Summer 2021
Sociology 320
Monday/Thursday: 1:30pm – 4:45pm
(508) 626-4864


It’s become clearer than ever during the pandemic how intertwined our lives have become with communication technology. Even though most of us spend lots of time in the virtual world – texting, emailing, posting on social media, web surfing, watching videos, gaming, and video conferencing – we rarely pause to consider the significant effects of this technological revolution. The course does just that, encouraging you to recognize how the ubiquity of information technology reflects broader social trends and to critically evaluate your own technology use.


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%                    Midter paper (3-5 pages)
40%                    Final paper (5-7 pages)
30%                    Class attendance and participation


Monday, June 7th

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: Rukmini Callimachi, ‘I Used to Like School’: An 11-Year-Old’s Struggle With Pandemic Learning.” New York Times, May 12, 2021.

*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.

*READ: D. Antonio Cantu, “Initiatives to Close the Digital Divide Must Last Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic to Work.” The Conversation, October 27, 2020.

Thursday, June 10th

Why were people so reliant on their mobile devices even before the pandemic?

*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 14th

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.

Thursday, June 17th

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 21st

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: Brianna Holt, “Sparks Fly on Virtual Dates but Not So Much In Real Life.” New York Times, December 8, 2020.

*WATCH: “Her” – I believe you can stream it for free from the Wellesley College library. It can also be downloaded for a few dollars on various platforms.

*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”

Thursday, June 24th

What effects does using information technology 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: Brian Resnick, “Have Smartphones Really Destroyed a Generation? We Don’t Know.” Vox, May 16, 2019.

*READ: Luke Fernandez and Susan J. Matt, “Americans Were Lonely Long Before Technology.” Slate, June 19, 2019.

Sunday, June 27th

*Midterm paper due

Monday, June 28th

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”

Thursday, July 1st

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, July 5th

No class – Observance of Independence Day

Thursday, July 8th

How do our virtual lives polarize us?

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

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

*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: Zeynep Tufekci, “YouTube: The Great Radicalizer.” New York Times, March 10, 2018.

*READ: Casey Newton, “Why We Can’t Blame Social Networks for Our Polarized Politics.” The Verge, February 28, 2020.

Monday, July 12th

How does the internet foment hate?

*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.

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

Thursday, July 15th

Why are our virtual lives a threat to democracy?

*READ: Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell, “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks: Why It Feels Like Everything Is Going Haywire.” The Atlantic, December 2019.

*READ: Joanna Kavenna, “Shoshana Zuboff: ‘Surveillance Capitalism is an Assault on Human Autonomy.’” The Guardian, October 4, 2019.

*READ: Shira Ovide, “Trump Isn’t the Only One.” New York Times, May 7, 2021.

*WATCH: “The Social Dilemma”

Monday, July 19th

How can the internet be a force for progress?

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

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

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

*READ: Jane Hu, “The Second Act of Social-Media Activism.” New Yorker, August 3, 2020.

*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 28th

*Final paper due