Changing Role of the Individual

This module provides a roadmap to understanding the key trends and drivers that are shaping the way individuals interact with society.

open in new window

Resource List

These resources provide a baseline of understanding, but as the strategic environment continues to evolve, new data will become available.


  • Pew Research Center: The Pew Research Center is nonpartisan organization that informs the public about issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America. The organization conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and social-science research. Social Trends: Main splash page:
  • International Sociological Association: The International Sociological Association (ISA) is a non-profit institution dedicated to research in sociology and other social science fields. The ISA provides a variety of publications including journal articles, dissertation abstracts, research papers, videos and digital platforms relating to sociological research. Research committees within the organization specialize in a variety of topics including social transformation, social movements, and sociology of communication, knowledge and culture, which are relevant to understanding perceived and functional roles of the individual in society. Research Committee Page: Main splash page:

Recent Publications and Journal Articles:

  • Media and Empowerment: The Information Society Special Issue: This special issue of The Information Society Journal examines the issue of empowerment in new media, such as online platforms. The articles in this issue examine theories of empowerment, provide methodological frameworks for analysis, and discuss processes that shape individual and collective empowerment within online communities.
  • Relation between Individual and Society: This paper provides a philosophical review of the relationship between the individual and society with an emphasis on humans as social animals and the co-dependence of the individual and society.
  • Effects of Social Change on Individual Development: The Role of Social and Personal Factors and the Timing of Events: The focus of this chapter is how individuals deal with social change; how social change is perceived, experienced, and acted upon by an individual; and how these reactions affect human development in adolescence.
    • Citation: Trommsdorff, Gisela. “Effects of Social Change on Individual Development: The Role of Social and Personal Factors and the Timing of Events.” In Negotiating Adolescence in Times of Social Change, Lisa J. Crockett and Rainer K. Silbereisen (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2000), pages 55-68.
  • The Social Side of the Internet: This publication from the Pew Research Center reviews how technology is affecting the way individuals relate to groups, how individuals stay informed of group activity, and how civic and social groups use technology to impact their communities.
  • Recruitment and Radicalization of School-Aged Youth by International Terrorist Groups: This report examines how the internet can be used to create social bonds and virtual communities that influence, recruit, and radicalize young individuals through the exploitation of economic, social, political, and personal grievances aired online.
  • The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power: This article discusses communications technology, the free flow of information, and challenges in the information revolution.
  • Social Media and Social Movements: This article examines the role social media plays in social movements and political unrest.
  • Fostering Empowerment in Online Support Groups: This article serves as a review of the purpose, science, and theory of online support groups and the personal empowerment they foster, as well as well as negative experiences of engagement on the internet.
  • Online Interactions and Social Capital: Distinguishing between New and Existing Ties: This article examines the implications of new findings of a positive correlation between interpersonal interactions and social capital of online social interactions.
  • Understanding the Sustainability of a Virtual Community: Model Development and Empirical Test: This research model combines key concepts from IS continuance model, social influence theory, the uses and gratifications paradigm, and relationship marketing to explain individual participation in virtual communities. This research has broader implications for understanding online individual and community empowerment as well as the way information is exchanged on the internet.
  • Users of the World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media: Originally intended for business development, this article reviews the various types and classes of social media. Understanding the concept of varying social media outlets is useful in understanding why individuals may be drawn to specific types of social media or virtual communities and how those outlets can be used for individual and community empowerment.
  • Terms of Empowerment/Exemplars of Prevention: Toward a Theory for Community Psychology: This article serves as an introduction to empowerment theory.
    • Citation: Rappaport, Julian. Terms of Empowerment/Exemplars of Prevention: Toward a Theory for Community Psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, (1987) 15(2):121-148.
  • What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens: Social Media Communications Across Crises: This article discusses the role that social media, in particular Twitter, plays during a crisis or emergency situation. Their findings indicated that there were similarities in the types of information users sent out based on the type of event, its timeframe (sudden or progressive), and whether it was contained to a small area or diffused over a larger area. In terms of the relevance to emergency management, the proportion of tweets that are useful is much less than those that provide helpful information.
  • How the Public Perceives Community Information Systems: This report examines the key components of local information systems in three communities with advisory help from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
  • Whom Should I Follow? Identifying Relevant Users During Crises: Through an analysis of Twitter users and tweets disseminated during disaster events, the authors analyze and identify which types of users provide the most relevant and accurate information.
    • Citation: Kumar, S., Morstatter, F., Zafarani, R., and Liu, H. “Whom should I follow?: Identifying relevant users during crises.” In Proc. of the 24th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media, Paris, France. May 1-3, 2013.
  • Closing the Citizen-Government Communication Gap: Content, Audience, and Network Analysis of Government Tweets: This article examines to what extent state-level emergency management agencies employ social media to increase public participation and induce behavioral changes intended to reduce household and community risk.


  • Bowling Alone: The author describes how Americans have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures due to changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors and offers ways to reconnect.
  • Social Media Freaks: Digital Identity in the Network Society: Focusing on issues of identity and inequality in race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability, this book presents social theory, explains the dynamics of social media, how to engage social media as a tool for social activism, and examines social media’s value in societal change.
    • Citation: Kidd, Dustin. Social Media Freaks: Digital Identity in the Network Society (2017). Westview Press: Boulder, Colorado.

Other Resources:

  • Changing Role of the Individual: Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Strategic Foresight Initiative (SFI) has developed a list of drivers that may affect emergency management efforts in the upcoming years. Among this list is the “Changing Role of the Individual.” This fact sheet presents a review of preliminary research and provides a list of useful sources used to examine this topic.
  • The Impact of the Internet on Society: A Global Perspective: This article asserts that, rather than being isolating and causing individuals to disengage from society, the internet provides a platform for building social relationships on the basis of shared interests and values. Social networking plays a role in connecting people virtually and then, in some cases, physically as well. It also mentions the role the internet plays in allowing messaging to go from group to group without government interference.
  • SOC101 – Individual in Society: This college-level introductory Sociology course reviews basic sociology concepts and theories (including individual and social realities) and discusses how technology and media influence contemporary society. Classes are available as far back as 2010.
  • Community Information Toolkit: A set of tools from the Monitor Institute and Knight Foundation to help community development organizations collect and disseminate accurate and timely information. Available at:

These materials were developed as an initiative of the Advanced Thinking in Homeland Security (HSx) curriculum at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

Scroll to Top