Social Ecology in the Digital Age | Daniel Stokols

TITLE / Social Ecology in the Digitial Age: Solving Complex Problems in a Globalized World

AUTHOR / Daniel Stokols

PUBLISHER / Elsevier Science Publishing Co.


NO. OF PAGES / 406 


These days, the news can be hard to stomach: racial tensions, poverty, pollution and global warming. War. At times it seems like there are so many problems in the world that we do not even know where to begin looking for solutions.

Enter Dan Stokol's new book, Social Ecology in the Digital Age.

Dan Stokols is a Research Professor and Chancellor's Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine. He's worked in the fields of social ecology, environmental and ecological psychology, public health, and transdisciplinary team science. And in Social Ecology in the Digitial Age, Stokols offers up social ecology as a method of identifying, explaining, and facing the challenges of the 21st century head-on.

Broadly defined, social ecology is the study of environmental contexts and how these contexts affect the behavior and well-being of the populations which inhabit those environments. Here's one example: how does the neighborhood in which someone lives affect his behavior? Does it affect what kind of education or work he can get? Does his environment make him more prone to poverty or violence?

According to Stokols, the goal of social ecology is to resolve complex societal problems through ecological analysis, interdisciplinary scholarship, and community problem-solving. It can be used to not only identify and predict the potential health, behavioral, social, and sustainability outcomes of a certain environment but also to modify that environment to lessen the potential for things like mental and physical illness, poverty, unequal access to educational and economic resources, and interpersonal violence. In other words, the study of social ecology may be precisely what we need in order to develop more comprehensive solutions to the many problems we face today.

I think this book and its subject will appeal to readers from many fields, urban planning, public policy, public health, and sustainability, to name a few. If you are a student interested in a multi-disciplinary approach to solving the world's many problems, I anticipate you will find Social Ecology an insightful and engaging introduction to the field.

But if, like me, you are a less scientifically-minded reader, never fear.

For the most part, Social Ecology reads like an introductory textbook. It's got italicized words and phrases to indicate importance and each chapter is broken down into clear explanations of the basic concepts of social ecology. And yet it is still accessible, primarily because Stokols anchors the book in his own journey within the field. He illustrates concepts not only with experiments and case studies but also with personal anecdotes. In these moments the tone becomes more conversational, allowing the reader a quick breather before Stokols dives back into a discussion of the core principles of human environments or the dimensions of contextual representations.

This isn't just any old textbook. Rather, Social Ecology feels strikingly relevant, offering up a good introduction to the theory as well as clear examples of how the theory can actually be applied to real-life situations.

In sum, what Stokols delivers in Social Ecology is four decades worth of scholarly experience, distilled into a single, hopeful message: there is a way to handle the global challenges of the 21st century. Whether you are a student, scholar, or simply a curious reader, I think you'll leave Social Ecology with a new understanding of the ways we interact with our environments and how, in turn, our environments influence the way we interact with each other.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid to review or feature this book and this review is my 100% honest opinion. This is not a sponsored post.


  1. Excellent analysis of this subject matter.

  2. Marisa, thanks for your thoughtful review of this new book.