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Graduate Seminars in General Education 211 : Seminar on Research Methods on Internet and Society

Harvard College/GSAS: 83601
Full Year 2009-2010
John G. Palfrey (Law School)
Meeting Time: Fall: (M.), 6-8 p.m.; Spring: M., 6-8

The Internet, digital media and new computational tools raise new challenges while also offering new opportunities for ways to study our social world and the social, political, cultural and economic aspects of the Internet in particular. The goal of this seminar is to explore rigorous ways of studying the Internet's societal implications empirically using a myriad of social scientific and computing scientific research methodologies. We will also consider the use of these methods in combination with analytical processes used by lawyers and others who examine issues of public policy. The seminar will also design and develop a General Education course on these themes for undergraduates.

This experimental seminar will meet 10 times this year, roughly 4 times in fall, 2 times in winter, and 4 times in spring. We'll be learning and working alongside a similar class at Northwestern University, taught by Professor Eszter Hargittai. For some sessions, the NU class will join us by video-conference; in other instances we will meet alone.

Fall semester class meetings are the following dates:

The mode will be highly interactive and collaborative.


  1. Chapters from Research Confidential, Edited by Eszter Hargittai (Univ. Michigan Press 2009)
  2. Research statements circulated by presenters
  3. William W. Fisher III, "Legal Theory and Legal Education, 1920-2000," The Cambridge History of Law in America, Chapter 2, pp. 34-59 (Cambridge Univ. Press 2008)
  4. Felix Cohen, "Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach," 35 Columbia Law Review 809 (1935), reprinted in The Canon of American Legal Thought, (Princeton Univ. Press 2006)

Optional Readings

Hargittai, E., Gallo, J., & Kane, M. (2008). Cross-Ideological Discussions among Conservative and Liberal Bloggers. Public Choice. 134:67-86.

Dates of Winter/Spring Semester Class Meetings are the following dates:

  • 1/25 Northwestern-Harvard joint course meeting
  • 2/1 Northwestern-Harvard joint course meeting
  • 3/1 Northwestern-Harvard joint course meeting
  • 3/1 Final Northwestern joint course meeting
  • 3/29
  • 4/5
  • 4/19 Final Course Meeting

Location & Time of the Winter/Spring Class Meetings'

Berkman Center 23 Everett Street 6:PM - 8:PM

Required Readings For 2/1/2010 Class Chapters from Research Confidential, Edited by Eszter Hargittai (Univ. Michigan Press 2009)

  1. Spit, Sweat, and Tears Gathering Biological Data in Naturalistic Settings by Emma K. Adam, Leah D. Doane, and Kathryn Mendelsohn

And choose one of the following:

  1. Part of the Community by Laura Clawson
  2. The Challenges of In-Depth Interviews with Disadvantaged Respondents by Joan Walling

For those ambitious students, you may choose to read all three!

Supplemental Readings TBA