Music to My Ear(s)

The music and sound effects in this episode about secret or ‘real’ personalities  are used to enhance and direct emotions in the podcast. This broad aim can be broken down into three purposes: the music and SFX develops character; marks scenes/chronology in the narrative; and tells the audience when something is important, giving time for reflection.


For me, the spookiest part of this episode was the processed, robot-sounding woman’s voice which was used during Tanya Marquardt’s story to represent the little dream-girl. I understood that this was meant to create a distinction between adult- and child-Tanya, but it took the podcast from believable to sci-fi very quickly. However certain of the other sound effects helped to evoke the idea of Tanya’s daily life (such as her bathroom routine), which grounded her in the real world and made her feel relatable – or at least accessible – to the audience. However this instance of SFX also counts as setting the scene or establishing chronology, which shows how great the overlap between these uses of music and sound is. Similarly, it barely counts as character-building because locusts aren’t really characters, but the swarming sounds in the first story were ominous and created an idea of malevolent intention in the locusts.


Given that two of the three stories don’t follow a strict chronology – the locust story jumps between news footage, Biblical references, and scientific discussion, while Tanya’s flip-flops between adult- and childhood – in these episodes music helps to establish and maintain the point of the narrative while the characters describe situations or experiences; the music elongates the plot so the audience can get all the information. The SFX also underscore climactic moments, particularly in Chad Murphy’s story when he commits to exposing his double life.


Occasionally music was used for misdirection and humour, such as the X-Files clip which was played when starting to discuss Tanya’s mission to learn about ‘X’, the mysterious little girl. However for the most part, where music interspersed the discussion, it worked by allowing a pause for the previous idea to sink in while – as Abel puts it – ‘keeping the moment alive’. I found that the stories in this podcast were so wide ranging that it particularly helped to have brief soundbites then music, as I could more easily follow the episode’s theme. It was also interesting to think about the choice of reflective music. Ira Glass describes This American Life‘s song-breaks as ‘yearning’ in tone, to encourage the audience to think about their own ideas; but I felt that this podcast chose music which exerted a stronger control over the direction of the audience’s thoughts, by being more overtly emotive.

The Social Medium; Parents vs. Tattoos; It’s Not the FBI in Your Webcam

After some caffeine-fuelled brainstorming, I have come up with three potential ideas for inquiry-based podcasts.

My criteria for these were topics about which I am passionate, interested, and invested, but also topics which are relevant to many other people. Given the behemoth presence of the Internet in our lives today, two of these ideas are about living in a digital age. The other: the always-relatable theme of ‘I’m old enough to make my own decisions, Mom!’ I have outlined my ideas below using Abel’s focus sentences and Blumberg’s formula.

  1. The Social Medium: Generation Z interacts almost entirely through digital platforms because they have not known life before the Internet, but this is affecting communication and interpersonal development in ways we don’t fully understand.
    I’m doing a story about the relationship between Gen Z and the internet. And what’s interesting about it is that everyone not in this generation a) doesn’t understand but b) has a stake in understanding because Gen Z is the future.
  2. Parents vs. Tattoos: Parents often place stricts and apparently arbitary rules on their offspring because they don’t trust their kids, but they can’t accept that children grow up and live by their own rules.
    I’m doing a story about parents who make assertions like ‘if you get a tattoo you’re changing your last name/you’re not coming back in the house’. And what’s interesting is that these parents are clinging to their own worldviews and refusing to let their kids grow up or the world move on.
  3. It’s Not the FBI in Your Webcam: There’s a meme online about the FBI watching through your webcam because most internet users are aware that their data is monitored, but people don’t realise that  it’s companies like Facebook and Google who a) are the ones collecting information and b) store it in mind-boggling amounts.
    I’m doing a story about finding out how much data big companies have stored on you, and what that data is, when it dates from, etc. And what’s interesting is that everyone uses the internet and has this info about them stored; and the detail of this data tells so much about people and has so many potentially harmful uses.

What’s the ‘story’? – It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older

This American Life‘s podcast ‘It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older’ is an interesting one because, in a way, it has four stories hidden in its main story.

Jessica Abel’s method for working out if a story is worth telling is to apply several questions. First, what is it about? Second, can you create a focus sentence for the story? If you can’t summarise it excitingly, and if you can’t make a compelling focus sentence, chances are your story is not interesting enough to tell.

The focus sentence Abel uses is as follows:

Someone does something because X, but X.

‘It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older’ not only has an engaging premise – discussing things that didn’t, and still don’t, make sense to people of a variety of ages – but the acts through which it tells this story are equally interesting, as the focus-sentence formula shows.

  1. A high-school freshman has a horrible experience because his party is crashed by seniors, but now he’s a senior he crashes parties.
  2. The mother of Sasheer Zamata attended an integrated school because her mother wanted her to be part of the civil rights movement, but she strongly disliked it and resents her mother for forcing her into that situation.
  3. Chana Joffe-Walt interviews Ira Glass because she is worried about having regrets in 20 years, but he cannot answer her questions.
  4. A man is losing the ability to complete basic tasks, because he has dementia, but he is trying to re-learn by working out why it is so difficult.

Alex Blumberg has a similar formula:

I’m doing a story about X. And what’s interesting about it is Y.

This can also be applied to the acts within the podcast, and shows that the interesting elements can be isolated and rearranged based on how you want to tell the story. By using these methods, you can work out where the conflict or most interesting part of your story is:

  1. I’m doing a story about a high-school senior who crashes freshman parties. And what’s interesting about it is that when he was a freshman, his party was attacked by seniors.

However, to be sure your idea is worthwhile, it’s not enough for the sub-stories to be interesting: Your main concept must also be exciting. Fortunately, ‘It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older’ manages to do this. A sentence summary based on Alex Blumberg’s formula might read:

‘I’m doing a story about things that only make sense when you’re older. And what’s interesting about it is that there are new things, at every age, that don’t make sense.’

Soren Wheeler takes this one step further, outlining not only the story content and why it is interesting, but the reason why it is specifically relatable to the audience.

X happened, then this, then this, and then you wouldn’t @#!£ing believe it but X. And the reason that is interesting to every single person walking on the face of the Earth is X.

So for ‘It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older’, this would go…

[Story 1] happened, then [story 2], then [story 3], and then you wouldn’t @#!£ing believe it but [story 4]. And the reason that is interesting to every single person walking on the face of the Earth is that everybody ages, and everybody encounters problems that don’t make sense until later in life – and this cycle of not knowing and aging and learning never ends.

What is more, everybody remembers a time of teenage inexperience like story 1, or a time when they didn’t understand their parents like story 2. Everybody has concerns about the future, like story 3, and the events described in story 4 are what await many people in their latter days.

As such this podcast has a story which can connect to many people in many different ways. Finding focus sentences or applying methods like Blumberg and Wheeler’s can show you where the most interesting parts of your story lie, and help you capitalise on those.

Inquiry-Based Podcasts

According to Out on the Wire, inquiry-based podcasts tend to have a pretty straightforward structure: as didactic stories and discussions lasting from twenty to fifty minutes, they normally move from an introduction explaining the episode’s question, to several stories exploring that question from different angles, to a conclusion which answers the question (or explains why it can’t be answered). This clear flow provides information engagingly, establishes characters and narratives, and keeps the audience hooked.

To see how closely and how effectively some podcasts used this structure, I listened to ‘It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older’ and ‘Star-Crossed Love’ from This American Life, and ‘The Secret World of Girls’ from The Kitchen Sisters.

3. Star-Crossed Love – This American Life

Of the three podcasts, ‘Star-Crossed Love’ placed the greatest focus on stories at the expense of inquiry and discussion, and as a result was the least interesting. Although it followed the premise set out in Out on the Wire – an introduction, a clear topic (why does ‘doomed’ love seem more intense and romantic? Is it?) and different stories, it did not strike the right balance between anecdote and reflection.

Included, for instance, were several short examples told second-hand about women unlucky in love: they had written in to a columnist, who then spoke to Ira Glass. Because the people concerned were not discussing their experiences directly, and because of how brief these stories were, they lacked both emotive power and a concluding ‘lesson’.

Although there were longer anecdotes in the episode, some surreal and funny, and some (like that of a romance during the Iraq War) sad, I did not feel particularly invested by the episode’s end, because it did not draw all the narratives together to comment or otherwise answer the question as to whether, and if so, why star-crossed love is more romantic.

2. The Secret World of Girls – The Kitchen Sisters featuring Tina Fey

Perhaps because the topic is more relatable and so more interesting to me, I enjoyed ‘The Secret World of Girls’ much more. It was also novel and a bit exciting to have Tina Fey hosting the podcast. As well as introducing the episode’s topic – what’s it like to be a girl? – Fey described her own childhood. This act of humanising a celebrity immediately made the podcast feel more personal. Fey also articulated the conflict which arises when trying to raise girls to be strong, in that they are often told ‘not to do X like a girl’ – which undermines the idea that girls can be strong while being female.

From this the podcast relocated its setting to the Sahara, using atmospheric music to set the scene and change the tone ready for a new story. This change of place occurred repeatedly throughout the episode as it told the stories of role models in an English boarding school, of a midwife in the Gulf War, and of women cleaning illegal garbage sites. This variety kept me engaged while sticking closely to the podcast’s theme by exploring many different experiences of girlhood.

Although ‘The Secret World of Girls’ had as many if not more little stories than ‘Star-Crossed Love’, the inquiry and discussion running through the podcast kept it fresh and interesting. Also, many of the anecdotes came first-hand from a voicemail set up by the Kitchen Sisters for people to tell their stories. This approach made a fun change to the hosts, and allowed the people who called in to express their own enthusiasm and passion.

1. It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older – This American Life

This podcast was easily my favourite, possibly because at 57 minutes, it benefited from having much more time to go in depth on its stories and reflections than the other two. Having introduced the principle of ‘do you really understand when you’re older?’ via funny interviews with sixth-graders, the episode moved through a clear structure addressing adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, and old age. This chronological organisation of anecdotes made it easy to follow but also provided an incentive to keep listening.

Within each narrative was a conflict and resolution, whether the subject was high-school hierarchies, racism, midlife insecurity, or battling dementia. This awareness and the sense of learning from each character was very satisfying. In particular, the communication between Sasheer Zamata and her mother in Act Two felt highly emotive as the listener was privy to a significant development in their relationship: ‘At least we’re talking. That’s new. I like it.’ ‘It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older’ was easily the most didactic of the three podcasts, but in a way which felt constructive rather than condescending.

This episode also differed by incorporating a twist. From discussing past events, the host Chana Joffe-Walt moved to asking questions about her future, an insecurity I found very relatable. The lack of definitive answer here – after all, no-one can know the future – only served to keep me listening because I started to imagine my own answers and think about my life. The music at this moment (Edith Piaf’s ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’) drew out the melancholy uncertainty in discussing middle age,  influencing the mood more effectively than any song in ‘The Secret World of Girls’ or ‘Star-Crossed Love’.

Not only did ‘It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older’ exemplify the structure laid out in On the Wire, its personal touch in all four stories and its mix of question, narrative, and reflection made it compelling to listen to in a way which ‘The Secret World of Girls’ and ‘Star-Crossed Love’ didn’t quite capture – in fairness, however, I am not sure if this episode would have been able to achieve such an effect if it was only half an hour long.

‘For the Union Makes Us Strong’: a Political Remix

Argument: I want to criticise the Brexiteers’ idea of Britain’s glorified past, and demonstrate that the UK post-Brexit is not glorious and independent, but a weakened nation divided by ignorance, fear, and hate.

Source material: Pete Seeger’s cover of ‘Solidarity Forever’ will form the backing track: this is the big one. Video clips will come from news-channel interviews of Nigel Farage; coverage of the EU referendum; and reports on the reaction to Brexit; alongside old videos of 1950s Britain and the Royal Family in the 50s and 80s.

Strategies: The backing track, which is the anthem of workers and unions, will create multiple tensions:

  • The idea that Britain is made stronger by operating alone.
  • The false belief that Britain ever was strong/glorious.
  • The irony in that the European Union actually makes us stronger.
  • The irony that it is not workers but wealthy, upper- and middle-class people like Farage who are pushing for Brexit.

The narrative created by the video clips will undermine Farage’s idea of a glorious Britain. Beginning with clips of ‘the good old days’ intercut with sound bites from Boris Johnson and Farage, and clips of their campaign (like the infamous NHS bus), this will gradually incorporate footage of the Troubles, the Falklands, and Blair/Iraq, referencing the ugly aspects of modern British history.  The remix will then move to clips of the post-Brexit fallout, including the pound dropping, increased xenophobia, the rise of Britain First, the DUP in government, and public protests.

Audience: My audience is the youth who share a sense of frustration and disenfranchisement in the UK today; to be more specific, you could say it is aimed at the 75% of 18-24 year olds who voted to remain. A video that criticises Farage, who embodies the privileged, conservative, older generation and their ignorant worldview, and who so seriously altered our future, is likely to find traction with people my age.

Lots of the media used will be immediately identifiable, such as all the 2016 news clips concerning the EU referendum and the bus. The song Solidarity Forever may be recognisable for some as it opens the 2014 British film Pride, in which it is laid over clips of struggles during the Miners’ Strike.

Admittedly, some of the footage will predate the collective cultural memory of millennials – such as Diana’s wedding, and the IRA – but it will not be entirely outside their understanding, and the context will help make it clear.


Political Remix: The Secret of Maggie and Ronald

An analysis of:

Death Valley Days: Secret Love

What is the video’s argument?
This 1984 scratch video entitled Death Valley Days: Secret Love criticises and satirises British and American politics of the 1980s, by piecing together clips to create a love story between Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher, based on their shared conservative ideals.

What are its strategies?
It opens its argument simply and strongly, with photographs of Ronald, Nancy, and Thatcher framed by a heart. The video then imagines the development of a personal bond between the two heads of state, undercutting and satirising the ‘special relationship’ shared by the UK and USA by implying it is based solely on the attractions of Thatcher and Reagan, wherein Thatcher is also presented as an ideal woman who ‘love[s]’ music’ and ‘just pottering around the house’.

The video then introduces a faster beat and dance-style music over clips of the politicians interacting and phallic imagery of rockets launching and bombs dropping; to make a bad pun, the two are implied to share great chemistry or even to get on like a house on fire.

The beat is also interspersed with gunfire, underlining the fact that the relationship is built on aggressive political policies.

Is it effective?
A scratch video like this would have been shown in nightclubs in the 1980s, so the fast-paced music suits it to that purpose. However, several decades down the line, to a new generation which lacks the collective cultural memory of the Thatcher and Reagan eras, the video is inevitably less effective because the viewers do not know enough of the context – and the video itself provides very little context. As such the video would have been more effective if the occasionally-used voiceover was employed more to offer more information.

Having said that, to the modern viewer the video is powerful because it is reminiscent of the notorious interactions between Theresa May and Donald Trump; in fact, the entire video can be seen as a parallel to the modern political relationship between the two nations. With this in mind, I think Death Valley Days: Secret Love is possibly just as effective now as it was at its release.

The Dark Appeal of Hazing – Feature Article

Dangerous, disavowed, yet maintained in secret: the underworld of hazing seems unstoppable to students and adults alike.

My first year at university, a November night found me in the backyard of a student house – blindfolded, mushy peas sliding down my back, drinking spirits out of a hollowed onion. That same year at a different college, my sister was dressed in a bin bag with a penis sharpie-d on her forehead, and led drunkenly through the city centre.

Bad as it sounds – humiliating, degrading as it sounds – we were lucky. By one o’clock we were home safe, had showered off the gunge, and just like that we had been ‘accepted’ into our teams.

One month later, a boy at my university died from forced drinking during an initiation. Parents and the media were shocked. Not at how it happened – hazing is known for involving grim, alcohol-based challenges – but at why it still happens.

For students the issue was more divisive; those who had never experienced hazing condemned it, but for the girls on my team and I, it felt more complicated. We knew hazing was unpleasant, and in cases even dangerous, yet we had gone into our initiations willingly. We had even enjoyed it (although maybe only after the fact). And this wasn’t something that we or our friends could properly understand.


At any university, there are hundreds of societies for students to get involved in. Do you like cheerleading? Chess? Football? Politics? Theatre? The options are innumerable, and yet only a few of these groups practice initiations.

This small selection of groups is also similar across nations. In Canada and America, hazing is rife among sports teams and fraternities; in the UK, where greek life does not exist, sports teams, Agricultural Societies, and medics’ teams all have a bad rep.

The reflex association with initiations is drinking; toxic quantities, unpleasant methods, and gag-worthy substances. Yet, it is also apparent that drinking age and drinking culture don’t influence hazing; in America, 55% of students involved in athletics and/or Greek-letter organisations have been hazed – this in a nation where almost all students are under the legal drinking age – while in the UK, where people can drink from age 18, despite a dearth of research initiations are known to be widespread, and the horror stories which reach the media all tell of excessive alcohol consumption. The attitude of initiations is entirely distinct from the idea that drinking is subversive, and ‘cool’ in a country where it is not legal.

Jay Johnson, a sociologist who has done extensive research into American hazing, points out the link between hazing and sports:

“Athletes often describe their ‘need’ to have an initiation ceremony,” he says, “as a team bonding experience that marks the group as a “team” and its members as “teammates” for the first time.”

Specifically, initiations produce a sense of “communitas”; that is, identity as part of the group, cohesion, and a relationship with other members of the group. This explains how initiations – when done well, and it is another issue entirely whether university initiations are done well – can be a positive experience, marking someone’s welcome into the fold.

So the need outlined by Johnson for sports teams to develop a bond, to work well as a unit, goes some way toward explaining why they and not, say, the film society, haze incoming members. But there is also something more ominous at play.

In winter 2016, a rumour reached us about the initiations for the women’s rugby team at another Northern university.

The girls, it was said, had been made to sit on white towels and watch porn. At the end, there were fines for the wettest towels. This rumour remains unsubstantiated, and never reached mainstream media, but the ethos it represents looms unpleasantly over the idea of initiations.

This wasn’t simply about promoting bonding and unity through shared experience, it was about ritual humiliation. Jay Johnson’s description of how initiations “educate newcomers as to their place in the hierarchical structure of the group” doesn’t capture the brutality of this reality.

Everyone has heard of the Stanford prison experiment, wherein participants cruelly mistreated ‘prisoners’ simply because they could. In the same vein, seniors enjoy hazing freshers because it’s accepted, because they like the power trip, and because they can enact a sort of vengeance for having been hazed themselves.

This is dark and unsettling; no one wants to believe that, in John Huston’s famous words, “at the right time and the right place, they’re capable of anything.” However, the logic of this motivation is straightforward regardless of the malevolent attitude behind it.

Slightly more confusing is why first-years willingly undergo initiations and why often, they don’t see how the practice is objectionable. My sister and I could handle foul drinks and embarrassing costumes; despite objectively knowing it was degrading we had accepted that something like this would happen, and although we couldn’t articulate why, that was reason enough to put up with it – because it’s just the way things are. In his research into hazing at Illinois, John Brubacher reached a bizarre conclusion that reflects this:

“That freshmen had always been hazed seemed sufficient cause why hazing should be continued.”



Most famously, perhaps, the practice of hazing is portrayed in the 1994 cult hit Dazed & Confused, which shows freshmen girls proposing to senior boys, and freshmen boys being paddled. Although this depicts high school and not university, the film shows how ingrained the normality and acceptability of hazing is to our collective cultural mentality. Regulation may have improved since the 70s (in 2000, the University of Vermont cancelled its men’s ice hockey season following a hazing scandal), but the ethos remains. And yet, the idea of initiations in fact goes back ever further.

John Brubacher was not speaking about modern experiences in his book, but about the University of Illinois just before the turn of the twentieth century, 150 years ago. Brubacher describes freshmen being chased up telephone poles, the use of firearms, and even chemical weapons being thrown at a first-year social; hazing, it appears, is a culture as old as university itself. And disturbingly, despite being quashed, it returns Hydra-like with later generations. Students want to initiate and be initiated, and the potential danger of the process is little considered.

Eric Anderson explains, “These kids are 18 or 19 years old in college now, so they don’t remember that four years ago some girls died doing that.”

While students can and do recognise the potential dangers of initiation culture, their viewpoint is invariably more nuanced than that of researchers. For them, hazing can be fun or at least worthwhile, gaining you “respect” within the team. There is also a callous but common (and again, understandable) attitude of ‘that won’t happen to me’.

Alice, a Sports Science student at an English university, says, “basically every sports club does initiations. You only hear about really bad ones, when people die. In between that thousands of people do initiations and they’re okay.”

Jess, a student on the hockey team at another college, puts it more succinctly. “As long as no one’s stupid about it, it’s fine. Give me an onion, and I’ll eat it.”

This level of awareness suggests a self-moderation in which hazing is challenging but rewarding, a rite of passage winning you acceptance to the team without excessive humiliation – and it is more prevalent than you might think. Horror stories like the first-years sat on towels are the minority. In the UK especially, where most universities have a strict ban on initiations, procedures are frequently self-policed; unwilling to forego the fun but equally unwilling to suffer penalties and negative publicity, many clubs look out for the safety of first-years, hosting initiations which are “gross but manageable”. So for both seniors and freshers, Elizabeth Allen’s assertion that “there’s no such thing as harmless hazing” would be laughed out the door.


This disconnect between students and adults is probably also why hazing is perceived as such a serious danger. Far removed from the culture of college campuses, where heavy drinking and social participation is often part and parcel of making friends, parents and critics see only the irresponsibility and immoral carelessness which causes the death of at least one student per year in America.

Indeed, because initiations are so taboo, the successful ones (no deaths, no hospitalisations, no humiliating, cruel activities) are the ones you never hear about.

Who cares if novitiate skiers were given a mixture of Baileys and egg to shot? Who cares if half-a-dozen freshers drank cider through a shinpad after a hockey game? Those freshers certainly don’t.

Unfortunately, because of the potential for hazing to become so dangerous – indeed, for it to be fatal – universities cannot draw a soft line. They can’t condone mild rituals and sanction horrific excess. And this pushes all activities underground, where they can’t be regulated. Long history has shown that attempts to prevent hazing by outlawing it don’t work; not even the threat of expulsion or criminal prosecution will entirely remove the culture for good.


University is an environment barely understood by all the young people in it, let alone by older adults outside the culture: Hazing can be forbidden but it is intrinsic, expected, and often even enjoyed. For myself and the girls on my team, to have relinquished the prospect of an initiation that November would have been to lose a sense of achievement and community – and yet at the same time, we understood how awful the worst case scenario could be. It seems instead, that adults will simply have to continue impressing the dangers of hazing on students until the message gets through.

But no matter what happens, the practice is going to continue; and maybe it’s better if it does. Maybe it’s better if there’s a history of careful, regulated initiations – if that’s possible – otherwise years after hazing has been banned, it will return again in careless, sadistic measures and awful consequences.

Bridging Research and Audience

Carnivore’s Dilemma
The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles

In these articles, Robert Kunzig and Douglas Emlen translate facts and statistics into engaging articles. However although longer, Kunzig’s article on America’s beef industry is more effective at retaining the reader’s attention because he encorporates more evocative language, human interest and a personal stake.

Strategies – Kunzig compensates for the dryness of the data (how many million tons of meat; percentage of grain consumption by cattle; etc) by phrasing the arguments for and against eating beef in extremes. An example of this is his opening tagline; “Unhealthy. Nutritious. Cruel. Delicious. Unsustainable. All-American”, where the punchy one-word sentences summarise what is harder to grasp with simple facts. Kunzig also weaves in quotes and stories from men whose lives are deeply tied to cattle farming, and describes his own experience at Wrangler Feedyard in Texas. In contrast, Emlen’s only reference to a personal stake is in his introductory story about observing elephant dung in Tanzania – and, given he dates this incident to a decade earlier, Emlen does not draw the reader in so successfully as Kunzig. Similarly, although both writers establish a narrative of sorts (Kunzig of his cattle farm experience, and simultaneously of the cattle’s journey from pasture to plate; Emlen of the beetle’s progress with a dung-ball) Emlen’s narrative is less cohesive.

Audience – The papers for which both journalists write are erudite, typically attracting a middle-class, educated readership. But within this, Kunzig is again better placed to attract readers, as most Americans consume beef and therefore have a stake in his debate – whereas Emlen’s link to human arms races and the Cold War is both tenuous and distant from readers.

Effective? – As outlined above, Kunzig’s article is more effective at making his research engaging, partly because his subject matter is already of more interest to his audience than Emlen’s. Kunzig’s use of story is also more successful as he incorporates human interest, in his interview with Paul Defoor and other workers at the feedlot.

Provisional Conflict Plan

The topic I am exploring for my feature article is social groups, hierarchy, and hazing in institutions of higher education. The specific conflict is – why do only some social groups develop/practice initiation rites; what does this have to do with hierarchy and identity; and how do initiatory and non-initiatory groups locate themselves within the same culture of higher education?

My conflict plan (pictured) outlines the lines of inquiry: which social groups do/don’t engage in hazing; similarities/differences across different areas (cities or nations); hazing culture in the past; influence of social media; development of hierarchy and individual identity in adolescence/secondary school; older generations’ perception of hazing; and media portrayal of hazing incidents.