Pseudo equation/PR attempt to label the most depressing day of the year

Yesterday may have just been the most depressing day of the year if you believe one argument:

The idea of Blue Monday dates back to a 2005 campaign by Sky Travel. The company wanted to encourage people to take January vacations, so they reached out to Arnall, who developed his equation to find the most depressing day of the year.

Media, the public, and even other companies latched onto the idea. A U.K. group started a website dedicated to “beating Blue Monday.” Another group, bluemonday.org, encourages acts of kindness on the date.

Scientists, however, say there is no evidence that Blue Monday causes any more sadness than other specific days of the year. Burnett has been outspoken on the topic, publishing multiple blogs in The Guardian dedicated to dispelling the myth…

Burnett blames slow January news cycles, general post-holidays discontent, and “confirmation bias” for the term’s endurance.

“(People) feel down at this time of year, and the Blue Monday claim makes it seem like there are scientific reasons for this,” Burnett said in an email exchange. “It also breaks down a very complex issue into something easily quantifiable and simple, and that tends to please a lot of people, giving the impression that the world is predictable and measurable.”

And what is this equation?

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/01/19/today-is-saddest-day-year-and-there-blue-monday-equation-that-explains-why/?intcmp=latestnews

This is almost brilliant: come up with an equation (everyone knows equations make things more scientific and true), put it out there in January (dark and cold already), and the media eats it up (every morning show host ever hates Mondays). And the scientific data? Lacking.

That said, it would be intriguing to more into mass societal emotions around different times of the year. Is Christmas an excuse for many just to be happy for a month between Thanksgiving and the end of the year? I remember seeing a suggestion from someone that we should move Christmas later, perhaps to the middle of January, so we can enjoy the Thanksgiving high a bit longer before being pressed into another holiday. Or, what about those arguments that we need a national holiday the day after the Super Bowl? Given the amount of interaction people today have with the mass media (something like eleven hours of media consumption a day on average), couldn’t publicly displayed emotions have some effect on how we feel? Perhaps this has little or no effect compared to the effect of the emotions from the people nearby on us in our social networks.

A Sociology of Disney course makes sense because Disney itself claims an influential legacy

I recently saw a story about a new Sociology of Disney course. Is such a course helpful or a good use of time? Some might see this as frivolous, perhaps the same people who sound the alarms about sociology courses about celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, or Jay-Z. I would argue otherwise: not only is it a good means to introduce students to sociology but Disney itself claims it is an influential factor in American life.

First, a quick description of the Sociology of Disney course:

A classroom case study: A young woman stuck in an abusive home escapes her family through marriage. Fast forward 60 years: Another young woman calls off her wedding to a deceptive fiance and focuses her time on her older sister and a new partner from a lower social class.

If these two fictional examples came from the same writer, what does this say about how the author’s attitude toward women changed?

They may sound like a classic comparison of gender roles, but they’re actually the plot of two Disney movies — “Cinderella” and “Frozen.”

Heather Downs, a Jacksonville University sociology professor, is using such examples in her “The Sociology of Disney” summer course, which she created last year as a way to get students interested in common sociology topics. The course has gained popularity since, and 16 students completed their final Friday by running around the Magic Kingdom and taking photos of examples of sociology topics discussed in class.

Second, I recently saw the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Lots of people know Disney and like Disney but I was particularly interested in how Disney itself was presented. And the legacy-building was thick. It included: the early life of Walt Disney in the heartland of America (Chicago, small-town Missouri); his early forays in Hollywood with interesting cartoon work and new ideas; the formation of the Disney company; all sorts of new techniques in animation (matching sound with drawings, coloring, a multi-plane camera, reintroducing fairy tales); innovative work matching animation and live-action (think Mary Poppins); the construction of iconic characters and theme parks; and best-selling movies. All throughout, there were videos and quotes from Walt Disney talking about what the company was trying to do and how they accomplished it.

Connecting this to the Disney course, it is worth studying Disney because this successful international corporation itself recognizes its influence. Walt Disney is held up as an American success story, a Midwestern boy who followed his dreams and helped enrich the lives of millions. Individuals don’t have to like the films or themes or what Disney stands for but it is hard to refute that most, if not all, Americans have interacted with Disney in one form or another. While people are certainly influenced by other sources, Disney capitalized on a number of trends – generally, adapting to new mass media forms – and is worth examining.

House of Cards may be all the rage but how many people have actually seen it?

Derek Thompson notes the disconnect between all the attention the TV show House of Cards is receiving versus the number of people who have actually seen it:

Netflix doesn’t share (and doesn’t care about) live audiences, and neither do its advertisers, because there aren’t any. So rather than rough Nielsen figures, we have to go by even rougher broadband analytics. But here’s our best guess: “Anywhere from 6-10% of subscribers watched at least one episode of House of Cards,” Procera Networks found, and in the U.S., “the average number of episodes watched during the weekend was three.” Fascinatingly: There was no appreciable increase in Netflix’s overall traffic.

Given that Netflix has just under 30 million domestic subscribers, that means that two to three million people watched House of Cards in its opening weekend. (A previous Procera estimate went as high as 16 percent of Netflix subs, or nearly 5 million.)…

It’s awkward to compare streaming estimates to Nielsen estimates, but it seems safe to say the average CBS program has at least twice times as many viewers as House of Cards...

The outcome is sort of weird. Pop culture critics, who tend to be attracted to the thing that’s most popular, mostly ignore the most popular shows on TV, which are lower-brow fare crafted to get high ratings. Meanwhile, a handful of networks whose business models rely on subscriptions rather than advertising amass all the most-talked-about shows on television. And that’s how the people reading about TV and the people watching TV live in two separate worlds.

A similar issue is taking place with the Best Picture nominees for this year’s Oscars: few Americans have actually seen any of the nominees.

Among other questions, the poll asked 1,433 Americans whether they had seen any of the nine best-picture nominees, plus two other films competing in other categories. The Academy Awards will be hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres on March 2.

Among those who responded to the online survey, Somali piracy thriller “Captain Phillips” was the most-watched film, at 15 percent. But 67 percent said they had yet to see any of the eleven films in the poll.

The outer-space drama “Gravity” was second with 14 percent, while crime caper “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Martin Scorsese’s portrait of 1990s greed and excess, each had been seen by 12 percent of those surveyed. The numbers include those surveyed who may have seen more than one of the nominees.

The survey found that 60 percent of respondents were unsure about which film should win best picture. Slavery drama “12 Years a Slave” had the most support at 9 percent.

With the fragmentation of media in recent decades, this shouldn’t be any surprise: viewers can see what they want and now, can often do it when they want. It is difficult to really have a larger, public, shared conversation in the United States about a single media event like it would have been fifty years ago when the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. It might only be possible today with real-time events, like the Super Bowl or major political happenings (though now people can watch many sources broadcasting and interpreting the same events) or coverage after a major disaster.

Perhaps this also helps explain the popularity of viral videos: compared to the time investment for a TV series or a movie, a video tends to only take a moment or two but the viewer can then be an expert or a participant immediately.