Dr. Felicia Wu Song
Professor of Sociology
Phone: (805) 565-6840
Office Location: Deane Hall 209
Tuesday and Thursday 1:15-3:15 pm
Trained as a sociologist, Felicia Song’s research areas intersect new media and technology, culture, consumerism and public life. Her first book, Virtual Communities: Bowling Alone, Online Together, explores Internet communities and democracy in late-modernity. She is currently working on a project examining the role of “mommy blogs” in shaping contemporary motherhood.
Professor Song calls it a step of faith. She and her husband, Edward, left faculty positions at Louisiana State University (he had earned tenure) and moved to Santa Barbara with their two children. She joined the sociology department as an associate professor, and Edward taught two courses in political theory as a scholar-in-residence this fall 2013.
In addition to teaching at LSU, Song has written a book, “Virtual Communities: Bowling Alone, Online Together,” contributed a chapter to the book, “Therapeutic Culture: Triumph and Defeat,” and published numerous journal articles. To prepare for her new book, tentatively titled “Mom Blogging: Narratives of Transformation and Re- Branding,” she has been attending social media conferences and conducting research.
Her research focuses on the women at the heart of these blogs and the changes they undergo as they realize they can monetize their work. “They’re doing something they already love and are realizing they’re getting a lot of attention from legitimate forces,” she says. “There are interesting dynamics involved as well, including race, which I am exploring.”
Song graduated from Yale before earning a master’s degree in communication studies from Northwestern. “I was interested in media and technology and how these two forces in society shape our relationships, experiences of community and understandings of identity,” she says.
We also asked her to share a few thoughts with us about her professional and personal journey.
What encouraged you to pursue a degree in sociology?
Growing up, Christianity was strictly a matter of personal piety. It really wasn’t until after college that I was introduced to the idea that everything in this world was subject to God’s redeeming power and deserving of Christian examination—everything. Since email and the Internet were just starting to grow popular in people’s lives, I became quite interested in how media and technology shape our contemporary experiences of identity, relationship and community. After a short detour in a communication studies program, I ended up pursuing my doctorate in sociology because it was the discipline that offered the kind of theoretical foundations for understanding social and cultural change. I was astonished to discover that the classical theorists Marx, Weber and Durkheim were all preoccupied with significant economic and technological transformations as well, and I continue to enjoy learning from and mulling over the theoretical works of sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu, Eva Illouz, and Anthony Giddens who tell compelling and robust stories about why the world looks the way it does.
What has your particular field of study taught you about yourself and our world?
My research lies at the intersection of the sociology of culture and the sociology of technology. As someone interested in the social and cultural effects of social media and digital technology—for example, how our lives and understandings are shaped by how we use our cellphones or how we use Facebook—I am often struck by how much we let technology mold the rhythms of our lives and the relationships we have, and how little power we feel we have to do otherwise. Studying the place of technology in our lives forces me to see how living in a countercultural way—something as simple as not checking email on the weekends—incurs real costs and sacrifice.
How does your faith inform your academic work (or vice versa)?
My faith informs my perspective on what it means to be a human being, what it means to be in relationship with someone, and what it means to be in community. It therefore compels me to examine how well or how poorly our contemporary lives are structured to support such visions of human flourishing.
Song, Felicia. “Theorizing Web 2.0: A Cultural Perspective.” (2010) Information, Communication and Society. 13:2, 249-275.
Song, Felicia. Virtual Communities: Bowling Alone, Online Together. (2009). New York: Peter Lang
Song, Felicia. “Social Networking Sites: Mirrors of Contemporary Individualism.” (2008). Culture, Issue 2.1.
Song, Felicia. “Online Communities in a Therapeutic Age,” in Jonathan B. Imber, ed., Therapeutic Culture: Triumph and Defeat. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 137-151. (2004). (Original version published in Society, Vol. 39, No. 2 (January - February 2002).