Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sociology of the Internet : Growth Field

I've spoken to a number of students recently about the growing field of internet studies (and, specifically, the sociology of the internet). Top universities are offering fellowships to study internet culture and both private and public employers are hungry for people who can combine social science with internet and technology topics. Here are a few links to some top flight starting points for finding out more about this exciting new field.
The Oxford Internet Institute is a top center for social studies of the internet. Among other things, they offer a doctoral degree (dphil) in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences. It was founded as a department of the University of Oxford in 2001, as an academic centre for the study of the societal implications of the Internet. The current home in a building owned by Balliol College was formally opened in July 2003.

The Association of Internet Researchers is the top international association for students and scholars in any discipline in the field of of Internet studies. They sponsor journals, conferences and an email list that's open to interested students and researchers.

The Berkman Center at Harvard was founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. We represent a network of faculty, students, fellows, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and virtual architects working to identify and engage with the challenges and opportunities of cyberspace.

Wikipedia has a decent starter article on "Sociology of the Internet."  It notes five subareas of the field:
  1. inequality (the issues of digital divide)
  2. community and social capital (the issues of time displacement)
  3. political participation (the issues of public sphere, deliberative democracy and civil society)
  4. organizations and other economic institutions
  5. cultural participation and cultural diversity

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