ISA-on-line – The Future of Sociology
Global Dialogue has been running for two years. We’ve expanded from 8 to 30 pages, from 5 to 14 languages, from a standard template to a special design, from a newsletter to a magazine. It appears electronically — although wherever I go my bags are weighed down with hard copies, printed in the relevant languages. It offers a sociological lens on world events as well as a repository of happenings in the ISA, conferences, sociological debates, special columns, updates on national sociologies and so forth. Most important is the dialogue it creates within and among the teams of translators. For example, in this issue the young and enthusiastic members of the Public Sociology Laboratory in Warsaw report on the conference they organized to launch the Polish version of Global Dialogue – a conference extending Global Dialogue’s debate on sociology’s global and universal character. One of the results, therefore, is a network of interconnected teams of young sociologists – cultivating diverse visions of world sociology.
A similar principle governs the global course: Public Sociology, Live! Here an array of brilliant sociologists, deeply embedded in the countries where they live and research, talk to curious Berkeley undergraduates about their experiences of engagement. Using Skype, these over-committed public sociologists don’t have to leave their studies. The conversations are recorded and posted on the ISA website where they can be watched by anyone with access to the Internet at http://www.isa-sociology.org/public-sociology-live/. In particular, it is watched by groups of students and their teachers in Barcelona, Tehran, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, Kyiv, and Oslo who then post summaries of their discussions on facebook, which in turn generates further discussion and debate. We, thereby, create hubs, laboratories, and institutes that learn about themselves through connecting to others, nurturing a community of global sociologists, tied together by their diversity.
Social media can intensify and enrich face-to-face interaction, even as it brings that interaction to global audiences. Thus, the video series Journeys through Sociology, described by Laleh Behbehanian in this issue, asks the far-flung members of the ISA Executive Committee what brought them to sociology, and what challenges they faced on the way. Most ISA members would never have a chance to hear or see their leaders, but now they are available at a click of a mouse. Here, then, are examples of what, in principle, can be done from anywhere in the world, models that others can copy, modify, and improve. The Internet can spell the degradation of education but it can also enhance education, it can dilute communication but it can also enrich it. So long as we control the Internet, we can decide how to use it.