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
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 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
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new technologies such as the internet become outdated with ridiculous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!
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 •
Michael Follert • Doreen Fumia • Luin Goldring •
Kevin Gosine • Adam Green • Kate Hunc • Peter Landstreet
Steve LeDrew • Peter Mallory • Ann McKerlie • Ian
Morrison • Andie Noack
Mandy Nourse • Morgan Poteet • Liz Rondinelli •
Kathryn Scott • Isabel Sousa • Philip Steiner •
Peter Vandergeest • Panayota Vassou • Lorna Weir •
Survey respondents in 2004
Zelda Abramson • Joan Allen • Karen Anderson • Paul
Elizabeth Asante • Albert Banerjee • Susan Braedley •
Daphna Carmeli • Rina Cohen • Karine Côté-Boucher
• Gordon Darroch
Deborah Davidson • Dimitra Dimitrova • Lola Figueroa Romero
• Tara Franz
Doreen Fumia • Merle Jacobs • Clifford Jansen •
Fuyuki Kurasawa • Larry Lam • Debra Langan • Michael
Jennifer Love • Stefka Lubenova • Peter Mallory •
Egla Martinez • Zafar Mehdi • Paul Moore • Riley
Olstead • Paula Pinto
Cheran Rudhramoorthy • Lonnie Sha • Penni Stewart •
Peter Vandergeest • Panayota Vassou • Lorna Weir •
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 •
Alex Emberly • Erkan Ercel • Laura Fenton • Michael
Follert • Tara Franz Chanelle Gallant • Pnina Ginzberg
• Luin Goldring • Kevin Gosine
Kalina Grewal • Matthew Hayes • Sabina Heilman •
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 •
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 •
Special Thanks To...
Michèle Anderson • Independent video
Robert J. Drummond • Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Kathryn Elder and library staff • Sound
and Moving Image Library
Lorna Erwin • Graduate Programme in Sociology,
& Resource Centre
Rob Finlayson and Lisa Caines Ogini • Computing
& Network Services
Sue Foster •
& Resource Centre
Kevin Gosine, Mervyn Horgan, Augustine Park, and Lina Samuel
Development Graduate Assistant Programme
Ron Sheese •
Centre for Support of Teaching
Alan Simmons •
Department of Sociology
Audrey Tokiwa •
Graduate Programme in Sociology
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
- intellectually challenging? (e.g., does it present a perspective
with which most students are likely to be unfamiliar, or encourage
- 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
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
Reviewing the videos: the subsequent rounds of reviews in 2002 and
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
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,
- New technologies
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
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