This tutorial will cover the topic of computer technology and society, through the definition and discussion of:
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. Sociologists are interested in these changes and the relationship between computer technology and society, so they look at it in these two perspectives-- the micro and the macro.
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.
Remember that micro refers to looking at a small, zoomed-in area--a locality, or an individual level.
A micro level focus is on social relationships: email, SMS messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There have been a whole host of communication and networking platforms opened up by computer technology. Now you don't have to talk to others face-to-face or on the phone as much anymore; instead, the web plays a central part in mediating your social relationships.
You may have seen this with some of your old friends from your past. You have all moved on and embarked on different careers, but you still communicate. You aren’t seeing each other face-to-face anymore as much, but you can communicate by sending emails back and forth. Therefore, this is the platform that mediates your social relationships.
Think about all your Facebook friends, how you're not as close with many of them as you were in the past. It’s really Facebook that mediates the relationship between you and that person that you're no longer very close with.
Similarly, how do you find a marriage partner today? The internet is increasingly utilized to scout, communicate with, and vet potential partners, an idea that was inconceivable to other generations. The web makes it much easier to flirt in an astonishing number of different ways, such that it can become harder for individuals to sustain monogamous relationships, because there's always the ever-present temptation to engage in these technologies.
A recent book written by sociologist Eric Klinenberg, from NYU, discussed how technology has made it possible for some people to stay connected to society and yet live alone. People are maintaining intense social relationships but they are doing so on the web, while choosing to live alone. They feel like they can live alone yet not be lonely because they have all of these radical new communication technologies that enable them to stay in contact with a multitude of people.
Klinenberg found that 20- and 30-somethings who live alone are actually more social via these technologies than other people who live together, who actually cohabit 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.
If you recall, macro refers to a broad, zoomed-out focus on big structures in society and society as a whole. 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 the workplace.
The introduction of computer technology eliminated many low skill jobs that could easily be automated to save money for companies. A lot of people's jobs were eliminated because computers could do the job, so all of these low skilled employees were cut and thrown back out into the job market, causing unemployment to rise.
Simultaneous to this trend, the use of computers was opening up a whole host of new jobs that required new skills--often more technical, highly educated skills. Therefore, there was a shift in the class structure. A sociologist looking at computer technology at the macro level would be focused on workplace and class changes as a result of computers in society.
Today you learned about the relationship between computer technology and society and how computer technology has transformed society in interesting ways that are relevant to sociologists. You also learned about how they study the effects of computer technology on society at the micro level and at the macro level.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Zach Lamb.
Technology that uses electronic devices for processing and storage.
Looking at a small area, a locality, or at a personal level.
Looking at a big area, wide focus, or society as a whole.