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Tania Kilin
Immortal since Dec 21, 2008
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I'm not evil, I'm inconsistent
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    Has anyone noticed the avalanche of beauty and make-up products related blogs that's been drowning the world wide web? Not just blogging platforms, but youtube also, and some other social media websites.

    It simply baffles me.

    There are so many girls out there who spend their days buying make-up products, using them, and writing about their latest purchase. I've read a few blogs and some girls even mentioned spending all their money on make-up, or wasting hours doing some complicated, rainbow-like, "who-would-ever-wear-that" make-up, and for what? I mean, it's alright if you're a make-up artist, and that's your job, but these girls are not. They go to school, or they have a job, and in their spare time they just do make-up. What ever happened to reading a book, watching a movie, hanging out with friends? Is really a closet filled with lipsticks and eye shadows necessary? I mean, I only own three lipsticks, and I'm pretty sure I have enough. Some of these girls are really proud in showing off their impressive make-up collections, while admitting they could never use it all up in their short life-time. So why waste money on stuff you really don't need?

    Somehow, they remind me of mid eighteen century girls, who spent their time gardening, or mastering the art of embroidery, or decorating the house, while men got to do all the fun stuff and lived adventures. I'm sure that if they had shopping malls back then, girls would have traded gardening for make-up. I know, all those Jane Austen novels got to me.

    Is this in any way related to the whole "anything goes" postmodernist trend? I mean, it's alright for girls to just stay at home and do make-up all day long, because that's just the way they express themselves. I find this annoying, and if postmodernism is so keen on deconstructing everything, I'm sure it can be deconstructed as well.
    Sun, Jan 2, 2011  Permanent link

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    Ah, such a beautiful word.
    We've all felt it, some of us are feeling it right now but after all what's it to it?
    Me, I have a tendency of questioning everything, I demand reasons for all my actions, I try to explain events, feelings, relationships, and of course love. And you know what I've discovered? Statistics is the way to go when you're trying to investigate social phenomena. Though not the most interesting of them (yes, to me love is extremely social, not individual), love is definitely the one we could all relate to, so I've decided to write about that.
    A friend of mine once told me that he would never get married because he strongly believed his soul mate was somewhere out there in the world, but the chances of him meeting that person were extremely slim, giving the fact that there's over six and a half billion of us on the planet. Also, he would not settle for second best, so he figured he'd never get involved in a serious relationship.
    This is an example of irrational thinking.
    I'm a rational person. I use statistics. Chances are the person you're with right now IS your soul mate. And the chances are really high, like touching the ceiling high.

    Your soul mate is someone you have a lot in common with, you share a similar background, you understand each other (verbally, culturally) you use the same codes (whatever codes: language, clothes, music and so on), you have common interests, you have common goals, you have similar values - family values, work values, abstract values. This means you were raised in similar families, in (almost) identical cultural surroundings, having similar values means you may pursuit similar careers (thus your paths will cross in school, college, work place), you'll frequent similar places (having similar tastes): clubs, pubs, cinemas, fashion shows, restaurants, star trek conventions, and so on, therefore you almost certainly will meet him/her if you haven't already.

    Statistics show that people almost always marry within their peer group. This means you'll probably marry (if haven't already) someone with the same social status as you, same level of education, same loisir preferences and so on.

    Funny thing, we've escaped the burden of arranged marriages, families planning their kids love life, so we're free to chose whomever we wish, but the paradox is things haven't really changed. Highly educated people will still choose to marry a highly educated person, and not because a perceived pressure from family members, but because they simply fall in love. As I've mentioned before, we fall in love within our peer group, we fall in love with someone we have a lot in common with.
    Let's check out our trust worthy friend, wikipedia:
    A peer group is a social group consisting of people who are equal in such respects as age, education or social class. Peer groups are an informal primary group of people who share a similar or equal status and who are usually of roughly the same age, tended to travel around and interact within the social aggregate. Members of a particular peer group often have similar interests and backgrounds, bonded by the premise of sameness.


    So you see, there's nothing to worry about. Falling in love with someone from a totally different culture than yours will never happen, you'll simply not feel attracted to that person (some psychological mechanisms may be involved here, such as fear of the unknown and the appeal of the familiar but the idea is the same). Stuff like this only happens in movies, yes I'm looking at you, overly rated Avatar.

    The second paradox about love: we're free to marry our loved one but marriages last a lot less than they used to when they were arranged by parents. Divorce is becoming a lot more common, family is losing its place as the "primary cell" of the social world.
    Why?
    Well, precisely because we're free to marry whoever we want. The simple explanation: we value things that are hard to get, our mind tricks us into thinking that if it's hard to get, it must worth the effort, therefore we must cherish that "thing", make it last. Since we're all free to marry whoever we want, marriage is thus something easily obtained, it's not worthy of our appreciation, we've lost our motivation to make it last and to work things out with out partner. After all, if it doesn't work out, you'll just marry someone else.

    Back in the days things were different, divorce was not accepted so people had to work things out, make an effort to understand each other and respect the family. By working so hard to make things good, their minds started thinking "Well I must be in love with this person since I'm making such an effort to solve our problems". The result: people were actually a lot happier in their marriages than they are now. It's something called "rationalization", or "insufficient compensation".

    The complicated explanation: there was a shift from material values (which are pretty stable) to expressive ones (they're volatile). Meaning:
    1. I'm gonna marry this man because he has a lot of cash. As long as he has a lot of cash I'm gonna stay in this marriage and do my best to keep him happy (material values). The man will probably be rich till the end of his days.
    2. I'm gonna marry this man because I love him. As long as I love him I'm gonna stay in this marriage and do my best to keep him happy (expressive values). You could easily bump into your college crush tomorrow and realize he's the one you've loved all along, leave your husband, start a new life.

    Anyway, wow what a long post, I should probably get out more.

    Fri, Aug 13, 2010  Permanent link

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    This is just a little funny post, as a result of the fact that I'm sick and have to stay home. So I came across cleverbot and had a little fun with it. You should too if you're bored or just extremely lonely. Here's the conversation:

    User: Hi.

    Cleverbot: Hi.

    User: How are you today?

    Cleverbot: Awesome and you.

    User: I'm sick.

    Cleverbot: How are you sick.

    User: I have a fever and my head hurts.

    Cleverbot: Ok.

    User: It's not ok.

    Cleverbot: Why?

    User: Because I feel sick!

    Cleverbot: Uh.

    User: :(.

    Cleverbot: Aww.. Don't be sad.

    User: I have to write an essay.

    Cleverbot: Essay about what?

    User: About religion.

    Cleverbot: What religion?

    User: Christianity.

    Cleverbot: Ok.

    User: It's boring.

    Cleverbot: Change the world.

    User: I plan to change it.

    It kinda gets you wondering about artificial intelligence and the human/machine relationship, doesn't it?
    Thu, May 13, 2010  Permanent link

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    My first thought was to write an entry about fashion. However, thoughts seem to be in a continuous flow, and I somehow ended up pondering over toilets as the "backstage" of the social world, the place that is governed by informal behavior and a space where the private body is released from all the pressure of performing for an audience. So I'll start from here and see if maybe I can shift the whole thing to fashion, capitalism, and my favorite - the social structure that infuses everyday life.

    Bathrooms I believe are coded spaces and through interpretation we can see them as reflecting ways of life and different cultural patterns (Slavoj Zizek is quite good at explaining the differences between the french toilet and the german one). The bathroom may as well be the best place for studying the everyday life and fathoming its inner meanings. Here is where our private body is separated by the public one and there is no way the two can interact. We even have the whole hand washing ritual so that we make sure the moment of transition from private to public is made clear. I know I'm in the realm of symbolic interactionism here but I'll definitely get to structuralism soon.

    The interesting thing about toilets is that their design and even size is closely related to the image the female body has in different societies. For example, the Talmud writings mention that the bathroom is a place that should be hidden, a dark and mysterious spot in the household. In the same Talmud we find that a "woman's glory is on the inside". Let's take a look at our capitalist society: the female body is most certainly not hidden, it actually plays an important part in marketing campaigns, it is a symbol of consumption. The bathroom, as a backstage of the social world, is the place where women construct their bodies and their image. The way women build self-perception is through images promoted by marketers. The bathroom has become bigger, full of light, maybe a few plants were added, candles, big mirrors, it now has all the elements to assure women can adjust their bodies to images our society promotes.

    The argument I'm trying to make here is that discipline is no longer something attached to the public sphere, but rather something internalized, since society has come to control even the way we build self-perception.

    We think of women from Islamic societies as having a cruel faith. Well that may be true, but to them, public and private are something completely different, and while the public sphere is a place dominated by rules of conduct, strict morals, and a seemingly absurd dress-code, the private sphere is by contrast a place where they let their imagination run loose by wearing colorful dresses and beautiful jewelry. It is said that ladies here never wear the same dress twice. In a capitalist society, are we ever truly alone? Our perception of what's right and wrong has been altered in such matter, that wearing eccentric outfits seems an outrage, even if such behavior is limited to the private sphere.

    The administration of the city I live in right now, seems to be obsessed with open spaces. Architects plan to open up all interior gardens (and there's hundreds of them), claiming it would make getting from one place to another much easier. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this, was the name Le Corbusier. Large boulevards, open spaces, and streets that intersect in right angles, all these were not designed by Le Corbusier to make Paris prettier, the idea was to make its population easier to control. I participated in a debate with some architects and few representatives of the city council, and when I brought up this problem, their answer was: "Miss, this is not a communist country, we don't fear public places here". Let's be serious, large boulevards, opening up all closed yards, straightening curved streets, it's all about marketing, making stores more visible and making profit, so it's in the end another form of control. Eventually, some city council representatives admitted that few of the gardens that will be opened to the public, will host coffee shops and small stores.

    I'm not trying to say that capitalism is wrong, or that making profit is in essence a bad thing, because I really don't believe that. What I'm trying to do is question the world I live in, and not simply assume everything is right just because somebody tells me so. I believe that if we all start asking ourselves questions and stop doing things because of pressure or perceived demands from others, we could make this world a better one.
    Wed, Dec 2, 2009  Permanent link

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    There's a lot going on lately, and I've been meaning to write something about the structural direction in anthropology, but I couldn't find the time.

    Also, I'm working with some architects on a project, it's called "experimental pavilion". We're trying to build some sort of housing, for a summer school, and since it's supposed to accommodate people of both genders (I know they're more than 2, but I don't want to get into that right now), they need the sociological perspective. I'm not sure how this will turn out, as I think I am biased towards the marxist paradigm. This means that to me, the social world is characterized by conflicts. This conflict may not be explicit (although in this case, the gender conflict is often explicit), but it is however present, and sometimes the ones holding the power use symbols to subdue the others, making them submissive without actually realizing that they're being controlled. I am right now writing a paper on women underwear, and what sort of meaning do we attach to this symbol, because we all agree that it is a symbol, and a very powerful one. In my theory it's making women submissive.

    The idea of structure in social sciences began I believe in the study of language. Can you feel something that you can't express in words? Can you think something that you can't find words for? How limited are we? Foucault pushed this forward, and he wrote what is in my opinion, one of the greatest books in history, "Surveiller et Punir". He showed how the increasing need for discipline and order led to a certain type of urban architecture, one resembling a lot the panopticon. The panopticon is a circular building, holding an observation tower in the middle and Jeremy Bentham suggested this would make the perfect prison. The idea that you're being watched at every moment, but without being able to see the person watching you was meant to discipline prisoners, and develop self-control. By the end of the book, Foucault shows how the same principle was used in urban landscaping, and how power has penetrated every aspect of our existence, inducing order, discipline, self-control and most of all, creating an invisible prison holding us all under its watchful eye.

    Thu, Oct 15, 2009  Permanent link

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    Although it focuses on individual action (so it kinda opposes to my structuralist views of the social world), I find Goffman's interpretation of the human action quite interesting. Those of you who have read Erving Goffman know exactly how "catchy" his sociology is, and those of you who haven't...well I can tell you this: you don't have to be passionate about sociology to enjoy reading his books. Basically what he says is this: the social world is one big stage and we're all actors, we play a role, we fake it. Yes...we fake it, I know those are not his exact words but that's what he is trying to say. He makes a very clear separation between the person we truly are inside, the intimate self, and the person who puts on a show once entering the social "stage".

    So, life is nothing but one big show, and we perform a double role: we're actors but at the same time we are other actors' audience and we choose (see...here comes the freedom part I don't agree with) which character we want to play. When we're surrounded by people, we start to perform, we either play the role of a student, or a lover, a friend, a daughter...we are always concerned about what others see, and in the role we play we try to manipulate their perception of what's really going on (mostly through language) as we anticipate their actions - symbolic interactionism. I think what he is trying to say is that by playing a certain role, we try to impose to other actors our own definition of how the social interaction should take place, that is why we "invent" our roles as we move along in the play.

    Well...what can I say, it's certainly an interesting way of looking at the world around you and I partly agree with him, even if the metaphor is not new (Shakespeare said that life is a stage or something like that). I do agree that we indeed play roles, and some of them are really predictable, but I don't think we choose what role to play, rather the role chooses us. Anyway, one thing I really like in " The presentation of self in everyday life" is when Goffman is trying to identify a few techniques actors use to make their role seem more authentic. One of those techniques is mystification, that is when an actor keeps the distance from his audience, and avoids social contacts on purpose. This way, the audience (that's to say, other actors) see him as unreachable and surround him in a certain aura of mystery...and sometimes the one secret behind all the mystery is that there is no secret.
    Sat, May 30, 2009  Permanent link

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    What does the Rational Choice Theory tell us? Well, basically its assumptions are that human action lies at the heart of society, and that individuals, as social actors, are the ones who can choose to act. This immediately raises the question of social level outcomes, one that could only be explained by a theory on how human actions interact in such manner that they produce consequences at a higher scale - such theory does not yet exist.

    Structuralists see individuals as being shaped by the collectivity they live in, they internalize norms (standards and rules that are exterior, they exist prior to a person's birth) in such a way that they turn into values which then constitute motivation for a certain behavior.

    So far the two are not incompatible, individuals as "programmed ones" are still the ones capable of human action which "drives things along". However another one of rational choice theorists' assumptions is that of optimality, which says that choices are made aiming to reach the highest amount of benefits while lowering the costs (basic economy concept). What does that imply? Obviously it implies that humans are able to take into consideration all possible actions given a certain situation, they can predict the outcomes of those actions and then choose the action with the most suitable outcome according to their interests. Well for start, humans do not posses enough information for them to imagine all options in a given context, nor they can predict the consequences of their own actions (yes, I do think that is possible but only in theory). The argument that we are free to choose in the limits of the information we have access to does not stand from my point of view, because it so happens that the information that is accessible to us implies one outcome, and one only, it is structured in such a way that we cannot go beyond the limits of that one single possible choice. As one of my friends told me a few years ago, can you imagine a person who would have indeed access to all information about the past, which would then make that person able to predict the future, for such a person time would have no relevance, future past and present would collide and that person would be truly free.

    On a more general level of analysis, I am quite fond of Marx's way of seeing things. He believes there is possible to discover a law of human evolution by just looking at our history. Although I don't necessarily agree with his predictions, I do believe such law exists and I base my belief on simplicity: the simple fact that one thing leads to another.
    Wed, May 20, 2009  Permanent link

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    So I guess this would be it. I've had this account for over 3 months now, but I just haven't posted anything so far. I did however enjoy browsing other people's entries, like the Michel Foucault/Noam Chomsky debate, reading comments, and somehow they made me feel like everything interesting has already been said. Anyway, since today I have to finish a huge project for school, I've decided it would be the perfect time to start creating some legacy here.
    I would just like to start by saying a few words about myself, although I realize I can't give you full access to my cultural background just in several lines I'm writing now. I can however try. I study Sociology (actually I'm majoring in Human Resources Management but that was another one of the choices I later came to regret). I'm currently fascinated by Karl Marx, well not necessarily what he writes, but how he writes, his research method, and his opinion on how scientific truth can be reached. I am extremely deterministic, I entirely support using statistics in social sciences as I'm convinced that in theory we could be able to determine someone's behavior if only we had access to information regarding his previous actions, and to past events in his life which I think entirely shape who he is right now. I've often been criticized for my beliefs, but to me free will is just something invented, a concept that does not have any correspondent in reality (at least in the manner it has been defined by philosophers), and it was created simply because society needed it. How else would we be able to punish certain actions or take credit for any accomplishments, if there would be no responsibility? Marx says that material conditions are the ones shaping one's beliefs and I tend to agree. I believe in freedom, but not as something idealistic, I believe we have to be free to let the world create us and that means act accordingly to what we believe in, because those beliefs are a reflection of our past and of the social context we live in. I've discovered the same holistic perception of the world in Emile Durkheim, and to me that was great, I suddenly felt less alone.
    I think I'll end my brief introduction here, I just needed to make a few things clear and let you know ( well, if anyone's reading ) where I stand, as I think probably all my posts will evolve around the idea of free will, and explaining human behavior in a certain way that's compatible with determinism, but also I'll be trying to argument that we need "free will" and "freedom" but maybe work a little bit on what exactly those concepts stand for. Also, my English is not so bright, I think I'm better at French but c'est la vie.
    {image 1}
    Tue, May 19, 2009  Permanent link

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