I am fascinated with U.S. sociology’s casual and sporadic engagement with digital spaces, technologies and trends. This year, the federal government enacted one of the most sweeping public policy initiatives we’ve seen since the Great Society programs. The healthcare exchange may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but no one can argue that it isn’t a massive change. Indeed, I think the argument is about how massive it is and what kind of change in constitutes. When the healthcare exchange was enacted, online enrollment figured prominently. Given what we know about differential access to — and skill-based engagement with — high-speed Internet access, hardware, and embedded social media the healthcare’s online roll-out mishaps is a sociological goldmine. Citizens needed primarily private utilities, technologies and digital acumen for the most efficient (and normative) access to a new citizenship arrangement.
That’s just one example of how technology and sociology are dancing around each other. Increasingly, to go to school, apply for a job, mitigate the “black” tax or “gender” tax in exchange relationships, groups (not just persons) must have access and comfort with digital technologies. That is a fundamentally sociological process. And, I don’t think we’ve yet to fully explore what that means, especially for inequality.
This syllabus comes from these observations. It is a work in progress. I imagine the course as an upper-level sociology seminar with graduate and undergraduate students.
The course has three objectives: 1) understand technology broadly across primary socio-historical points of social change in the U.S. 2) consider how technology and digital spaces are socially-constructed 3) critically engage how the material, social and political architecture of the Internet and social media platforms are reconstituting inequality regimes.
I am still developing assignments and shaping the course narrative. Feedback welcome!