Archive for February, 2010

E-democracy and the Web – Sociology basics and relevant concepts   no comments

Posted at 5:10 am in Politics,Sociology

In an effort to organise my reading in a practical way, and keeping in mind that the disciplines of Sociology and Political Sciences may overlap, at least in the context of e-democracy, I have decided to start from the core principles of Sociology and then go on to more complex concepts.

The book that I have been reading this week is Sociology by John J. Macionis. As the title suggests it is an introductory textbook to Sociology. It is a well written textbook, up to date and quite successful, at least judging from the fact that I am using its eleventh edition.

Despite having already been in contact with some terms, principles and methods of Sociology (through the Foundations of Web Science module), I decided to go through them again and in more depth. So I read about the theoretical approaches that are used such as the structural-functional approach, the social-conflict approach and the symbolic-interaction approach. The book has a great example on how to use these approaches and also has a paragraph for each that serves as a critical review. These will be quite useful if I will need to apply theories during my analysis of e-democracy.

But besides the three theoretical approaches, there are also three methodological orientations when doing sociological research: scientific sociology, interpretive sociology and critical sociology. There are also various methodologies, which I already came to know through the Research Methods Group Project module.  Although it is not necessary to read research papers for the purpose of this module, been able to understand how sociologists work may be helpful in getting a general understanding of their discipline.

After reading the introductory chapters, reading about Society was the obvious way to continue. What I found particularly relevant, was the concept of socio-cultural evolution (Nolan & Lenski, 2004) that describes how societies change due to technological changes, which obviously is what the Web is doing to our society. After this, the book presents the 3 great sociologists of the past: Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim. Their (sometimes conflicting) analysis of modern societies roughly corresponds to the three theoretical approaches mentioned before. Concepts like capitalism, rationalisation, alienation and anomie were introduced.

Between the individual and the society, stand various groups and organisations. The groups that are relevant to e-democracy (such as political organisations) are mainly secondary groups, that is groups that their members have relationships that are often short term and usually less close and broad than in primary groups (such as families). Moreover, they are also based on the pursuit of a common goal. Group leadership and group conformity are two important factors affecting the operation of groups.

A more formal type of secondary group is a formal organisation. Normative organisations, that is organisations that their members have joined to pursue a morally worthwhile goal, are the organisations of most interest, as these include both political parties and voluntary political organisations, both instrumental to e-democracy. Organisational models are discussed, with an emphasis on bureaucracy, with its shortcomings such as alienation stressed. Modern democracies seem to suffer from such shortcomings and these are some of the problems that e-democracy may solve.

I briefly read about social stratification and social class as I believe that they will be necessary for my subsequent understanding of Political Science principles. Although I continued reading about Politics and Government (from a sociologist’s viewpoint) and to keep this post simple, I will add this section to next week’s post or incorporate it in a post about Political Science. For the following week, my reading priorities will be the chapters about social change, collective behaviour and social movements. I may also start reading about Political Science basics.

Written by el3e09 on February 27th, 2010

Tagged with ,

General Studying in Sociology   no comments

Posted at 11:46 pm in Sociology

In my last week post the brief issues were given and the disciplines for this research were economics and sociology. However, it is quite hard to find the connection directly between the Web and those disciplines, as those disciplines are all at the basic level to deal with the real world matters. Additionally, the Web is still in its young age with changing on and on. Therefore, in order to address the issue that how to find out the value of user-generated content, the basic theory should be understood firstly and independently.

The main purpose of this week reading is to understand the general theory in sociology. Firstly, what is sociology? According to Tony, sociology is ’the academic study of the relationships which develop between human beings as they organise themselves and are organised by others in societies’. The sociology will tend to deal with the problems which have developed in an especially acute form in modern times. These problems are caused by all the changes within societies. The disruption of traditional communities can be used as one example.

Secondly, it is about the ways of studying sociology. There are five approaches to sociological theory. They are constructionism, functionalism, utilitarianism, critical structuralism and feminism. The following grid shows the gerenal differences between them,
                                   Subjective                                    Objective
Individualistic     Constructionism                Utilitarianism
Holistic                   Functionalism                      Critical structuralism

In China, the famous approach to sociological theory is the critical structuralism which is developed mainly by Karl Marx who was a great political economist as well. The Marxism gives the relationship between sociology and economics which shows that the social relation will be alternative with the development of the society.

For the further study, I will put the focus on the individual behaviour in the society and also begin to study the economics aspect which can be connected with the macro-sociology studying.

Written by ch9e09 on February 26th, 2010

Sociological Theories of Crime and Criminological Psychology   no comments

Posted at 11:06 pm in Criminology

Source: The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (3rd Ed.) by Maguire, Morgan and Reiner

Chapter 2. Sociological Theories of Crime

This chapter provides a broad summary of the various sociological theories of crime which seek to examine the relationship between crime and society.

Anomie theories

Robert Merton’s theory of anomie is caused as a socially-fostered state of discontent and deregulation that generated crime and deviance as part of the routine functioning of a society which promised much to everyone but denied them equal access to its attainment .

In a society where failure is interpreted as personal rather than social weakness, where failure tended to lead to guilt rather than political anger, the pressure to succeed may be so powerful that it impelled people thus disadvantaged to bypass legitimate carers and take illegitimate careers.

Control theory

To control those who seek to commit crime because it’s “profitable, useful or enjoyable” and will certainly break the law if they have to. Travis Hirschi believes the question is not “why do they do it” but should be – “why don’t we do it?”

Four chief elements were held to induce people to comply with rules:

  1. Attachment – a person’s sensitivity to the opinions of others
  2. Commitment – investment of time, energy and reputation in conformity
  3. Involvement – engrossment in conventional activity
  4. Belief – mirrors a person’s conviction that he or she should obey legal rules

Steven Box’s list of variables that were held to affect control:

  1. Secrecy (the delinquent’s chances of concealment)
  2. Skills (knowledge and techniques needed for the deviant act)
  3. Supply (access to appropriate equipment)
  4. Symbolic support (the endorsement offered by accounts available in the wider culture)

It is believed that the greater the access to each of the above, the greater the likelihood to commit crime.


Symbolic interactionism and phenomenology (labelling theory) which insists that people do not and cannot respond immediately, uncritically, and passively to the world “as it is”.

Deviance itself was to become more generally likened to  a moral career consisting of interlocking phases, each of which fed into the next, each of which presented different existential problems and opportunities; each of which could distinctively mould the self of the deviant. Not every phase was inevitable or irreversible and deviants could often elect to change direction.

Relevance to the cybercrime

The pressure to succeed in the world today is indeed overwhelming and it is obvious that some will be prepared to gain success through illegitimate ways, as proposed by Robert Merton. Obviously, in the age of the internet, the faster way to gain success would be to exploit the internet platform as it  gives the offender potential access to multi-millions of connected users all across the globe. In fact, when compared with Steven Box’s list of variables, it becomes obvious why cybercrime occurs. A high degree of secrecy (ignoring the technical details) can be achieved over the internet with little skill required since a lot of the techniques are well published. Supply to equipment is easy since all one needs is a computer whilst there is a symbolic support in the sense that cybercriminals are always portrayed  as smart and cool. Such a sequence of steps to commit a cybercrime is also described in symbolic interactionism and phenomenology that each step feeds into the other but each step is not irreversible nor inevitable.

Chapter 5: Criminological Psychology (Forensic Psychology)

In this chapter, the authors attempt to bring forward to the reader some of the few behavioural and cognitive criminological theories.

Differential Association Theory

Sutherland proposed that criminal behaviour is in fact a learned behaviour. He speculated that learning occurs in close social groups and hence behaviour is acquired through such contacts.

Product of learning is not just the skills of committing crime but also the attitudes that outweigh conformist attitudes and so are conducive to breaking the law.

Differential Reinforcement Theory

The theory of differential reinforcement theory: a criminal act occurs in an environment in which in the past, the actor has been reinforced to behaving in this manner, and the aversive consequences attached to the behaviour have been much of such a nature that they do not control or prevent the response. (Hence, the individual’s history of reinforcement and punishment can be used to explain his/her criminal behaviour.

Personality and Crime

Eysenck’s theory seeks to offer an explanation of crime based on an interaction of biological, social, and individual factors. He proposed three dimensions of personality: extraversion (E), neuroticism (N) and psychoticism (p). He saw E, N and P as a continuum in which the majority of the people fall in the centre of the continuum. He believes and empirically proven that offenders demonstrate high N, P and E scores.

Cognition and Crime

Kohlberg argues that offending is associated with a delay in the development of moral reasoning : when the opportunity for offending presents itself, the individual does not have the reasoning that would allow him or her to control and resist temptation.

Empiracal proof (Blasi 1980, Nelson, Smith and Dodd 1990) that offenders do typically show lower levels of moral reasoning.

Social problem solving skill:

  1. To understand the situation
  2. To envisage potential courses of action
  3. To consider and evaluate the outcomes that might follow the various actions
  4. Finally to decide on a  course of action and plan its execution to achieve a desired outcome

Again, there is empirical proof that offenders (both male and female) give less socially competent responses to social problems.

The reasoning criminal

Personal benefit is the primary motivation of crime and in pursuit of personal gain, individuals make decisions and choices that are more/less rational in nature.

Social factors, including family/peer group, play a background role in an individual’s development in growing up with an association with crime. However, the rational “event decision” at the point of committing the offence is predominant.

Frequency of crime is associated with increased opportunity and when confronted with opportunity, offenders do make rational choices about their behaviour

Relevance to cybercrime

It would be interesting to attempt to study the psychological characteristics of cybercriminals to see whether Eysenck’s theory holds in cybercrime and whether their moral reasoning and social problem solving skills are lacking. Also, whether cybercriminals are reasoning criminals is difficult to conclude because the scale of crime could be so great that it would be difficult to envisage the consequence of committing a cybercrime.

Written by my2e09 on February 26th, 2010

Tagged with ,

Emotions organise our activities, and how Postmodernism and Urbanisation have changed the social landscape   no comments

Posted at 8:29 pm in Psychology,Sociology

As part of my review I have been reading the book: “psychology”, 3rd ed. G. N. Martin et al, and this week concentrated one of the main branches of psychology: social psychology.

Some of key areas of social psychology fall within 4 issues:

leadership: where someone tries to influence the whole group.

conformity: several group members encourage others to adopt a particular attitude.

obedience: when authority figure tries to make someone comply with  their demands.

prejudice: where attitudes of one group influence behaviour towards another group.

As well as these four issues there was another large theory that has been well established in branch of social psychology:

Social facilitation: process of behaviour change as a result of being in presence of others

Another theory was that emotions organise our activities. They tell us what we want to do or do not want, and importantly emotions can function as motives. e.g. a distressed child will seek comfort and security or cry for help, and mostly people seek to be close to those they love. Extrapolating from this textbook example, I believe emotions can act as motives for why we seek to join or be part of groups, perhaps for same reasons, as well as many more than cited in the example. There are two types of emotions: primary motives to satisfy basic needs and secondary motives such as friendship, power, and fame are acquired or learned needs. At this stage I am outlining this as one possible hypothesis: that emotions drive or make up part of our motives for joining and participating in groups.

Additional ideas from psychology that may be relevant to outlining factors as to why we join and participate in activities are the two contrasting theories to illustrate motivation: homeostatic drive and goal theory.

Homeostatic drive theory: an action is driven by a sense of imbalance and continues until the balance is restored.

Goal theory: key to some one’s motivation is what they are consciously trying to do: their goal.

As part of  my review of sociology literature I looked at “introductory sociology”, 4th ed. tony bilton et al.

Of interest was the line “the Internet has enhanced the potential for shared experiences, and increased the immediacy with which a wide variety of information can be disseminated”.  If this is true then perhaps further reading of other material may show that shared experiences are cohesive factor for joining and staying in a group, and perhaps online societies facilitate this better than offline groups.

One key theme was Urbanisation and how it affected the social and physical environment. A shift from a close-knit community , personal and stable relationships between friends and neighbours, and based on clear understanding of social position to associations based on transition, instrumental relationships that were specific to a particular setting and purpose and did not involve whole person. I understood this to mean that there was a change in the relationships and structure of groups, from close knit,  personal, stable groups with clear hierarchies, to groups which were disjointed,  impersonal, transitional and with no clear heirachy.

Another key theme relevant to social groups was: Living in Post modernity; that Since 1970s’ new social trends have prompted some commentators to suggest a great Transformation is underway, heralding an area of post modernity. What does this mean? At its most extreme, individuals are no longer ‘unified subjects’ they no longer possess fixed, stable and coherent identities, but an increasingly composed of fragmented, multiple and often contradictory identities. This forces us to (re) evaluate social development and our place in them.

This theme re-enforces what I found last week, that the fragmented postmodern young generation of both Eastern and Western Societies were each searching for a new collective self, perhaps reason why there is such a growing ad diverse range of groups online, to satisfy this market of indiviuals looking for collective self.

Actions for next week:

Read an introductory textbook on social psychology, this branch of psychology appears most relevant to my review.

Look at individual actors, roles and personalities often found within groups.

Document any sociological factors that influence groups such as languages and culture.

Written by cm7e09 on February 26th, 2010

Tagged with ,

Privacy of the individual in the global village of the World Wide Web (2nd Post)   1 comment

Posted at 7:46 pm in Psychology,Sociology

Below you may find the books that I read during the past week and some thoughts on privacy that I had while reading them.

Global Sociology by R. Cohen, P. Kennedy 2nd Edition (2007)

What is Global Sociology?

As social, cultural, economic, political and technological changes began to assume a global character, late twentieth-century sociologists had to adapt some of their ideas and perspectives to a global scale.

What is Globalisation?

“It refers to all those processes by which people of the world are incorporated into a single society, global society”(Albrow, 1990).

The authors identify at least 6 components of globalisation:

– changing concepts of space and time

– an increasing volume of cultural interactions

– the commonality of problems facing all the world’s inhabitants

– growing interconnections and interdependencies

– a network of increasingly powerful trasnational actors and organisations

– the synchronisation of all the dimensions involved in globalisation

I think that the World Wide Web phenomenon is also a factor that contributes to globalisation, as it offers universal access to knowledge, communication and interaction for all the people around the world.

What is Globality?

Whereas globalisation refers mainly to a series of objective changes in the world that are partly outside us, globality refers to the subjective realm. It alludes to the subjective, personal awareness that many of us share, and are increasingly likely to share – a common fate.

According to the authors, there are 4 major aspects of globality:

– thinking about ourselves collectively while identifying with all humanity

e.g. Many people articulate a strong conviction that everyone has certain rights as a human being. They express moral outrage when it transpires that these rights are being violated and demand that human rights are universally protected and enshrined in international conventions and laws.

In the same sense, on the Web everyone has certain rights that we need to focus on collectively and the right to privacy is one of them.

– the end to one-way flows and the growth of multicultural awareness

Today nations and cultures are more willing to recognise and accept cultural diversity.

Through the Web we have achieved  cultural interaction amongst different nations.

– the empowerment of self-aware social actors

(Reflexivity: All humans reflect on the consequences of their own and others’ actions and perhaps alter their behaviour in response to new information. Reflexivity is said to intensify as every aspect of social life becomes subject to endless revision in the face of constantly accumulating knowledge.)

Because globalisation has brought knowledge of other cultures into the heart of our daily lives, it has become yet another major force that fosters increasing reflexivity and individualisation. According to Rosenau,  ” today’s persons-in-street are no longer as uninvolved, ignorant, and manipulable with respect to world affairs as were their forbeans”.

The same applies on the Web, as there is a plethora of information available online on which everyone has access. However how does this situation affect privacy? Today different cultures reflect on one another through the Web; different cultures have different views on what is privacy and  on its boundaries, how do people from different backgrounds respect other people’s privacy?

– the broadening of identities

Today, no person or institution can avoid contact with, and some knowledge of, other cultures. But our allegiance to the particular local cultures in which most of us remain rooted at any point in time are altered by our comparisons with and understandings of other cultures

– the local or particular ceases to provide sufficient resources to enable us to make decisions about our lives and where we belong.

The Web plays an important role in the broadening of identities (we do not anymore only belong to one and only local culture). As our identities change, does our position on privacy also change? Do we consider less things to be private in comparison with the past?

What is Crime?

Crime covers a multitude of activities, some extremely violent and injurious to 3rd parties, others much less so. The word “deviance” is being used to describe “behaviour that is banned, censured, stigmatised or penalised” (Rock, 1996). While deviant conduct can include criminal behaviour, it also includes behaviour that attracts disapproval though it is not formally illegal, as well as activities that are on the fuzzy boundaries between the two.

What about privacy breaches? Should all of them be characterised as criminal behaviour or are there are cases, where they should only be disapproved? (e.g.  think of Facebook rape) Are there cases where the invasion of privacy is less important than other cases?

Social control today

In the wealthy contemporary societies, the capacity for surveillance has been considerably enhanced by technology. CCTVs are placed in many shopping malls and busy streets, while computerised databases and the internet have generated a new set of footprints that can be followed by a determined investigator. According to the authors, adults in the developed world have their details recorded on 300 databases, on average.

How do people feel about being continuously under surveillance (that refers to psychology rather than sociology)?This constant surveillance and control definitely invades our personal space and data. And who is responsible for controlling all this personal data? As soon as a person enters the world of the World Wide Web, he cannot anymore protect his/her personal data.

The Information Age and the World Wide Web

The arrival of the Web has raised a number of democratic possibilities. However, its decentralised structure has prevented business and the media from gaining control over it. Numerous attacks against people and organisations take place every day on the Web; taking action against them is not an easy task. Although there is a great deal of insecurity on the Web, that does not prevent people around the world to use it for their transactions and their communications, since it is a more democratic and less controlled media.

Psychology by  G. Martin et al. 3rd European Edition (2007)

Self and Identity

Knowledge about ourselves is very much like knowledge about other people. If someone asks you who you are, how would you respond? Social psychologists believe that we have many different selves that can be more or less discrete and come into play in different contexts. Higgins identifies 3 different selves:

the actual self (how one really is), the ideal self (how one would like to be) and the ought self (how one thinks one ought to be). The ideal self engages ‘promotional’ goals – we strive towards achieving the ideal, whereas the ought self engages ‘prevention’ goals – we strive to avoid doing what we ought not to do.

In that context how do we act when it comes to gaining access over one’s private data? Do we respect one’s sensitive data or do we breach their privacy? It seems that in this case the ‘ought’ self fails to prevent us from doing something bad.

Types of self and identity

Actual and possible selves can take many different forms. In particular, researchers distinguish between selves and identities that are grounded in individuality, interpersonal relationships and group and category memberships. Social identity theorists distinguish between the personal self (personal identity: self defined in terms of idiosyncratic attributes or personal relationships) and the collective self(social identity: the self defined in terms of group attributes).

Self esteem

People vary in their general level of self-esteem. Although low self-esteem can be dysfunctional, research tends to discredit the popular belief that low self-esteem is associated with social problems such as violence. On the contrary, violence is more closely associated with narcissism – high self-esteem in conjuction with a feeling of being superior and special.

In that sense, if we try to portrait the profile of a user that abuses a specific person’s privacy with personal motivation, thinking that this person may be a person with low self-esteem is incorrect.

Social inference

The most powerful knowledge we can have about people is causal knowledge – if we know what causes people to behave in certain ways then we are able to predict and influence what people will do. We need to assess the situational (stimuli in the environment) and dispositional (individual personality characteristics) factors.

Does that mean that if we understand the motivations that lead one person to invade another person’s personal space or data on the Web, then we will be able to predict and influence their actions?

People in groups/Prejudice

Human beings are unmistakably social creatures. A group is a collection of individuals who have a shared definition of who they are and what they should think, feel and do – people in the same group generally have common interests and goals.

Prejudice can be defined as a shared attitude, generally negative, towards a social outgroup, and thus towards members of that group purely on the basis of their membership in that group.

How is prejudice expressed online and how is it related to privacy? Often prejudice can lead to privacy breaches. There are cases in the history of the Web, where people’s prejudice against other people or groups has provoked privacy breaches.

In the following week I am going to continue reading books from the reading list that I have uploaded in my first blog and update the blog with new findings.

Written by az4g09 on February 26th, 2010

Online Identity – Second Post   no comments

Posted at 4:21 pm in Criminology,Sociology

Revised Brief:

This week I have revised my original Brief to observe the concept of ‘online identity’ from both a sociological and criminological perspective. Unfortunately, there was little information to be found on this area from a political view, thus this subject has been discounted.

The area of Criminology poses very interesting research questions in regards to the concept of online identity. In particular how anonymity online could be potentially used by individuals perpetuating criminal activities. This varies from individuals pretending to be reputable organisations, perhaps asking for bank details or other personal information; to sex offenders being able to use particular online identities, different from their real-world self, to groom children. How criminals may manipulate and use online identity is quite fascinating.

This Week’s Achievements:

This week I have focused my reading on two Sociology textbooks:

1)      Sassen, S, ‘A Sociology of Globalization’ (W.W. Norton & Company Inc, London, 2007)

This book, although not particularly relevant to the concept of online identity, was useful when considering how the Web has affected society on a global scale; perhaps helping to underpin the concept of globalisation. However, this book is also valuable in illustrating the basic principles of sociological methodology, which seems in this instance to be built upon different studies and statistics produced by a variety of sociologists in a particular area.

2)      Nunes, M, ‘Cyberspaces of Everyday Life,’ ( University of Minnesota Press, London, 2002)

This book offers a socio-cultural view on the Web and various aspects of online identity. From how identity is used in online e-Learning, such as the University of Phoenix, where many individuals use pseudonyms instead of real names; to websites that seems to allow the expression of one part of a user’s identity, such as a parenting website. Nunes argues on this parenting website users’ identity does not seem to go beyond the realms that they are parents, anything else about identity is irrelevant. Furthermore, this book offers interesting insights into how online identity may be free from: gender, race, sexuality and social-class, and how in turn this may impact on social interaction.

Next Week’s Aims:

After contacting the School of Social Sciences in regards to issues surrounding the concept of identity on the Web, the following textbooks were kindly recommended:

  1. Muncie et al, ‘Criminological Perspectives’ (2nd edit.,) – used at level two for Criminology.
  2. Yvonne Jewkes and Majid Yar, ‘Handbook of Internet Crime’ – contains chapters relevant to the issue of identity.
  3. Giddens, ‘A Sociology’ – provides a good overview of Sociology (used by undergraduate sociologists)

Therefore, next week my aim is to have found these three textbooks in Hartley library and to create a short summary about each.

Written by Laura German on February 26th, 2010

Tagged with , ,

Intertextuality in Hypertext – Part One   1 comment

Posted at 3:00 pm in Linguistics

In my last post, I identified that the term ‘intertextuality’ has several different meanings throughout linguistics; it has been a term coined for many different purposes, similar to the way “Web 3.0” has been used and abused in recent years. It seems that the benchmark of a ‘serious’ intertextuality study is the identification and isolation of this problem.

Pre-structuralists identified intertextuality as the conveyance of varying meanings from author to reader. This largely depended on the reader’s subjective norms and expectations. For instance, one text may represent itself in different ways to different readers, with or without the intent of the author. Modern theories identify intertextuality as links between texts, perhaps intentionally, but fundamentally produced by texts, not authors. (Source: Wikipedia; Beckett’s Dantes: Intertextuality in the Fiction and Criticism).

In Intertextuality: Debates and Contexts, Orr identifies electronic media as catalysts to the challenging of traditional intertextuality theories, where terms such as “hypertextuality” and “interdisciplinarity” take precedence over intertextuality, effectively confining intertextuality to printed media of the past.

It yet remains to be seen (through reading) what relations exist between intertextuality and modern electronic media, although several hypotheses have been discovered. If parallels can be drawn, then the development and future of hypertext, and those who use it, may be related to that of previous media models such as printed text.

I will be looking into adjusting my second research topic so it concurs with the themes of this exercise.

Written by Russell Newman on February 26th, 2010

The Role of Trust in the building of Relationships on the Web   1 comment

Posted at 2:05 pm in Psychology,Sociology

My research focuses in on the value and perception of trust when it comes to building a relationship with people on the Web in comparison to the approach that we adopt in the real world and am going to be studying the issue from sociological and psychological points of view.


There are a number of different core theories in the field of sociology that when you put them next to the Web to compare their approach online, the results are interesting and one such is the theory of social cognition. The theory reads that to understand people behavior you have to be able to see them; their physical appearance and heir characteristics to make a judgment. So if you are at a market trading for goods, you might decide on whether you want to buy the goods from that particular person based upon these issues. However online when you decide to buy a good from a seller on eBay, you cannot see them and therefore your decision is based upon what they tell you about them; there is therefore a huge element of trust involved in the process.

There is also the concept of central traits and so where we grow to know somebody that initial judgment call on how we perceive will be based upon a range of information some of which are going to central to the decision and others that are going to be no more than ancillary. These traits that are central such as are person is happy or excitable we can make that determination for we by looking at the person but you cannot do that in the case of individual online that you have never seen or met. Again therefore the notion of trust becomes even more of an important issue.

The notion of group behaviors online is hugely affected by the notion of trust. In the real world, to a great extent what we do is influenced by those around us; when we see those around us do a particular act we are more prone to doing the same and we see them not do a particular act we are more prone to not do it. To a large degree this is so because we trust the people that are acting so; we know them and trust the decision that they have made and decide o follow. However take the example of an e-petition, here research has shown that a lot of people sign online petitions and join causes based upon the strength of umbers that it already has; they do know the people who have decided to take that action but decide to follow nonetheless. The level of faith and trust put in these people is really interesting and great in the context here.

There are also the notions of obedience to authority and interpersonal relations with the latter to a great degree being built upon perceptions that we make up those around us.


According to Erikson there 8 stages of human progression that we all have to pass through as we make way through our lives. One of these is the ability to trust, which he cites as coming at the beginning when you’re a new born. The theory is that when you’re born because you are unable to fend for yourself you depend on family to look after you and put your trust in them. If they fail, you struggle throughout the rest of your life to be able to trust.

Erikson relates the theory to a new born child however it ca obviously apply to any point I your life; there is not point at which stop trusting. There are actions that occur throughout your life that affect your ability to trust for example having a partner who might cheat on you. Therefore the individual’s ability trust has changed because of the Web. Trust in a large part is built on the ability to believe hat somebody else tells you but at the same time when you are with them personally your can always make sure for yourself as you are in their company. However that is not always the case online.

Erikson’s theory of stage development seems a little inconsistent with the ability of the Web to be able to allow you to trust. It almost brings an entirely new element to the trust stage because you having to trust people with whom you may never have any contact at all, as opposed to say family and friends.


  • ‘Sociology: Making sense of Society’- Marsh et al.
  • ‘Introductory Sociology’ – Bilton, Bonnett, Jones, Lawson, Skinner, Stanworth & Webster.
  • ‘Invitation to Psychology’ – Wade & Tavris.
  • ‘Psychology: The Science of Behaviour’ – Carlson et al.
  • ‘Hilgard’s Introduction to Psychology’ – Atkinson et al.

Written by shrk106 on February 26th, 2010

Social Psychology of Behaviour in Small Groups   no comments

Posted at 1:17 pm in Psychology,Sociology

Currently reading:  Introduction to social psychology: a European perspective, Hewstone and Stroebe.

I have found loads of information on behaviour within small groups but need to find more about why people join these groups in the first place.

Reasons for Joining:

  • Family influence / peer pressure (nuture not nature).
  • Prosocial behaviour and influence.
  • Modelling – “The tendency for individuals to acquire new (and more complex) forms of behaviour by observing this behaviour and its consequences in real-life or symbolic models.”

Social Influence in Small Groups:

  • Autokinetic Effect – “Where confronted with an unstructured and ambiguous stimulus, people nevertheless develop a stable internal frame of reference against which to judge the stimulus. However, as soon as they are confronted with the different judgements of others, they quickly abandon this frame of reference so as to adjust it to that of others.”
  • After-Image – Experiment showing that people’s perceptions will change in order to maintain their position in the majority.
  • Conversion – “A change in covert behaviour after exposure to others’ opinions (internalised change)”
  • Compliance – “A change in overt behaviour after exposure to others’ opinions”
  • Innovation – “Social influence resulting from exposure to the opinions of a minority group.”
  • Conformity – “Social influence resulting from exposure to the opinions of a majority group, or the majority of one’s group”
  • Group Polarisation – “A change in the average position of a group, following group discussion, in the direction of the initially dominant pole.”
  • Groupthink – “A group decision process, strongly oriented towards consensus, among like-minded and cohesive individuals, emanating in one-sided and incorrect conclusions.”
  • Informational Influence – “Influence based on the informational value of opinions expressed by others, on what they tell a person about an aspect of reality.”
  • Normative Influence – “Influence based on the need to be accepted and approved by others.”
  • Self-categorisation – “Group behaviour emphasizing the impact of self-definitions at different levels of abstraction (individual, group, humanity) on judgement and behaviour.”
  • Social Comparison – “comparing one’s own behaviour to others’ in order to evaluate the correctness and adequacy of own behaviour”
  • Social Influence – “A change in the judgments, opinions and attitudes of an individual as a result of being exposed to the views of others”

Still to research: people’s need to be accepted and conformism in extremist groups.

Written by Simon Hearne on February 26th, 2010

Sociological Concepts, Structural Perspectives, Power, Politics and People   no comments

Posted at 1:57 am in Politics,Sociology

Currently reading: A New Introduction to Sociology – Mike O’Donnell

Brief overview of what has been read:

Currently I have been looking at the fundamentals of sociology, which includes the core principles and basic sociological concepts. Furthermore I have been reading about the founders of sociology: Marx, Durkheim and Weber, and how their views have influenced sociological theory and sociological structural prospective.
The book introduces also Functionalism, Marxism and social action theory, explaining their core differences.
This introduction is covered in good detail in Chapter 1.

Also directing my reading towards the political aspect of sociology, I have been reading about Power, Politics and People. The book explains the core principles of Weber and Marx’s power views. Also looking at the systems of government, such as Democracy, Oligarchy and Dictatorships have been discussed. A really relevant section is the voting models which where explained, including the party identification and social class model, the rational-choice model and the radical model. All arguing a different reason for why trends occur in voting behaviour.

This topic on political sociology can be read in chapter 14.

Knowledge gained and relevance to issue:

To begin with let’s look at the basic sociological concepts, these include self, which as Kuhn suggests is “the core of the personality system”. This can be genetically or socialisation. However sociologists take a minimal view on instinctive behaviour, suggesting that it is shaped by social behaviour instead.

Another concept is socialisation, which is the process of shaping human behaviour through experience in social situations. Cooley suggests that there are type types of socialism, primary and secondary, small groups involving face-to-face relationships and allow the individual to express themselves as a whole, or larger more impersonal groups, formally organised, and for a specific purpose.

Furthermore the concepts of Culture, Values, Norms, Status and Roles are discussed. These all form the basis of the concepts behind sociology.
Looking at the issue that is being addressed (in short, how the use of the web is changing the way society can communicate with the government), these concepts plan a large part on the interaction between both parties. Taking socialisation for instance, which is being defined as either primary or secondary, but the introduction of these new communication methods gives opportunities for the individual to express themselves.

The next thing that needs to be discussed is the founder’s perspective on Society. Marx, Durkheim and Weber all take a different view on sociological theory. Durkheim’s Functionalistic view is based on the prospective that social institutions (i.e. schools, governments) exist to meet basic human needs. Society operates comparative to a biological organism, where the institutions interact with each other for the benefit of society, and power is practically necessary. Marxism however is based on the view that class conflict is the fundamental social force. In a capitalist society, the main social classes are the capitalist class and the working class. These can be seen as the powerful and weakest classes (bourgeoisie or proletariat). Power is also based on class, which is down to wealth and property. Finally Weber’s work, referred to as Social Action Theory tries to integrate the structural prospective and also the interpretive perspective. This takes the view that society is constructed through social interaction, not class. And that power is needed, but tends to agree that power is based on class.

These theories can be discussed in regards to the issue trying to be addressed, especially looking at the relationship between the individual and society, and also what causes social change.

Looking at Politics, Power and Authority, Weber and Marx suggest two views, power is the ability to get ones way (even if it is based on bluff) and power lies in the relations of a group, respectively. These theories can be well discussed regarding the issue of web communications. For instance, if power is the ability to get ones way, they would online forum bulling / spamming show that they user has power; furthermore, just because of a hierarchical structure in a forum, do the higher rated uses have more power, hence more ‘political’ voice?

Looking at the different voting models is also an important aspect that needs to be discussed. If taking the party identification and social class model into consideration, which suggests that historically, and even in contemporary Britain the main factor to explain voting behaviour is class, how does this affect the Web model that is being seen? On the contrary to this, the rational-choice model suggests that voting is mainly the basis of self-interest in relation to the issues being presented. Extrapolating this to the Web, does this suggest that people are only interested in politics that affect them, either their local government or council? Finally the radical model argues that sectoral cleavages (private and public sector) explains trends in voting behaviour, this may in turn distract people from class

These so far are the basic concepts that I have studied in the field of sociology, which is also touching upon political sociology. Further reading now is required into political communications, and concepts being it.

Written by rt506 on February 26th, 2010