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Social Worlds

  • Anthropologist
1190 Social Worlds
produce incivility because participants resort to
ad hominem attacks instead of offering reasoned
arguments for their policy positions. Analysts
have expressed suspicions that some groups may
be stalking social media sites in order to silence
opponents through incivility. Some studies see
social media as having little influence on elections
or policy debates. Others see dynamic changes
occurring that will affect politics, including
important issues such as Social Security, as groups
engage each other online.
Andrew J. Waskey
Dalton State College
See Also: AARP; Age; Health Care; Medicare;
Further Readings
Aaker, Jennifer and Andy Smith. The Dragonfly
Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to
Use Social Media to Drive Social Change.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2010.
Altman, Nancy J. The Battle for Social Security:
From FDR’s Vision to Bush’s Gamble. Hoboken,
NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2005.
Beland, Daniel. Social Security: History and Politics
From the New Deal to the Privatization Debate.
Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2005.
Diamond, Peter A. and Peter R. Orszag. Saving Social
Security: A Balanced Approach. Washington, DC:
Brookings Institution, 2004.
Marmor, Theodore R. The Politics of Medicare. 2nd
ed. New York: Aldine De Gruyter, 2000.
Mergel, Ines and Bill Greeves. Social Media in the
Public Sector Field Guide. Hoboken, NJ: John
Wiley and Sons, 2012.
Oberlander, Jonathan. The Political Life of Medicare.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Walker, Robert. Social Security and Welfare. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
Social Worlds
The idiom social worlds indicates several related
concepts referring to a group of people accept-
ing, sharing, and united by common worldviews.
Worldview is comparable to Weltanschauung,
“meaning system,” “belief system,” “patterns
of thought,” “perspective,” “perceptual frame-
work,” or “cognitive orientation.” The main
concern here is not merely with the intellectual
or cognitive aspects of the social worlds but also
with the social and subjective domains in which
individuals locate and define themselves in rela-
tion to others.
The focus is on the way that ordinary people
imagine their social world. It is not expressed in
theoretical terms, but is manifested in images,
stories, and legends. Worldview is concerned with
people’s place in the universe, setting boundar-
ies between nature and culture on the one hand,
and between the local and global on the other.
Worldviews, contingent on cultural traditions,
are clusters of ideas, beliefs, shared meanings or
understandings, and practices that render social
life possible.
Though worldview represents a cultural phe-
nomenon, it is seen as constituting social facts
or collective representations impacting people’s
actions. Worldview indicates the notion of think-
ing and acting as a group member for a group rea-
son. This means that a group of persons can col-
lectively share worldviews, attitudes, intentions,
and goals as group members o ra collectivity.
The differences in worldviews of people in
different social worlds are great. Therefore, it is
important for social actors, particularly politi-
cians, to establish strategies to penetrate forms
of separation and understand how other people
experience their social worlds. The distinctive
feature of social worlds as a unit of social orga-
nization is contingent on communication, shared
action, and interaction. Mediated interaction is
very important in creating and sustaining any
social world. In other words, social worlds may
signify a sort of social organization defined by
communication and interaction, rather than
physical, territorial, kinship, or formal ties.
However, meeting places, coffee houses, conven-
tion sites, and street corners, among other loca-
tions, provide geographical centers for interac-
tion in various social worlds that might include,
for example, social groups or social collectivi-
ties within larger societies such as social clubs,
political parties, associations, labor unions, and
religious societies.
Copyright © 2014 SAGE Publications. Not for sale, reproduction, or distribution.
Social Worlds 1191
In contrast to the concept of formal social
organization or social structure, a social world
is based on negotiation, voluntary participation,
and collective commitment, and not an enforced
or imposed conformity. A common type of social
world consists of networks of interrelated volun-
tary associations, including social and political
parties. People are agents in making their social
worlds; however, social worlds, consisting of
assemblages of social actors, are not based on
a centralized authority or order. Rather, social
actors are freely and partially involved in certain
portions of the events of any social world. As
Unruh states, each social world is a universe of
regularized mutual response, an arena in which
there is some kind of organization that facilitates
anticipating the behavior of others.
Social worlds can be classified into small local
worlds, or large and more diffuse worlds. Within
this context, the term social world is flexible
enough to include ethnic, subcultural, and trans-
cultural communities. The vocabulary of most
politics is pertinent to small informal units as well
as to large units. However, each social unit, small
or large, has a worldview characterizing its social
world. Large social worlds, dispersed in space, do
not completely rely on face-to-face interaction,
but rather on various forms of communication,
particularly new media and electronic circulation,
notwithstanding the importance of spatial sites.
Some social worlds, such as ethnic minorities,
might have a comparatively homogeneous popu-
lation, while others such as global groups (e.g., the
European Union) and international political par-
ties are heterogeneous and mixed.
Although politicians are committed to similar
tasks, they have different ideologies and aspira-
tions and interact with different social worlds,
especially in pluralistic societies in which appli-
cations of various forms of communication net-
works are crucial. Political actors involved in
distant social worlds not immediately represented
on the scene may express their views or exercise
their influence through mediated communica-
tion or social networks. The social world of an
alien group will cease to be problematic once
its worldviews are spilled out through effective
Social media have had a profound effect on the
social worlds and daily lives of people around the
world. The widespread use of social networks has
revolutionized the way that people communicate
on personal, social, and professional levels. Social
worlds differ from each other because their com-
munication channels differ in range, scope, and
effectiveness. For example, one-way communi-
cation tools such as radio, television, and print
media are not as effective as two-way communi-
cation technologies and social networking systems
such as the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,
e-mails, blogs, mobile phones, text messages, and
forums that can be used to foster dialogue and
express the social and political demands of indi-
viduals belonging to certain social worlds.
Social worlds are significantly different regard-
ing the view of social and political solidarity, as
well as the sense of identification perceived by
their members. In the United Arab Emirates,
for instance, there has been a great emphasis on
social and political solidarity generated by the
locals’ image of themselves as a “minority” in
their homeland, where the number of expatriates
from various countries exceeds that of nationals
or locals.
Consequently, the ruling and political elites of
the United Arab Emirates, contingent on both
traditional social world and modern networks,
proliferate folk heritage not only to gain legiti-
macy but also to transform the local or tribal
identification into a national identity. They are
continually inventing their paradigm of heritage,
signifying their social world as represented in the
“inside,” as opposed to the “outside.”
For the Emirati people, an essential tradi-
tion is based on the perception of “our social
world,” or “us” (insider-national, or muwatin)
as opposed to the social world of the “other”
(outsider-non-national, or ghair muwatin). The
dynamic factors that help disseminate the Emi-
rati social world and related forms of social
and political solidarity that help to narrow the
gap between generations include such modern
devices as computers, iPads, and Internet-based
online heritage narratives, as well as other kinds
of electronic broadcast media.
el-Sayed el-Aswad
United Arab Emirates University
Copyright © 2014 SAGE Publications. Not for sale, reproduction, or distribution.
1192 Sockpuppets
See Also: Communication; News Media;
Psychographics; Social Capital.
Further Readings
el-Aswad, el-Sayed. “The Impact of Folk Culture on
Electronic Communication Among the Youth of
the Emirates Society.” Turath, v.130 (2010).
el-Aswad, el-Sayed. Muslim Worldviews and Everyday
Lives. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2012.
Gilbert, Margaret. On Social Facts. New York:
Routledge, 1989.
Tuomela, Raimo. The Philosophy of Sociality:
The Shared Point of View. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2007.
Unruh, David R. “The Nature of Social Worlds.”
Pacific Sociological Review, v.3 (1980).
The term sockpuppet has come to refer to the cre-
ation and use of false online personas for public
argument. The use of sockpuppets has been com-
mon for some time, and can refer to a variety of
deceptive tactics used in online argumentation.
The term is decidedly negative and is used as a
Basic sockpuppets are false names in posting
online comments. This would involve merely cre-
ating a false user name. In more sophisticated
approaches, the user concocts or purchases fic-
tional profiles that include images, histories, pref-
erences, or other content testifying to the human-
ity of the account owner. This sort of sockpuppet
use would be ideal for engaging in online argu-
ments, often through comment sections relying
on third-party validation. The sockpuppet would
allow the user to avoid being labeled as potentially
self-interested, or to position the false identity as
being more involved in, or possessing information
related to the dispute at hand. Sockpuppets create
a form of synthetic word of mouth. In this sense,
the sockpuppet provides argumentative resources
as it allows a single message or argument to come
from persons who would seemingly hold different
perspectives. Many sockpuppets created by indi-
viduals outside an organized campaign, intended
to incite argument, would tend to be of this type.
Other sockpuppets are less personal, and take
the form of members of a crowd. A sockpuppet
user could purchase thousands or tens of thou-
sands of online identities for the purposes of pro-
viding the image of support, a crowd of often
silent puppets. Commonly, this comes through
the purchase of large numbers of followers on
social media services. Due to the logistical diffi-
culty of managing this large number of accounts
without detection, these are often dormant
accounts. As social media trends are news sto-
ries in and of themselves, it is not uncommon
to read stories about the political use of social
media, including stories that directly compare
basic numbers of followers or the rate of social
media activity of a campaign’s supporters. This
would provide an incentive for a candidate to
purchase sockpuppet followers as a strategy for
persuading the press that it has more grassroots
support than in reality.
Sockpuppets purchased for the purposes of
being part of a crowd tend to be passive, not
sending messages or making additional connec-
tions. Sockpuppets used for other argumentative
purposes are often of a single mind and have very
short relational histories. Given the propensity for
persons and news agencies to recognize and disre-
gard the activity of sockpuppets, more advanced
techniques for creating sockpuppets and manag-
ing them will appear in the future.
A more formal name for the activity of decep-
tive false identities in computer science is the Sybil
problem. Sybil was a mythical character exhibiting
multiple personalities that would provide verifica-
tion for the information in the other personalities’
deceptions. Sockpuppets used in an argument can
be used to as a form of Sybil character, verifying
information for each other. A number of technol-
ogies have been proposed for filtering out Sybil
characters; however, these generally raise barriers
for access to systems and are potentially expen-
sive, although development is ongoing.
The impact of the public discovery of sock-
puppet use is often of greater magnitude than the
supposed good of the deception. The likely argu-
mentative gains for any individual sockpuppet are
extremely limited; the embarrassment and repu-
tational damage from being publicly involved in
deceptive activity is great. For example, a Wiki-
pedia editor found to be engaged in sockpuppetry
Copyright © 2014 SAGE Publications. Not for sale, reproduction, or distribution.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
This book introduces the concepts of worldviews/cosmologies of Muslims, explaining that the different types of worldviews are not constructed solely by religious scholars or intellectual elite, but are latent in Islamic tradition, embedded in popular imagination, and triggered through people's everyday interaction in various countries and communities. He draws from a number of sources including in-depth interviews and participant observation as well as government documents and oral history. Through the perspectives of ethno-cosmology, emic interpretation of sacred tradition, modernity, folklore, geography, dream, imagination, hybridity, and identity transformation, he examines how culturally and religiously constructed images of the world influence the daily actions of people in various Muslim communities. The worldviews of Sunnis, Shi'as, and Sufis are covered in turn, and Muslims in the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, and suburban Detroit are the focus. el-Aswad also discusses the effects of Western attempts at imposing its essentially secular worldview through the process of globalization and how cyberspace has promoted connectivity among Muslim communities and, especially in the United States, opened up unlimited options and new possibilities. The book explores the dynamic relationships between Muslim worldviews and sociocultural practices of Muslim communities in various geographic locations. The significance of religion in a materialistically oriented and globally dominant and changing world has been a nexus of current debates in anthropological and sociological circles. It is also apparent that there is an imperative motivation for why Islamic discourses gradually dominate contemporary global and local events. At the same time, one of the most important aspects of globalization4 has been the spread of religious networks, virtual and real, that perpetuate the connectivity of religious and cosmological beliefs. By providing a wealth of historical, geographic, and spatial accounts of Muslim worldviews, this book seeks to contribute significant insights to the scholarship of Islam and Muslim societies as well as to question derogatory misconceptions of non-Muslim societies toward Muslims and vice versa.
The intuitive starting point of the book is the distinction between thinking and acting as a private person versus as a group member. People may view things from their own personal viewpoint and base their thinking and acting on this “I-perspective”. They can then be said to operate as private persons, in the I-mode, even when they are engaged in social action with others. Alternatively, they may adopt the perspective of their social group and view things from a full “we-perspective”, that is, from the group's point of view that is constituted and shared by its members. Then they can be said to operate in the we-mode. The most central thesis of the book is that collective intentionality is an essential ingredient in sociality and that especially we-mode collective intentionality is important. Social life and social institutions cannot be properly understood or explained in terms of I-mode concepts only, and in certain respects the we-mode can even be seen as primary when compared to the I-mode. The book develops a systematic theory of sociality giving special emphasis on phenomena of collective intentionality, such as joint intentions, collective commitment, collective action, and group beliefs. The theory is used to investigate such topics as social institutions, cooperation, cultural evolution, and group responsibility. We-mode intentionality is compared with various forms of I-mode intentionality, and it is argued that the we-mode is irreducible to the I-mode. Yet the present book defends a naturalistic view of the social world. Accordingly, it is argued that the we-mode is an adaptation based on the co-evolution of genetic and cultural factors. The present book offers new ideas and conceptual tools for philosophers and social scientists interested in the conceptual and philosophical foundations of social theorizing.
The notion of "social worlds" is used here to refer to a form of social organization which cannot be accurately delineated by spatial, territorial, formal, or membership boundaries. Rather, boundaries of social worlds must be determined by interaction and communication which transcend and cross over the more formal and traditional delineators of organization. The term "social world" is used here to develop a common referent for a number of related concepts which refer to similar phenomena. Thus, social world phenomena encompass that which other sociologists have referred to as: occupational contact networks, invisible colleges, behavior systems, activity systems, and subcultures. After tracing some of the sociological history of social world analysis, a series of concepts are developed which bring together and bind all of the previously mentioned concepts into a systematic whole. Major aspects of individual involvement, structural features of social worlds, levels of social world analysis, and some implications of a social world perspective are presented. In this way, a program for study and unification of related concepts is presented in preliminary form.