Archive for the ‘Sociology’ tag

Nicole – post no.2 – Sociology: the first two books…   no comments

Posted at 3:09 pm in Sociology

Blog Post two – Sociology.

I have been reading about Sociology and Gender from two main texts, Marsh et al. (2009) Sociology. Making Sense of Society and Haralambos & Holborn (2004) Sociology Themes and Perspectives.  Both have given me a really good broad overview into general sociological approaches, as well as more in-depth details of sociology’s approach to understanding gender.

I am particularly interested in the key issues as outlined by Marsh et al. of sociological perspectives in practice and how sociological knowledge is produced.

Sociological perspectives – key issues:

It seems from the readings that I have carried out so far that there is no unified body of approaches to/theories in sociology.  Sociologists seem to struggle to agree on concepts, I am particularly interested by Gouldner’s criticism describing social surveillance as ‘cow sociology’ (1975).

Sociology seems to claim to follow a scientific method to collect data with which it can make statements about behavioural patterns, but these tendency statements do presumably invest quite a high percentage of their accuracy on the dependency of regularity.  People are not necessarily always going to behave in a predictable manner, even if sociology has studied other individuals/groups in a similar situation in the past.   I like the idea of considering in every situation these factors: biological, psychological and social.  But, as my first book on sociology tells me, it is often difficult to distinguish between these factors.

Production of Sociological knowledge

Marsh et al. outline the cyclical trends in sociological research (2009:119), as highlighted by McNeill (1990), and also discuss the importance, as put by Pawson, in the differences between positivist and interpretivist approaches to understanding social research: “both qualitiative and quantitative approaches face identical problems and need to adopt common solutions.” (Pawson, 1989:31-2).

According to Marsh et al., sociologists like Karl Marx, Durkheim and Weber base their work on analysing second-hand evidence, such as historical sources and not on first-hand research.  Whereas Charles Booth and Seebohn Rowntree were all about the survey and qualitative research (Marsh et al.,2009:119).  So there seems to be a dichotomy with the forms of research most appropriate for generalising societal behaviours, or for making statements on a much smaller scale of individuals’ actual behaviours.

I wonder how this will all tie in with looking at gender from a sociological perspective. ..

Different approaches to sociology

Haralambos and Holborn’s publication has a good introduction to the differences between structural and social action theories (2004:855-856).  I found the outlines of functionalist (Durkheim, Merton and Parsons), social capital (Putnam), conflict perspectives, including Marxism (Marx), neo-Marxism (Gramsci), post-capitalism conflict theory (Dahrendorf), and social action and interpretive perspectives (Weber, Ritzer) really useful.  I struggled to understand symbolic interaction (Mead and Dewey) with its notion of the self (2004:881), although the argument put forward by Ropers that “the activities he [Mead] sees men engaged in are not historically determined relationships of social and historical continuity; they are merely episodes, interactions, encounters, and situations” (quoted in Meltzer et al., 1975) that Haralambos and Holborn include in this section (2004: 883) does make the approach of the symbolic interactionists a little easier to understand.  I loved the section on phenomenology (2004:885) (Schutz) with its wonderfully sensory approaches to understanding how people come into contact with the world.  As an Archaeologist, this is an approach that I have come across many times and feel quite comfortable with as a useful way to try to think about the way that knowledge is constructed and shared.  Humans creating their own idea that there is a society is something that I love the idea of, I wonder how far this approach could be used to think about the way that we understand our own gender and other individuals’ projections of their own gender (or notion of it)…

Ethnomethodology (Garfinkel) seems a bit off the wall (it was developed in the 1960s, so…).  It looks at social order as fiction, which I like, and which could be great when looking at gender constructs (can I say that it’s a ‘construct’ this early on; maybe not).  But I do not feel comfortable with the idea of social life as Garfinkel’s words here: “essentiall reflexive” (1967).  So an account of the social world actually constitutes that world (Haralambos & Holborn, 2004:885-7).  So that would mean that our attempts to define the world are what creates the world, and this really doesn’t sit well with me.  Haralambos and Holborn tell us that Gouldner was “scorn[ful]” of Garfinkel (1970) (I am liking Gouldner more and more), and Giddens apparently said that Garfinkel had little reference to “the pursuance of practical goals or interests” (1977).  I like to think that sociology will always look to try to understand why people behave in certain ways and look at the effects of external factors on individuals’ behaviours, and Garfinkel doesn’t seem to think that this is important.   Modernity, postmodernity and postmodernism (I had no idea that there was any difference between these two) are also outlined in this section of the book.

Postmodernism (Lyotard, Baudrillard, Philo and Miller) is discussed in terms of Lyotard’s work with language, knowledge and narrative (1984).  There is also a small paragraph tackling Lyotard’s  approach to computers and how they were the principal “force of production” (1984), and where knowledge has become commodified and will cause wars in the future.   Haralambos and Holborn comment that Postmodernism allows for the “possibility of tolerance and creative diversity, in which humans are not corrupted by some doctrinaire metanarrative” (2004: 893).  ‘High modernity and beyond’ is the subtitle of the next section, and this provided much opportunity for further reading.  The section looks at Giddens, with the heightened possibility for greater reflexivity, with sociology as “the most generalised type of reflection upon modern social life” (Giddens, 1991), the opportunities for globalization, and the transformations that were possible where capitalism becomes a ‘post-scarcity system’ – Are we there now with the web? I think I need to read a bit (lot!) more about this as it could be really relevant to the approaches to gender thinking about the ways that participation online is affected by ideas of who we are and what we want (of which I am sure gender is an inextricable factor).

Methods for looking at social life

Participant observation, Quantitative research in the form of surveys, questionnaires and interviews, and qualitative research in the form of interviews and observations are all outlined by Marsh et al. (2009:120-125).  Interestingly, there is also some time given in the book to the other methods of research, such as the use of secondary data, content analysis and discourse analysis, and case studies and life histories (2009:130-139), and these could be potentially very useful in looking towards understanding gender on the web.  I will look into these different methods in more detail as the weeks go on, but for now they have made me think about the tools that sociologists have available to them as being more than a survey, a questionnaire and an interview.  Even here, there has been a revelation, in the types of interviews possible: discussed by Marsh et al. as being: 1) in-depth, 2) interactive, and 3) the most fascinating for me, generative.  This comes from Gubrium and Holstein who say that both the interviewee and the interviewer are participants in a social process so the respondents are: “constructors of knowledge in collaboration with the interviewers” (1997:114).


Haralambos, M. & M. Holborn, 2004.  Sociology Themes and Perspectives, Collins: London

Marsh, I., M. Keating, S. Punch, J. Harden, 2009. Sociology. Making Sense of Society, Pearson Longman: London

Please note, I have not read the following books, but I have Googled the references that I have mentioned above from two books that I have read, so that if you are interested in looking up the various bits that I have mentioned in the whistle-stop tour of my reading this week, you can do so easily.

Garfinkel, H., 1970. Studies in Ethnomethodology, Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Giddens, A., 1977. Studies in Social and Political Theory, Hutchinson: London

Giddens, A., 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in Late Modern Age, Polity Press: Cambridge

Gouldner, A. W., 1975. For Sociology: Renewal and Critique in Sociology Today, Harmondsworth: Penguin

Gubrium, J. F., & J. A. Holstein, 1997. The New Language of Qualitative Method, Oxford University Press: Oxford

Lyotard, J.F., 1984. The Postmodern Condition, Manchester University Press: Manchester

Meltzer, B.N., J.W. Petras, L.T. Reynolds, 1975. Symbolic Interactionism, Routledge & Kegan Paul: London

Pawson, R., 1989. A Measure for Measures: A Manifesto for Empirical Sociology, Routledge: London

Next week…

My plan is now to look a little more in detail at some of the sociological ideas that I have come across and to read some sections of general sociology books about Gender.  I’ll stick with Haralambos & Holborn and Marsh et al., but will also look at some more specifically gender related texts, including Abbott et al. (2005) An Introduction to Sociology. Feminist Perspectives, Backett-Milburn & McKie (2001) Constructing Gendered Bodies, and the one that I am most excited about: Case (1990) Performing Feminisms. Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre. That last one may seem a little off the wall, but I am thinking that the idea of feminist theory and theatre may translate quite nicely across to the web as at the moment I don’t see why actions within virtual communities can not be seen as being performative, and there are some good links to identity and gender online within these communities. I think.

Written by Nicole on November 3rd, 2010

Tagged with , , , , ,

‘Crowds’ and the dynamics of mass participation   no comments

Posted at 10:52 pm in Psychology,Sociology

I’m intrigued by the concept of ‘taking part’, or rather what makes people do so and what makes the participation grow into a mass participation, movement. I am however, not really concerned in this instance with political factors, as such.

For certain this is a well trodden path, but drawing on Sociology and Psychology as it must, it is certainly new to me. I have never having formally studied Sociology and last touched Psychology at A’level.

Therefore, I feel that these subjects are both sufficiently new and distant to warrant investigation.

Particularly of interest are the necessary factors that a movement must possess, in order to move from the underground to the overground.

Multiple studies of mass movements, will have investigated peer pressure, elements of conformity, the necessary perceived benefits and advantages, as well as other influences that must combine, for crowd behaviour to succeed. Conversely, I would like to look into that which might be absent when such ‘crowds’ fail.

I think there’s something here that is of interest. However,  there’s an element of it that doesn’t quite ring right, as far as the idea is concerned. Plainly, I’m wondering if it appears ‘weak’ as an attempted combination.

I’m definitely out of date with my reading:  Many searches against this topic (Crowds/Popular movements) throw up politics and revolution. In order to filter these for Sociological and Psychological factors, whilst avoiding purely classical Marxist interpretation, further investigations will have to take place (by w/e Nov 7th).

1) The tipping point : how little things can make a big difference
Author :Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-

2) The wisdom of crowds [electronic resource] : why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations 1st ed.
Author: Surowiecki, James, 1967

Written by pr1e10 on October 31st, 2010

Tagged with ,

Reputation   no comments

Posted at 4:07 pm in Economics,Psychology

I knew I wanted to look at Economics and Psychology (as I’ve always been interested in them but never really had to opportunity to ‘formally’ study them’) and have decided that I’m going to pin my research on the issue of online reputation. Although my thoughts are still rather immature at this stage, I’m really interested in how individuals in web communities can actively develop and project their reputations in order to  influence others, be in a position to set agendas or simply ‘stand out’ from the crowd. An example would be the underground extremist forum. In the absence of  a formal ‘feedback mechanism’, such as that employed by eBay, how do users become ‘leaders’? Is it simply the amount of time they spend in the forum (and their related post count), or are other, more subtle factors at play? And, if there is, is there any kind of ‘blueprint for success’ that can be developed? Alongside this i’d also like to explore how companies, who are operating in an altogether more ‘legitimate’ environment, tackle the same issue. What are their strategies for establishing online reputation with consumers, and positioning themselves as pre-eminent in their field? Are there any parallels between the forum user and the fortune 500?

While i think the  tie in with psychology is reasonably clear, the economics link is possibly somewhat more tenuous. I think exploring  the concept of social capital and its relative worth could prove fruitful in the company example, but whether or not it will have any relevance to the forum user I’m not at this stage clear. It could be the case that i have to abandon economics in favour of sociology once i get a bit further in with my reading, but for now I’m going to keep my fingers crossed i can find enough linkages to make the exploration worthwhile.

My current reading list is as such focused on economics:

Economics, Parkin, Powell & Matthews (Seventh Edition, 2008)

The Winner’s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life, Thaler, 1994

Liquid Love, Bauman, 2003

Written by jac606 on October 28th, 2010

Tagged with , , ,

Organisation   no comments

Posted at 8:18 pm in Discipline,Linguistics,Sociology

As this module encourages a basic and comprehensive approach to a topic, I’ve tried to go as far back to basics as possible. My topic of interest regarding the research is simply ‘Organisation’. Organisation, in my opinion, is the backbone of everything (life and the universe included!), so it makes sense to me to try and understand some basic, but I suspect difficult, questions regarding organisation, such as how it occurs and why it seems neccessary for development. Of course I am limiting my research to the role of organisation in human society, as I don’t possess the required physics or philosophy degrees to tackle the broader implications of organisation!

I think this topic is important given the context of this MSc, and also given the buzzwords of our generation:  “Network” “Interconnected” and “Global” all have their roots in the term ‘organisation’. It’s important, therefore, to look at organisation in its basic form, and I’ll be looking at organisation through the lenses of two disciplines; Linguistics and Sociology.

Linguistics was chosen because it seems likely that the roots of human social organisation lie in the construction of language and communication. I know very little about linguistics, so it will be interesting to develop this hunch through an understanding of the core principles of the topic. The development of language and speech has surely played a key role in our development to the highly connected society we see today, and perhaps this approach will let me go far back in time and evolution to find the roots of organisation.

Sociology was chosen because a brief look at sociology shows it to be full of interesting ideas and theories regarding the dynamics, structures and meanings behind organisation. Humans have organised for various reasons over the centuries, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes deliberately, sometimes against their will. It will be interesting to see what sociology has to say about the motivations behind these cultural, political and economic forces that lead to organisation. Again, this is all uncharted territory for me, but the foundation texts seem promising. In sociology I may also find some philosophy, which again I have little experience with, but which may evolve into a sub category of my research. It seems you can never get away from the connections!

I know that there will be a fair amount of crossover between these two disciplines, but I hope that they will remain distinct enough to allow for a conclusion that shows what each discipline has to say about the topic ‘Organisation’.

My current reading list:

Wardhaugh, R (2006): An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: 5th Edition. Oxford: Blackwell

Giddens, A (2006): Sociology: 5th Edition.Cambridge: Polity.

Thomas, L & Wareing, S (1999): Language, Society and Power; An Introduction. London: Routledge

Aitchison, J (1972): Lingusitics, An Introduction. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Trudgill, P (1983): Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society. London: Penguin.

Written by Phil Waddell on October 26th, 2010

Tagged with , , ,

Initial Reading List – Gender from Sociological and Biological perspectives   no comments

Posted at 8:00 pm in Sociology

So I have been thinking alot about how to tackle the reading for this topic, and have identified some key texts for biology and sociology.  These are, as suggested, first year recommended reading ‘essential primers’.  They are heavy, and thick, and nice easy reads.  So I am going to work my way through them initially to get some ideas on what the main approaches to gender are from biologists’ and sociologists’ perspectives.  This is a massive oversimplification I know, but I think it is the best way to begin.  So this week and next week I am going to be reading:


Longenbaker, Susannah Nelson. (2008) Mader’s understanding human anatomy & physiology. 6th Edition. McGraw-Hill: London

Mader, Silvia S. (2009) Human Biology. 10th edition. McGraw Hill: London

Smith, Stephen W. and Ronan Deazley (eds.) (2009) The legal, medical and cultural regulation of the body : transformation and transgression. Ashgate Publishing: Farnham


Abbott, Pamela, Claire Wallace and Melissa Tyler (2005) An introduction to Sociology. Feminist Perspectives. Third edition. Routledge: London

Haralambos, Michael and Martin Holborn (2008) Sociology. Themes and Perspectives. Seventh edition. Collins: London

Marsh, Ian, Mike Keating, Samantha Punch and Jeni Harden (2009) Sociology: making Sense of Society. Fourth edition. Pearson Education: London

Not the whole books of course; just the most relevant bits.  Then I am going to pull out of those books, some ideas for key approaches, and therefore key texts, around gender from those disciplines’ perspectives.  I have a list in my head already of books that I think look relevant (from Google searches and a couple of visits to the university library), but this may change as I work through the introductory texts.  In fact one would hope that it will, as that is in a way the whole point of this task, to develop our understandings of these disciplines.

So at the moment, I think that I am going to be reading something like this when I start to look at the disciplines when applied broadly to the topic of Gender:


Baron-Cohen, Simon (2004) The Essential Difference. Penguin: London

Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2001) Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. Basic Books: London

Keller, Evelyn Fox (2000) The Century of the Gene. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA

Schiebinger, Londa (1995) Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science. Beacon Press: Boston and London


Archer, John and Barbara Lloyd (2002) Sex and Gender, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Backett-Milburn and Linda McKie (2001) Constructing Gendered Bodies. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

Butler, Judith (1993) Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’.Routledge: London

Mills, Sara (ed.) (1994) Gendering the Reader. Harvester: London

But who knows.  This is an exciting experiment in learning something completely new and anything could happen…

Written by Nicole on October 26th, 2010

Tagged with , , ,

Identity   no comments

Posted at 10:41 am in Psychology

I have chosen Identity as my issue to study, and will examine this from a psychological and (socio-cultural) anthropological perspective. I am interested in the effect that the Web can have on different cultures and different people, so I think these two disciplines fit nicely with that interest and will hopefully build up a solid background in part of a wide area that I am keen on studying for my dissertation. The two disciplines should allow me to contrast what psychology says about the identity of the individual, with the theories of anthropology regarding the formation of cultural identity.

I will begin by reading the basic textbooks in each area:

  • Handbook of Self and Identity by Leary, M and Tangney, P
  • The Self by Sedikides, C
  • Cultural Anthropology A Contemporary Perspective by Keesing, R and Strathern, A
  • Small places, large issues : an introduction to social and cultural anthropology by Eriksen, T

Hopefully these will be a good start and direct me to other important books in this area!

Written by Chris P on October 26th, 2010

Tagged with , , , ,

Teamwork as a mutable concept, and conflict resolution between groups   no comments

Posted at 3:40 pm in Psychology,Sociology

This last blog post is purely anecdotal, and discussion some of the concepts uncovered as part of the IDR.

Interestingly one thing that is often spoken about in organisations is team-work. I had hoped to include a small paragraph about why organisations are keen to promote good team work and value members or employees with good team work skills. I couldn’t find any good chapters from either psychology or sociology to define it or discuss the mechanisms involved. This led to my own late realisation (rather than any serendipitous discovery) that teamwork is really a buzz word, an undefined concept, that has gained some traction. Fortunately from all reading I have done so far as part of this module I can formulate some of hypothesis for mechanisms behind ‘team work’.

The reasons for group of individuals working as part of a team can be explained using social psychology terms like goal theory, social facilitation and emotions. Even homeostatic theory could arguably be involved as humans can have a daily optimum level of contact or communication with others that they wish to fulfill. So, the next time you are asked at an interview or performance evaluation about what you understand by team work you can say that ‘team work is a complex social phenomenon in which individuals co-operate during activities in order to achieve certain goals, as well as fulfil a certain required level of some personal need, such as to communicate with others. Also, team work is product of social facilitation as it often causes individuals to become more involved and emotional about an activity because they are in the presence of others.’

Returning to why this is relevant for understanding groups, I had initially wanted to look at group behaviour and how it affects outputs. It now appears that fundamentals from sociology and psychology of human behaviour are base of most of the behaviours involved in groups. Applying abstract labels such as team-work can be a useful term to categorise the behaviour of a group working as a team, but looking at fundamentals is essential to understand actions of individuals working as part of a group.

A often cited experiment for understanding group behaviour, especially in relation to prejudice and conflict resolution is the

Robbers’ Cave’s experiment. This involved two groups, each of which were allowed to form a group identity and spend time engaged in some cooperative activities within their group. Later, both groups were entered to directly compete for prizes. Conflicts then quickly developed between the groups after losing rounds of the competition. Conflict resolution, and a reduction in intra and inter group prejudices was achieved by designing co-operative activities where the goals could only be achieved through co-operation of both groups.

I hope you enjoyed the blog posts, the final written report will contain the best of the blog posts plus some other ideas, and the what conclusions I have came to when comparing fundamental information about groups offline to online groups.

Written by cm7e09 on May 19th, 2010

Tagged with ,

Large groups (crowds), Network theories, Dunbar Number   no comments

Posted at 4:42 pm in Psychology,Sociology

No discourse on social theory of social groups would be complete without mentioning Mark Granovetter who did some fascinating network analysis and published his findings displaying the presence of weak ties, structural holes in organisations. Structural holes in particular explain how someone can become an unelected leader of a group if they hold a position in which they are the main conduit for which information can flow between separate parts of groups or between groups.

I have been reading ‘Theories of Communication Networks’, Noshir Contractor and Peter Monge (2003) a more complex book that references fundamentals from sociology, psychology, maths and computer science, that describes and help the reader understand complex communication networks involving large groups of people. It has become more and more apparent during my reading that it is increasingly difficult to look at a subject from just two disciplines, in my case, sociology and psychology. Some fundamentals from other subjects like maths, computer science, or philosophy are necessary so as not to have a one sided, or in this case two dimensional, view, thus highlighting the multi-disciplinary nature of web science topics. For the IDR though I have found ample material in ‘Theories of Communication Networks’ from sociology and psychology to describe groups and the communication mechanisms within them:

There are 2 branches of theories as to how groups internal behaviour can be modelled. These are:

  • homophily theories – where individuals select others to communicate with who are similar to themselves.
  • contagion theories – are based on the assumption that exposure to networks (groups) increase the likelihood that individuals are influenced by others and will then develop beliefs, attitudes and assumptions similar to those of others in their network.

These two theories are very useful for describing how groups form, and how individuals in groups are influenced.

Crowd psychology is one of the subclasses of social psychology, and social science books are interested in this aspect of psychology as it concerns how sudden and large scale social changers can be brought about because of large groups of people. There are a lot of interesting theories put forward over the past century about how large groups of people (crowds) behave,  by psychologists such as those by Carl Jung who coined the term ‘Collective Unconscious” that described a shared, universal psychic system identical in all individuals. Many people since Jung then have expanded this concept, such as blogger and researcher Kevin Kelly, who describes many Internet groups starting to exhibit a ‘Hive mind’. Sigmund Freud also has a theory known as his ‘Crowd behaviour theory’ that describes that people who are in a crowd act differently towards people than those who are thinking individually.

One of the most interesting and often challenged theory of modern day sociology is the theory of cognitive limit for the maximum number of people in a person can have a inter-personal relationship. In 1992, Dunbar published a theory that the neocortex size of the brain was a constraint on group size in primates. Dunbar predicted that human cognitive limit for relationships was 150 based on the size of the human neocortex. This is known as the Dunbar Number and is now widely referenced and cited, despite how Dunbar based his observations on primates other than humans along with information about human network sizes in less developed countries. Dunbar’s methodology appears to have observed that tribal village sizes, military units, company sizes average around 150. In light of this perhaps humans have hard wired limits in their brains, limiting the number of individuals they can have interpersonal relationships with – and similarly the number of groups they can participate actively in. Thus even the most highly social individuals, or those with strong psychological desires such as goal theories or homeostatic drives to participate in groups, will only be able to network effectively with fixed amount of people. Thus social and psychological desires for group participation come up against physical hard limits if Dunbar’s Number theory based on neocortex size is correct. It shows how social research on primate groups, along with some statistical and network analysis, can lead to interesting extrapolations of the limitations of human mind, and the limitations of relationships within a social group.

Written by cm7e09 on May 7th, 2010

Tagged with ,

The Impact of the Web in Globalization and the Business Models   no comments

Posted at 10:19 pm in Economics,Sociology

Recent study is mainly focusing on the 4th version of Sociology by Giddens and also linking the economic aspect to think about the impacts of the Web in globalization; and then moving on to the part of business models which is influenced by the Web.

To understand the society, firstly we should put the eyes on the broader range of areas. Throughout the world, the multinational company became a phenomenon after World War II, and strongly promoted the process of economic globalization. Nowadays, multinational companies are considered as the core of economic globalization. Through the bridge multinational companies offered, markets and trades are linked closely between different countries. Trading information are transferring frequently from one country to another breaking the barriers of time and spaces.

However, in this globalization trend, the participants are just involving the companies or a small part of people who are conducting this business. For most people, maybe they can use the cup made in thousands miles away from their hometown, however, they have not opportunities to participate this amazing project until the Web came out. Because the main members of the society have engaged in the information global sharing activity, the globalization has been infiltrated into people’s daily lives. The Web is the main force to push and accelerate the process of globalization. The information explosion covers every detail of the lives across the world. People have the channels to obtain and publish information about what they like, what they want, what they are doing and so on. The information is mass but has intangible value inside. At that movement, BBS became a huge container to gather people of like interests. Usually, one BBS is organized by subjects, such as music, food, feeling, education and so on. Members of this BBS will around those subjects to leave their comments and reviews. For wisdom marketers, they know that better understanding of their customers is one of the best ways to gain competitive advantages. Therefore, through those BBSs, they can refine the contents and pick up the useful part for their business. (Of course, there are some issues about online fake information or advertisements, but at this stage we just assumed the number of them is quite few which can be ignored.) Unfortunately, at most situations this kind of job is heave, especially when operated manually. But the platform that presents the people’s interests throughout the world and the way to find out valuable ideas about the business and market is worth firmly.  The Web provides a creative platform to gather information generated all over the world, which is valuable for the economic globally. Google’s success can be explained by this information aggregated. They provide the accurate search results for people based on the search key words, while putting the related advertisements on the same web page. This business model helps Google gain high profit. However, this kind way of putting advertisements based on the search engines is relatively passive for the potential customers, as it needs people to search firstly and then see the related information. Therefore, the issue put in front of us is that which way will be better to get information accurately and directly and how to build a positive business model.

To be continued…

Written by ch9e09 on May 5th, 2010

Tagged with ,

Roles, norms, and cohesiveness (Part 2)   no comments

Posted at 2:30 pm in Psychology,Sociology

This post builds on what was discovered in last blog, and will be last using material from Social Psychology 5th edition, S. Brehm. It was a worthy texbook that contained plenty of background theory on groups but I have exhausted all material relevant to my review. I would like to thank Cathy Pope for taking the time to comment on my posts as it helped me perceive my reading and work from another point of view, and refocused me to task at hand. Reading the comments on others work helped me understand the nature of the IDR assignment, and its starting to make a lot more sense.

This is a longer post than usual as I wont be blogging over next week. If you only have time for quick read, you can skip right on down to the end to a nice paragraph titled “summary and conclusions” which sums up the blog posting and has some evaluation. For all others with time and some interest you will gain more by reading the whole blog posting.

On to main part of my reading for this week:

Joining a group and group development: Newcomers usually go through a period of assimilation and model their behaviour on established members, while the group accommodates the newcomer. Bruce Tuckman (1965, 1977) proposed five stages of group development:

1. Forming – group members orient themselves towards the group.

2. Storming – members try to influence the group according to their needs.

3. Norming – members try to reconcile the conflicts produced by storming.

4. Performing – members perform and maximise group’s performance

5. Adjourning – members disengage from the group.

Other theories of group development do exist however. Connie Gersick (1988, 1994) observed that groups tend to operate in series of starts and stops rather than through uniform stages. Perhaps online groups could help provide primary research material to revisit group development theories as the cost of recording group activities and developments is lower than in offline groups, and theories of Tuckman or Gersick could be given more authority or challenged.

According to Forsyth 1990, all groups can be described in terms of three components: roles, norms and cohesiveness. Robert Bales, 1958 proposed two fundamental roles that have yet to be disproved. An instrumental role is one that helps a group achieve its tasks, and an expressive role gives emotional support and keeps moral high. Roles can be formal or informal and the same person can fill each role, however roles that are ambiguous or cause conflict can lead to stress and loss of productivity.

In online groups there are often a number of different formal roles, that could be those of users, administrators and moderators. Although the title of each may imply a different role, keeping Roberts Bales idea of fundamental roles in mind it can be argued that membership doesn’t define the role. Moderators, administrators or users can each perform instrumental or expressive roles, or a combination of the two, within a group. (My own social categorisation here is open to comments – perhaps others see different roles in online groups other than my simple ‘mods, admins and users’, if you do have a different view please leave a comment at end.)

Norms establish rules and code of conduct group members should conform to. Rules can be informal or formal.

Cohesiveness refers to the forces on a group that push its members closer together. They can be internal such as group pride, number and intensity of interaction or external such as an unusual environment or threats from other groups. Cohesiveness and group performance are causally related and either can influence the other. Positive norms can improve cohesiveness and lead to increased group performance, however negative norms coupled with high cohesiveness can lead to decreased group performance. Both offline and online groups should strive to promote positive norms and improved cohesiveness if better group performance is to be realised.

In prior blog postings it was noted that a group was two or more persons perceived as related because of their interactions over time, membership within a social category or a shared fate. Using that definition, we know that humans perceive and sort objects in the world around them into groups. The process of people sorting each other into groups is known as social categorization. People often use their perceived groupings to make inferences about all group members. This is one of the formative causes for stereotyping. People tend to overestimate the differences between groups and underestimated the differences within groups.

The groups that a person identifies with are called ingroups, and a group outside of these are called outgroups. The consequence of perceiving the world as “us” and “them” leads to the phenomenon of the outgroup homogeneity effect. This effect describes how perceivers assume greater similarity between members of outgroups than between members their own groups, to the extent that members of outgroups are perceived as homogenous. One of the reasons for this is that people do not often notice subtle differences in outgroups as there is little contact with them. The media plays a big role in how we categorize social groups and people learn stereotypes through group norms, role models and their peers.

Culture can play a part in ingroupoutgroup distinctions. People from collectivist cultures often perceive ingroup homogeneity more strongly than those from individualistic cultures. Online groups are not limited by geographical boundaries and can have large numbers of members from both collectivist cultures and individual. An open question could ask how this situation affects group dynamics where some group members perceive homogeneity and others value the differences? It may be the case that endurance of online groups with members of different cultures depends heavily on conformity and rules, as otherwise different perceptions would affect cohesion and group performance adversely.

Summary and conclusions

I particularly liked the terminology of ingroups and outgroups and the definitions from the book I read last week. It put into words things myself and probably others perceive and know but never give it a name. If you have ever read or seen, Lord of the Flies or even the popular American series ‘Lost’, or at very least supported a football club, you will be familiar with the idea of “us” and “them”. Now you know it is about ingroups and outgroups, the reasons behind this categorisation, and that probably everyone makes social categorisations everyday.

Written by cm7e09 on March 19th, 2010

Tagged with ,