Fall 2019
Sociology 282
Monday/Wednesday: 2:30pm – 4:20pm

Office: O’Connor 336
Office Hours: Mon/Wed 10:30 – 12:30 or by appointment
Phone: (508) 626-4864
E-mail: isilver@framingham.edu


It’s easy to take for granted that we live in a world of 24/7 mobile 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, and watching videos – we rarely consider the dramatic effects of this revolution in digital technology. The course aims to do just that, encouraging you to think about how your own technology use connects to broader social trends.


There is nothing you need to buy for the course – everything is posted here!

* Please bring assigned material to class.  Either print it or bring a device to class so you can access it electronically.


As a way of encouraging you to think about assigned material in advance of class and to facilitate rich discussions, you are to post on Blackboard in advance of the class meetings indicated on the schedule below.

To be eligible for full credit, please post your reading response no later than 10am on the date we’ll be discussing the material you wrote about. That deadline will enable me to read your posts and draw upon your ideas in our discussions.  I will give partial credit for reading responses posted between 10am and the start of class, but no credit for posts made once class begins.

Your write-up should have two parts:

  1. A 2-3 paragraph critique of the reading – which differs from a summary. Whereas a summary highlights main points in the reading, a critique takes the discussion in a direction of your choosing. It explores themes or issues the reading raised for you. There are several ways you can frame your critique.
    — Something you found interesting and why.
    — Something you found confusing and why.
    — An important topic left unexplored.
    — Strengths/weaknesses of a study’s methodology.
    — How a concept or idea applies to your own life.
  2. Raise 2 or more questions for our class discussion. These should not be “yes/no” questions but instead “how” or “why” questions, since these generate more discussion.


I understand sometimes there are justifiable reasons for missing a class, but if you miss more than two it will affect your grade. If you have to be absent, please let me know. There is no need to give me a doctor’s note. It is your responsibility to catch up on material you missed.


Your final grade will be based on the following:

30%          Reading responses
20%          Midterm paper
30%          Final paper
20%          Class attendance and participation


Given the Sociology Department’s commitment to maintaining the highest academic standards, students should be aware of the University’s policies concerning academic honesty, which are stated in the undergraduate catalog: “Integrity is essential to academic life. Consequently, students who enroll at Framingham State University agree to maintain high standards of academic honesty and scholarly practice. They shall be responsible for familiarizing themselves with the published policies and procedures regarding academic honesty.” Infractions include plagiarism, cheating on exams and quizzes, unauthorized collaboration with other students, and submitting work in more than one course for academic credit without prior approval of the instructor. The FSU Catalog defines plagiarism as “claiming as one’s own work the published or unpublished literal or paraphrased work of another.” Penalties for academic dishonesty may include receiving a failing grade for the course, academic suspension, and dismissal from the University.


By taking this class, you agree to abide by Framingham State University’s policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity. The University is dedicated to providing educational, working, and living environments that value the diverse backgrounds of all people. The Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (“MCRA,” M.G.L. c. 12, §§ 11H11I11J) protects the rights of all residents of and visitors to Massachusetts to be free from bias-motivated threats, intimidation, and coercion that interfere with their civil rights. The MCRA protects the right to attend school, live peacefully, and enjoy other basic rights.

How can we begin to look closely and critically at our digital lives?

Wednesday, September 4th

*READ IN CLASS: Tim Wu, “The Tyranny of Convenience.” New York Times, February 16, 2018.

What are the consequences of multitasking with digital technology?

Monday, September 9th

*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.


Wednesday, September 11th  ***Meet in the McCarthy Center Forum


*GUEST PRESENTATION: Katherine Behar will discuss her exhibit “Backups,” followed by a tour of the exhibit and a reception.

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

Monday, September 16th

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

*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.


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

Wednesday, September 18th

*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.


Monday, September 23rd

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

Wednesday, September 25th

*READ: Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, “Hello, Stranger.” New York Times, April 25, 2014.

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

Monday, September 30th

No class – Rosh Hashanah

Why have so many people become addicted to their mobile devices?

Wednesday, October 2nd

*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.

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


Monday, October 7th

*READ: Danah Boyd, “Addiction: What Makes Teens Obsessed with Social Media.” Pp. 77-99 in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014

Wednesday, October 9th

No class – Yom Kippur

Monday, October 14th

No class – Columbus Day

*Midterm paper due by noon.

What kinds of opportunities become possible when you take time away from the digital world?

Wednesday, October 16th

*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”

What are the consequences of searching online for intimate connections?

Monday, October 21st

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

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

Wednesday, October 23rd



Monday, October 28th

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

*READ: Daniel Jones, “Romance at Arm’s Length.” New York Times, February 6, 2014.


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

Wednesday, October 30th

*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.


Monday, November 4th

No class – I will be attending a memorial service.

Wednesday, November 6th

*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.


Monday, November 11t

No class – Veterans Day

What is significant about the digital divide?

Wednesday, November 13th

*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.


How does the global interconnectedness of digital technology erode privacy?

Monday, November 18th

*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.



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

Wednesday, November 20th

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

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

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


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

Monday, November 25th

*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.

Wednesday, November 27th

No class – Thanksgiving break

Monday, December 2nd


*SCREENED IN CLASS: Jon Ronson, “How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life”

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Andrew Marantz, “Inside the Bizarre World of Internet Trolls and Propagandists” (14:29)

Wednesday, December 4th

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

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Yasmin Green: How Technology Can Fight Extremism and Online Harassment” (13:33)

*SCREENED IN CLASS: Safiya Noble, “Challenging the Algorithms of Oppression”  (12:18)

How is the internet a force for progress?

Monday, December 9th

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

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

*READ: Christopher Mele, “Online Petitions Take Citizen Participation to New Levels. But Do They Work?” New York Times, December 28, 2016.

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

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


Wednesday, December 11th

Course wrap-up

Monday, December 16th

*Final paper due