Sociology of the Internet

The sociology of the Internet involves the application of sociological theory and method to the Internet as a source of information and communication. Sociologists are concerned with the social implications of the technology; new social networks, virtual communities and ways of interaction that have arisen, as well as issues related to cyber crime.

The Internet—the newest in a series of major information breakthroughs—is of interest for sociologists in various ways: as a tool for research, for example, in using online questionnaires instead of paper ones, as a discussion platform, and as a research topic. The sociology of the Internet in the stricter sense concerns the analysis of online communities (e.g. as found in newsgroups), virtual communities and virtual worlds, organizational change catalyzed through new media such as the Internet, and social change at-large in the transformation from industrial to informational society (or to information society). Online communities can be studied statistically through network analysis and at the same time interpreted qualitatively, such as through virtual ethnography. Social change can be studied through statistical demographics or through the interpretation of changing messages and symbols in online media studies.

Emergence of the discipline

The Internet is a relatively new phenomenon. As Robert Darnton wrote, it is a revolutionary change that "took place yesterday, or the day before, depending on how you measure it."[1] The Internet developed from the ARPANET, dating back to 1969; as a term it was coined in 1974. The World Wide Web as we know it was shaped in the mid-1990s, when graphical interface and services like email became popular and reached wider (non-scientific and non-military) audiences and commerce.[1][2] Internet Explorer was first released in 1995; Netscape a year earlier. Google was founded in 1998.[1][2] Wikipedia was founded in 2001. Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube in the mid-2000s. Web 2.0 is still emerging. The amount of information available on the net and the number of Internet users worldwide has continued to grow rapidly.[2] The term 'digital sociology' is now becoming increasingly used to denote new directions in sociological research into digital technologies since Web 2.0.

Research trends

According to DiMaggio et al. (1999),[2] research tends to focus on the Internet's implications in five domains:

  1. inequality (the issues of digital divide)
  2. public and social capital (the issues of date 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

Early on, there were predictions that the Internet would change everything (or nothing); over time, however, a consensus emerged that the Internet, at least in the current phase of development, complements rather than displaces previously implemented media.[2] This has meant a rethinking of the 1990s ideas of "convergence of new and old media". Further, the Internet offers a rare opportunity to study changes caused by the newly emerged - and likely, still evolving - information and communication technology (ICT).[2]

Social impact

The Internet has created social network services, forums of social interaction and social relations, such as Facebook, MySpace, Meetup, and CouchSurfing which facilitate both online and offline interaction.

Though virtual communities were once thought to be composed of strictly virtual social ties, researchers often find that even those social ties formed in virtual spaces are often maintained both online and offline [3][4]

There are ongoing debates about the impact of the Internet on strong and weak ties, whether the Internet is creating more or less social capital,[5][6] the Internet's role in trends towards social isolation,[7] and whether it creates a more or less diverse social environment.

It is often said the Internet is a new frontier, and there is a line of argument to the effect that social interaction, cooperation and conflict among users resembles the anarchistic and violent American frontier of the early 19th century.[8]

In March 2014, researchers from the Benedictine University at Mesa in Arizona studied how online interactions affect face-to-face meetings. The study is titled, "Face to Face Versus Facebook: Does Exposure to Social Networking Web Sites Augment or Attenuate Physiological Arousal Among the Socially Anxious," published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.[9] They analyzed 26 female students with electrodes to measure social anxiety. Prior to meeting people, the students were shown pictures of the subject they were expected to meet. Researchers found that meeting someone face-to-face after looking at their photos increases arousal, which the study linked to an increase in social anxiety. These findings confirm previous studies that found that socially anxious people prefer online interactions. The study also recognized that the stimulated arousal can be associated with positive emotions and could lead to positive feelings.[10]

Recent research has taken the Internet of Things within its purview, as global networks of interconnected everyday objects are said to be the next step in technological advancement.[11] Certainly, global space- and earth-based networks are expanding coverage of the IoT at a fast pace. This has a wide variety of consequences, with current applications in the health, agriculture, traffic and retail fields.[12] Companies such as Samsung and Sigfox have invested heavily in said networks, and their social impact will have to be measured accordingly, with some sociologists suggesting the formation of socio-technical networks of humans and technical systems.[13][14] Issues of privacy, right to information, legislation and content creation will come into public scrutiny in light of these technological changes.[12][15]

The impact on children

Technological devices can be used intensively.

Researchers have investigated the use of technology (as opposed to the Internet) by children and how it can be used excessively, where it can cause medical health and psychological issues.[16] The use of technological devices by children can cause them to become addicted to them and can lead them to experience negative effects such as depression, attention problems, loneliness, anxiety, aggression and solitude.[16] Children constantly playing video games or taking part in internet activities correlates with "ill-being".[16] Studies conducted on the use of television by children have also shown negative affects it has on them, such as causing them to have an unhealthier sleeping quality or for them to have a decrease in their ability to pay attention.[17] There are educational shows children can watch, but the ones that stand out the most to them are the ones that contain inappropriate actions or words and that is where children begin to develop behavioral issues if they decide to mimic what they see or hear.[16] Some video games contain violent elements, which cause children to partake in aggressive actions if they imitate what they see.[18] Technology has changed over the years and it not only includes the use of television, but now comprises the use of iPads and cell phones due to modernization occurring worldwide.[19] Obesity is another result from the use of technology by children, due to how children may prefer to use their technological devices rather than doing any form of physical activity.[19] Parents can take control and implement restrictions to the use of technological devices by their children, which will decrease the negative results technology can have if it is prioritized as well as help put a limit to it being used excessively.[19]

Children can use technology to enhance their learning skills - for example: using online programs to improve the way they learn how to read or do math. The resources technology provides for children may enhance their skills, but children should be cautious of what they get themselves into due to how cyber bullying may occur. Cyber bullying can cause academic and psychological affects due to how children are suppressed by people who bully them through the Internet.[20] When technology is introduced to children they are not forced to accept it, but instead children are permitted to have an input on what they feel about either deciding to use their technological device or not.[21] Social exclusion in the classroom occurs to children who associate themselves more with using computers, which causes them to exclude themselves from the classroom's everyday context due to how they grow more attached to the device. Children who are socially popular are the ones who try and get away from using any form of technological skills they can possibly develop due to how they believe technological devices, such as a computer can be a threat to their social identities.[22] The routines of children have changed due to their use of the technological device they have been introduced to, but "while the children's health and quality of life benefited from the technology, the time demands of the care routines and lack of compatibility with other social and institutional timeframes had some negative implications".[23] Children prioritizing their technological device has put a limit on their capabilities to take part in employment, school and in having a social life overall.

Technology can have negative impacts on the lives of children and can be an essential learning tool that can encourage cognitive, linguistic and social development. Children that use technological devices have had greater gains in problem-solving, intelligence, language skills and structural knowledge in comparison to those children who have not incorporated the use of technology in their learning.[24] In research conducted, "studies did find improvements in student scores on tests closely related to material covered in computer-assisted instructional packages", which demonstrates how technology can have positive influences on children by improving their learning capabilities.[25] Problems have arisen between children and their parents as well when parents limit what children can use their technological devices for, specifically what they can and cannot watch on their devices, making children frustrated.[26] Studies have found that "the average child in this country spends over 6 hours each day with some form of mediated communication", meaning that children spend more time with their technological device rather than spending that time with their family or friends.[26] The introduction of technology to children has the positive outcome of increasing a child's learning capabilities, but can have the negative outcome of affecting a child's behavior in acting more isolated from the rest of society.

Political organization and censorship

The Internet has achieved new relevance as a political tool. The presidential campaign of Howard Dean in 2004 in the United States became famous for its ability to generate donations via the Internet, and the 2008 campaign of Barack Obama became even more so. Increasingly, social movements and other organizations use the Internet to carry out both traditional and the new Internet activism.

Governments are also getting online. Some countries, such as those of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, the People's Republic of China, and Saudi Arabia use filtering and censoring software to restrict what people in their countries can access on the Internet. In the United Kingdom, they also use software to locate and arrest various individuals they perceive as a threat. Other countries including the United States, have enacted laws making the possession or distribution of certain material such as child pornography illegal but do not use filtering software. In some countries Internet service providers have agreed to restrict access to sites listed by police.


While much has been written of the economic advantages of Internet-enabled commerce, there is also evidence that some aspects of the Internet such as maps and location-aware services may serve to reinforce economic inequality and the digital divide.[27] Electronic commerce may be responsible for consolidation and the decline of mom-and-pop, brick and mortar businesses resulting in increases in income inequality.[28]


The spread of low-cost Internet access in developing countries has opened up new possibilities for peer-to-peer charities, which allow individuals to contribute small amounts to charitable projects for other individuals. Websites such as Donors Choose and Global Giving now allow small-scale donors to direct funds to individual projects of their choice.

A popular twist on Internet-based philanthropy is the use of peer-to-peer lending for charitable purposes. Kiva pioneered this concept in 2005, offering the first web-based service to publish individual loan profiles for funding. Kiva raises funds for local intermediary microfinance organizations which post stories and updates on behalf of the borrowers. Lenders can contribute as little as $25 to loans of their choice, and receive their money back as borrowers repay. Kiva falls short of being a pure peer-to-peer charity, in that loans are disbursed before being funded by lenders and borrowers do not communicate with lenders themselves.[29][30] However, the recent spread of cheap Internet access in developing countries has made genuine peer-to-peer connections increasingly feasible. In 2009 the US-based nonprofit Zidisha tapped into this trend to offer the first peer-to-peer microlending platform to link lenders and borrowers across international borders without local intermediaries. Inspired by interactive websites such as Facebook and eBay, Zidisha's microlending platform facilitates direct dialogue between lenders and borrowers and a performance rating system for borrowers. Web users worldwide can fund loans for as little as a dollar.[31]


The Internet has been a major source of leisure since before the World Wide Web, with entertaining social experiments such as MUDs and MOOs being conducted on university servers, and humor-related Usenet groups receiving much of the main traffic. Today, many Internet forums have sections devoted to games and funny videos; short cartoons in the form of Flash movies are also popular. Over 6 million people use blogs or message boards as a means of communication and for the sharing of ideas.

The pornography and gambling industries have both taken full advantage of the World Wide Web, and often provide a significant source of advertising revenue for other websites. Although governments have made attempts to censor Internet porn, Internet service providers have told governments that these plans are not feasible.[32] Also many governments have attempted to put restrictions on both industries' use of the Internet, this has generally failed to stop their widespread popularity.

One area of leisure on the Internet is online gaming. This form of leisure creates communities, bringing people of all ages and origins to enjoy the fast-paced world of multiplayer games. These range from MMORPG to first-person shooters, from role-playing video games to online gambling. This has revolutionized the way many people interact and spend their free time on the Internet.

While online gaming has been around since the 1970s, modern modes of online gaming began with services such as GameSpy and MPlayer, to which players of games would typically subscribe. Non-subscribers were limited to certain types of gameplay or certain games.

Many use the Internet to access and download music, movies and other works for their enjoyment and relaxation. As discussed above, there are paid and unpaid sources for all of these, using centralized servers and distributed peer-to-peer technologies. Discretion is needed as some of these sources take more care over the original artists' rights and over copyright laws than others.

Many use the World Wide Web to access news, weather and sports reports, to plan and book holidays and to find out more about their random ideas and casual interests.

People use chat, messaging and e-mail to make and stay in touch with friends worldwide, sometimes in the same way as some previously had pen pals. Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook and many others like them also put and keep people in contact for their enjoyment.

The Internet has seen a growing number of Web desktops, where users can access their files, folders, and settings via the Internet.

Cyberslacking has become a serious drain on corporate resources; the average UK employee spends 57 minutes a day surfing the Web at work, according to a study by Peninsula Business Services.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Robert Darnton, The Library in the New Age, The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 10. June 12, 2008. Retrieved on 22 December 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Paul DiMaggio, Eszter Hargittai, W. Russell Neuman, and John P. Robinson, Social Implications of the Internet, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 27: 307-336 (Volume publication date August 2001), doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.307 [1]
  3. ^ Lauren F. Sessions, "How offline gatherings affect online community members: when virtual community members ‘meetup’.""Information, Communication, and Society"13,3(April, 2010):375-395
  4. ^ Bo Xie, B. ‘The mutual shaping of online and offline social relationships."Information Research, 1,3(2008):n.p.
  5. ^ Lee Rainie, John Horrigan, Barry Wellman, and Jeffrey Boase. (2006)"The Strength of Internet Ties" Pew Internet and American Life Project. Washington, D.C.
  6. ^ Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook "friends:" Social capital and college students' use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4).
  7. ^ "Social Isolation and New Technology". 4 November 2009.
  8. ^ Richard Jensen. "Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812," The Journal of Military History (October 2012) 76#4 pp 1165-82 online
  9. ^ Charles, Megan (7 March 2014). "Meeting Facebook Friends Face To Face Causes Anxiety (Study)". Business 2 Community. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  10. ^ Woollaston, Victoria (6 March 2014). "Is Facebook making us socially AWKWARD? Meeting face-to-face is more difficult after meeting people online". Daily Mail. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  11. ^ Atzori, Luigi; Iera, Antonio; Morabito, Giacomo; Nitti, Michele (2012). "The Social Internet of Things (SIoT) – When social networks meet the Internet of Things: Concept, architecture and network characterization". Computer Networks. 56 (16): 3594–3608. doi:10.1016/j.comnet.2012.07.010. ISSN 1389-1286.
  12. ^ a b Mattern, Friedemann; Floerkemeier, Christian (2010). "From the Internet of Computers to the Internet of Things". From Active Data Management to Event-Based Systems and More. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. 6462. pp. 242–259. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/978-3-642-17226-7_15. ISBN 978-3-642-17225-0. ISSN 0302-9743.
  13. ^ Simonite, Tom. "Silicon Valley to Get a Cellular Network, Just for Things". Technology Review. Technology Review. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  14. ^ Kranz, Matthias, Luis Roalter, and Florian Michahelles. "Things that twitter: social networks and the internet of things." What can the Internet of Things do for the Citizen (CIoT) Workshop at The Eighth International Conference on Pervasive Computing (Pervasive 2010). 2010.
  15. ^ Weber, Rolf H. (2010). "Internet of Things – New security and privacy challenges". Computer Law & Security Review. 26 (1): 23–30. doi:10.1016/j.clsr.2009.11.008. ISSN 0267-3649.
  16. ^ a b c d Rosen, L. D; Lim, A. F; Felt, J; Carrier, L. M; Cheever, N. A; Lara-Ruiz, J. M; Mendoza, J. S; Rokkum, J (2014). "Media and technology use predicts ill-being among children, preteens and teenagers independent of the negative health impacts of exercise and eating habits". Computers in Human Behavior. 35: 364–375. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.036. PMC 4338000. PMID 25717216.
  17. ^ Ferguson, Christopher (12 November 2010). "The influence of television and video game use on attention and school problems: A multivariate analysis with other risk factors controlled" (PDF).
  18. ^ Griffiths, Mark (1999-06-01). "Violent video games and aggression: A review of the literature". Aggression and Violent Behavior. 4 (2): 203–212. doi:10.1016/S1359-1789(97)00055-4. ISSN 1359-1789.
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  20. ^ "Download Limit Exceeded". CiteSeerX
  21. ^ Druin, Allison (1999-10-02). "The Role of Children in the Design Technology".
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  26. ^ a b "Communication, Conflict, and the Quality of Family Relationships" by Alan Sillars, Daniel J. Canary and Melissa Tafoya in Handbook of Family Communication, edited by Anita L. Vangelisti. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Aassociates, Publishers, 2004.
  27. ^ "How the Internet Reinforces Inequality in the Real World" The Atlantic February 6, 2013
  28. ^ "E-commerce will make the shopping mall a retail wasteland" ZDNet, January 17, 2013
  29. ^ Kiva Is Not Quite What It Seems, by David Roodman, Center for Global Development, Oct. 2, 2009, as accessed Jan. 2 & 16, 2010
  30. ^ Confusion on Where Money Lent via Kiva Goes, by Stephanie Strom, in The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2009, as accessed Jan. 2 & 16, 2010
  31. ^ "Zidisha Set to "Expand" in Peer-to-Peer Microfinance", Microfinance Focus, Feb 2010 Archived 2011-10-08 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ Chivers, Tom (Dec 21, 2010). "Internet pornography block plans: other attempts to control the internet". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  33. ^ News - Net abuse hits small city firms


  • John A. Bargh and Katelyn Y. A. McKenna, The Internet and Social Life, Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 55: 573-560 (Volume publication date February 2004), doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141922 [2]
  • Allison Cavanagh, Sociology in the Age of the Internet, McGraw-Hill International, 2007, ISBN 9780335217267
  • Dolata, Ulrich; Schrape, Jan-Felix (2018). Collectivity and Power on the Internet. A Sociological Perspective. London Cham: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-78414-4. ISBN 9783319784137.
  • Christine Hine, Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet, Berg Publishers, 2005, ISBN 9781845200855
  • Rob Kling, The Internet for Sociologists, Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Jul., 1997), pp. 434–758
  • Joan Ferrante-Wallace, Joan Ferrante, Sociology on the Internet, Thomson Wadsworth, 1996, ISBN 9780534527563
  • Daniel A. Menchik and Xiaoli Tian. (2008) "Putting Social Context into Text: The Semiotics of Email Interaction." The American Journal of Sociology. 114:2 pp. 332–70.
  • Carla G. Surratt, "The Internet and Social Change", McFarland, 2001, ISBN 978-0786410194
  • D. R. Wilson, Researching Sociology on the Internet, Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004, ISBN 9780534568955

External links

Albert Benschop

Albert Benschop (10 May 1949, Rijswijk - 27 February 2018) was a Dutch sociologist with the University of Amsterdam's faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He was the chief editor of the university's SocioSite project. His internet studies are published in the Peculiarities of Cyberspace.

Digital anthropology

Digital anthropology is the anthropological study of the relationship between humans and digital-era technology. The field is new, and thus has a variety of names with a variety of emphases. These include techno-anthropology, digital ethnography, cyberanthropology, and virtual anthropology.

Digital sociology

Digital sociology is a sub-discipline of sociology that focuses on understanding the use of digital media as part of everyday life, and how these various technologies contribute to patterns of human behavior, social relationships and concepts of the self.

The first scholarly article to have the term 'digital sociology' in the title appeared in 2009. The author reflected on the ways in which digital technologies may influence both sociological research and teaching. In 2010, 'digital sociology' was described, by Richard Neal, in terms of bridging the growing academic focus with the increasing interest from global business through the publication of the book, Expanding Sentience: Introducing Digital Sociology for moving beyond Buzz Metrics in a World of Growing Online Socialization. It was not until 2013 that the first purely academic book tackling the subject of 'digital sociology' was published. The edited collection of review chapters addressed a range of topics, including concepts and experiences of space, community, intimacy, the role played by gender and social inequalities in people's use of digital technologies and the impact of these technologies in education, health, finance and war reporting. The first sole-authored book entitled Digital Sociology was published in 2015. The first academic conference on "Digital Sociology" was held in New York, NY in 2015.Although the term ‘digital sociology’ has not yet fully entered the cultural lexicon, sociologists have engaged in research related to the internet since its inception. These sociologists have addressed many social issues relating to online communities, cyberspace and cyber-identities. This and similar research has attracted many different names such as 'cybersociology', 'the sociology of the internet', 'the sociology of online communities', 'the sociology of social media', 'the sociology of cyberculture' or something else again.

Digital sociology differs from these terms in that it is wider in its scope, addressing not only the internet or cyberculture but also the impact of the other digital media and devices that have emerged since the first decade of the twenty-first century. Since the internet has become more pervasive and linked with everyday life, references to the 'cyber' in the social sciences seems now to have been replaced by the 'digital'. 'Digital sociology' is related to other sub-disciplines such as digital humanities and digital anthropology. It is beginning to supersede and incorporate the other titles above, as well as including the newest Web 2.0 digital technologies into its purview, such as wearable technology, augmented reality, smart objects, the Internet of Things and big data.


The Internet (contraction of interconnected network) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing. Some publications no longer capitalize "internet".

The origins of the Internet date back to research commissioned by the federal government of the United States in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant communication with computer networks. The primary precursor network, the ARPANET, initially served as a backbone for interconnection of regional academic and military networks in the 1980s. The funding of the National Science Foundation Network as a new backbone in the 1980s, as well as private funding for other commercial extensions, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks. The linking of commercial networks and enterprises by the early 1990s marked the beginning of the transition to the modern Internet, and generated a sustained exponential growth as generations of institutional, personal, and mobile computers were connected to the network. Although the Internet was widely used by academia since the 1980s, commercialization incorporated its services and technologies into virtually every aspect of modern life.

Most traditional communication media, including telephony, radio, television, paper mail and newspapers are reshaped, redefined, or even bypassed by the Internet, giving birth to new services such as email, Internet telephony, Internet television, online music, digital newspapers, and video streaming websites. Newspaper, book, and other print publishing are adapting to website technology, or are reshaped into blogging, web feeds and online news aggregators. The Internet has enabled and accelerated new forms of personal interactions through instant messaging, Internet forums, and social networking. Online shopping has grown exponentially both for major retailers and small businesses and entrepreneurs, as it enables firms to extend their "brick and mortar" presence to serve a larger market or even sell goods and services entirely online. Business-to-business and financial services on the Internet affect supply chains across entire industries.

The Internet has no single centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access and usage; each constituent network sets its own policies. The overreaching definitions of the two principal name spaces in the Internet, the Internet Protocol address (IP address) space and the Domain Name System (DNS), are directed by a maintainer organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The technical underpinning and standardization of the core protocols is an activity of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a non-profit organization of loosely affiliated international participants that anyone may associate with by contributing technical expertise. In November 2006, the Internet was included on USA Today's list of New Seven Wonders.

Internet censorship

Internet censorship is the control or suppression of what can be accessed, published, or viewed on the Internet enacted by regulators, or on their own initiative. Individuals and organizations may engage in self-censorship for moral, religious, or business reasons, to conform to societal norms, due to intimidation, or out of fear of legal or other consequences.The extent of Internet censorship varies on a country-to-country basis. While most democratic countries have moderate Internet censorship, other countries go as far as to limit the access of information such as news and suppress discussion among citizens. Internet censorship also occurs in response to or in anticipation of events such as elections, protests, and riots. An example is the increased censorship due to the events of the Arab Spring. Other areas of censorship include copyrights, defamation, harassment, and obscene material.

Government agencies have various tools to implement restrictions but supporters of internet freedom are trying to overcome such barriers and filters. Access to restricted sites was effectively blocked by tracing and blocking DNS requests but companies like Cloudflare, Mozilla and Google are shifting DNS to TLS layer and making it difficult to intercept.

Support for and opposition to Internet censorship also varies. In a 2012 Internet Society survey 71% of respondents agreed that "censorship should exist in some form on the Internet". In the same survey 83% agreed that "access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right" and 86% agreed that "freedom of expression should be guaranteed on the Internet". Perception of internet censorship in the US is largely based on the First Amendment and the right for expansive free speech and access to content without regard to the consequences. According to GlobalWebIndex, over 400 million people use virtual private networks to circumvent censorship or for increased user privacy.

Internet studies

Internet studies is an interdisciplinary field studying the social, psychological, pedagogical, political, technical, cultural, artistic, and other dimensions of the Internet and associated information and communication technologies. While studies of the Internet are now widespread across academic disciplines, there is a growing collaboration among these investigations. In recent years, Internet studies have become institutionalized as courses of study at several institutions of higher learning. Cognates are found in departments of a number of other names, including departments of "Internet and Society", "virtual society", "digital culture", "new media" or "convergent media", various "iSchools", or programs like "Media in Transition" at MIT. On the research side, Internet studies intersects with studies of cyberculture, human–computer interaction, and science and technology studies.

Internet and society is a research field that addresses the interrelationship of Internet and society, i.e. how society has changed the Internet and how the Internet has changed society.The topic of social issues relating to Internet has become notable since the rise of the World Wide Web, which can be observed from the fact that journals and newspapers run many stories on topics such as cyberlove, cyberhate, Web 2.0, cybercrime, cyberpolitics, Internet economy, etc.

As most of the scientific monographs that have considered Internet and society in their book titles are social theoretical in nature, internet and society can be considered as a primarily social theoretical research approach of Internet studies.

Library history

Library history is a subdiscipline within library science and library and information science focusing on the history of libraries and their role in societies and cultures. Some see the field as a subset of information history Library history is an academic discipline and should not be confused with its object of study (history of libraries): the discipline is much younger than the libraries it studies. Library history begins in ancient societies through contemporary issues facing libraries today. Topics include recording mediums, cataloguing systems, scholars, scribes, library supporters and librarians.

Outline of academic disciplines

An academic discipline or field of study is a branch of knowledge, taught and researched as part of higher education. A scholar's discipline is commonly defined by the university faculties and learned societies to which they belong and the academic journals in which they publish research.

Disciplines vary between well-established ones that exist in almost all universities and have well-defined rosters of journals and conferences and nascent ones supported by only a few universities and publications. A discipline may have branches, and these are often called sub-disciplines.

There is no consensus on how some academic disciplines should be classified, for example whether anthropology and linguistics are disciplines of the social sciences or of the humanities.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to academic disciplines.

Outline of sociology

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the discipline of sociology:

Sociology – the study of society using various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to understand human social activity, from the micro level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and social structure.

Outline of the Internet

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Internet.

Internet – worldwide, publicly accessible network of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). It is a "network of networks" that consists of millions of interconnected smaller domestic, academic, business, and government networks, which together carry various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat, file transfer, and the interlinked Web pages and other documents of the World Wide Web.

It allows other services

Political repression of cyber-dissidents

Political repression of cyber-dissidents is the oppression or persecution of people for expressing their political views on the Internet.

Along with development of the Internet, state authorities in many parts of the world are moving forward to install mass surveillance of the electronic communications, establish Internet censorship to limit the flow of information, and persecute individuals and groups who express "inconvenient" political views in the Internet. Many cyber-dissidents have found themselves persecuted for attempts to bypass state controlled news media. Reporters Without Borders has released a Handbook For Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents and maintains a roster of currently imprisoned cyber-dissidents.

Power Without Responsibility

Power Without Responsibility (subtitled: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain or Press, Broadcasting and the Internet in Britain) is a book written by James Curran (Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths College) and Jean Seaton (Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster). Originally published in 1981 by Fontana, it has been translated into several languages and is now in its seventh edition. The title comes from a quote by former British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. It details the history of the news media in the UK from the eighteenth century to the present. It has been cited by Noam Chomsky in the introduction to Manufacturing Consent and by him in a televised BBC interview with Andrew Marr. Nick Cohen rated it "the best guide to the British media" in a review for the New Statesman.

Social genome

The social genome is the collection of data about members of a society that is captured in ever-larger and ever-more complex databases (e.g., government administrative data, operational data, social media data etc.). Some have used the term digital footprint to refer to individual traces.

Social informatics

Social informatics is the study of information and communication tools in cultural or institutional contexts. Another definition is the interdisciplinary study of the design, uses and consequences of information technologies that takes into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts. A transdisciplinary field, social informatics is part of a larger body of socio-economic research that examines the ways in which the technological artifact and human social context mutually constitute the information and communications technology (ICT) ensemble. Some proponents of social informatics use the relationship of a biological community to its environment as an analogy for the relationship of tools to people who use them. The Center for Social Informatics founded by the late Dr. Rob Kling, an early champion of the field’s ideas, defines the field thus:

Social Informatics (SI) refers to the body of research and study that examines social aspects of computerization – including the roles of information technology in social and organizational change, the uses of information technologies in social contexts, and the ways that the social organization of information technologies is influenced by social forces and social practices.

Social web

The social web is a set of social relations that link people through the World Wide Web. The social web encompasses how websites and software are designed and developed in order to support and foster social interaction. These online social interactions form the basis of much online activity including online shopping, education, gaming and social networking websites. The social aspect of Web 2.0 communication has been to facilitate interaction between people with similar tastes. These tastes vary depending on who the target audience is, and what they are looking for. For individuals working in the public relation department, the job is consistently changing and the impact is coming from the social web. The influence, held by the social network is large and ever changing.

As people's activities on the Web and communication increase, information about their social relationships become more available. Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, as well as the future Dataweb enable people and organizations to contact each other with persistent human-friendly names. Today hundreds of millions of Internet users are using thousands of social websites to stay connected with their friends, discover new "friends", and to share user-created content, such as photos, videos, social bookmarks, and blogs, even through mobile platform support for cell phones. By the second quarter in 2017, Facebook reported 1.86 billion members, and, in 2008, MySpace occupied 100 million users and YouTube had more than 100 million videos and 2.9 million user channels, and these numbers are consistently growing. The social Web is quickly reinventing itself, moving beyond simple web applications that connect individuals to live an entirely new way of life.


Sociology is the scientific study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture of everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.The different traditional focuses of sociology include social stratification, social class, social mobility, religion, secularization, law, sexuality, gender, and deviance. As all spheres of human activity are affected by the interplay between social structure and individual agency, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to other subjects, such as health, medical, economy, military and penal institutions, the Internet, education, social capital, and the role of social activity in the development of scientific knowledge.

The range of social scientific methods has also expanded. Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques. The linguistic and cultural turns of the mid-20th century led to increasingly interpretative, hermeneutic, and philosophic approaches towards the analysis of society. Conversely, the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s have seen the rise of new analytically, mathematically, and computationally rigorous techniques, such as agent-based modelling and social network analysis.Social research informs politicians and policy makers, educators, planners, legislators, administrators, developers, business magnates, managers, social workers, non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations, and people interested in resolving social issues in general. There is often a great deal of crossover between social research, market research, and other statistical fields.

Tim Jordan (sociologist)

Tim Jordan is a professor at the University of Sussex where he is also Head of School at the School of Media, Film and Music. Prior to that, he was working at King's College London in culture, media and creative industries and digital humanities departments, and has previously worked as the head of the sociology department at the Open University. He has published his work on hacking and online cultures. He was co-founder of the journal Social Movement Studies.

Tribe (internet)

The term tribe or digital tribe is used as a slang term for an unofficial community of people who share a common interest, and usually who are loosely affiliated with each other through social media or other Internet mechanisms. The term is related to "tribe", which traditionally refers to people closely associated in both geography and genealogy. Nowadays, it looks more like a virtual community or a personal network and it is often called global digital tribe. Most anthropologists agree that a tribe is a (small) society that practices its own customs and culture, and that these define the tribe. The tribes are divided into clans, with their own customs and cultural values that differentiate them from activities that occur in 'real life' contexts. People feel more inclined to share and defend their ideas on social networks than they would dare to say to someone face to face. For example, it would be ridiculous to 'poke' someone in real life.

Web science

Web science is an emerging interdisciplinary field concerned with the study of large-scale socio-technical systems, particularly the World Wide Web. It considers the relationship between people and technology, the ways that society and technology co-constitute one another and the impact of this co-constitution on broader society. Web Science combines research from disciplines as diverse as sociology, computer science, economics, and mathematics.An earlier definition was given by American computer scientist Ben Shneiderman: "Web Science" is processing the information available on the web in similar terms to those applied to natural environment.The Web Science Institute describes Web Science as focusing "the analytical power of researchers from disciplines as diverse as mathematics, sociology, economics, psychology, law and computer science to understand and explain the Web. It is necessarily interdisciplinary – as much about social and organizational behaviour as about the underpinning technology."

Other categorizations

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