Reflecting on Reflections

I had so much fun reading your final reflection papers. I suspect that makes me a hardcore nerd – but really, everyone was so thoughtful about the values of their field. You might be able to guess who wrote the following statements – but perhaps not all of them:

  • “Everything has a spatial location, and location matters.”
  • “Let the data speak for itself.”
  • Everything has communicative value and has rhetorical implications.”
  • “Very rarely is one given the opportunity to perform an analysis of a novel source, unused by any other individual in the field . . . studies done in the discipline revolve more around a unique lens one may adopt to analyze an ancient source.”
  • “Networking is of substantial importance when you are involved in professional research. It facilitates innovative ideas and establishes connections that enhance the quality of research.”
  • “The type of academic institution in which one works motivates, to a large extent, affects the type of research one might conduct.”
  • “The main part of sociology that seems to be very different is the qualitative aspect of researching and interviewing people to actually hear the voices and opinions of others, instead of just collecting statistical data. “
  • “The first key to creating new information is passion.”

I enjoyed our conversations together, and I learned a lot. Thanks for being a great class. Here’s hoping you all have lots of passion in your futures.


Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development

When I told my dad that I am studying abroad this fall, his response was, “Why do you have to go abroad? Just to say that you went somewhere?” This is a typical conversation for current college students as explained by Michelle Obama who has been working to promote the value of studying abroad. In an interview with CCN, Obama said,

Getting parents on board when it comes to studying abroad is key. We all as parents want the best for our kids, but sometimes it’s a little hard to let them out of the nest. One of the things that we really need to do is to provide more information for parents so they have an understanding why study abroad is important. 

A report compiled by the American Institute for Foreign Study explains how students with study abroad experience have the following skills that are desired by employers. It is also a great experience to discuss during interviews!

  1. Creatively solve problems by applying familiar concepts to unfamiliar situations
  2. Contribute to an ethnically diverse team
  3. Be self-confident, yet able to listen and learn from people whose value systems are different
  4. Take personal risks and act independently
  5. Be flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing situations
  6. Have a basic command of the local language, and be able use it in practical situations
  7. Imagine, forecast, analyze or address business situations from a different cultural frame of reference

For those that find that a study abroad isn’t feasible, our generation is significantly different from my dad’s because we have grown up with the internet. This changes our perspective toward other cultures and the world, in general. We are able to see pictures and Google map street views for the majority of countries. We also can also listen to music, watch videos, and read newspapers that are produced in other countries.

Personally, I am fortunate to be studying abroad this in Toledo, Spain and I will be taking classes at La Fundación de José Ortega y Gasset through a University of Minnesota sponsored program. In addition to 3 classes for my Spanish major, I am taking cross-cultural business and a .25 credit career development course that should benefit me tremendously when I applying for jobs after I graduate. 

Barbara will likely delete the Facebook app on her phone

I just finished reading Wired’s article from yesterday Facebook Will Soon Detect What You’re Watching and Listening To that explains how Facebook will release an update, in the coming weeks, for their mobile platform. The new feature is an “audio fingerprinting tool” that will continuously listen to our environments while posting status updates in which it will automatically tag what music or videos we are playing in the background. 

For Hunter Walk, a YouTube executive turned venture capitalist, the feature is beneficial on many levels. It’s “good for social streams, good for targeting, good for community building around musicians.” 

While I am an avid user, I am becoming increasingly skeptical about privacy on Facebook as the level of self-disclosure that I see is absurd. The other day, I took some photos with my friends by the Gustavus sign and when I posted them on Facebook, it essentially tagged my friends for me. I don’t understand how this is ethical and I wouldn’t be surprised if the NSA has complete access to the facial recognition data.  

Moreover, it will be interesting to see what happens to Facebook and social-networking sites in the coming years. 

Why is music from the United States so popular in Spain?

For the final unit in my Spanish class, Faces of Spain, we studied and listened to a variety of Spanish music. Spain is famous for Flamenco which originated in Andalusia (Southern Spain) and is a unique cultural product. The traditional folk style persists while subgenres and fusion genres have emerged and some Spanish pop/rock artists utilize characteristics of traditional Flamenco in their new songs. You can find plenty of Flamenco videos on YouTube if you are interested. 

While Spain produces unique, culturally-rich music, it is clear that music from the United States is quite popular. For example, Spotify has a feature where you can see the top lists for many countries and you can see a surprising trend in which US music dominates the top 10 spots on the charts. As of today, 7 of the 10 top songs were produced in the US whereas the remaining 3 were produced in Spain or Latin America. And the top song is Bailando by Enrique Iglesias from his latest album, Sex and Love, which was produced in the US. 

As we know, the US is often identified as having a mosaic of cultures. This level of diversity has facilitated an immense variety of music that has been well received in foreign countries. According to the Telegraph, the US recorded $4.5 billion dollars in sales last year which was followed by $4.4 billion in Japan and $1.3 billion in the UK. It is interesting to think how further globalization will influence music not only in the US but in countries such as Spain. 

Go Figure: Finding value in relatively old articles

For both my neuroscience seminar (PSY-345) and our class, I wrote a research proposal regarding sex differences in circadian timing systems that are expected to have a tremendous impact on mammalian behavior, physiology, and disease. Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) are a fundamental model organism in studying circadian rhythms because they were used to determine that the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), in the brain, is the “master clock”. I proposed a study that would investigated the developmental effects on sex differences in SCN androgen (testosterone) receptors. Before I could proceed with my proposal, I had to confirm that AR receptors are even present in the SCN of Syrian hamsters. It was definitely a challenge to find a useful piece of literature. After a couple hours of agony, I came across an article titled, Distribution of androgen receptor-like immunoreactivity in the brains of intact and castrated male hamsters by Clancy et al., 1994 in the Brain Research Bulletin. Interestingly, they didn’t mention SCN in the the body of their paper but it was labeled on figure that shows the significant distribution of AR in their SCN. My own, unique interpretation of this figure strongly benefited my own research proposal that could have important applications. I believe this attests to the importance of performing comprehensive searches for literature and that basic research studies can become remarkably useful in the future. 

But First, Let Me Take A Selfie.

I have had conversations with friends recently about the influence that social media and technology has had on the language that we use in every day life. Words such as “hashtag,” “selfie,” and “tweep” were not even in my vocabulary a few years ago, and now all three and many others have been added to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. On Monday, Merriam-Webster announced that these new words have already popped up in the online edition and will also be added to the print version. Other technological terms that have recently been added include “crowdfunding,” “big data,” “gamification,” and “steampunk.” According to an article on CNET, Merriam-Webster has also added “catfish,” meaning a “person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”

I’m curious about the use of these words as social media evolves. Will teachers begin to add words like “selfie” to spelling tests in elementary schools? Will older generations start to feel more out of the loop? So many of these new words show the impact of online connectivity to our everyday lives. It’s already difficult at times to separate “social media identities” from “real life identities” and I’m curious about how far social media influence will go.