From cognition to communication and co-operation: An analysis of the increasing sociality of social media

According to Fuchs (2017) Media are not technologies, but techno-social systems which comprise the social processes of cognition, communication and co-operation, and that any analysis of the changing social significance of new social media should distinguish between the extent to which they ‘allow’ these three aspects of sociality to be ‘acted out’ by users.

Fuchs argues that the distinction between these three dimensions of sociality is a logical one: each layer forms the foundation for the next, which has new qualities.

  • Cognition refers to the knowledge process of a single individual –  in terms of the Web, this involves the individual user simply using a search engine to find information as well as them producing content about themselves.
  • Communication – is based on and requires cognition – this is behaviour based on reciprocal interaction – in which an individual externalises their knowledge and then adapts in response to feedback (at its simplest level). In terms of the Web, commenting and responding to people’s posts is the most obvious example of this.
  • Co-operation – is based on communication and requires communication. This involves interacting as a community based on feelings of togetherness, mutual dependence and shared values. Web platforms which enable collaborative production are an example of this level of sociality.

As far as Fuchs is concerned, any analysis of the significance of social media needs to distinguish between 3 levels of analysis. In fact, he goes as far to say that:

‘The task of empirical studies that are based on theoretical conceptions of the social is to analyse the presence or absence of the three types of sociality in a certain medium.’ (P46)

An Empirical Analysis of the changes to the Web using three dimensions of sociality

Fuchs now presents a comparison the top 20 platforms of 2002 to the top 20 platforms of 2015 in terms of their ‘primary information functions’: whether they allow for only cognition, cognition and communication, or all three: the previous two plus communication. The findings are as follows:

  • In 2002 there were 20 information functions, 13 communication functions and one co-operation function.
  • In 2015  there were 20 information functions, 17 communication functions and six co-operation.

This shows that the technological foundations for communication and cooperation have increased quantitatively, mainly driven by the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and blogs such as WordPress.

It appears that the web really has become a more ‘truly social’ space… as social media enable the convergence of these three modes of sociality in one space. For example, Facebook allows an individual to create multimedia content at the cognitive level, publish it so that other users can comment on it (the communicative level) and all others to manipulate and remix that content (the co-operative level).

HOWEVER, what the above analysis also demonstrates is that Capital has remained very dominant in the background of the vast majority of the platforms above. Only one website operating in 2015  – Wikipedia – is a non-profit platform, all of the rest seek to manipulate users in order to extract as much money as they can out of them!

 

 

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Why are trades unions in decline? And does it matter?

The Trades Unions Congress celebrated its 150th anniversary recently, but it seems there is little to celebrate: Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary has admitted that the union movement needs to ‘change or die’ in the context of declining membership and action.

Membership levels among the under 30s fell to 15.7% last yea, down from 20.1% in 2001, and industrial action is also declining: last year there wre only 79 stoppages, the lowest figure since records began.

decline trades unions UK.png

According to Zoe Williams in the Guardian, the reason for the declining membership among the young is because they are increasingly employed in low-wage sectors where unions are not recognised: and when people are on zero-hours contracts, working in the gig-economy, or trying to get on the first step of the career ladder by doing an unpaid internship, it is difficult to find the support, time or energy to get organised.

As a result, Kenan Malik, writing in the observer, has suggested that unions are increasingly becoming clubs for professionals – as people with degrees are twice as likely to be part of a union than those who have no qualifications.

However, there are also deeper reasons for the decline in industrial action including the following: there are new laws restricting trade union power; technological advances which facilitate more home-working and flexible working hours mean that day strikes and picket lines less effective.

It might also be that working conditions have generally improved: last decade saw the introduction of the minimum wage and then the national living wage, and there have been new laws to tackle discrimination and improved health and safety legislation.
It could just be that unions in general and strikes in particular have had their day

Relevance to A-level sociology

  • Probably the most obvious application is that this is one of the dimensions in the shift towards post-modernity – maybe unions, with their mass membership and place-based day-strikes were more relevant to the modernist era, while in a postmodern age of flexibalised working they are just not the appropriate vehicle to effectively improve the working conditions of the precariat?
  • It also serves as a reminder of the class and age divide around unions – generally older more educated people are in them (the established and technical middle class?) while the younger and less educated are not (the precariat especially)

Sources:

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Emile Durkheim’s Perspective on Religion

In the Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) Durkheim argued that all societies divide the world into two basic categories: the sacred and the profane:

  • The profane refers to mundane ordinary life: our daily routine/ grind of getting up in the morning, doing our ablutions, going to college, eating our daily Nachos, and doing the dishes.
  • The sacred refers to anything which transcends the humdrum of everyday life: which typically take the form of collective representations which are set apart from society (spiritual places such as churches or mosques are the most obvious examples of ‘sacred’ spaces.)

For Durkheim, Religion is the collective practice of marking off and maintaining distance between the sacred and the profane, which is typically done through rituals, such as those associated with the daily or weekly visit to the church or mosque: prayer is an obvious example of an ‘occasional (sacred) ritual’ is marked out from ordinary mundane (or profane) life.

Or in Durkheim’s own words:

Durkheim religion.pngImportantly for Durkheim, anything can be sacred (or rather, a society can determine that anything is sacred): there is nothing in any object or action that makes it inherently sacred: anything can be sacred: not only churches, mosques, and religious books, but in some cultures, trees, or even rocks may be regarded as sacred.

Durkheim believed that in order to understand the role of religion in society, the relationship between sacred symbols and what they represent must be discovered.

A work in progress, to be updated shortly!

Totemism

Durkheim saw Totemism as one of the earliest and simplest form of religious practice. It is most commonly found among aboriginal peoples, such as the Australian aborigines, and North West Native American Indians, who have clan based societies.

Durkheim TotemismDurkheim used the totemic religion of Australian aborigines to develop his theory of religion. Aboriginal society was divided into a number of clans, and members of the clan had certain obligations that had to be fulfilled – such as mourning the death of other clan members or helping seek vengeance if another member was wronged by someone external to the clan. Each clan was also exogenous – people had to marry someone outside of the clan.

Each clan had a totem, typically an animal or a plant which was represented by drawings or carvings made on wood or stone, typically linked to a ‘creation myth’ that explained the origins of that clan and linked current members into that history. The totem served to distinguish the clan from all other clans.

To clan members, the totem was as sacred object, nothing less than ‘the outward and visible form of the totemic principle or god’ – their animal/ plant was sacred and the totemic representation just as sacred if not more so.

Durkheim’s ‘big idea’ is that by worshipping the totem, clan members are actually worshipping society, and thus individuals are reminded that society is more important than the individual, which is essential in Functionalist theory because individuals are dependent on society.

The reason why humankind needs a totem to worship rather than just literally worshipping society (or the clan in the case of Aborigines) is because the clan is too complex a thing for people to conceptualise – religious symbols are just much simpler entities to worship!

Sources used to write this post

 

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How do we explain the 500% increase in prescriptions for Cow’s Milk Allergy between 2006 to 2016?

In a recent BBC documentary: ‘The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs’ Dr Chris Van Tulleken (Dr CVT) set out to answer the above question. Here I summarise this documentary and throw in a few links and additional commentary

You can watch the documentary on BBC iplayer until Late June 2018, although TBH you may as well save yourself 50 mins and just skim read what’s below.

There has been a dramatic increase in prescriptions for children with Cow’s Milk Allergy (CMA) in recent years: A 500% increase in the 10 years to 2016 in fact!

A ‘prescription’ basically means that children with CMA get put on a specialist cow milk free ‘alternative milk’ formula, which costs twice as much as regular milk formula for children, and costs the NHS £64 million/ year.

In this section of the second episode of the series: ‘The Dr Who Gave Up Drugs, Dr CVT asks why there has been such a rapid increase in prescriptions for specialist formula to treat Cow’s Milk Allergy.

He says that as a new parent, he keeps hearing about it, which is odd because only 2% of children suffer from it, and so he’s wondering whether or not the above increase in prescriptions is due to increase in the underlying numbers of children who actually have cows milk allergy (or better detection) or whether there is something else fuelling the increasing public awareness of the condition.

The Normalisation of diagnosing and treating CMA

The documentary also visits one parent who thought her child had CMA when he developed XMA (one of the possible symptoms, but also something which 20% of babies suffer from), she visited her GP, who confirmed he didn’t have CMA. However, when she took her child to hospital for a bump, the pediatrician there noticed the XMA and prescribed specialist formula for CMA.

The child hated it, and so often went to be hungry. It too a visit to a Dr Robert Boyle (in the skeptical about CMA camp) who confirmed the child didn’t have CMA and so normal milk service was resumed.

The worrying thing about the above case is that alternative formula is being pushed on parents against their will, the normalisation of the diagnoses and treatment for a condition which in this case didn’t actually exist.

Health sociology.png

Industry lead education for NHS staff

One of the reasons Dr CVT is sceptical about the increase in awareness and prescription being linked to an actual underlying number of cases of children with CMA is that a lot of the education provided to Doctors about food allergies among children is sponsored by the companies who make alternative, specialist formulas to treat allergies.

To illustrate this point, the documentary visits a training day for NHS staff in Newcastle, aimed at educating staff about food allergies in babies – the event is sponsored by Danone, the company which makes one of the specialist CMA formulas, and what Dr CVT finds is advertising literature (various ‘glossy mags) and product samples alongside proper medical advice.

Another ‘test’ for the involvement of industry in educating about food allergies is to simply Google ‘cows milk allergy’ – which Dr CVT does and finds that most of the advice websites which help parents to self-diagnose their children are run by the companies who make specialist formula to treat the condition.

He also explores the web sites which parents and professionals use to diagnose for CMA, again run by the companies, and finds that the ‘symptoms’ which indicate Cow’s Milk Allergy are pretty much the kind of symptoms which every child has at some point, whether or not they have the allergy – things such as ‘colic’ and ‘vomiting’

Finally, he interviews Dr Adam Fox, who is a consultant  for the ‘Allergy Academy’, sponsored by Danone, and he doesn’t seem able to convince Dr CVT that there isn’t a conflict of interests between the companies who profit from increased diagnoses of Cow’s Milk Allergy providing education on how to diagnose for the condition.

Application to Sociology

There are lots of applications – mainly centering around labelling theory and the power of corporations to shape agendas! Also risk society.

Image Source:

screen capture, BBC from documentary above.

 

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How I would’ve answered the AQA A level sociology crime and deviance with theory and methods exam, June 2018

Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology crime with theory and methods exam, June 2018… Just a few thoughts to put students out of their misery. (Ideas my own, not endorsed by the AQA).

I won’t produce the exact questions below, just the gist…

Q01 – Outline two ways in which gender may influence the risk of being a victim of crime (4)

Difficulty – easy

  • Men and masculinity – aggressiveness, linked to higher levels male victims of street crime.
  • Women and domestic violence – linked to patriarchal norms, gender roles.

And then ideally explain how they differentially effect at least two ethnic groups. 

Q02 – Three criticisms of the labelling theory of crime (6)

Difficulty – anywhere from easy to difficult…

If you’ve realised this is a ‘stock question’ that’s been waiting to happen for a while, easy, but if you’re not prepared…. it’s tricky to get beyond the ‘deterministic’ criticism.

If you scroll down to the bottom of my 2016 post on the labelling theory of crime, you’ll find five criticisms at the end of it!

 

Q03 – Analyse two reasons for social class differences in official crime statistics (10)

Difficulty – easy

The item clearly directs you to one application of labelling theory and one application of ‘underlying cdifferences’.

  • Police and courts more likely to label wc/ Underclass behaviour as criminal – apply Cicourel. Contrast to white collar crime going unnoticed.
  • Greater motivation due to poverty (risk) and opportunity… link to left realsim, opportunity structures.

 

Q04 Evaluate sociological contributions to our understanding of the relationship between the media and crime (30)

Difficulty – medium

Fair question, difficult/ niche topic.

The item directs you to relative deprivation and moral panics so you can apply strain theory, Marxism, and interactionism – quite easy.

Then New Media – so cyber crime maybe linked to postmodernism.

Of course, anyone whose done the media option will have an unfair advantage here. This is something of a problem, then again I can say the same about any of my students getting a question on globalisation and crime, given that they do the global development option.

Difficulty – easy

 

Q05 – Outline and explain two disadvantages of using laboratory experments in sociological research (10)

Difficulty – easy

Just take any two disasdvantages from this post.

06 – Evaluate the advantages of using structured interviews in sociological research (20)

Difficulty – medium

This is basically a ‘social surveys’ essay inflected with an interview twist…

Use the TPEN plan and just let it flow…!

All in all a perfectly reasonable paper 3!

 

 

 

 

 

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How I would’ve answered the AQA A level sociology topics exam, June 2018, section B: beliefs in society

Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology (7192/2) ‘topics’ exam: beliefs in society, section B only. Just a few thoughts to put students out of their misery. (Ideas my own, not endorsed by the AQA)

I won’t produce the exact questions below, mainly because I haven’t actually seen the paper at time of writing, just the gist..

Q13: Outline and explain two ways in which globalisation may affect religious beliefs and practices(10)

I would have gone for two very general ‘ways’ and then expanded on them….

Firstly I would have gone for ‘postmodernisation of religion’ – the decline in the numbers of people being dogmatic about religion as people access more and more information about a wider and wider array of religions, and discuss how the new ages movement and ecumenicalism expand

Secondly I would have used Fundamentalism as a reaction to secular globalism.

Q14 – Analyse two reasons why minority ethnic groups in the UK are often more religious that the majority of the population

Using the item as a base, you would have had to have gone for:

  • Minority ethnic groups arriving with a different culture from the host society – you can apply Weberianism and cultural transition theory to this.
  • Members of minority groups facing racism… developed using the cultural defence theory, possibly using Pentecostalism as an example. You could also throw in some Marxist analysis to beef it up.

Q15: Evaluate the view that an increase in spirituality in the UK has compensated for the decline of organised religion

This is basically Postmodernism/ new ageism + secularisation. My plan would have looked something like this:

  • Outline key features of NAMs (in item)
  • Postmodern explanations of NAMs- growth individualism/ rejection metanarratives
  • Outline (briefly) evidence on the decline of organised religion (secularisation)
  • Postmodern explanations of organised religion – doesn’t FIT PM society!
  • Highlight what NAMs do that Organised religion used to do… (arguing for the view in the question) – e.g.
  • Criticise the view in the question… highlighting the differences between NAMs and organised religion…
  • Conclusion… it isn’t replacing organised religion and that’s a god thing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I would’ve answered the AQA A level sociology topics exam, June 2018, section A: families and households

Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology (7192/2) ‘topics’ exam: families and households section A only. Just a few thoughts to put students out of their misery. (Ideas my own, not endorsed by the AQA)

I won’t produce the exact questions below, just the gist…

Q04: Outline and explain two ways in which government policies may affect family structure (10)

Very easy…..

Simply select two policies and try to discuss their effects on as many different types of family structure as you can, without overlapping!

I would have gone for….

  • The 1969 Divorce act, and linked this to reconstituted families, single parent families, the negotiated family, divorce extended families… and contrasted the New Right and Postmodernism.
  • The 2013 Civil Partnership Act and linked this to changing gender relations, gender roles, equality and children in the family, and childless/ adopted families. I also would have applied and contrasted the New Right with Radical Feminism

I would have gone for two very basic ‘topic based’ areas to start: something about aid and improving women’s health and the knock on effects, and then something about women’s education, linked to work.

Q05: Applying materal from item C, analyse two ways in which demographic trends since 1900 may have affected the nature of childhood in the United Kingdom today.

Using the item, you need to use the following:

  • Life expectancy increasing and more generations of the family being alive – here you need to discuss the bean pole family, sandwhich parents, extended families maybe (and the modified extended family)
  • People having fewer children – probably most of your marks will come from this…. contrast march of progress with paranoid parenting/ cotton wool kids.

They DO like asking about childhood, don’t they!Q06: Evaluate Dependency theory essay

Evaluate the view that individual choice in personal relationships has made family life less important in the United Kingdom today (20)

The item basically directs you to discuss postmodern perspectives on the rise of individualisation and the decline of the family and to evaluate this.

Not an easy question, but workable…

General points you could use:

  • Outline the postmodern view….. Allen and Crow and Beck-Gernsheim are the two ‘extreme individualisation’ theorists – lots you could discuss here.
  • Maybe dramatise this with the increase in divorce, rise of single person households.
  • Discuss Giddens’ idea of the Pure Relationship – higher rates of family breakdown are now more likely because of this!
  • Discuss Beck’s idea of the Negotiated family – similar to Giddens.
  • Criticise PM with the Personal Life Perspective…. which finds that family life is still important, it’s just that family life has changed – people now effectively regard pets etc. as part of their families.
  • Criticise with the ‘criticisms’ of increased family diversity…. most people still have families, nuclear family still the most common, etc….

This is the kind of question you may have had to think about for some time.

All in all, quite a nice section of the paper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I would’ve answered the AQA A level sociology topics exam, June 2018, section B: global development

Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology (7192/2) ‘topics’ exam: global development section B only. Just a few thoughts to put students out of their misery. (Ideas my own, not endorsed by the AQA)

I won’t produce the exact questions below, mainly because I haven’t actually seen the paper at time of writing, just the gist…based on what some of the students said immediately afterwards. Check back tomorrow for the updated, more precise version!

So NB – the actual questions may have been slightly different!

Q04: Outline and explain two ways in which development aid might promote gender equality (10)

I would have gone for two very basic ‘topic based’ areas to start: something about aid and improving women’s health and the knock on effects, and then something about women’s education, linked to work.

Q05: Analyse two things to do with cultural globalisation. 

Obviously I need to see the item to comment fully, but I’m going to assume that the item allows you to develop one point using optimism versus pessimism and then another contrasting transformationalism with traditionalism.

Q06: Evaluate Dependency theory essay

Easy: just use this plan, obviously modify according to the item!

NB – It’s a bit weird having to do this blind, but please do check back later tomo for the new and improved updated version, and a few comments on the good ole’ families and households section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why are we relying more on drugs to treat teenagers’ mental ill-health?

In a recent BBC documentary: ‘The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs’ Dr Chris Van Tulleken (Dr CVT) set out to answer the above question. Here I summarise the section of part 2 of this documentary (which deals with teen mental ill health and antidepressants) and throw in a few links and additional commentary.

You can watch the documentary on BBC iPlayer here at least until Late June 2018, although TBH you may as well save yourself 50 mins and just skim read what’s below.

You will also find this post on ‘steemit.com‘ – a most excellent crypto-currency based blogging platform where users get paid in cryptocurrency (steem) for posting, commenting and even just upvoting other people’s work. I recommend you check it out!

Introduction: why are prescriptions for antidepressants in the UK increasing?

The general gist of the documentary is that we’re relying more on drugs to treat teenagers’ mental ill-health, but we could be giving out pills to thousands of teenagers which are not only ineffective but actually have severely dangerous side effects.

The number of British teenagers prescribed antidepressants has almost doubled in 10 years: in 2005, 30 000 teenagers were prescribed antidepressant drugs, increasing to 58, 000 in 2015.

The Increase in antidepressants: a visual representation

Each ping pong ball represents 4 teenagers prescribed antidepressants

2005

increase teenage depression UK.png

2015

teenage depression UK

This increase might be because more people are getting diagnosed and more effectively treated, however it might reflect the fact we are quicker to seek medicalised solutions to ‘depression’, and that these drugs are not effectively dealing with the underlying causes of depression, and maybe this doubling of prescriptions in 10 years is no a long term solution to depression.

A case study of teenage depression

To provide us with a ‘human face’ of depression, the documentary now visits Jess, 15 year old teenager who has been on antidepressants for 8 months and  whose suffered from anxiety since she was a young girl, finds school stressful because she feels trapped (30 odd kids in a class, with everyone close together). She hasn’t been in lessons for 10 months, and may not be doing her GSCEs.

Following counselling, she was put on Sertraline to combat her depression, 100 mg, double the normal dose of 50 mg. We now get the usual trawl through the possible side effects of the drug, and it’s not pretty: clinical trials have shown an increased risk of suicidal behaviour in adults aged less than 25 years, and Jess says she has felt more suicidal since starting the medication.

Interestingly, Jess states a desire to be free of the drugs, while her mother appears more relaxed, saying that there’s evidence that they work, and that her daughter shouldn’t be afraid of the stigma attached to taking antidepressants: the idea of just ‘pulling yourself together’ and coping is outdated.

Research evidence on the effectiveness of antidepressants

Dr CVT now looks at a recent study conducted by professor Andrea Cipriani of the University of Oxford. This study summarised all available evidence of how effective 14 antidepressants are in children and adolescents specifically, (rather than just evidence from adult trials). The basic research question was ‘do these drugs work’ (not ‘how do these drugs work), and they compared the drugs with each other and against the effectiveness of a placebo, a sugar pill.

depression drugs don't work.png

They found that only one drug: fluoxetine, or prozac, was more effective than a sugar pill in combatting depression among teenagers, which is worrying given that around 40% of teenage prescribed antidepressant drugs are on Sertraline. However, there is still a level of uncertainty around the research on the effectiveness on Fluoxetine – because people respond very differently to the drug.

Where Sertraline  there is good evidence that it works for adults, but the problem here is that teenagers brains are wired differently, and professor Cipriani’s research suggests what works for adults may not work for teenagers.

Wilderness Therapy as an alternative means of treating mental ill health

Dr CVT says there’s lots of evidence that being active out of doors is effective in treating mental ill health, especially depression.

To test this out, the documentary now returns to Jess, one month on, who has now had her prescription of Sertraline increased to 125 milligrams, and feels increasingly panicky and has upped her rate of self-harm, and expose her to a ‘therapeutic intervention’, in the form of the ‘Wilderness Foundation’ which uses activities in wild spaces and one on one counselling to help teenagers suffering from mental ill-health.

Research conducted by the University of Essex suggests that 83% of the kids on the charity’s leading scheme have successfully gone on the further education or full time employment.

Jess gets taken along to the the Wilderness Foundation for a day to do ‘stuff’ outdoors, and we get treated to footage of Jess in an extremely pleasant wooded glade sparking a fire to life and putting up a hammock. Wilderness therapy is apparently well established in the USA, and it certainly seems to work for Jess, who spends 6 hours out of doors.

Do antidepressants ’cause’ an increase in teen suicides?

The documentary also visits one mother, Sarah, whose daughter Rachel killed herself within 11 days of an increase in her dose of Sertraline.

Rachel’s story seems similar to Jess’: she found secondary school difficult and hit a wall at GCSEs, finding it difficult to cope with the stress. After a visit to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, she was prescribed fluoxetine and experienced the following side effects after 2 weeks:

  • Violent thoughts
  • Disturbing dreams
  • Bodily shaking
  • Nosebleeds

Rachel tried to hang herself at one point, and after several months of this, she was prescribed a different drug: Sertraline. She actually wanted this herself, she wanted something to work, but within 11 days of an increase in her dose of this second antidepressant Rachel killed herself.

Rachel’s mum Sarah doesn’t blame the Doctors as they were just following the approved ‘pathways’ to treating mental illness laid down in the formal guidelines, she blames the system which seems to based on inadequate knowledge of the harmful side effects of these drugs.

NB – we cannot actually prove a causal link

Could antidepressants actually be harming our children’s health?

Drug trials should not only tell us if the drugs are effective, they should also tell us if the drugs have any harmful side effects. The problem is that many of the drugs trials are run by drugs companies, with a vested interested in making their drugs look both effective and sage.

Dr David Healy is one of the few people to have done independent research into the effectiveness and safety of antidepressants with the raw data provided by the company. He argues that we need to see the raw data to uncover how the drugs affect individual patient – and this raw data can run into several reams of paper if there 100s of people in a trial.

It is extremely rare for drugs companies to release this original data, in fact, it’s only happened once when in 2004 legal challenges were made against claims made about the effectiveness of Seroxat, and antidepressant manufactured by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

Dr David Healey analysed this original data and found that the claims made in the original 10 page article summarising the findings of the trials which claimed the drug was not only effective but also sage, were basically false, with Healey’s team finding that not only did the drug not work, but that the number of teenagers who developed suicidal thoughts following the use of the drug was three times greater than intimated in the original study, in which this side effect was described as ‘some teenagers becoming more emotionally labile’.

This research actually led to GlaxoSmithKlein being fined $3 billion in penalties and fines for health care fraud.

Dr David Healy says that in between the raw data and the sometimes misleading ‘main articles’ on the research findings published by the drugs companies, there are ‘company reports’, and even if we dig into these, there is cause to be concerned over the safety of many of antidepressants.

The rest of the documentary

The documentary returns to Jess, who has kept up her therapy for 6 months (I think it’s 6 months, it’s not that clear) and after some ups and downs (including one suicide attempt at school) the therapy seems to be working – she gets taken through a process of gradually having things she finds difficult added into the programme, and eventually manages to cope with going shopping and buying something (progress for her, in dealing with crowds).

After 6 months, Jess even manages to return to school and sit her mock GCSE exams, and at the very end of the documentary, we even see her at her 16th birthday party on stage singing, in front of friends and family.

The documentary also pays the standard visit to the Clinical Lead for Child Mental Health Care Services who reiterates that all Doctors are doing in prescribing antidepressants is following NICE guidelines, which are based on the best available evidence, however, Dr CVT’s point is the best available evidence is shaky at best.

NICE refuse to be interviewed, but do say they are reviewing their guidelines

Conclusions

The whole point of the documentary seems to be to inform us of the uncertainties surrounding the effectiveness and safety of many of the antidepressants we are increasingly prescribing to our teenagers.

Dr CVT suggest we are far too trusting of the research done by drugs companies, and we shouldn’t allow them to control the information we have about these drugs… we should be much more sceptical, and in the meantime, we should pursue alternative treatments such as wilderness therapy and mindfulness which are unlikely to cause harm.

K.T.’s Commentary

One thing I want to pick up on his the ‘social causes’ of Jess’ anxiety. Basically, it seems she just hates the crowded environment of the school, along with all the stress of testing that goes along with it….

Personally, I get this, it has exactly the same effect on me as a teacher.

I also get the ‘wilderness therapy’ as a solution  – I love being outdoors, walking: it’s just that I don’t need anyone to structure it for me, I also don’t really regard it as ‘therapy’ – rather it’s just ‘doing something enjoyable’.

It appears to me that Jess’ depression is pretty much 100% socially induced – by the school system. Get her back to nature, and doing something ‘naturally’ empowering, and she’s O.K, as she is singing in front her friends and family – surely it’s the social context that’s the problem?

It’s not rocket science is it! What needs to change here is society, although that’s easier said than done.

I also have to admit being a bit taken aback by the size of that GSK fine – $3 billion for health care fraud, that’s something I’m going to have to come back to later!

Sources/ find out more!

Disclaimers/ health advice provided in the documentary

Doctor Chris Van Tulleken reminds us that it might be dangerous to stop taking antidepressants suddenly and that any change of dose should only be made with medical supervision.

 

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How to get an A* in A-level Sociology (Paper 2: Families and Households section only)

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/32: Topics in Sociology to demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – this post only refers to section A: the families and households option, your option in section A might be different, and you will need to repeat this level of performance in section B in order to A* this paper!

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of about 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 2. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to just sneak into the top mark bands for each of the questions. If you did this in section A, you would get:

  • Q04 – 8/10
  • Q05 – 8/10
  • Q06 – 17/20

= Total marks of 66/80, if you repeat this performance for the same question styles in section B, COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get top band marks in each of the 3 style of questions on paper 3, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/2, families and households option)

Question 04: the 10 mark, no item, question: outline two ways/ reasons/ criticisms, no item

The example below, from the 2017 paper 2 achieved 8/10.

Q05: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: the question below is a full mark answer taken from the AQA’s 2017 A-level paper 7192/2.

Question 06: the 20 mark ‘evaluate’ something using the item essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understanding, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Below is a link to a response taken from the AQA’s 2016 specimen material which achieved 17/20 – so just into the top band!

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2016 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • 2017: A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 2 7192/2
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