Some notes on Social Implications of the Internet (Readings for Week 3)

February 2nd, 2008 coye

In week 3 we are going to start discussing specific research traditions, theories, and findings that help us make sense of the social implications of the Internet. Our Tuesday reading is an Annual Review piece by Paul DiMaggio, Eszter Hargattai, Russell Neuman and John Robinson. For many of you, this may be your first introduction to some social science concepts such as social capital, definitions of community, public-private distinctions, structural effects of technology, etc. This article is full of such terms– and part of what we are going to do in class on Tuesday is define and contextualize many of the key concepts that we want you to think more about in the coming weeks. Of course, we will also talk about the arguments in DiMaggio et al., and relate them to our discussion from the last two weeks.

While the Tuesday reading is a review of broader sociological issues and research surrounding the Internet, our Thursday reading is focused on some of the more micro-sociological implications of the Internet. In many ways this is a paper that tries to argue agains some of the most common beliefs about the Internet (i.e., that the Internet causes behavior; that identity and social interaction are somehow completely different on the Internet than in the ‘real’ world). We want you to think about the evidence that McKenna and Bargh present– do their arguments challenge any of your own assumptions about the interplay between the Internet and human behavior? As always, come prepared to discuss!

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