The sociological imagination is a practice defined by C. Wright Mills, an American sociologist to explain the insight that sociology as a discipline gives. It expresses the ability of individuals to “think themselves away” such that they view things from a different perspective as the familiar routines (Mills, 1970). Sociological imagination helps individual; view the happenings around them in a fresh and critical way. C. Wright Mills defined it as the vivid awareness of the interaction between experience and the wider society (Mills, 1970). The sociological imagination helps relate the experiences and issues in society to the social forces that cause them. The society often faces conflict from emerging issues and such provide the space for the application of the sociological imagination in addressing these conflicts. The society is ever evolving and interconnection in the age of information technology has opened platforms for people to relate from different background, professions and races among other differences. World problems require a critical evaluation and an “out of the box” thinking to get solutions (Allen, 2008). Therefore, C. Wright Mills definition of sociological imagination is widely applied in these situations.
A case in an instance is the evolution of the networked society, which was advanced by the emergence of social media. Through technological growth, society has moved from the industrial era to technological period, where technology gives space and platform for people to interact virtually from any place on the globe (Pena-López & Sánchez-Santos, 2017). Consequently, issues such as communication, business transactions, crime and other elements have gained momentum and spread to all parts of the world through the networked society. The emergence of social media has seen notable impacts on the daily lives of individuals. The social media affects the study habits of people, the access to work opportunities, it shapes the interpersonal relationships and even influences the self-identity of the users. Therefore, sociological imagination is applied in such instances, to explain how and why social media influences the lives of its users, from a critical and logical perspective.
Manuel Castell’s theory of network society analyses the interaction of capitalism and social movements. Manuel explains the configuration of the interaction and relation between technology, society, and economy (Van Kriekan, et al., 2017). While the socoeity is dominantly capitalist, there has been a shift from the traditional reliance on energy to information for production. The communication technologies have brought with them the potential for exploration of space as is evidenced by the emergence and growth of globalization. The information age which introduced network has created a macro society. As Manuel explains, the communication media such as internet decentralize operations and focus on control increasing effectiveness of the networks (Stalder, 2008). According to Castell, the power is more powerful and it resides in the networks (Webster, 2014). For instance financial and human capital is viewed from the global scale, in face of the social network theory. Organizations can explore human resources from all parts of the world, bring them together for a project and disperse them once task is completed (Pena-López & Sánchez-Santos, 2017). This is the power entailed in social network.
Therefore, Facebook as a platform in social media, Manuel network society theory would define it as a form of social organization, which has revolutionized social mobility and morphology. Facebook brings so many people together from across a variety of societies, leading to the evolution of a new community in the network society. However, from the sociological imagination perspective, the Facebook society faces the challenge of maintaining privacy in the highly interconnected world. Facebook users are exposed to challenges such as the security of data and information shared on the online platforms. Facebook has faced accusations in recent years about their meticulous scrutiny and exploration of the user’s online lives, and even tracks them into their personal spaces without the user content (Lankton, McKnight & Tripp, 2017). Moreover, it also allows for the exploitation of users and cybercrimes and abuse, as this personal data can be sold to third parties, such as advertising agents among others. These are greater social issues that have emerged from the evolution of this social media platform, and sociological imagination explains it as a result of the globalization effect brought about by the networked society.
It is arguable that Facebook can learn anything about a person’s behavior by using artificial intelligence as Peter Eckersley, a chief computer scientist at Electronic Frontier Foundation explained. This is knowledge that can be explored for advertising as well as, propaganda. The tech giant in 2016 faced a law suit from a Missouri man who suffers metastatic cancer (Lankton, McKnight & Tripp, 2017). The suit explains that Facebook violated his privacy by tracking his activities on the cancer center websites, which is outside the social network. Facebook collected details about his searches for possible treatment without his consent. However, in defense, Facebook claimed that the tracking of users is standard business practice. This incidence illustrates how the network society has influenced the lives of technology users, and through sociological imagination, it is possible to explore such incidences and explain the effects from a critical perspective.
- Allen Nan, S. (2008). Conflict Resolution in a Network Society. International Negotiation, 13(1), 111-131. doi:10.1163/138234008X297995
- Lankton, N. K., McKnight, D. H., & Tripp, J. F. (2017). Facebook privacy management strategies: A cluster analysis of user privacy behaviors. Computers in Human Behavior, 76149-163. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2017.07.015
- Mills, C. W. (1970). The sociological imagination. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
- Stalder, F. (2008). Manuel Castells: The theory of the network society. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
- Van Kriekan, R., Habibis, D., Smith, P., Hutchins, B., Martin, G., & Maton, K. (2017). Sociology 6th Edition. Melbourne: Pearsons Australia.
- Pena-López, J. A., & Sánchez-Santos, J. M. (2017). Individual social capital: Accessibility and mobilization of resources embedded in social networks. Social Networks, 491. doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2016.11.003
- Webster, F. (2014). Theories of the information society. New York, NY.: Routledge.