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Regular version of the site

Barcelona Path to Ideas and Projects

In autumn the Sociology Association's First International Forum was held in Barcelona.  Usually the Association holds a congress every four years, but doesn't usually hold a forum. The most recent Congress was held in Durban (South Africa) in 2006.  The next is planned for Gothenburg (Switzerland) in July 2010. This forum however, dealt with a new topic. It was focused on the concept of Public Sociology.

In addition to some well-known HSE professors; A. Efendiev, T. Sidorina, E. Shomina and N. Pokrovski, a number of young HSE researchers attended the meeting, with some of them representing the Tutors-Students project, and others the HSE Centre for Fundamental Sociology.   These young participants have been interviewed about the Sociology Association's First International Forum.  

A. Boklin, the HSE Sociology Department alumni, one of the participants in the "Tutors & Students project"

— I had been told about forum project more than a year before the event. With Professor Pokrovski's assistance, we adopted an idea of an international association for Sociology students. We considered the forum to be a relevant starting point. This was the main reason for my participation in the Young Researchers` session of the Forum.

The Forum itself focused on Sociology's contribution to the Public sector. Our session (along with the famous sociologist Piotr Sztompka`s keynote speech) dealt with the interaction of these two areas. It was the vice-president of the International Association P. Sztompka`s report that really interested me. Besides the amount of interesting hypotheses the connections between Sociology and day-to-day life, in essence he had revealed whole evolution of sociological thinking from origins to contemporary outlooks.

Personally, I took part in our session (in cooperation with my colleague D. Popov) and gave a presentation on the relationship between Sociology and Daoism. I wanted to mention that Eastern Philosophy (and Daoism as a branch) can enrich the so called "sociological imagination" greatly

Some people might argue that these types of meetings are only for the benefit of the participants. Personally I disagree and, I'm quite pleased that our session was held after lots of problems and events. It was not a waste of breath on our part. And although there was not a huge enthusiastic crowd for our presentation, I believe it was a success. It seemed as though our guest, Professor Sztompka, was satisfied, and this delights us.

As to my personal impressions, they are the same as those two years ago when I visited it for the first time. I like Western Europe where the level of culture is higher than in Russia by variety of aspects.

Nikita Pokrovskiy and Dmitriy Popov
Nikita Pokrovskiy and Dmitriy Popov
D. Popov, PhD in Sociology, the HSE Sociology tutor 

— I was responsible for the Young Sociologists` session organized by Nikita Pokrovski, the chief of the General Sociology Department, and A. Boklin, 2008 HSE Sociology Faculty alumni. This session was a remarkable event of the Forum's opening day. In addition to young Russian sociologists, our colleagues from the US, Israel, and other countries also attended the meeting.

P. Sztompka`s report, who is connected to the HSE Faculty of Sociology through long term scientific links, was very interesting.

The Professor proposed his own particular approach to Sociology. From his point of view, from the age of Auguste Comte two relative "generations of scientists" with different attitudes to social reality and research options were prevalent in Sociology. As P. Sztompka assumed, today "the third generation" in sociology and the redistribution of scientific efforts are necessary. Interpersonal communication spaces that are more and more vital in this age of globalization and virtualization are at the basis of this innovative approach.

My paper was based on the research of Russian intellectuals' attempts to create virtual spaces in the advertisement and PR industry, the cinema and media industry, and Web technologies as well. The core point of my report is that a considerable evolution in the way of thinking and global perceptions of time and space notions that could be passed on to customers of virtualized products has already occurred among professionals.

Victoria Silaeva, the HSE Department of General Sociology staff member, "Virtualization threats and challenges" research project.

— Announcements on Western sociology Web - pages informed me of the Forum project. Thank to N. Pokrovsky contribution, who invited me to participate with the report as part of the "Virtualization threats and challenges" research project, I attended the Forum. It was interesting to discuss things with the legendary P. Sztompka at the meeting.

Victoriya Silaeva
Victoriya Silaeva
My report on "Web Blogosphere Social Structure" turned out to be relevant for the mainstream discussion on contemporary interpersonal space in dynamics through historical context proposed by P. Sztompka

My impression of Barcelona is contradictory. Gaudi's architecture is astonishing, of course. I was amazed by the gravestones and crypts, away from the tourist places, at the Cementiri de Montjuic. But when the historic buildings guarding the soul of the city are destroyed and new structures of glass and cement take their place I can not help feeling sad. The city has been turned into a production for tourists.


Vera Peshkova, the HSE Web - page editor and the Russian Academy of Sciences Sociology Institute research fellow talks about the event:

— I took part in two sessions: firstly, in the "Language and society" research committee (it is a permanent organization of the International Sociology Association, the ISA) and secondly, in the session devoted to national identity and globalization issues.

People of different ages and academic levels participated in forum sessions. This might have been a disadvantage of the Conference since some reports were slightly low level. But on the other hand it is very useful for an undergraduate or post-graduate student to take part in such an event. At the forum I made acquaintances and exchanged contacts with many foreign colleagues. Furthermore, I was offered the chance to publish my essays in an English magazine. So my participation in the sociological forum opened up some new opportunities for me. It is important to remember that further prospects depend on you.

Nail Farhatdinov, the HSE MA in sociology, the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences MA student, the HSE Center of Fundamental Sociology staff member, speaks on the event.

— Public Sociology today is considered to be probably the most important dimension in the International Sociological Association. This "refined" concept was suggested by Michael Burovoy. Public sociology intends to immerse the sociologist into social reality and public life in order to change it.

Prominent sociologists attended two main events of the forum. The first was the discussion that turned out to be Michael Maffesoly lecture course. The second was devoted to Alain Touraine's book. Besides Michael Wewerka (the ISA President), Manuel Castells, Toraine's student assisting him a lot during the French period of his scientific work, and Craig Calchun (Social Science Research Council Head), who, in his turn, worked with Pier Bourdieu, participated in the debates.

What's good about such conferences? New ideas and projects emerge during these events. Along with Nikita Kharlamov I came up with new topics for research while strolling through Barcelona.

Nikita Kharlamov, the HSE MA in sociology, the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences master-course student, the HSE Center of Fundamental Sociology staff member, talks about the event

— From my point of view, it is the opening and closing sessions that should be especially mentioned in the forum work. The opening ceremony was held by the President of Catalonia Jose Mantilla with Saskia Sassen attending. She told the audience about social science vital problems, and stressed the necessity to search for new development ways beyond stable, "grand" scientific concepts in sociology.

At the final part Michael Burovoy reported and everybody was astonished by his personality. I think charisma plays an important part in sociology, as it does in any field. A theory may be brilliant but if the speaker presents it dully everybody will miss it. So I think that Michael Burovoy's charisma, his ability to clearly explain his ideas for the audience played a large part in the presentation and popularization of public sociology. But it would be a contradiction if this very theory was presented by cold uncharismatic people. For what is "public sociology"? I would like to say that on the one side we have here a Marxist notion of changing the world and the impossibility of keeping a neutral position but on the other hand, ideas of civil society and democracy.

If to speak on diverse impressions of the forum I'd like to share with my colleagues the following. There is one point many people are afraid of - it is the necessity to write an abstract of the paper and present it. But this is a simple thing to do. One should only have a look on how they should be done: there are sets of theses and previous year's abstracts on the Internet. And if all requirements are met, there won't be any problems with taking part in a large conference. One should not be afraid of language problems because usually everybody understands everything.

It is worth with to participation in the forum. When a person attends a conference and spends several days without e-mail, beyond his day - to - day problems in professional surroundings, thinking only about sociology, ideas flock together like birds and you only need to write them down.

Olga Shuvalova, senior research - fellow at the HSE Institution of Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge, talks about the event:

— I was informed about the forum by the School for Sociology of Science and Technology at St. Petersburg. When I saw the name of the first session "Science, technology and innovations in public outlook: freedom or restriction?" I began to prepare my report with great pleasure since I've been studying the public's attitude to science for 13 years. My paper was based on mass public inquiry results published in "Eurobarometr" issues № 224 and 225 and comparable Russian data based on research carried out by our Institution within the Innovative Educational Programme.

I spoke on the regularity I revealed: the higher the scientific awareness among the public, the more people are opposed to new technologies implementation of all types, starting with from a minority against "extinct species breeding to return them to the natural environment afterwards", to "cloning a child from one parent if the other has a serious hereditary disease" with two thirds of EU countries citizens and three quarters of Russians against it.

And speaking about the Barcelona forum as a whole, I think its subject area is surprisingly close to the overall theme of the Third all-Russia Sociology Congress that took place at the HSE.

Marina Ivanova, the HSE News service