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Author: Zach Lamb

Identify the effects of computer technology at both the micro and macro levels.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. Thanks for joining me. Got a lesson I really like, computer technology and society. We're going to discuss the relationship between computer technology and society and how computer technology has transformed society in some respect in interesting ways that sociologists want to study. They study the effects of computer technology on society at the micro level and at the macro level.

Computer technology is technology that uses electronic devices for processing and storage. Computer technology has been radically transformative and has produced effects at the micro and the macro level that have reverberated throughout society and have fundamentally transformed society as we know it. So sociologists are interested in these changes and this relationship. So they look at it in two perspectives-- the micro and the macro.

We recall micro then is looking at a small, zoomed in area, a locality, or an individual level. And sociologists interested in micro level effects of computer technology might pay attention to how social relationships between individuals have been transformed by the introduction of computers in society. So micro's focus is social relationships.

Email, SMS messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You name it. We've seen a whole host of communication and networking platforms opened up by computer technology. Now we don't have to talk to each other face-to-face or on the phone as much anymore. Instead, the web plays a central part in mediating our social relationships in some cases.

I've seen this with some of my old college friends, my old college roommates. Now we've all moved on, taken different careers, but we still communicate. But we're not seeing each other face-to-face anymore as much. We're communicating sending emails back and forth. So this is the platform, then, that mediates our social relationships. And think about all your Facebook friends. Think about the core, how you're not as close with many of them. So it's only this Facebook thing that then mediates the relationship between this person that you're not that close with.

Also, how do we find a marriage partner today? The internet is increasingly utilized to scout, communicate with, and vet potential partners. And this was inconceivable to other generations. The web then also makes it much easier to flirt and to flirt in an astonishing number of different ways, such that it can become harder then for individuals to sustain monogamous relationships. There's always the ever-present temptation then to engage in these technologies.

Moreover, finally, another effect at the micro level, a recent book put out by sociologist Eric Klinenberg who's at NYU. He wrote a book about how technology has made it possible for some people to stay connected to society and yet live alone. So people are maintaining intense social relationships but they're using it on the web. So they're choosing to live alone.

They're like, I can live alone and not be lonely because we have all of these radical new communication technologies that enable me to stay in contact with all these people. So he actually has found that 20 and 30 somethings who live alone are actually more social via these technologies than other people who live together, who cohabitat with either a partner or other people. None of this was possible without computer technology. So sociologists are very interested in computer technology at the micro level.

Turning now to the macro level. And again, the macro is just a broad, zoomed out focus on big structures in society and society as a whole. So sociologists studying the effects of computer technology at the macro level might be interested in how computer technology has caused changes in the economy and in the workplace. So the introduction then of computer technology eliminated a whole host of low skill jobs that could easily be automated to save money for the company. A lot of people's jobs got eliminated because computers could do the job. So a bunch of low skilled employees then were cut and thrown back out into the job market causing unemployment to rise.

But at the same time that we had that trend happening, we also had computers opening up a whole host of new jobs that required new skills, often more technical, highly educated skills. So we saw a shift in the class structure. And a sociologist then looking at computer technology the macro level would be focused on workplace changes and class changes as a result of computers in society. I hope you enjoyed this discussion of micro and macro level relationships of computer technology in society. Have a great rest of your day.

Terms to Know
Computer Technology

Technology that uses electronic devices for processing and storage.

Macro Level

Looking at a big area, wide focus, or society as a whole.

Micro Level

Looking at a small area, a locality, or at a personal level.