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COVID-19 Forced Fall 2020 Sociology Department Workshop Online

For years to come, students will hear their professors talk about how 2020 was a year unlike any other. At least I hope that is what they say, because I do not want to live through something worse than this.

The pandemic required the Sociology department’s operations to adapt. Part of these departmental operations include our workshop, where we invite outside sociologists to present their latest research to our community.

This year, COVID-19 made it difficult to invite scholars to our workshops. Like much of the country, we tried to adapt using Zoom and YouTube. During the crisis, Zoom was the videoconferencing software that somehow captured the nation’s imagination during the crisis. Zoom allowed live streaming to YouTube, and I had seen many content creators using YouTube live streaming as part of their product portfolio.

Our team (Charles Gomez, Hongwei Xu, and I) developed a two-channel online workshop model, in which people in the Queens College Sociology community could interact directly with the guest on Zoom, and members of the general public could watch and post questions on YouTube Live.

What was the result? I was very pleased with this system. But before giving more of my impressions, you might want to see them and judge for yourself:

Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra

The first is a sociologist who I like a lot: Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra from the University of California, San Diego. He wrote  Automating Finance: Infrastructures, Engineers, and the Making of Electronic Markets (Cambridge University Press, 2019), a sociological study of the development of modern, computer-enhanced trading. He was also a guest on Daniel Fridman’s very excellent Sociologia con Acento podcast.

Dana Weinberg & Jessica Dawson

Our next presentation was from our very own Dana Beth Weinberg, who is working with Major Jessica Dawson (Westpoint & Army Cyber Institute) on the techniques used by America’s foreign adversaries to radicalize Americans through social media.

Matt Rafalow

Then, we got to meet one of my favorite young sociologists: Matt Rafalow of Google. Matt is the author of Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era, a book on how digital inequalities can persist after kids get the same equipment. I got to talk to Matt on The Annex Sociology Podcast earlier in the year. Last spring, at the outset of this crisis, Matt was amazing in The Annex‘s podcast panel on how to adapt to teaching online.

Laura Nelson

I really enjoyed meeting Laura Nelson (Northeastern), another very bright young star in our discipline. Laura’s work blends computational sociology and historical sociology, and we had an engaging discussion about what history remembers.

Anna Bounds

Our fall season finished with our very own Anna Bounds, whose research on urban doomsday preppers drew considerable attention during this crisis. She joined us to discuss her new book, Bracing for the Apocalypse: An Ethnographic Study of New York’s ‘Prepper’ Subculture. I also got to sit down with Anna for an episode of The Annex Sociology Podcast.

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