Archive for November 5th, 2013

All in Agreement? Pt 3   no comments

Posted at 6:43 pm in Uncategorized

For someone with a legal background, mathematics as a discipline is not necessarily one that is easy to relate to.

On a granular level, it can be said that lawyers and mathematicians would seem to have a lot in common. They both rely on laws, proof and evidence and seem to spend a lot of their time finding definitive (or as close as possible) answers to problems.

However, on a conceptual level, there are many differences and trying to familiarise myself with mathematics has been an interesting task.

Mathematics tends to be divided into four areas of study; quantity, structure, space, and change (i.e. arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and analysis). There are also subdivisions dedicated to exploring links between mathematics and other field such as logic, set theory (foundations), the empirical mathematics of the various sciences (applied mathematics) and more recently the rigorous study of uncertainty.

Applied Mathematics

This area is essentially mathematical science with a specialised knowledge and deals with mathematical models typically used in science, engineering, business and industry. It uses these models to solve practical problems.

In the past, practical applications have motivated the development of mathematical theories, which then became the subject of study in pure mathematics, where mathematics is developed primarily for its own sake.

Although, applied mathematics has not traditionally been applied to the area of law or politics. However, it has been argued by J Wales Jr that:

‘Mathematics, as it is generally taught, justifies itself on the basis of its applicability in the worldly circumstances which are the focus of the application at hand. Such a belief does not encourage the student to investigate the limitations of mathematics to the situation being examined’

That we should:

‘Let mathematics be, just as other disciplines are, the pursuit of ways of seeing, the pursuit of visions. We should teach our students to look for mathematical analogies, to delight in them when they find them, to stretch them and test them’

Because the applications of mathematics:

‘are in fact analogies which often appear as metaphors’.

Therefore, although mathematics may seem an interesting choice in relation to the issue of content on the web, testing the boundaries and limitations of mathematics as a discipline is in fact, what many academics advocate.


Jack V. Wales, Jr. ‘Mathematics and Its Application’, From the book ‘Essays in Humanistic Mathematics’ by Alvin M. White

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Written by Emma Cradock on November 5th, 2013

The Beginnings of Sociology   no comments

Posted at 5:22 pm in Uncategorized

Prior to this blog post, I chose Geography and Criminology as my two disciplines to research. However, after much deliberation this week, I have decided to research Sociology instead of Criminology.

My research this week has approached the introductions of Sociology; discovering what Sociology is and how sociology research is carried out, as well as identify topics that demonstrate a link to the Digital Divide. Macionis and Plummer’s introduction of Sociology has been the “text book of the week!”

Sociology is a multi-paradigm discipline that studies the way people “do things” together, typical researchers are either theorists or critics.  Sociology’s main focus involves understanding society; how societies are related, act differently and guide our ways of life. However, it is not about making absolute conclusions, it is providing theoretical suggestions and ideas to think and work with.

The Sociological Life Cycle is summarised by five “P’s”;

  • People & Everyday life
  • Professional Sociology
  • Public and Popular Sociology
  • Practitioners and Applied
  • Policy and Political

The classical traditional perspectives of sociology and important terminology identified so far include:

  • Functionalism
  • Conflict Perspective
  • Macro/Micro-level orientation
  • Symbolic Interaction (interactionism)
  • Positivism
  • Humanistic
  • Postmodern Methodology
  • Social Construction of reality
  • Social Stratification

Sociology has seen the development of new topics of research including Globalisation, Culture of the Internet, Inequalities, Policy and Economy.

Over the past two centuries, there have been major changes and transformations identified by Sociologists. Human relationships change as societies change, forming new social bonds. It is believed that social organisation have dissolved, with technological discoveries being the main reason for it. The “Cyber Revolution” has emerged with the use of digital technologies, spread of information technologies and new ways of communications. This has formulated several terms including Digital Age, Cyborg Age, Info Age, Network Society and Virtual Age. Societies are increasingly interconnected, causing a “Shrinking World” and widespread of global culture. Critics believe nations exploit, colonise and raid other cultures, with matters are worsening. These new transformations and changes have affected rules and behaviours in different societies; changing routines, different ways of communicating and allowing technology to influence our every day lives. This is described as Sociocultural Evolution. Five society types affected by technology include:

  • Hunting and gathering
  • Horticultural and pastoral
  • Agrarian
  • Industrial and
  • Post Industrial

The matter of technological determinism was also discussed. This is concerned with that fact technology should not determine societies. It’s limits should be identified and known to ensure humans so they do not rely on them. It is also putting more pressure on the physical environment. This links to Marx’s beliefs on Capitalism; it has produced alienation, humans were machines a long time ago, technology has simply taken over in the modern day, which has resulted with even less opportunities for human companionship and interaction. Marx also states a Social Confict theory; clashes between classes that have arisen from the different ways society produces material goods.

This Sociology book points out different ways to measure societies. 1st, 2nd and 3rd world are well known, however there is also a 4th world, used to describe the poorest of poorest areas or the poorest areas within wealthier countries. Economic-based groupings are also analysed; high/middle/low incomes and Newly Industrialised Countries (NIC’s). The Human Development Index aims to demonstrate figures based on 3 issues; life expectancy, knowledge and education, and decent standards of living. This links to Global Poverty and Inequality. There are four categories of people most vulnerable to poverty; children, refugees/the displaces, the ageing and women, and technology is believed to be a key factor for affecting poverty. Social Networks have expanded beyond groups and organisations, and geographical areas does not necessarily define your community or personal interactions. Technology played a major role in shaping this type of network with use of online communities and mobile, all leading to a faster pace of living.

Two theory types used to solute the issue of global poverty and inequality were stated; Development (understand the shaping and experience of world inequalities) and Normative (Specifying the world we want to live in, it has a moral and evaluative take and includes target goals.)

Finally, the topic of the unequal world was introduced, in particular the factors that affect social structures; (not just social and economic); gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age and disability, types of inequality; health, life and death, existential inequalities, and resource inequalities, and different forms of stratification; social exclusion and marginalisation, exploitation, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, violence. Ideology, habitualisation, subjugation and coercion/violence have impacted social inequality systems. The Kuznets Curve was also described; it demonstrates the technological progression. At first it sharply increases but then moderates the intensity of social stratification as societies become more equal.

To conclude, this text book so far (only half way through!!!) has provided a great insight to Sociology. There are several major points to take from this that show how sociologists would tackle the Digital Divide, including connections with Geographers.

Reference: J., Macionis, J., Plummer, 2012, Sociology A Global Introduction, 5th ed, Essex: Pearson


Written by Sophie Parsons on November 5th, 2013