[Front page]01/13/96


Topical Seminar in Sociology:

The Culture of the Internet

SOC491 01
FALL 1996
Instructor: Dr. Douglas McConatha
Text: Reddick, Randy; King, Elliot (1995).The Online Student: Making the Grade on Internet. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Co.

This course is designed to offer the student a thorough orientation to the evolving Internet culture emerging throughout the world. In this class we will explore the functions, structures, interaction patterns and conflicts which are evolving in the virtual spaces created by the surge in technological innovation. We will explore Internet history, financing, government involvement, recent commercialization and social issues which confront participants in today’s modern electronic and non-electronic societies. Furthermore we will learn the tools and techniques which qualify one to be a member of these "new cultures" found on the Internet. The primary learning objective of this course is to give the student an opportunity to see and experience, first hand, the growth and development of the Internet. In some sense this is a field experience course, although we will not be “going” to the field. We will "access" the field and bring it to our desktops. The course will use, as a theoretical base, the three main Sociological schools of theory: Functionalism, Symbolic Interactionism, and Conflict Theory. These bodies of theoretical knowledge will help provide form to our explorations. A word of caution!!!! The Internet and the 21st century electronic revolution is not a static entity. As stated above it is evolving.. sometimes very rapidly. It will be a challenge for all of us to keep up with the latest and newest and most current products and tools which everyday become an integral part of the Internet. I recognize that you may have skills and insights which surpass mine and those of the other students in the class. This is to be expected and used to our advantage. The vastness of this new frontier is practically infinite. Indeed it is not even limited to this planet as we will see. I encourage you to explore and experiment with what you find "out there" on the 'Net. Be aware that there will be material which you may find personally offensive. My advice is to be objective in your observation. We will discuss any topic (from a sociological viewpoint) which we uncover but our perspective will remain academic at all times. We will meet this class both face to face and on-line for the required number of hours. However we will work both synchronously and asynchronously as a group. Some of our meeting will be held at hours which vary from the University allotted time for this course. I hope to demonstrate that this culture which we are investigating is not time or place bound and we can maximize the use of our individual schedules and knowledge levels in order to benefit each individual student and the class as a whole. We also have the possibility of working with classes outside of West Chester if we choose to do so. I have contacts in other states and a few foreign countries. This is something we will explore later on in the course. As you can see this is not your traditional “come to a lecture and take a test” class. It will require commitment and diligence and creativity on all of our parts. A good deal of individual responsibility will be necessary to assure that you get what you want out of this class. I ask that you begin to choose very early the focus of your particular interests. There is so much out there that a comprehensive survey is impossible. We will select those areas for investigation which may be of importance to you as you begin to formulate your career goals and directions. I can assure you that the kinds of material we will cover in this course will offer you some real advantages for the career(s) you choose in the 21st Century. I hope to provide you with the guidance and sociological knowledge which will facilitate this goal.

The following is a schedule of topics and dates which we will use as a guide for the class. This schedule may change as we dig deeper and deeper into the culture and the artifacts associated with it. We will also have some invited speakers from around campus and the local community. I anticipate a very exciting and beneficial semester.

1 8-27 How the course will be conducted  
2 9-3 The Sociological Perspective/Introduction 1
3 9-10 Cyber Space Geography 2
4 9-17 e-mail 3
5 9-24 WWW 4
6 10-1 Gopher Tunnels 5
7 10-8 Foundation Tools:Telnet and FTP 6
8 10-15 Usenet 7
9 10-22 MUDs, MOOs and IRC 8
10 10-29 Searching the Internet 9
11 11-5 Net culture, Norms, Rules and Statuses 10
12 11-12 Arts and Literature 11
13 11-19 Social Issues 12
14 11-26 Business and Commercialization 13
15 12-3 Careers and the future of the Internet 14/15
16 12-10 Final Exam time: Tuesday 5:45  

Assignments in Reddick and King will be made on a weekly basis as the semester evolves. Students are invited to read ahead in all assignments as they wish.


The course grade will be determined by the amount and quality of work you undertake. Specific assignments will vary according to your interests. During the second or third week of classes I would like to sit down with you (electronically or otherwise) and determine three projects or activities which you would like to complete for your grade. I begin with the assumption that every student has an A for the class grade. Your goal is to convince me that I am right. I have listed a number of possible class activities that you may select for your evaluation. I list these for the purpose of suggestion only. I am happy to consider any legitimate activity that you think can help you achieve your personal learning goals for the class. Please keep in mind I will be looking for the sociological nature and content of your projects.

  1. Create a Web Page with Culture of the Internet Links
  2. Develop a future career profile incorporating the benefits of sociological and Internet knowledge for your career.
  3. Do a sociological analysis of the a group of Sites on the Web..
  4. Spend from 1-2 hours a week in a community Internet project.
  5. Write a term paper on an aspect of Internet Culture.
  6. Take a final essay exam on the material we cover in and outside of class.
  7. Do a presentation in class on an aspect of the Internet.
  8. Create a MUD/MOO.
  9. Special creative project.
  10. Map the “Geography” of the Internet.

 [The End]