Technology, Society & the Future
Monday/Thursday: 1:30pm – 4:45pm
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.
GRADING AND EVALUATION:
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: 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?
*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: Tara Isabella Burton, “Our ‘Digital Selves’ Are No Less Real.” New York Times, March 27, 2020.
Thursday, June 17th
How does virtual communication affect the quality of face-to-face relationships?
*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.
Monday, June 21st
What are the consequences of searching online for intimate connections?
*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.
*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: 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.
*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?
*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?
*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.
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.
*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: 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.
Wednesday, July 28th
*Final paper due