Archive for the ‘methodology’ tag

Basic concepts: Sociology   no comments

Posted at 4:18 pm in Sociology

Sociology is ‘the systematic, sceptical and critical study of the social. It studies the way people do things together.’ There are many different perspectives and it encompasses the widest global issues right down to the individual and their inner world.


Although sociology is also a social science similar to my other subject choice of economics they work in different ways. Economics uses data to predict future spending etc, but sociologists are researchers and theorists. There is a degree of overlap, but the range of sociology is much wider and so sociology methods are more varied. Researchers find data, from experiments or data from everyday life (such as population statistics or Census data), and use is to draw conclusions about the world and society, Theorists go further and want to understand how this data fits into ‘the grand scheme of things’ and want deeper understanding of what is going on. Data alone cannot speak for itself and a wider understanding is necessary to gain real insight from the data. Theorists in sociology develop these wider ideas and help develop theoretical explanations for the data and how it fits in the world.

Although there can be some problems with the way sociology is studied. Firstly they are part of a changing world, one finding may be true one day, but not the next. Secondly, sociologists are part of society so it is difficult to remove oneself from what you are studying. Lastly, sociology knowledge becomes parts of society as it is known and therefore changes society. This cycle of knowledge has an impact of society itself.

Origins of Sociology

The Enlightenment caused a change in society. There was a move to rational thinking, empiricism and science and there was more focus on the individual.

Auguste Comte wanted to understand the ‘human drama’ of his time. He believed that if people had the knowledge of how society operates they would be able to build a better future. He divided his new discipline into two parts: how society is held together; and how society changes. From the Latin ‘to study society’ Comte descried his study as sociology.

Previous to Comte philosophers had been imagining the ideal society, not measuring and analysing society as it was. Comte wanted to develop a scientific approach to study society, thus he was proponent of Positism – to understand the world based on science.

Society is always changing and there have been many great leaps in society and how we look at it, for example during the Industrial revolutions. However, there is a more recent change that is of current interest to my research question: The Cyber Revolution. The Cyber Revolution is linked to the development of digital technology and the spread of information technologies that affect how we communicate and how it has become mainstream. The World Wide Web is a great example of this, launching recently in 1991 it is already embedded in all of our lives and is considered an international technology. This changes surrounding this digital age is a rapid change with large effects on society. The textbook tries to break down these changes:

The Digital Age: The shift of computerisation of life. The way there are computers is most everyday things.

The Cyborg Age: The way humans are becoming more adapted to using these technologies.

The Information Age: The rapid growth of production and availability of information and data.

The Network Society: The change in the way we are networked together through mobile phone and the internet.

The Virtual Age: The mediated nature of reality. We live in a world that is increasingly less direct and instead of face-to-face we communicate through computers and phones.

Another large aspect of sociology is that there are different theoretical perspectives of looking at things which guides thinking and research. Below is a simplified map of Western sociological theory, 1700-2000.

Classical/Traditional Perspectives of Sociology


‘Functionalism is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system those parts work together and interconnect.’ This perspective looks as social structure (finding stable patterns of human behaviour) and social function (all social structures have a function in society, either it be a handshake of family life). Merton also speaks of social dysfunctions, which cover any social patterns that have undesirable consequences for the operation of society. The critique for this perspective is that although this perspective was dominant until recently it presumes that society is stable and orderly. It also does not take into consideration inequality, such as class/gender/ethnicity issues.

Conflict perspective

The conflict perspective is a framework for building theory that sees society as an arena of differences and inequalities that generate conflict and change.’ This perspective complements Functionalism as it focuses on division and inequality. The critique of this perspective is basically the opposite of the Functionalism critique. The Conflict perspective glosses over the shared values and interdependence in society and focuses on the conflict and inequality. Both the Conflict and the Functionalist perspectives could also be criticised for being too broad and glossing over the smaller factors that make differences in society such as family and class.

Social action perspective

Contrary to the broad views of society seen in both Functionalist and Conflict perspective, the Social action perspective focuses on the smaller factors. One founder of social action theory is Max Weber who emphasised looking at a setting from the point of view of the people in it. His approach emphasised how human meaning and action shape society. A critique for this perspective is that this perspective helps us understand how people experience society and how they do things together. But by focusing on these smaller details broader social structures may be missed.

There are also contemporary perspectives such as feminism (looking as gender difference), Anti-racism (looking at race differences), postmodernism (looking at differences and complexities) and globalisation (looking at the larger world and how societies fit in it). The next post will further explore globalisation because I believe it is an important in relation to my research question. The globalisation of industry and society may lend some answers to why independent music can survive if the music industry has been made global.

Information and graphs summarised from:

Macionis, J.J. & Plummer, K. (2008). Sociology. A global introduction. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Written by Gemma Fitzsimmons on November 20th, 2011

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Ethical and technical issues in collecting data on the web for social sciences research.   no comments

Posted at 11:52 pm in Law,Psychology,Sociology

My idea is that every sciences are, at least, define by their object but also by their methodology. For now, sociology and psychology used the same methods on the web than for other subject. But the web offers the possibility to collect and analyses other kind of data than is allowed, for example, by experimentation in lab or by collecting information in traditional ethnography methodology. I think it will be very interesting to see how the among of data, their availability and their representativeness could modified the methods to collect and analyse them.

I want to emphazis on two aspecst, ethical and technical.

About the ethical issues to collect data which are still unclear if it is public or private (or any other conceptions). This point  will be more linked with law and understand which is allowed or not in collecting information about users.

The technical aspect will try to see and understand which kind of tools are already available to collect datas, but also which are their limits and what is possible to analyse the information.

Written by Olivier Philippe on October 31st, 2010

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