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Sociological Perspectives

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Anyone get this journal? It's put out by the University of California and came across an abstract that sounds interesting, but even when I try to go to the payment page to view it, it says I do not have access...so I'm guessing you need to be with the institution or something.

This is the abstract:


Sociological Perspectives
Winter 2006, Vol. 49, No. 4, Pages 583–605
Posted online on January 10, 2007.
(doi:10.1525/sop.2006.49.4.583)

"He didn't Go in Doing A Skydive": Sustaining the Illusion of Control in an Edgework Activity

Jason Laurendeau‌
University of Lethbridge



Exploring Lyng's notion of "edgework," this article draws on ethnographic data to explore the ways skydivers create and sustain the belief that they can maintain control while working the "edge" in this sport. The article focuses on the ways skydivers construct and maintain the "illusion" that they can exercise control as they negotiate their particular edge. It elaborates the ways this sense of control is constructed and the extent to which it informs the ways risk recreators approach the edge. In the choices jumpers make about how they participate in the sport and the ways they interpret the experiences of themselves and other jumpers, they defend the position that their hazardous environments are within their control. When this position becomes untenable, they often draw on the notion of fate to construct certain hazards as outside of the sport, thereby sustaining their sense of control.


http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/sop.2006.49.4.583?cookieSet=1&journalCode=sop

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It elaborates the ways this sense of control is constructed and the extent to which it informs the ways risk recreators approach the edge.



Yep. Risk management goes on for everyone.
It is basically the measurement of:
- where the "edge" is.
- what skills are necessary to manage the risk of
approaching that edge.

For example, skydivers who are not great canopy
pilots will choose not to enter swooping competitions.
Certain skill levels are necessary to approach that
risk level.

Some college students skateboard to class because
they do not regard it as a risk.

College psychology professors probably do not skateboard to class. They drive their car.
They do not consider the possibility that a speeding car can run a red light and kill them.

Skydiving can kill you, no matter what you do.
So can snow skiing or walking to the mail box.
So can a car crash on the interstate.

Maybe they should research "quality of life".
Total safety isn't always the goal.

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Jason did some skydiving about 10 years back; I'm guessing 150-200 jumps. I corresponded with him a few years back.

Attached is a version of the Edgework & Control paper. I'm not sure if it is the final version that appeared in the journal, but at the time he sent it to me it had been accepted for publication.

The Lyng he refers to is Stephen Lyng, who I gather is well known for his study of 'edgework' as it has come to be known in sociology. E.g., he edited the book "Edgework: The Sociology of Risk Taking". Lyng also coauthored a paper (in the journal "Theoretical Criminality" 2001 v5(2) pp177-202!) where the authors went to Bridge Day and interviewed jumpers.

Jason also did a published paper looking at gender and sexuality issues in skydiving songs, in particular the Crack Choir and Cock Chorus at the Lost Prairie boogie. That paper seemed to me a little over the top in over-analysis of the situation, even if it was valid social observation. (Sociology of Sport Journal, 2004, 21, 397-417)

E.g., "Analyses reveal that men’s songs constrain the transformative potential of women in sky-
diving by trivializing, marginalizing, and sexualizing them. Further, they reinforce male
hegemony in skydiving through the construction of a hyperheterosexual masculinity. Mean-
while, women’s songs resist male hegemony in the sport, laying claim to discursive and
physical space. "

I'll cut him some slack when it comes to the writing style. Just like guys at a boogie, sociologists need to fit in with their peer group too.

I have also attached another paper of his, "Policing the edge: risk and social control in skydiving" (Jason Laurendeau and E. G. Van Brunschot, Deviant Behavior, 27: 173-201, 2006).

I think Jason's research has since taken him away from skydiving to other behaviours, such as environmental activism. [Correction: While he is doing that, he is also looking at BASE.]

As an experienced jumper I don't think I learned a huge amount from the papers. Still, it is is always interesting to read about perspectives of risk in skydiving, how skydivers react to it, and how skydiving is presented to outsiders. Jason was able to do so with some insider's perspective, which is rarely the case.

The closing lines in the abstract you quoted bear keeping in mind. To repeat, "In the choices jumpers make about how they participate in the sport and the ways they interpret the experiences of themselves and other jumpers, they defend the position that their hazardous environments are within their control. When this position becomes untenable, they often draw on the notion of fate to construct certain hazards as outside of the sport, thereby sustaining their sense of control."

It is almost a tautology -- we always feel in control except when we realize we aren't. While the statement doesn't look at the role of actual risk or control, still there is some point to it.

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I have a pretty big collection of academic papers on the sociology, psychology and physiology of skydiving. Many are copyrighted and come at a price, and most are too big to post here.
The Laurendeau papers (there are several others) are distinguished from the majority in that they display a sense of humor and are actually readable.:S
My favorite is "The 'Crack Choir' and the 'Cock Chorus': The Intersection of Gender and Sexuality in Skydiving Texts," a study of skydiving songs.

HW

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Sociological Perspectives
"Sustaining the Illusion of Control in an Edgework Activity"

Exploring Lyng's notion of "edgework," this article draws on ethnographic data to explore the ways skydivers create and sustain the belief that they can maintain control while working the "edge" in this sport. The article focuses on the ways skydivers construct and maintain the "illusion" that they can exercise control as they negotiate their particular edge. It elaborates the ways this sense of control is constructed and the extent to which it informs the ways risk recreators approach the edge. In the choices jumpers make about how they participate in the sport and the ways they interpret the experiences of themselves and other jumpers, they defend the position that their hazardous environments are within their control. When this position becomes untenable, they often draw on the notion of fate to construct certain hazards as outside of the sport, thereby sustaining their sense of control.



Here's the plain language synopsis for you:
"Skydivers are all crazy!"
Psychobabble.

Our hazardous environment IS largely within our control. We make rational risk/reward assessments, and accept the fact that sometimes things happen beyond our control. All of that is true in ANY endeavor in life: driving a car, playing golf, whatever. It doesn't mean that we're unaware of the risks, or that we delude ourselves into thinking that we're perfectly safe, as this summary implies.

Don't they have some rats they should be testing?

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I think a lot of people delude themselves into thinking they are acting more safely than they actually are. You see it here all the time with newer jumpers and smaller canopies. Or 100 jump wonders jumping cameras or wingsuits. To imply that skydivers as a group are fully aware of the risks they take and act rationally regarding those risks is what's crazy. Next time you're at the DZ, read the waiver you signed and remember that it is not exagerated for effect. What we do is extremely dangerous, but many people don't want to face it.

- Dan G

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As an experienced jumper I don't think I learned a huge amount from the papers. Still, it is is always interesting to read about perspectives of risk in skydiving, how skydivers react to it, and how skydiving is presented to outsiders. Jason was able to do so with some insider's perspective, which is rarely the case.



I'm reading through it now, and so far I'm much less than impressed.

Firstly with the horrible sociology tendency to talk in blanket terms; "skydivers think this", "risky behaviour participants do this" etc.

Secondly because I can look through the list of rationalisations he says we make, and know that I don't do most of them. I don't know who he interviewed, but they don't think like me.

Lastly, and most importantly, he seems to have assumed his conclusion and uses every percieved skydiver's thought process to support that conclusion. If we think we have total control, we're downplaying the risk. If we think we have no control, we're downplaying the risk. If we say someone died because it was fate, we're downplaying the risk. If we say someone died because the appropriate survival instinct(?), we're downplaying the risk. If we say someone died because shit happens, we're downplaying the risk. If we say someone died because they made the wrong decision/action at a critical moment, we're downplaying the risk. It's getting a bit monotonous.

Apparently "framing
mishaps as the outcome of poor decision-making... supports the central assumption that the sport is not inherently dangerous." Really? I guess we should never point out how people have fucked up if we want to face the risks of skydiving head on.:S
Do you want to have an ideagasm?

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As compared with the mass of people at large (who are the topics of sociology as a whole), we downplay the risk.

What I got from it was that our perception of risk is different from others', and that's in part because we understand, an in part because we think we understand, the area around "the edge."

It's a valid way to look at things. Again, it's not directed at a skydiving audience for whom this area is pretty well-traveled; it's more for people who think of risk as something to avoid.

It was too observational for me; too much just "here's what I saw" and not enough conclusion-drawing (with the explanation for why he drew those conclusions). Of course, sociology is still very much in that state -- we don't really know enough to do much more than observe and record. Maybe someday we'll all be Hari Seldons...

Wendy W.
There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence. (tbrown)

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As compared with the mass of people at large (who are the topics of sociology as a whole), we downplay the risk.



That's meaningless.

You could say that compared with the population at large, we mostly see the risk as lower, but since the opinion of the poulation at large is completely uneducated, it has nothing to do with whether we are downplaying the risk.
Do you want to have an ideagasm?

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No, it's not really meaningless. The risk is lower for us because we are educated, and know the little ridges better. The risk for me swooping (as an example) would be much larger than lots of other people.

To add: when I said downplay before that was inaccurate. Risk is not an absolute. The risk for the same activity is different for different people, based on their knowledge, preparation, physiology, condition, and lots of other things. So we're not as much downplaying as not describing it in the same terms that others would.

It's kind of like the difference between knowing (for example) that someone lives in London. From Houston, that's plenty enough granularity for most purposes (other than mailing a letter). But if I were to actually go to London, it wouldn't be enough.

Wendy W.
There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence. (tbrown)

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Jakee and Wendy W. make good points.

Even for an individual (rather than a whole group) there are a mixture of viewpoints that all mix together and are exhibited at different times. On can't take one quote from a person as representing their entire view of the sport. There's also a difference between what people say and how they actually behave.

A lot of the points made have some validity, but for every point it seems one can make a counterpoint.

A typical item in the Edgework & Control paper:
"By invoking fate, jumpers frame a skydiving death not as a matter of the inherent risk in the sport
catching up with someone, but simply fate dealing the ‘victim’ a bad hand. This trump card,
therefore, keeps intact the notion that the sport is not particularly dangerous if skydivers manage
the hazards properly. "


I can see some of that being true: there is a tendency to remove a accident from the concept of the risk we ourselves face, maybe because we don't expect to screw up in the way the victim did, we won't panic turn into the ground, or we are going to take better care of our gear.

Yet at the same time, the statement is also partially wrong: we may see a death as both a bad hand from fate, and an example of the inherent risk. We know airplanes can kill you without you being able to do much about it, bigways can be more dangerous, you can't afford to mess up much in a swoop, and so on.

I wonder to what degree some of the things discussed are just as prevalent elsewhere in society. I think most people try to believe that they'll make it home safe at the end of the day, whether they are skydiving, out at sea on a small fishing boat, or driving to work on snowy roads. Yet at the same time there may be some fatalism too, as even in mundane everyday existence we know there are risks.

How to characterize the combination of all the different thoughts and feelings is difficult. Observational techniques aren't good at assigning numbers to things, but on the other hand, survey responses don't necessarily get at the truth either.

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Some day I'll dig out that paper I wrote on skydiving culture for anthropology 101 back in '81 for you. The one I didn't realize would lose 5% a day for being late because I always cut the last hour and a half of class to meet my girlfriend (and parachute student) at the Elbow Room downstairs in the UCC. The prof eventually said it was a really good paper and the mark I would end up with after the late penalties would drag down my whole average, so he compromised and gave me a 60 or 65, don't remember which.
If some old guy can do it then obviously it can't be very extreme. Otherwise he'd already be dead.
Bruce McConkey 'I thought we were gonna die, and I couldn't think of anyone

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I think a lot of people delude themselves into thinking they are acting more safely than they actually are. You see it here all the time with newer jumpers and smaller canopies. Or 100 jump wonders jumping cameras or wingsuits. To imply that skydivers as a group are fully aware of the risks they take and act rationally regarding those risks is what's crazy. Next time you're at the DZ, read the waiver you signed and remember that it is not exagerated for effect. What we do is extremely dangerous, but many people don't want to face it.



I think a lot of people delude themselves into thinking that their safety is someone else's responsibility. Fortunately for us, the waivers tend to filter out such deluded individuals from the sport ;-)

What we do is extremely gratifying, enjoyable, and beneficial to our existence. To imply that these benefits can be defined and weighed against the risks in a fully rational manner is what's crazy.

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Maybe someday we'll all be Hari Seldons...



I wonder how many people understand this reference?;)



Mostly people with a foundation in mathematics
and sociology. :)



...and sci-fi nerds ;)



Irony
Quote

His works have been published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (the sole exception being the 100s; philosophy and psychology).

:o

I guess it depends where they put the Foundation series. :S

The key thing about reading articles like this is perspective. They are only experts on what they know.

If you are an agoraphobic, then "the edge" is the front door. To leave the house, is to invite unmeasured danger.

From the reverse view, I question the value of the
opinion of people who do not skydive (or reach out beyond the "norm" lifestyle).

Skydivers have one common element - belief in self.
There are huge dangers in skydiving. We go
through AFF and learn the skills that will help us survive.
It is the belief that we can learn those skills and control
our life that sets "edge workers" apart.

The study highlights two things.
The study states that edge-workers have a mistaken belief that they can control all factors.
No experienced skydiver believes that.
Quote

You can do everything right and still die. - Skybytch


To me, the study also shows to failure to confront
obstacles and live a life of timidity.

Let us consider the extremes of behavior.
-The skydiver who risks all to jump.
-The agoraphobic, who believes that checking his own mailbox is risking all.

Who is the better adjusted?
Who has the best adult coping/life skills?

I think that it is best explained using terms.
"Normal" is a statistical term meaning "average".
What kind of a goal is that?

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Not necessarily relevant to the discussions going on here but I thought I should point out that Jason actually did more than 150-200 jumps. He has about 800 or so and was a CSPA Coach 1, Coach 2, Instructor A (IAD) and PFF Instructor before he stopped jumping.

Jason was an exceptional and well respected coach and instructor. He was one of my coaches and was instrumental in keeping me in the sport by taking me to Eloy and spending some time coaching me. He also volunteered much time with the Alberta Sport Parachuting Association and contributed to some projects that CSPA's Coaching Working Committee where working on.

I thoroughly enjoyed being one of the "subjects" of his work and have fond memories of driving him down to Montana for the LP boogie a few years after he stopped jumping...and I managed to get him back in the air for some jumps too:) His only other time at LP years before also resulted in him being in a raft dive picture on USPAs calendar one year.

I understand he might in the course of his research on BASE he might have gained some first hand experience as well:)
Derek Orr
CSPA 6620
D-633
IA,IB,IPFF,C1,C2 & Master Course Facilitator

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