Class Schedule

1. INTRODUCTION

  • Thursday, August 25: Welcome / Getting on the Same Page

2. BIG DEBATES, KEY CONCEPTS

  • Thursday, September 8: Hyper-connected or phoning it in?
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • Participant observation. Take a trip on mass transit and take field notes on the behaviors you observe among the 4 or 5 people closest you. What are they doing physically and how do you interpret their behavior? Describe them and their behavior in some detail. If you take your notes by hand, type them up. We will share these field notes before class via email and read each other’s notes.
    •  Reading Questions:
      • Do mobile devices make us more connected to each other or less connected?
      • How are they changing our interactions? Our relationships? The way we behave in public spaces?
    • Read: Wikipedia entry on Nomophobia
    • Read: Turkle, Alone Together, Chap. 9 “Tethered”, available here (you’ll need Hunter login)
  • Thursday, September 15: Public vs. Private in Small Urban Spaces
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • Take at least four trips on mass transit and note briefly (one or two sentences) the behavior of 5-10 people nearest you on each trip. Once you have your 20 – 40 observations, open code your notes and attempt to develop inductive categories for their behavior. (e.g. “staring at billboards; awake but eyes closed; sleeping; gaming on mobile device;” etc.) Write up a document quantitatively summarizing your data. (3 sleeping; 4 watching movies; etc.) Note any difficulties you have in developing or assigning categories. We’ll share these documents before class via email. 
    • Reading Questions:
      • William (Holly) Whyte’s classic study of behavior in public plazas provided the inspiration for Hampton’s study, and remains one of the most rigorous and thoughtful analyses of how people inhabit public space. Acquaint yourself with Whyte’s work via the links below and then re-read Hampton’s article with a critical eye. What do we like about Hampton’s approach and what would we do differently in terms of theory, method, or interpretation? 
    • Watch: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces and/or skim an excerpt from the book of the same title.
    • Read: Hampton et. al., “The Social Life of Wireless Urban Spaces: Internet Use, Social Networks, and the Public Realm

First Blog Post Due By Tuesday, September 20, at 10pm. (Or at 10pm the following night if you plan to comment on another person’s post.) Just use this post to think aloud about one or more of the readings. Categorize your post based on the class topic that it addresses (e.g. “Public vs. Private” or “To Panic or Not to Panic.”)

  • Thursday, September 21: Time and Space in Subterranean Transit
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • Take at least four trips on mass transit. Make structured observations and record your data via your smartphone, following the instruction sheet. (We’ll use Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, or some other program to record our data.) Note any difficulties or confusion you have in following instructions in a separate document. 
    • Reading Questions:
      • Two readings that offer similar methodologies to ours – one extremely theoretically ambitious (the Collins one), the other very unambitious. Give both of these a quick read and see if you can come away with some lessons or hypotheses that might help guide our project.
    • Read: Collins, “All Aboard the Quantum Train
    • Read: Lopatovski, “Information Behavior Underground
  • Thursday, September 29: Method: Journal Entries and Interviews
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • TBA
    • Reading Questions:
      • This week’s readings illustrate approaches to gathering data on how people ride the train that rely on self-reported behavior. What are the strengths and limitations of this approach, vs. direct observation?
    • Read: Ocejo and Tonnelat, “Subway Diaries
    • Read: Berry and Hamilton, “Changing Urban Spaces: Mobile Phones on Trains
  • Thursday, October 6: NO CLASS
  • Thursday, October 13: Theory: Civil Attention and Disengagement
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • Recruit 3-4 transit diarists – people (preferably in their late 20s or older) who will log diary entries on every subway ride they take in a week.
    • Reading Questions:
      • What kind of place is a subway train or a bus, psychologically and behaviorally speaking? What kind of interactional context is it that we are studying? How will this help us make sense out of passengers’ use of electronic media? 
    • Read: Simmel excerpt on the Metropolis and Mental Life
    • Read: Excerpt from Goffman’s Behavior in Public Places on Civil Inattention
    • Read: Kim “Social Disengagement on the Greyhound Bus

Second Blog Post Due By Tuesday, October 18, at 10pm. (Or at 10pm the following night if you plan to comment on another person’s post.)

  • Thursday, October 20: Theory: The Moral Order of the Subway
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • TBA
    • Reading Questions:
      • The subway, like any urban setting, has a moral order, or a system of etiquette that is associated with it. Civil attention is part of this order, but it has other aspects (e.g. coordination, altruistic behavior, etc.). To what degree will rules of public comportment explain our results? 
    • Read: Lofland, “Principles of Stranger Interaction,” from The Public Realm
    • Read: Aptekar, “Social Norms and Resistance on the City Bus
    • Skim: Benediktsson, “Counting on Courtesy
  • Thursday, October 27: Theory: The Cosmopolitan Canopy
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • TBA
    • Reading Questions:
      • Anderson has a very influential and very optimistic argument to make about certain kinds of train stations and other public spaces. His argument resonates with that of William H. Whyte, Jane Jacobs, and other New Urbanists, suggesting that diverse, vibrant public spaces play a positive role in urban society. Purifoye zooms in on an urban bus system, however, and finds something completely different. How do we reconcile these arguments with each other? With the Hampton and Whyte material from earlier in the semester?
    • Read: Elijah Anderson, “The Cosmopolitan Canopy
    • Read: Gwendolyn Purifoye, “Nice-Nastines and Other Raced Social Interactions on Public Transit Systems
  • Thursday, November 3: Theory: Multiple Involvements
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • TBA
    • Reading Questions:
      • If we do not entirely buy into Sherry Turkle’s argument that people are “absent” when using digital media, how do we make sense out of divided attention? In what sense are people present when they’re on their phones? In what sense are they distant? Rettie and Benediktsson et. al. take on this question using different theoretical tools provided by Goffman and others. If you’re pressed for time just choose one of the reading options.
    • Read: Excerpt from Goffman’s Frame Analysis, and Rettie, “Presence and Embodiment in Mobile Phone Communication
    • Skim: Excerpt from Goffman’s Behavior in Public Places on Multiple Involvements and Benediktsson et. al. “Hybrid Strategies
  • Thursday, November 17: Method: Inductive Typologies
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • Perform a descriptive analysis of a given independent variable using SPSS or Excel. (Everyone will work on a different independent variable.) What conclusions can you draw from basic summaries and bivariate tabulations of our data? Create a table with some basic results and write up a paragraph interpreting them.
    • Reading Questions:
      • Plant’s report, which you may have read earlier in the semester, is very old at this point, but notable for how it schematizes or typologizes mobile phone behavior. This is one way of moving inductively from data to theory. What makes Plant’s discussion convincing (or not)? Can we develop typologies to describe the patterned behaviors that are latent in our data? 
    • Re(read): Plant, “On the Mobile
    • Read (for fun): Nolan, “The Ten Worst People on the Subway
  • Thursday, November 24: GOBBLE GOBBLE
  • Thursday, December 1: Theory: Bounded Solidarity
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • Begin to develop a causal explanation for an outcome in our dataset (Everybody will focus on a different dependent variable.) Use any analytical methods you are comfortable with, from cross-tabulations to graphs and charts, to bivariate analysis (t-tests) or multivariate regression. Again, write up your results, including tables and charts as needed. 
    • Reading Questions:
      • Richard Ling has a very ambitious theory about mobile communication that builds off of and integrates the work of several giants of social theory: Durkheim, Goffman, and Randall Collins in an attempt to process how mobile communication is changing the structure of society and the nature of social cohesion. He supports his work with empirical examples drawn from ethnographic observations not unlike those we are undertaking in this class. In the chapter below, he argues that a new form of solidarity is developing through mobile technology that is centered around small, intimate groups of friends and family. Now that constant contact is possible, there is no need to rely on the “kindness of strangers” and there is nothing separating us from the people we (already) know best. Theorists will recognize his “bounded solidarity” as a new form of mechanical solidarity, which most of us, following Durkheim, thought was disappearing in modern society. Is he right about all this? Assuming he is, is it a good thing or bad?
    • Quickly brush up on your Durkheim – especially the part about mechanical and organic solidarity. If (and only if) you have already read some Durkheim straight from the source, watch this as well. It’s really not a bad summary.
    • Read: Ling, “Bounded Solidarity” from New Tech, New Ties: How Mobile Communication is Reshaping Social Cohesion
  • Thursday, December 8: Applications
    • Transit Behavior Project:
      • Perform a multivariate regression analysis of our data using SPSS. (Everybody will focus on a different independent variable.) Run several models, including a variety of control variables. Create a table describing the results and write up a paragraph interpreting them.  
    • Reading:
      • TBA