Stiller’s cancer so early. AI understands how you have changed over time more than any human could – and this, it turns out, is much more predictive.

AI’s broadest and most important application may be its amplification of our own collective crowd wisdom. When you look at it that way, it begins to seem absurd that we rely on the opinion of any single doctor (or two, or three!), looking at data from only one person, drawn from only one moment of time. No matter how superb that doctor might be, individuals can, and inevitably do, make mistakes. But the wisdom of a crowd of doctors – hundreds, thousands of them – and the data of thousands and thousands of patients, with more coming every day – is very strong. The opinion of two doctors will never match terabytes of data. This is how human learning is scaled, in just the same way that the internet enabled the spread of knowledge to go faster than reading printed books. Imagine if doctors could telepathically teach each other their new findings. For modern AI methods, this is exactly what is happening.

Perhaps the most important way AI’s capabilities are super human may be the fact that AI can be replicated. Trivially. And at low cost. AI approaches are already often driven with relatively modest computational requirements, sometimes with a single GPU or a few CPUs. Thanks to Moore’s law’s continued push in this space, the cost of compute resources will soon be essentially free. So those 50 person conference calls for a single patient, tracking the patient’s health over a lifetime, are now no longer looking impossible. They are beginning to look cheap, and easy. And with the potential to reach corners of the world rife with doctor shortages, from near and far – places like prisons, or rural areas in the US, or developing countries – not with just a doctor, but the very best doctor humanly possible.

But democratization of healthcare will not happen on its own. The standard of care would need to change to incorporate this new technology. Using AI should be seen as amplifying and scaling the best human skills – and as such has a natural place in virtually all areas of care, including prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, from sending patients to the doctor at very early (previously undetectable) stages of disease to improving both outcomes and decreasing costs.

Scaling the doctor won’t replace doctors. It will magnify them, extend their reach, making it possible to recreate the advice of 10,000 doctors quickly and easily at lower costs – and bringing the best medical care to any corner of our country or the world. It might even reinvent what we think of as patient-doctor interactions altogether. In the not so far off future, you might wake up, take a look in the mirror, use the toilet, and brush your teeth… where the mirror is AI enabled to look for dermatology, ophthalmology, and muscular-skelatory issues; the toilet will run a urinanalysis on analytes on your urine; and the toothbrush will gather DNA from saliva —  with clinicians getting updates as needed to give you the very best care. Making your own bathroom the doctor’s office for a mini physical every single morning would give a longitudinal analysis from months to years to decades of information about you and your deviation from your personal baseline. Imagine the benefits of the very best doctors assessing each of us daily, no matter how remote, how rural the area, around the globe, every day, for our entire lives. This has the potential to give each of us the very best standard of care derived from not just your own, but billions of people’s longitudinal data sets.

When it comes to AI and healthcare, it’s actually the status quo we should be afraid of. Without these new technological tools, inequality will certainly continue getting worse. With AI, we have the potential to give everyone the best doctor, the best tests, the best analysis, anywhere in the world and at low cost – the potential to truly democratize healthcare.


Vijay Pande is former director of the biophysics program at Stanford University and a general partner at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.


By            :               Vijay Pande

Date         :               May 23, 2018

Source     :               Forbes

Posted in Democratization & Social Movements, Health, Latest Post, Social Justice | Leave a comment
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