Textbook Case Study Critical Reviews


Textbook Case Study Critical Reviews

Based on a careful reading of select “public sociology” case studies provided in your course textbook, develop a 500-700-word review and critique of the case study.


Case Study Critical Review 3

Case Study 4.3, Case Study 5.4, OR Case Study 6.2 in the textbook.

Next, for this review (500-750 words), address the following questions in your review of the selected case study. Cite three to five scholarly sources to support your answers:

1. What was the social problem/issue the study and/or initiative was intended to address? Do you think the project scope and design was well-suited to better understand and address the issue? Explain.

2. Describe the grassroots nature of the case study/project. How did the project come about? What were opportunities and/or challenges experienced in various stages of the project? How effectively did researchers address project opportunities and challenges?

3. What did project planners do to create active connections between stakeholders (i.e. those affected by—or those in a position to influence—the identified community problem). In your view, what were the strengths and/or limitations of the approach taken to build active community connections between stakeholders?

4. Briefly summarize lessons learned by those involved with the project. Provide an example of one lesson that could be directly applied to your proposed action research project.

Case Study 5.4. The Internet as a Leveler Between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Communities Keith N. Hampton

Some pundits suggest that new technologies such as the Internet have reduced the formation of local bonds. This public sociology case study challenges that statement. The i-Neighbors.org project is simultaneously a research project and an intervention. The project investigates in detail the specific contexts in which Internet use affords or detracts from neighborhood interactions and offers a free service that allows people to create a virtual community for their geographic community. Neighborhoods matter—even in the age of the Internet and mobile phone. Although new information and communication technologies are increasingly a part of our everyday lives, we still live in a place. Our connections to local people provide an informal network of social support that affords safety, health, and happiness. Neighborhood ties need not be extremely intimate or close to be beneficial; relatively weak local ties formed through infrequent social contact facilitate local surveillance, the formation of community norms, and increase the likelihood of community collective action in dealing with local social problems (Bellair, 1997; Granovetter, 1973). Large, local friendship networks are associated with community attachment (Sampson, 1988), empowerment (Geis & Ross, 1998), low crime rates (Sampson & Groves, 1989), low levels of fear and mistrust (Ross & Jang, 2000), reduced mental distress (Elliott, 2000; Ross, 2000), and fewer instances of depression (Aneshensel & Sucoff, 1996). Individuals and communities benefit from a dense network of local socialites. As beneficial as neighborhood ties can be, they are in decline (Guest & Wierzbicki, 1999; Putnam, 2000). A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that more than 30% of adult Americans do not know the names of their neighbors (Hampton, Sessions, Her, & Rainie, 2009). In addition, people with few neighborhood ties are often clustered in the same residential areas. As a result, some neighborhoods have high social cohesion because of the many neighborhood ties, whereas others have low social cohesion because local ties are nearly absent. FOR THE USE OF GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND FACULTY ONLY. NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION, SALE, OR REPRINTING. ANY AND ALL UNAUTHORIZED USE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Copyright © 2012 by SAGE Publications, Inc. 206——Public Sociology These neighborhood effects can often be explained by the ages and life-styles of people who choose to live in an area. For example, the young and the childless tend to have very good extra-neighborhood social networks, but they move more frequently and have less interest in neighborhood relationships (Hampton, 2007; Michelson, 1977). Living in close proximity to people who move frequently and have little interest in neighboring makes it difficult for even a social butterfly to form local ties. This fugacious instability—residential instability that results from environmental and life-style choices—tends to change for individuals as they age, move, and change lifestyles. However, some neighborhood effects do not result from environ-mental choice. Social cohesion also tends to be low in areas of concentrated disadvantage. Areas of concentrated disadvantage experience structural instability—residential instability that is a result of the concentration of inequality, such as the presence of poverty, unemployment, and racial segregation. In these areas, individual levels of social support, safety, and health tend to be lower, whereas the need for collective action is often high. Not only are local social ties in historic decline, but they are least likely to be present in residential areas that could most benefit from the informal net-work of social support afforded by local social cohesion. Although consider-able sociological research has focused on identifying this trend and under-standing its implication for community (Sampson, 2006), few sociologists have tried to reverse the trend or identify social forces that may undermine prevailing, community-level inequalities that result from a concentration of disadvantage. Studying Neighborhoods With an Intervention The i-Neighbors.org project is based on prior research that the Internet supports, rather than detracts from, local tie formation. A two-year ethnography and survey of residents who lived in the “wired” suburban Toronto neighborhood of Netville found that Internet users had three times as many local, weak ties as their nonwired counterparts and that Internet users communicated more frequently with neighbors on- and offline (Hampton & Wellman, 2003). Residents of Netville who used a neighborhood discussion email list also demonstrated unexpectedly high rates of collective action (Hampton, 2003). A U.S. national survey by Hampton et al. (2009) found that of those who use an online neighborhood discussion forum, • 60% know “all or most” of their neighbors, compared to 40% of other Americans. • 79% talk with neighbors in person at least once a month, compared to 61% of the general population.


• 43% talk to neighbors on the telephone at least once a month, compared to the average of 25%.• 70% had listened to a neighbor’s problems in the previous six months, and 63% received similar support from neighbors, compared with 49% who had given and 36% who had received this support in the general population.• 65% had helped a neighbor with household chores or loaned a household item in the previous six months, and 54% had received this support, compared to the average 41% who had given and 31% who had received. Although an online neighborhood discussion forum is associated with higher social cohesion at the local level, research on digital inequality suggests that disadvantaged communities are least likely to have the technology to benefit from this trend. In addition, in a longitudinal study of four neighborhoods in the Boston area, Hampton (2007) found that, although Internet users formed more neighborhood ties over time and use of a neighborhood email list amplified this trend, the trend was limited to neighborhoods of low fugacious instability: residential, stable, middle-class suburban communities. Prior research on the contextual effects of structural instability, as found in areas of concentrated disadvantage, further suggests that social cohesion is unlikely to develop in these areas. However, beyond interventions designed to bridge the “digital divide” by providing access to computers and the Internet to residents of low-income communities, no one had ever studied how the Internet would influence social cohesion in areas of concentrated disadvantage. The i-Neighbors.org project sought to accomplish two goals. The first was to learn whether residential areas with concentrated disadvantage were likely to benefit from the Internet in terms of higher levels of local social cohesion. The second was to provide an intervention available to residents of any neighborhood that would help reverse the historic trend of declining neighborhood interaction. The i-Neighbors.org project website was released in August 2004. An early version of the website was built with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation (Hampton, 2007), with additional support provided by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Microsoft Research, L-Soft, and a Google Grant. The i-Neighbors website allows anyone in the United States or Canada to use a series of Internet services for communication and information exchange at the neighborhood level. The website resembles a traditional commercial website, except that it is completely free and is operated by a faculty member and students at a university. Visitors to the website can enter their zip codes and view a list of digital neighborhoods that correspond to actual neighbor-hoods in their geographic area. If a visitor’s neighborhood is not listed, they FOR THE USE OF GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND FACULTY ONLY. NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION, SALE, OR REPRINTING. ANY AND ALL UNAUTHORIZED USE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Copyright © 208——Public Sociology can add it to the list of communities. Within a digital neighborhood, a user can create a personal profile, send group and personal discussion messages, contribute to a shared calendar, post photos, review local services, share documents, survey group members, view a neighborhood directory, and invite other neighbors to join. The project website provides an opportunity for researchers to identify and observe instances when the Internet is adopted as a means of local communication. To maximize generalizability, i-Neighbors was designed as a naturalistic experiment. No attempt was made to target the project website to specific users or geographic communities. No additional technology or training was given to participants. Adoption of the site was a result of word of mouth, Internet search, and mass media coverage of the site. With i-Neighbors, researchers can examine variation in the types of neighbor-hoods that use the Internet for local contact and learn how and whether the technology is used for local engagement and collective action. Project Outcomesi-Neighbors.org has attracted more than 75,000 users from neighbor-hoods in every state in the United States and every Canadian province. Thousands of new users join each month. In a typical month, i-Neighbors users collectively use the Internet to receive more than one million messages from neighbors (the typical digital neighborhood corresponds to a single apartment building or about 500 homes). Findings from the first three years of the i-Neighbors project were published as a peer- reviewed article in the journal American Behavioral Scientist (Hampton, 2010). An analysis of the ecological context of the most active i-Neighbors communities revealed that the majority are located in middle-class suburban areas (72%), but a significant minority (28%) are located in neighborhoods that are classified as within the top 20th percentile for the most disadvantaged areas in the nation (Hampton, 2010). These truly disadvantaged neighborhoods, with concentrated levels of racial segregation, poverty, and unemployment, are located almost exclusively in inner-city areas. An analysis of 25,000 emails exchanged within the most active digital neighborhoods found indicators of high social cohesion and collective action. There were few differences in the levels of social cohesion and collective action between neighborhoods with concentrated disadvantage and more advantaged areas. Although areas of concentrated disadvantage represent only slightly more than one-quarter of the most active i-Neighbors communities, this level of involvement is many magnitudes higher than would be expected given levels of structural instability and digital inequality. FOR THE USE OF GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND FACULTY ONLY. NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION, SALE, OR REPRINTING. ANY AND ALL UNAUTHORIZED USE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Copyright © The i-Neighbors project revealed and supports the potential for the Internet to be used in areas of concentrated disadvantage to overcome contextual constraints on local engagement. Constraints resulting from structural instability that would otherwise limit opportunities for local tie formation and collective action can be overcome through the use of the Internet as a tool for local communication. A boost in local social cohesion and collective action of the magnitude observed through i-Neighbors may represent the start of a slow reversal in a trend of declining neighborhood interaction. In addition, the existence of collective efficacy among a population that would otherwise be unlikely to experience high local social cohesion may represent a significant decrease in social and civic inequality between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged communities. References Aneshensel, C. S., & Sucoff, C. A. (1996). The neighborhood context of adolescent mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 37, 293–310.Bellair, P. E. (1997). Social interaction and community crime. Criminology, 35, 677–703.Elliott, M. (2000). The stress process in neighborhood context. Health and Place, 6(4), 287–299.Geis, K. J., & Ross, C. E. (1998). A new look at urban alienation: The effects of neighborhood disorder. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61(3), 232–246.Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.Guest, A. M., & Wierzbicki, S. K. (1999). Social ties at the neighborhood level: Two decades of GSS evidence. Urban Affairs Review, 35(1), 92–111.Hampton, K. N. (2003). Grieving for a lost network: Collective action in a wired suburb. The Information Society, 19(5), 417–428.Hampton, K. N. (2007). Neighborhoods in the network society: The E-Neighbors study. Information, Communication and Society, 10(5), 714–748.Hampton, K. N. (2010). Internet use and the concentration of disadvantage. American Behavioral Scientist, 53(8), 1111–1132.Hampton, K. N., Sessions, L. F., Her, E. J., & Rainie, L. (2009). Social isolation and new technology. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and Everyday Life Project. Hampton, K. N., & Wellman, B. (2003). Neighboring in Netville: How the Internet supports community and social capital in a wired suburb. City and Community, 2(3), 277–311.Michelson, W. (1977). Environmental choice, human behavior and residential satisfaction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Ross, C. E. (2000). Neighborhood disadvantage and adult depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41(2), 177–187.FOR THE USE OF GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND FACULTY ONLY. NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION, SALE, OR REPRINTING. ANY AND ALL UNAUTHORIZED USE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Copyright © 210——Public Sociology Ross, C. E., & Jang, S. J. (2000). Neighborhood disorder, fear, and mistrust: The buffering role of social ties with neighbors. American Journal of Community Psychology, 28(4), 401–420.Sampson, R. (1988). Local friendship ties and community attachment in mass society: A multilevel systemic model. American Sociological Review, 53(5), 766–779.Sampson, R. (2006). Collective efficacy theory. In F. T. Cullen, J. P. Wright, & K. R. Blevins (Eds.), Taking stock (pp. 149–168). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. Sampson, R., & Groves, B. (1989). Community structure and crime: Testing social-disorganization theory. American Journal of Sociology, 94, 774–802.FOR THE USE OF GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND FACULTY ONLY. NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION, SALE, OR REPRINTING. ANY AND ALL UNAUTHORIZED USE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Copyright ©