Summer 2020
Sociology 320
Monday/Wednesday: 2:30pm – 4:30pm
(508) 626-4864


It’s easy to take for granted that we live in a world of 24/7 virtual communication. Yet, this relatively recent development is having profound impacts on how we live. Even though most of us spend significant time on our phones, tablets, and laptops – texting, emailing, posting on social media, web surfing, watching videos, and video conferencing – we rarely consider the significant effects of this technological revolution. The course does just that, encouraging you to think about how your own technology use reflects broader social trends.


There are no books required for this course. All readings are posted below.

* Please have assigned material available. I will screen-share passages from readings that I’d like us to discuss.


This course will enable you to:

• Recognize the powerful roles virtual communication technology plays in our society.
• See your own life differently by noticing how your technology use reflects broader trends.
• Become comfortable with expressing your ideas orally in front of your peers.
• Write with focus, clarity, and brevity.


The success of this course hinges on the productive exchange of ideas through discussions. Since sociology is a lens for seeing the world differently, your participation is essential. The goal is for you to use this lens to recognize hidden aspects of our society that affect your own life. On occasion, I may call on you to voice your ideas – not to intimidate you, but to support what you have to say and to convince you that it matters. Dialogue is critical for accessing the power of sociology and feeling its significant personal impacts.


You must be here, period. We only meet 12 times so each class is critical.


Your final grade will be based on two papers, as well as attendance & participation.

30%                    Midterm Paper — Option A or Option B
40%                    Final Paper — Option A, Option B, or Option C
30%                    Class attendance and participation


Monday, June 1st

Recording of class:
(Class begins at 15:38)

How is Covid-19 exposing the depths of the digital divide?

*READ: Nicholas Casey, “College Made Them Feel Equal. The Virus Exposed How Unequal Their Lives Are.” New York Times, May 5, 2020.

*READ: Dana Goldstein, “The Class Divide: Remote Learning at Two Schools, Private and Public.” New York Times, May 10, 2020.

*READ: Dana Goldstein, Adam Popescu and Nikole Hannah-Jones, “As Schools Move Online, Many Students Stay Logged Out.” New York Times, April 8, 2020.

*READ: Marina Micheli, “What is New in the Digital Divide? Understanding Internet Use by Teenagers from Different Social Backgrounds.” In Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications 2015, Edited by Laura Robinson, Shelia R. Cotten, Jeremy Schulz, Timothy M. Hale, and Apryl Williams.

Wednesday, June 3rd

Recording of class:

Why were people so reliant on their mobile devices even before Covid-19?

*READ: Bionka Bosker, “The Binge Breaker.” The Atlantic, November 2016.

*READ: Alex Hern, “’Never Get High on Your Own Supply’ – Why Social Media Bosses Don’t Use Social Media.” The Guardian, January 23, 2018.

*READ: Verena von Pfetten, “Read This Story without Distraction (Can You?)” New York Times, April 29, 2016.

*READ: Timothy Egan, “The Eight-Second Attention Span.” New York Times, January 22, 2016.

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Tristan Harris, “How Better Tech Could Protect Us from Distraction.”

Monday, June 8th

Recording of class:

What does identity mean in an era when it is a never-ending performance?

*READ: Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Putting Your Best Cyberface Forward.” New York Times, January 3, 2008.

*READ: Tara Isabella Burton, “Our ‘Digital Selves’ Are No Less Real.” New York Times, March 27, 2020.

*READ: Peggy Orenstein, “I Tweet, Therefore I Am.” New York Times Magazine, July 30, 2010.

*READ: Alina Tugend, “The Anxiety of the Unanswered E-mail.” New York Times, April 19, 2013.

*READ: Jeffrey Rosen, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.” New York Times Magazine, July 19, 2010.

Wednesday, June 10th

Recording of class:

How does virtual communication affect the quality of face-to-face relationships?

*READ: Sherry Turkle, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” New York Times, September 26, 2015.

*READ: Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, “Can You Connect with Me Now? How the Presence of Mobile Communication Technology Influences Face-to-Face Conversation Quality.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships July 2012 1-10.

*READ: Jenny Davis, “Our Devices Are Not Turning Us Into Unfeeling Robots.” The Daily Dot, November 15, 2016.

*READ: Christine Rosen, “Are Smartphones Turning Us Into Bad Samaritans?” Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2013.

Monday, June 15th

Recording of class:

What are the consequences of searching online for intimate connections?

*READ: Dan Slater, “A Million First Dates.” The Atlantic, January/February 2013.

*READ: Jennifer Hickes Lundquist and Celeste Vaughan Curington, “Love Me Tinder, Love Me Sweet: Reshaping the College Hookup Culture.” Contexts, 2019 18(4): 22-27.

*READ: Alyson Krueger, “Virtual Dating is the New Normal. Will it Work?” New York Times, April 18, 2020.

*WATCH: “Her” – If you have a Netflix account, you can watch it there. Or you can rent it on YouTube.

*LISTEN: “Can You Have a Whole Relationship Through Texts?” Note to Self podcast, October 14, 2015.

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Barry Schwartz, “The Paradox of Choice”

Wednesday, June 17th

Recording of class:

What effects does growing up with mobile devices have on mental health?

*READ: Jean M. Twenge, Gabrielle M. Martin, and W. Keith Campbell, “Decreases in Psychological Well Being Among American Adolescents After 2012 and Links to Screen Time During the Rise of Smartphone Technology.” Emotion 2018 18(6): 765–780.

*READ: Melissa G. Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson, and Jordyn Young, “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 2018 37(10): 751-768.

*READ: Richard A. Friedman, “The Big Myth About Teenage Anxiety.” New York Times, September 7, 2018.

*READ: Brian Resnick, “Have Smartphones Really Destroyed a Generation? We Don’t Know.” Vox, May 16, 2019.

Sunday, June 21st

*Midterm paper due by 11pm Eastern time (U.S.)

Monday, June 22nd

Recording of class:

What benefits become possible when people reduce their reliance on virtual communication technology?

*READ: Bianca Vivion Brooks, “I Used to Fear Being a Nobody. Then I Left Social Media.” New York Times, October 1, 2019.

*READ: Kevin Roose, “Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain.” New York Times, February 23, 2019.

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Manoush Zomorodi, “How Boredom Can Lead to Your Most Brilliant Ideas”

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Adam Alter, “Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy”

Wednesday, June 24th

Recording of class:

How does the global interconnectedness of communication technology erode privacy?

*WATCH: Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu, “What Your Smart Devices Know and Share about You”

*READ: Kate Murphy, “We Want Privacy But Can’t Stop Sharing.” New York Times, October 4, 2014.

*READ: Charlie Warzel, “Throw Your Laptop into the Sea, the Surveillance Economy Will Still Win.” New York Times, May 14, 2019.

*READ: Spencer Bokat-Lindell, “When Your Phone Says You’ve Been Exposed to the Coronavirus.” New York Times, April 21, 2020.

*READ: Shira Ovide, “A Privacy Absolutist Isn’t So Sure.” New York Times, April 17, 2020.

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad, “How Tech Companies Deceive You into Giving Up Your Data and Privacy”

Monday, June 29th

Recording of class:

How is the internet a divisive force? Part 1: The polarization of social and political life

*WATCH: Eli Pariser, “Beware Online ‘Filter Bubbles”

*READ: Lindsay Meisel, “Don’t Blame the Internet for Political Polarization.” Breakthrough Journal, Summer 2013.

*READ: Lee De-Wit, Cameron Brick, and Sander Van Der Linden, “Are Social Media Driving Political Polarization?” Greater Good Magazine, UC-Berkeley, January 16, 2019.

*READ: Jenna Wortham, “Is Social Media Disconnecting Us From the Big Picture?” New York Times Magazine, November 22, 2016.

Wednesday, July 1st 

Recording of class:

How is the internet a divisive force? Part 2: A forum for fomenting violence

*READ: Ira Silver, “Have Kids Gotten Meaner? An Up-close Look at Cyberbullying and Suicide.” Chapter 12 in Seeing Social Problems: The Hidden Stories Behind Contemporary Issues. SAGE Publications, 2020.

*WATCH: Jon Ronson, “How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life”

*READ: Frank Bruni, “The Internet Will Be the Death of Us.” New York Times, October 30, 2018.

*LISTEN: “A Young Man Finds Escape on the Internet. He Doesn’t Realize That on the Other Side of the Screen, a Force is Pulling Him In.” Rabbit Hole podcast, New York Times, April 16, 2020.

*WATCH: Andrew Marantz, “Inside the Bizarre World of Internet Trolls and Propagandists”

Monday, July 6th

Recording of class:

How is the internet a force for progress?

*READ: Casey Bond, “Posting on Social Media is Not Activism (Sorry, Fellow White People).” Huffington Post, June 11, 2020.

*READ: Zeynep Tufekci, “#Kony2012, Understanding Networked Symbolic Action & Why Slacktivism is Conceptually Misleading.” Technosociology Blog, March 10, 2012.

*READ: Nicholas Kristof, “Payday for Ice Bucket Challenge’s Mocked Slacktivists.” New York Times, September 3, 2015.

*READ: Nicholas D. Kristof, “After Recess: Change the World.” New York Times, February 4, 2012.

*READ: Charlie Warzel, “The Floyd Protests Show that Twitter is Real Life” New York Times, June 10, 2020.

*SCREENED IN CLASS:  Zeynep Tufekci, “How the Internet Has Made Social Change Easy to Organize, Hard to Win”

Wednesday, July 8th

Recording of class:

How is remote learning transforming higher education?

*READ: Manyu Jiang, “The Reason Zoom Drains Your Energy.” BBC, April 22, 2020.

*READ: Richard Arum and Mitchell L. Stevens, “What is a College Education in the Time of Coronavirus?” New York Times, March 18, 2020.

*READ: Hans Taparia, “The Future of College Is Online, and It’s Cheaper.” New York Times, May 25, 2020.

*READ: Michael D. Smith, “Are Universities Going the Way of CDs and Cable TV? The Atlantic, June 22, 2020.

Wednesday, July 15th

*Final paper due