Almost everybody knows what "network society" refers to: a society in which the Internet plays a fundamental role in any economic and cultural process, and in everyday life as well. Nonetheless, from a theoretical and historical perspective, the network society as a system seems to be grounded in a more complex process, which, starting from the 1970s, has profoundly reshaped the infrastructures of the modern world. In this process, the Web is probably just the tip of the iceberg, the visible surface of a multi-layered structure operating at the deepest level of our societies.
In order to address this phenomenon in all its complexity, the course will be divided into three parts: a historical introduction to the rise of what we refer to as the "network society" (1973-2012), a general overview of the sociology of new media, and a close examination of the political economy of the Web. The first and second parts of the course will present the basic concepts, focusing in particular on Manuel Castells´s well-known theory and on the contributions of other classical authors (such as Yochai Benkler, Barry Wellman, Lawrence Lessig).
The second part will instead be dedicated to micro-level empirical studies focusing on the power-law structure of the World Wide Web (from the Faloutsos brothers to Watts and Barabási). Finally, we will try to determine to what extent the power-law rule is affecting user practices and the organization of culture, in order to question the supposedly self-evident relationship between the Internet and democracy, and eventually broaden the discussion to include more recent contributions to critical Internet studies (Geert Lovink, Eugeny Morozov, Sherry Turkle, Jaron Lanier, Clay Shirky).
The final evaluation will be 30% presentation and 70% final exam.