The Forces Driving Socio-cultural Evolution | Pioneer

Pioneer Open Summer Study – POSS

Independent Study Details

The Forces Driving Socio-cultural Evolution

This will involve an exposition of the forces altering societies through time and these range from changes in ecology to developments in technology, social organization, ideology, population growth, and natural and unnatural disasters, among others.  Students will need an appreciation of cybernetics, which involves the positive and negative feedback loops that describe the interactions among these factors.  Student teams could choose a particular historical example and analyze the forces at work.


Pioneer Open Summer Study (POSS) is completely independent from the Pioneer Research Program. Students who participate in POSS CANNOT list POSS as a Pioneer Research Program credit in their college applications for the following reasons:

  • POSS students do not undergo the Pioneer Research Program’s rigorous admissions process.
  • Student POSS projects will NOT be considered as Pioneer Research Program’s work because they are not scrutinized through Pioneer’s academic procedures and standards. Pioneer thus can NOT provide records endorsing the work’s authenticity and quality for POSS participants in their college applications.
  • Students with POSS experience will not receive a grade or certificate from Pioneer, regardless of what personal opinion the professor holds about the study projects.
  •  POSS is NOT college credit bearing as the Pioneer Research Program is.

About the Study


This course will require independent critical thought, the ability to interrelate variables at different levels of analysis, and good teamwork to facilitate this.  While students may select a class of variable they wish to be responsible for, they will need to communicate their progress, or lack of same, to their teammates to assist in the final presentation.  Those who can manage complexities well will thrive.  The course will be challenging.

Douglas Raybeck is professor emeritus of anthropology at Hamilton College. He received his PhD in anthropology from Cornell University in 1975. He has published more than 60 papers and six books, four of which were coauthored. Topics have ranged from fieldwork in Kelantan, Malaysia, to psycholinguistics, study skills, the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence, and future studies. He is currently working on a second edition of his most successful work, Mad Dogs, Englishmen and the Errant Anthropologist: Fieldwork in Malaysia. He is widely regarded as a wonderful person.

Time: 10:00am~11:15am EDT
Dates: July 4; July 11; July 18; July 25; Aug 08
Recording posted date: each Tuesday after the weekend class


Weeks 1-5: Educator presentations; readings and discussions of concepts as well as developing research and communication skills. Examples will be drawn largely from Southeast Asia where the instructor has conducted most of his research.
Week 6:  Student presentations of the chosen target/topics and interaction/suggestion/questions from other teams.

Having selected a particular example of socio-cultural change, each team of students will develop and present their research findings in Zoom available for other teams to suggest questions and to make constructive suggestions.  Each team will also submit their findings in writing comprising no less than ten pages and no more than twenty double-spaced with appropriate citations.  Each section should include the identity of its author and its bibliography.  Finally, the course mantra is that a good, easy teacher is an oxymoron, so it would be well to look up that word.


To be eligible to participate in Pioneer Open Summer Study, the following requirements must be met:

  • Teams must have a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 students.
  • Participating students should be in grades 9 through 12.  For Scheduled Participation teams, at least two team members and the Captain of the team must be in 10th or 11th grade.
  • The Captain needs to get a teacher to sign as the observer. In some cases, Pioneer may offer additional support from alumni of the research program, and in such cases, Pioneer may have to prioritize the Pioneer alumni support to 10th and 11th grade teams if the demand for support exceeds support resources.
  • Each team must have one team member serve as the team Captain. The Captain’s responsibility is to ensure team formation, team attendance, timely completion of the work, communication with high school faculty observer, and all other coordination.
  • Each team is required to get its school guidance counselor or school faculty to sign a written consent to check in for at least three updates on a study group.
  • Scheduled Participation teams have to be committed to attending a set schedule of the online classes. The detailed schedules will be released in June. The time commitment requirement may work best for students with flexibility in the summer.
  • If any member of a Scheduled Participation team is late for or misses up to two Scheduled Participation classes, or if a Scheduled Participation team as a whole misses one Scheduled class, the team then loses its Scheduled Participation eligibility.
  • All teams need to behave and communicate academically and appropriately. Inappropriate language or communication will lead to termination of participation.
  • Because Pioneer is offering this program at no cost, Pioneer does not guarantee any result or outcome from participation or any service or support. Pioneer is not responsible for conflict, failure or anxiety among the study teams related to POSS.
  • During the self-directed independent study stage, Pioneer Research Program alumni, who have previously done research in similar fields of study with the Pioneer Research Program, may hold online office hours to help students answer questions. Team Captains or designated members are required attend any online office hours meeting that they schedule.
  • Each Scheduled Participation team will most likely be required to give a final presentation and the recording of the presentation will be uploaded on POSS-designated web space. Team members may be able to include the link to the presentation in their college applications.
  • Each Self-Paced team is required to upload a final presentation recording on the POSS designated web space. POSS participants may be able to choose to add the link to their college application. POSS presenters are encouraged to invite Pioneer Research alumni, school friends or school teachers and counselors to attend the presentation.