Granted: Mason Collaborates on ‘Reading Networked Societies’ Project with Russian University

Posted: September 15, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: September 14, 2010 at 2:21 pm

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is collaborating with the State University – Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow to develop and implement the U.S.−Russia Collaboration: Reading Networked Societies project, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

Today’s college students, the first to be “born digital,” share an online computer-mediated virtual space that creates an “illusion” of commonality and mutual understanding.

Amy Best, associate professor of sociology and anthropology and project principal investigator, believes that the theories and analytical tools of the social sciences, particularly those of economics, political science and sociology, will allow students to identify and appreciate the culturally and historically embedded structures and institutional processes that they miss by assuming commonalities.

“Applying such methods and strategies generates value by increasing common understanding between Russians and Americans, and beyond the confines of this project improves links at the intersections of cultures,” she says.

“The concept of ‘reading societies’ can be relevant generally to comparative studies, and the social science curricula will be enriched and revised as a result of what we learn.”

The three-year collaboration, proposed and developed by Best and Priscilla Regan, professor of public and international affairs, involves a number of initiatives. These include brief faculty exchanges; semester-long student exchanges; language acquisition and improvement for students; a seminar and website to support the program; and faculty teaching colloquia and virtual classroom partnerships.

New interdisciplinary programs and courses will also be developed at both institutions under the existing umbrellas of Russian Studies or American Studies but with the goal of being integrated more centrally in the social science disciplines.

In addition, the faculty involved at HSE and Mason will lay the groundwork for a new, comparative joint Center on the Internet and Society.

Other Mason faculty members involved in the project include Eric McGlinchey, assistant professor of government and politics, and Jim Witte, professor of sociology and anthropology and director of the Center for Social Science Research.

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