The Sociology Video Project

About the Project

What's new? New videos, of course!

Of particular note among the 35 newly-added videos are Anatomy of Desire, which explores the history of scientific understandings of same-sex desire, and Hear What We Are Saying, an anti-racist critique of Ontario's mental health system. These two are among the best-rated videos for the project as a whole.

Other new videos that reviewers particularly liked include: Remember Africville, which details the 1960s demolition of a Black Nova Scotian neighbourhood; The Sterilization of Leilani Muir, which examines eugenics in 20th century Canada; and Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back, an exploration by disability activists of how social institutions characterize disability.

It's also gratifying to have found three videos set (or partly set) in Africa -- Tina Machida in Zimbabwe, High-tech Harvest, and Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask -- that rise above the early-National-Geographic formulae that made viewing so painful in 2002 and 2003. The video project has become more global in its issues and settings now that it includes videos such as New World Border (on the U.S.-Mexico border), La operacion (on sterilizations in Puerto Rico), and Rock, Paper, Missiles (on media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict).

Then there's a pair of interesting videos on classical theorists : Hull House: The House that Jane Built, and Marx: The Video: A Politics of Revolting Bodies that, along with Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask, are the first videos on theorists to be included in the site.

The Sound & Moving Image librarian, Kathryn Elder, has been very helpful about ordering videos on the basis of instructors' recommendations in the survey and project participants' reviews. Among the many new library holdings are Dirty Laundry (a queer account of Chinese-Canadian history), More than Hair Care Products (on gay bear culture), The Crisis of the Cultural Environment (a study of media corporatization), and Under the Skin Game (an anti-racist, feminist criticism of the politics of Norplant). Two new videos have just arrived: Corporate Lockdown, which is a study of prison privatization, and Between the Cracks, which looks at the relation of disability to poverty. If you'd like to contribute a review of either of these, please email us.

Gaps do remain in the website's coverage. For example, videos on new technologies such as the internet become outdated with ridiculous speed. Videos about theorists other than Marx are rare, while filmmakers' interest in Marx himself seems to have waned just before the fall of Communism, i.e., in an era when video production values were rather weak. The many statistics videos screened for the project tend to be at the wrong level or oriented to the research questions of disciplines other than sociology. If you know of a winning video on these or other topics important in your classroom, please contact the Sound & Moving Image Library and encourage them to acquire it.

Thank you for your interest & happy viewing!


How the Project Started

This project was inspired by a chance conversation between a faculty member and a teaching assistant in York University's Department of Sociology. We were commiserating about how, despite the extensive collection of videos in York's library, it was frustrating to try to identify videos that would contribute to sociological education in our classrooms.

Our difficulties arose in part because "sociology" is not a keyword used in the Library of Congress cataloguing system (an interesting sociology of knowledge issue in itself), meaning that the search for a good sociology video usually entails:

  • conducting cumbersome searches on numerous less pertinent keywords
  • generating an extensive list of possibly relevant videos
  • going, full of hope, to the library to scan the possibilities
  • eliminating many of them in dismay because their content was asociological, anti-sociological, or too simplistic for use in university classrooms
  • and settling after several hours' work on a video that could be deemed, at best, "in the ballpark"

The individualisation of academic work meant that this tedious process was probably being repeated time and again. The happy idea at the heart of this project, then, was to get through the painful work of screening out unhelpful videos in one large-scale concerted effort. We wanted to identify great videos for use in sociology classrooms. An unexpected bonus of the work was that the 130 or so of us who participated in this project found ourselves having interesting conversations along the way about our teaching philosophy and practices.

This website provides sociologically-oriented cataloguing, ratings, and reviews of the almost 100 short sociology videos identified in our assessment of 339 possibilities.

We're happy to share the results of our work with you!


Project Participants

Main Contributors

Katherine Bischoping • Organizer, main reviewer, workshop presenter, website project manager
Sam Ladner • Web producer, workshop presenter
Riley Olstead • Main reviewer, workshop presenter
Belinda Godwin • Main reviewer, workshop presenter
Sarah Newman • Main reviewer
Brian Fuller • Main reviewer
Minh Hoang • Undergraduate reviewer, workshop presenter
Kisrene McKenzie • Undergraduate reviewer, workshop presenter
Marsha McQueen • Undergraduate reviewer
Carlos Torres • Undergraduate reviewer
Jennifer Lewis-Phillips • Undergraduate reviewer

Volunteers reviewers in 2004

Joan Allen • Tara Atluri • Albert Banerjee • Steve Bosanac • Debi Brock
Jesse Carlson • Elena Chou • Deborah Davidson • Penny Dowedoff
Michael Follert • Doreen Fumia • Luin Goldring • Andil Gosine
Kevin Gosine • Adam Green • Kate Hunc • Peter Landstreet
Steve LeDrew • Peter Mallory • Ann McKerlie • Ian Morrison • Andie Noack
Mandy Nourse • Morgan Poteet • Liz Rondinelli • Chris Sanders
Kathryn Scott • Isabel Sousa • Philip Steiner • Penni Stewart
Peter Vandergeest • Panayota Vassou • Lorna Weir • Lesley Wood

Survey respondents in 2004
Zelda Abramson • Joan Allen • Karen Anderson • Paul Anisef
Elizabeth Asante • Albert Banerjee • Susan Braedley • Debi Brock
Daphna Carmeli • Rina Cohen • Karine Côté-Boucher • Gordon Darroch
Deborah Davidson • Dimitra Dimitrova • Lola Figueroa Romero • Tara Franz
Doreen Fumia • Merle Jacobs • Clifford Jansen • Rob Kenedy
Fuyuki Kurasawa • Larry Lam • Debra Langan • Michael Lanphier
Jennifer Love • Stefka Lubenova • Peter Mallory • Nancy Mandell
Egla Martinez • Zafar Mehdi • Paul Moore • Riley Olstead • Paula Pinto
Cheran Rudhramoorthy • Lonnie Sha • Penni Stewart • Denise Tom-Kun
Peter Vandergeest • Panayota Vassou • Lorna Weir • Fiona Whittington-Walsh
Chris Williams • Elke Winter

Volunteer reviewers in 2002 and 2003
Cawo Abdi • Dawn Anderson • Reem Attieh • Angela Aujla • Albert Banerjee James Beaton • Steve Bosanac • Debi Brock • Susan Braedley • Ellen Chang Yushen Chen • Elena Chou • Karine Côté-Boucher • Deborah Davidson
Alex Emberly • Erkan Ercel • Laura Fenton • Michael Follert • Tara Franz Chanelle Gallant • Pnina Ginzberg • Luin Goldring • Kevin Gosine
Kalina Grewal • Matthew Hayes • Sabina Heilman • Julia Hemphill
Mervyn Horgan • Sarah Hornstein • Bora Isyar • Beth Jackson • Jennifer Johnson Peter Kiatipis • Sam Ladner • Kate Laxer • Yuzhen Liu • Diego Llovet
Jennifer Love • Peter Mallory • Leanne McCormack • Tara Milbrandt
Madona Mokbel • Paul Moore • Janine Muller • Andie Noack • Marcia Oliver Andrew Paravantes • Augustine Park • Patti Phillips • Alice Propper
Rebecca Raby • Shirley Ramsarran • Sarah Rogers • Lina Samuel • Lonnie Sha Alan Simmons • Riva Soucie • Lachlan Story • Madelina Sunseri
Tracy Supruniuk • Victoria Tamasebi • Andrew Thompson • Shannon Thomson Anna Toth • Catherine Tuey • Peter Vandergeest • Sujatha Varghese
Panayota Vassou • Jody Nyasha Warner • Fiona Whittington-Walsh
Chris Williams • Patricia Williams • oscar wolfman • Suzanne Zerger

Special Thanks To...

Michèle Anderson • Independent video artist
Robert J. Drummond Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Kathryn Elder and library staffSound and Moving Image Library
Lorna ErwinGraduate Programme in Sociology, Qualitative Research & Resource Centre
Rob Finlayson and Lisa Caines OginiComputing & Network Services
Sue Foster Qualitative Research & Resource Centre
Kevin Gosine, Mervyn Horgan, Augustine Park, and Lina Samuel Teaching Development Graduate Assistant Programme
Ron Sheese Centre for Support of Teaching
Alan Simmons Department of Sociology
Audrey Tokiwa Graduate Programme in Sociology

Funding Sources

YUFA Release-Time Teaching Fellowship Programme
Faculty of Graduate Studies Graduate Assistant Programme
Department of Sociology Academic Initiative Fund
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Teaching Development Grant
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Research Grant
Centre for Support of Teaching
Qualitative Research and Resource Centre


How we did it

Selecting videos to review in 2002 and 2003

Only videos up to 30 minutes long (or described in the catalogue as having an under-30 minute long opening segment) were assessed. This restriction kept the project to a manageable scale and meant that its results could be useful in both 50-minute tutorials and in longer classroom sessions.

Only videos available in York's Sound & Moving Image Library by September 2003 were assessed. Rather than using time to scout out possibly expensive new materials, the goal was to first know what gems the existing collection might hold.

The videos to be assessed were selected using 134 keywords relevant to courses described in the Department of Sociology calendar (e.g., adolescence, Afro-Canadian, aging, AIDS, archive...policing, political economy, popular culture, post-colonial) and existing bibliographies compiled by the Sound & Moving Image Library on African Canadians, environmental studies, global issues, labour & labour history, the Middle East, mass communications & cultural studies, South-East Asia, and women's studies.

The sample consisted of 262 videos.


Reviewing the videos in 2002 and 2003: the first cut

Videos were grouped into sets of about 10 according to the topics described in their Sound & Moving Image Library abstracts, and then reviewed by a pair of people - usually Kathy Bischoping or Riley Olstead (the main reviewers at that stage of the project) and a volunteer with research, teaching, or recent coursework experience directly pertinent to the video's topic. They discussed whether the video was...

  • at a level of difficulty suitable for sociology undergraduate viewers?
  • intellectually challenging? (e.g., does it present a perspective with which most students are likely to be unfamiliar, or encourage critical thinking?)
  • presenting information at a good pace?
  • illustrating or analysing some sociological concept(s)?
  • effectively balancing individual experience with macro-level factors (e.g., culture, social structure, social change), where this is applicable for the topic?
  • respectful of subjects' agency and voice?
  • better, because of the visual element, than a lecture or reading covering the same material would be?
  • visually interesting? (e.g., if you didn't understand the language of the video, would it still be fairly interesting to watch?)
  • showing images/text that aren't blurry, with a clear soundtrack?
  • depicting members of equity-seeking groups (such as persons with disabilities, racialised minorities, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transpersons, aboriginal people, and/or people in less developed countries, or other relevant groups)?
  • not stereotyping groups or encouraging prejudices?
  • one you wish you had seen when you were an undergraduate?

(These criteria constituted a mix of considerations found to be important in a study of students' responses to assigned readings in several disciplines, concerns specific to the discipline of Sociology, and concerns specific to the video medium.)

These reviewers jointly wrote a brief review and rated the video using the scale:

1 = Don't show this to your class
2 = It would be fine for our curriculum, but nothing special
3 = It would be a great choice for our curriculum
4 = It would be a brilliant choice for our curriculum.

A majority of the videos (152 out of 262) received an initial rating of "1". This sorry outcome backs up our impresson that sociology instructors in search of good videos have been having to put in many hours to find them. It also means that those who kindly volunteered at this stage of the project had the most discouraging work and that their contribution is less visible in the reviews on this site.

      • 12 videos received 1.5 out of 4
      • 29 videos received 2 out of 4
      • 9 videos received 2.5 out of 4
      • 31 videos received 3 out of 4
      • 11 videos received 3.5 out of 4
      • 8 videos received 4 out of 4


Reviewing the videos: the subsequent rounds of reviews in 2002 and 2003

All videos that received an initial rating of at least 2.5 - i.e., better than "fine but nothing special" - went on to receive three to five more reviews. Once this had been done, further opinions were sought for videos with initial ratings of 2.0: about one third of this work has been completed. Agreement among numerical ratings is fairly good: about 80 percent of 2nd opinions were within 1.0 point of the rating initially provided. However, interesting qualitative differences of opinion abound, as you'll see if you peruse the reviews.

Sociology faculty members and graduate students and one librarian, who had generously volunteered to provide many of the 2nd and subsequent opinions, applied the set of criteria listed above. The criteria were also provided to graduate students who attended a series of "Monday Afternoon at the Movies" teaching development workshops and reviewed videos there.

In addition, we tried to have each promising video reviewed by at least one undergraduate student. Three undergraduates (Minh Hoang, Kisrene McKenzie, and Jennifer Lewis-Phillips) who had joined the project met to discuss the criteria that they thought mattered when they watched videos in their classes.

While some of the criteria they mentioned were consistent with those that instructors used, others were quite different: "has to be up to date", "I like graphs," "music helps in the background", "things that are global", in colour - not "black and white - what's going on?", not "all left-wing or all right-wing", and not "hit[ting] me too much personally".

The undergraduate students did not come to a consensus about the criteria they would use in their reviews, but instead kept their discussion in mind as they went about their assessments.

Finally, all ratings obtained for a video were averaged. The 63 that received ratings of 2.2 or better (i.e., a little better than "fine but nothing special") were classified according to their sociological topics. They are the ones for which information is presented on this site.

It should be noted that despite the wide range of search terms and the large sample that was reviewed, the set of best videos has important lacunae - for example, we did not find any good expositions of classical sociological theory or statistical methods.

Surveying instructors in 2004

When the website of information about the top 63 videos was launched, faculty and teaching assistants in Sociology were surveyed in order to identify the most important gaps in the video resources available to them. In the 43 responses obtained, the following topics came up most often:

  • Classical theorists and their social contexts
  • Disabilities, particularly physical and invisible ones
  • Health: feminist and other critical perspectives
  • Experiences of illness
  • International issues (e.g., migrant workers, agro-food topics, human rights)
  • New technologies
  • Racism
  • Sexualities
  • Statistics

while several other topics, such as media, criminology, family diversity, and contemporary theory were also mentioned less frequently. A list of titles of videos that instructors had recommended was also sent to the Sound & Moving Image Library.

Selecting and reviewing videos in 2004

Videos from several sources Focusing on the topics that instructors mentioned most in the survey, videos were sought out amongst the York library's latest acquisitions, as well as from other Ontario university libraries (particularly University of Toronto's and OISE-University of Toronto's) and from V-Tape (a distributor of independently-made videos). A pair of videos was also sent to us by the student of a Concordia faculty member who'd attended a conference presentation given by project participants.

Videos up to 59 minutes long Although we would have liked to keep on reviewing only those videos short enough to be shown and discussed in tutorials, the scarcity of videos in certain areas meant that we assessed somewhat longer videos this time around.

In 2004, 77 videos were reviewed, using methods similar to those of 2002 and 2003. Two new undergraduate reviewers involved in the project again brought fresh perspectives to it: Marsha McQueen preferred videos that encouraged viewers to connect emotionally to what they were watching, while Carlos Torres was most interested in videos that analysed the root causes of social problems. Marsha, Carlos, graduate assistants and numerous generous volunteers gave the thumbs up (i.e., ratings averaging 2.2 or better out of 4) to 35 videos that they reviewed, bringing the total number of videos in the website to 98.