Sociology 1005 – Spring 2009

Reading assignment for Thursday, February 26, 2009

For Thursday night, please read Erving Goffman’s article On Cooling the Mark Out. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about “confidence games” and how Goffman is able to go from talking about a very specific topic — people who have been defrauded — to talking about society at large.

See you in class!

Microcredit and microlending

Since we talked about this a little in class, I wanted to give you all a few links to articles and websites on the topic.

Wikipedia gives a good overview in its article on microcredit, but it’s long and a little dry. is one of the institutions that is helping to connect people who would like to lend money to people who need to borrow it.

A friend of mine just wrote in her own blog about her Kiva loans; she mentions that the default rate is below 3%.

This article mentions the idea that microlending might take off in the United States. It sounds strange, but a few years ago, no one would have thought that Craigslist would replace classified ads in newspapers!

Ethical dimension of introducing new technology?

The BBC posted an article today in which the author speculated on the possible negative affects of new technologies in the developing world:

…what happens if new tools or services disrupt established community practices, as with the use of mobile phones to allow young men and women to contact each other freely in cultures that normally segregate the sexes?

On the whole, I find this short article interesting, but a little patriarchal in its assumptions. The developing world is going to react to new technology in its own ways — just as we did in the “developed” world. Reactions will be unpredictable, sure — but it’s not up to the “first world” to tell the “third world” what to do. The genie is already out of the bottle!

Reading assignment: Mobile tech in the developing world

Here’s the NYTimes article I promised you!

This link should work for reading the article all on a single page, but there are some great photographs that accompany the article, and I hope you’ll get a chance to see them online.

As you read the article, try to put yourself in the shoes of both the Nokia consultant, and the people he talks to and works with.

Reading assignment for Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hello! Here’s the link for your reading assignment for Tuesday night: Michael Pollan’s “Open Letter to the Next Farmer-in-Chief”.

You can read it as it was published online in the NYTimes, clicking through page by page, or you can use the “print link” to read a copy that is all on one page with no ads. (Of course, it’s also easier to print from that link.)

Michael Pollan wrote this a month before the presidential election, although many readers felt he meant to speak directly to Barack Obama.