Social Science Bites

Welcome to the blog for the Social Science Bites podcast: a series of interviews with leading Social Scientists. Each episode explores an aspect of our social world. You can access all audio and the transcripts from each interview here. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @socialscibites to keep up to date on the latest activities.

Harvey Whitehouse on Rituals

One of the most salient aspects of what generally makes a ritual a ritual is that the action itself is divorced from real life or its real life roots – and that fascinates anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse. By his own admission, what intrigues the latest guest in the Social Science Bites podcast series is that ritual is “behavior that is ‘causally opaque.’

2 weeks ago
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Kayleigh Garthwaite on Foodbanks

“I think the debate about why people use the foodbanks has become really politicized to the point where apparently individual faults and failings are the reason why people are using them,” Kayleigh Garthwaite tells interviewer David Edmonds in this Social Science Bites podcast. To find out, she volunteered to work at a Trussell Trust foodbank in northern England’s city of Stockton, deploying ethnographic methods to learn from the workers and the food recipients.

2 months ago
316

Jonathan Portes on the Economics of Immigration

Britain’s former chief economist knows a thing or two about the impact of immigration on native Britons. In this Social Science Bites podcast, he reviews what data can tell us about the UK’s current heavy inflow — such as that new arrivals create both supply AND demand.

3 months ago
447
Sam Friedman

Sam Friedman on Class

“Education,” says sociologist Sam Friedman, “doesn’t wash away the effects of class background in terms of allocating opportunities. That’s quite profound – I believe there are a lot of people who believe quite strongly that these sorts of educational institutions can and do act as sort of meritocratic sorting houses.”

4 months ago
221
Monika Krause

Monika Krause on Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian aid organizations often find themselves torn by reasonable expectations – to address a pressing crisis and to show that what they are doing is actually helping. While these might not seem at odds, in practice, says sociologist Monika Krause, they often do. Krause, is the author of The Good Project, an award-winning book from 2014, and guest of this Social Science Bites podcast.

5 months ago
216

Erica Chenoweth on Nonviolent Resistance

You and a body of like-minded people want to reform a wretched regime, or perhaps just break away from it and create an independent state. Are you more likely to achieve your goals by a campaign of bombings, assassinations and riots, or by mass protests which are avowedly peaceful? Your first step should be to schedule a sit-down with Erica Chenoweth, who has been studying that question since 2006.

6 months ago
208

Gina Neff on Smart Devices

Gina Neff doesn’t approach smart devices as a Luddite or even that much of an alarmist; she bought first-generation Fitbit when they were brand new and virtually unknown (all of five years ago!). She approaches them as a sociologist, “looking at the practices of people who use digital devices to monitor, map and measure different aspects of their life.”

7 months ago
166

Les Back on Migrants

Reflecting on his new book Migrant City, Goldsmiths sociologist Les Back tells interviewer David Edmonds in this Social Science Bites podcast, co-author and co-researcher Shamser Sinha and Back learned their work was “not really just a migrants’ story; it’s the story of London but told through and eyes, ears and attentiveness of 30 adult migrants from all corners of the world.”

8 months ago
208

David Halpern on Nudging

In this Social Science Bites podcast, experimental psychologist David Halpern, the British Nudge Unit’s chief executive, offers interviewer David Edmonds a quick primer on nudging, examples of nudges that worked (and one that didn’t), how nudging differs between the UK and the United States, and the interface of applied nudging and academic behavioral science.

9 months ago
145
James Robinson

James Robinson on Why Nations Fail

Metrics on the average living standards from the best-off countries in the world (say, Norway) to the worst-off (such as the Central African Republic) vary by a factor of 40 to 50. So notes James Robinson

10 months ago
213
Nick Adams

Nick Adams on Textual Analysis

Fake news, whether truly phony or merely unpalatable, has become an inescapable trope for modern media consumers. But apart from its propagandist provenance, misinformation and disinformation in our media diets is a genuine threat. Sociologist Nick Adams, in this Social Science Bites podcast, offers hope that a tool he’s developed can improve the media literacy of the populace.

11 months ago
41
Andrew Leigh

Andrew Leigh on Randomistas

When Angus Deaton crafted the term ‘randomista’ to denigrate the rampant use of randomized controlled trials in development economics, Angus Leigh saw an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. In this Social Science Bites podcasts he explains how he turned randomista into a compliment and promotes the use of trials to improve social programs worldwide.

12 months ago
37
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