Technology, Society & the Future
Monday/Wednesday: 2:30pm – 4:30pm
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.
GRADING AND EVALUATION:
Your final grade will be based on two papers, as well as attendance & participation.
30% Midterm Paper (3-5 pages)
40% Final Paper (5-7 pages)
30% Class attendance and participation
Monday, June 1st
How is Covid-19 exposing the depths of the digital divide?
*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
Why were people so reliant on their mobile devices even before Covid-19?
*SCREENED IN CLASS: Tristan Harris, “How Better Tech Could Protect Us from Distraction.”
Monday, June 8th
What does identity mean in an era when it is a never-ending performance?
Wednesday, June 10th
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 15th
What are the consequences of searching online for intimate connections?
*WATCH: “Her” – If you have a Netflix account, you can watch it there. Or you can rent it on YouTube.
*SCREENED IN CLASS: Barry Schwartz, “The Paradox of Choice”
Wednesday, June 17th
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.
Sunday, June 21st
*Midterm paper due
Monday, June 22nd
What benefits become possible when people reduce their reliance on virtual communication technology?
*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
How does the global interconnectedness of communication technology erode privacy?
*SCREENED IN CLASS: Finn Lützow-Holm Myrstad, “How Tech Companies Deceive You into Giving Up Your Data and Privacy”
Monday, June 29th
How is the internet a divisive force? Part 1: The polarization of social and political life
Wednesday, July 1st
How is the internet a divisive force? Part 2: A forum for fomenting 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”
Monday, July 6th
How is the internet a force for progress?
Wednesday, July 8th
What is spending so much time on video conferencing doing to us?
Wednesday, July 15th
*Final paper due