Archive for February 16th, 2010
Core Sociological and Psychological views of Extremism on the Web.
Recent articles such as Gerstenfeld’s “Hate Online: A Content Analysis of Extremist Internet Sites” have shown that extremist groups are using the web as a communication and promotion tool, uniting people with a common cause that is not necessarily tolerated in the offline world. Some of the core themes of psychology and sociology explain why extremism is becoming more prevelant on the web than ever before, for example: the anonymity, security and community offered by online communications allows people to express feelings that they may have otherwise kept to themselves; the location-independent online world allows disparate groups, united by religious or political ideals, to come together and share their views.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee envisaged an ‘open’ web when he created WorldWideWeb in 1989. The ideal that the web should be free to use and edit by anyone is open to abuse, but are extremist or hate websites abuse of this or part of the openness of the web? As such should these types of online communities be allowed to exist freely or should they be censored?
Looking at the core textbooks in psychology and sociology allows an insight into the reasons for the prevalence of extremist web sites and discussion groups, from the point of view of a pre-web world, or at least looking at the core reasons for this behaviour.
The core sociological and psychological views on extremist behaviour will be translated to the online world in an effort to explain why hate groups and extremist websites are prevalent on the web, as well as providing an insight into the impact of censorship of such sites.
- Introduction to social psychology: a European perspective. Miles Hewstone, Wolfgang Stroebe
- Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. Dennis Coon, John O. Mitterer
- Sociology: a global introduction. John J. Macionis, Kenneth Plummer
- Thinking sociologically. Zygmunt Bauman, Tim May
Relevant / Recent:
- Sociology in the Age of the Internet (Sociology and Social Change). Cavanagh
- The Social Net: Human behavior in cyberspace. Amichai-Hamburger
- The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. Ralph W. Hood, Jr., Peter C. Hill, Bernard Spilka
This review will be focusing on how the Web is changing the way society is able to engage with the government, specifically with new forms of communications, such as E-Voting, E-Petitions (such as that on number10.gov).
Previously Society in general had a lack of contact with their government and local MP’s. However now with the Web, the general public can get in to direct contact with MP’s by the use of email, start political debate on Web based forums and have access to Government data / information much more easily. Furthermore as mentioned above, the ability now for E-Petitions could be seen to allow for a greater level of democracy. Furthermore from a MP’s prospectus, they can gain a greater national or even global reach very quickly, by use of such Web 2.0 tools as Twitter (or TweetMinster).
Not only are MP’s now using twitter to advertise their policies and everyday business involving government issues, but the general public are tweeting, blogging and using video media to actively engage and discuss such issues. Using trend trackers for tweets, governments have the ability to analyse key political topics which are being discussed. Reading different articles such as that of an article at corporate-eye suggests that such Web based tools are being used to a government party’s advantage.
Does this increase in communication methods available mean that the core structure of how governments operate is changing and do these changes change the fundamental principles of political and social structures? It is clear to say that the web is now one of the advertising/campaigning pathways for any government or political party, however what needs to be discussed is the changes that society will face in the near future.
There are several disciplines that can be examined, however two key disciplines, Politics and Sociology will be explored. The fundamental principles of both with be reviewed and then discussed in the context of the issue stated.
Exploring the sociological discipline, the topic of political sociology can be examined, which looks at the relations between state and society. Within this topic, there are certain areas which can be discussed in relation to Web Science: the socio-political formation of a state, how public movements and formal institutions outside the political power affect politics.
Exploring the Political discipline, political engagement is an area which may be changing due to the Web. Within this topic, such issues as Political campaigning can be discussed and then related to how the Web is changing the structure of such campaigns.
From gaining some understanding in the fundamentals of both disciplines, hopefully the key principles then can be applied to what is occurring on the Web (and in society) at present, hence forming a conclusion regarding whether the original political and sociological models are changing.
• Introduction to politics and society – Best, Shaun.
• Comparative Government and Politics, an Introduction – Hague, Rod.
• Internet politics: states, citizens, and new communication technologies – Chadwick, Andrew
BOOKS CURRENTLY READING:
• Thinking Sociologically – Zygmunt Bauman
• Introduction to Sociology – Theodor W. Adorno
• Approaching Sociology: a Critical Introduction – Coulson, Margaret A.
• Doing Sociology: A Practical Introduction, Harvey, Lee.