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The sociology of the internet is a subfield of sociology where researchers focus on how the internet plays a role in facilitating communication and interaction and how it affects and is affected by social life.
In the late 1990s, the sudden widespread adoption of the internet in the US and other Western nations drew the attention of sociologists. Internet technology allowed for new forms of communication and information and new ways of spreading it. Sociologists wanted to understand how these would impact people's lives, the cultural patterns, social trends and larger social structure.
Paul DiMaggio and colleagues wrote the earliest sociological essay about this subfield, titled " Social Implications of the Internet."
It outlined the concerns within the internet, such as:
The roles of internet communication technologies (ICTs) have evolved in our lives, their impacts on social relations and society overall. So, too, the sociological approach to studying them has evolved.
Digital sociology now considers the variety of ICT devices we use in our lives, how we use them and the implications these technologies have for social life and society.
Since 2012, a handful of sociologists have focused on defining the subfield of digital sociology. The subfield became formalised in the UK when the British Sociological Association members created a new study group designed to develop a set of best practices for digital sociology.
In the U.S., there is no formalised organisation around the subfield, but many sociologists have turned to the digital in research focus and methods. They can be found among research groups, including the American Sociological Association's sections on Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology.
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