Sociologists engage in a lot of hang-wringing about the perception of the field. One theory goes that sociology is not perceived as scientific enough and, as a result, sociologists are not taken as seriously. The usual comparison is to economics, which is seen as both incredibly influential in policymaking and as being endowed with more scientificity by various actors.
In contrast, Beth Popp Berman and I, along with other scholars who study economists’ influence, have argued that the political power of economics (vis-a-vis sociology) does not run primarily through general public opinion about scientificity. Rather, we argue that economists are influential because of their role in particular policymaking institutions (like the Federal Reserve) and through shaping the mindset of policymaking elites (in law schools and public policy schools, say).
It’s that time of year again – time for colleagues to gather in office conference rooms, drink a little punch, and maybe swap tactfully dull gifts. And that got me thinking – what would sociology’s theorists bring to a holiday gift exchange?
It’s easy to look around a college campus and think – there’s no digital divide here. While waiting for class (or even walking to class) students pass the time by scrolling through Instagram or checking email on their phones. After class, students retreat to the library or to their dorm rooms to do homework on their laptops. These devices are ubiquitous to the point where some college professors have opted to ban them or relegate them to certain corners of the classroom.
And yet, despite that ubiquity, today’s college students are still very much divided along digital lines. In a new article published in the journal Communication Research, my co-authors—University of California Santa Barbara Communications Professor Amy Gonzales and Ohio State Communications Professor Teresa Lynch—and I argue that the digital divide on college campuses has shifted from one of technology access to one of technology maintenance. In a survey of college students at a large, midwestern university, we find near-universal ownership of cell phones and laptops. That said, we also find big gaps in the quality and reliability of the technology students own. Specifically, we find that students of color and students from low-income families typically rely on older, lower-quality devices that are more likely to break down over time.