Who I am as a sociologist is, by turns, a complex question, as well as one that will never be fully defined as I continue to evolve year by year, learning and researching people and their environments from the simple to the complex. How and why I arrived at this present destination is also complex, but it is also may be a little simpler to answer.
People and their environments have always fascinated me. History was a favorite subject in public school as I studied what was assigned and attempted to study what school didn’t teach from its unbalanced perspective of the United States as a victor in a series of national conquests where I looked for connections to my family’s history in the founding of California. My grandmother filled me with stories of her life and the lives of my grandfather and their children, and the stories were always colourful, which may be why I love telling stories myself. It was always easy to ask why and receive an answer receive and intelligent answer from my grandmother. It is still a habit, and it fuels my love of research and inquiry.
From a perspective within sociology and a few other disciplines, the connections become a little more vast, and for some, a little more difficult to connect academically within sociology. As an undergraduate in Radio and Television production, I was always interested in how media affect groups and individuals, but it was always from the perspective of creating visual narratives (subconsciously influenced by an infinite appreciation of musical styles about which I will speak more later) until one day, about a year before I graduated. And yes, I still remember the day. I do not remember the exact year or the exact day, but I remember what happened.
I went to visit someone who is still a very close friend, Manuel, and on his coffee table were two books, one written by a sociologist named Leonard W. Doob, Propaganda: Its Psychology and Technique and another written by social commentator and Christian Anarchist philosopher, Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitude. Manuel, in his very matter-of-fact way, emphatically stated that “You have to read these books.” I read them almost immediately, and I have read them a few times since. I now own them as well as several other volumes on the subject and most of the subjects that relate to it that include other theorists and practitioners (including a few sociologists from my recent studies), not the least of which is Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s double nephew. Bernays single-handedly made propaganda a dirty word in the United States and single-handedly made up a new concept to diffuse this “dirty” word. He called it Public Relations.
While I still attempted to pursue a career in film production, I stumbled upon an appreciation for music that was always present but always ignored until I moved to New York City. I never did make a decent living in film or video production and ended up going from job to job looking for something to satisfy a basic urge to create. That creativity manifested itself in an early Internet radio show designed to promote the artists and friends that I believed to be very talented. That show still exists on my own web site, along with reviews, blogs and the content from other creatives doing the very same thing, though my current contributions have slowed to a temporary halt due to studies and scheduling restraints.
While moving from job to job every few years without finding my life’s work, I stumbled upon inside sales, another aspect of propaganda that I do not enjoy, though I have been told that I am good at it. It is completely unsatisfying for me on a day to day basis (though the concept of sales is fascinating from a perspective of personal influence), and I have never been able to adjust to the possibility of doing it for the rest of my life, possibly because of a wanderlust to see the rest of the world, learn from others, learn from the books that I never stopped reading, and learn from observing the people and groups around me.
I finally realized a few years ago that I needed to return to school and find something else to do. At first it was an MBA in Marketing, but I quickly realized that that would bore me as endlessly as the day-to-day aspects of sales, given that I understood if from a viewpoint of propaganda and not from one of daily practice. In other words, I could explain it and understand it, but I could not practice it, in spite of a brief foray into writing and distributing press releases for a few bands in New York. I took a hard look at the books in the bookcase and I realised that the books in the bookcase were written by people influenced by sociologists and psychologists or they were written by sociologists and psychologists. My choice was clear. The few books on propaganda that I began with have become an almost overflowing bookcase. Thus, the journey begins and never ends, moving in circles. From sociology, this expertise and experience will be applied to a Ph.D in media studies.