The Networked Household


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The authors argue that individuals, rather than family solidarities, have become
the primary unit of household connectivity. Many households do not operate as
traditional densely knit groups but as more sparsely knit social networks where
individuals juggle their somewhat separate agendas and schedules. At a time
when many people enact multiple, individual roles at home, in the community
and at work, the authors ask: how do adult household members communicate
with each other? How do adult household members use information and communication
technologies (ICTs) to organize, communicate and coordinate their leisure
and social behavior both inside and outside the home? Interviews and surveys conducted
in 2004–2005 in the Toronto, Canada area of East York show that
households remain connected – but as networks rather than solidary groups.
The authors describe how networked individuals bridge their relationships and
connect with each other inside and outside the home. ICTs have afforded household
members the ability to go about on their separate ways while staying more
connected – by mobile phone, email and IM – as well as by traditional
landlines. In such ways, rather than pulling families apart, ICTs often facilitate
communication, kinship and functional integration.

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  • Hello everyone – My name is Tracy Kennedy, I’m a PhD Candidate in Sociology here at the University of Toronto, and Research Director at NetLab. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about my dissertation research – the Networked Household.
  • The Networked Household

    1. 1. The Networked Household Tracy Kennedy University of Toronto
    2. 2. “ As I see it, technology has built the house in which we all live” <ul><li>What role do ICTs play in today’s household? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ICT use between household members </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ICT use between household members and their networks outside the household </li></ul></ul>Ursula Franklin 1990: 1
    3. 3. Households of the past…
    4. 5. Households have changed <ul><li>More common law couples </li></ul><ul><li>Two person households increased </li></ul><ul><li>Women having fewer or no children </li></ul><ul><li>Young adults postponing children (education & career) </li></ul><ul><li>More households with dual incomes (more women working) </li></ul><ul><li>Longer work days & weeks </li></ul><ul><li>Less time spent on housework </li></ul><ul><li>Less family time </li></ul>
    5. 6. Connectivity has changed <ul><li>Bandwidth - 72% of Canadians online </li></ul><ul><li>Ubiquity – anywhere, anytime </li></ul><ul><li>Portability – wireless devices </li></ul><ul><li>Personalization – affordances of ICT use </li></ul><ul><li>Convergence – personal, private, public blended, multi-media </li></ul>
    6. 7. ICTs use between Household Members <ul><li>How do adult household members communicate with each other? </li></ul><ul><li>How do adult household members use ICTs to organize and coordinate their leisure and social behavior both inside and outside the home? </li></ul><ul><li>How do adult household members use ICTs to share things with each other? </li></ul>
    7. 8. Connected Lives Study <ul><li>East York, Toronto 2004-2005 </li></ul><ul><li>Population of 114,240 (2001 census) </li></ul><ul><li>Survey: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>350 adults </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>32 pages; communication, information seeking, social networks and more… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interviews: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>25% (n=87) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2-3 hours; survey follow up + household division of labour, ICT use, network structure, health, culture and more… </li></ul></ul>
    8. 9. East York in Toronto
    9. 10. Partnered Households in East York (n=167) <ul><li>Median age of 43 </li></ul><ul><li>57% are women </li></ul><ul><li>62% are partnered </li></ul><ul><li>75% have children </li></ul><ul><li>69% employed </li></ul><ul><li>38% have a university degree </li></ul><ul><li>7.2 mean number of years online </li></ul>
    10. 11. Household Internet use <ul><li>Non Internet User 6% </li></ul><ul><li>(do not connect to internet from home) </li></ul><ul><li>Light Internet User 24% </li></ul><ul><li>(Internet from home 1-2 hrs/week: mean = 1.6 hrs/week) </li></ul><ul><li>Moderate Internet User 35% </li></ul><ul><li>(Internet from home 3-7 hrs/week: mean = 4.6 hrs/week) </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy Internet User 35% </li></ul><ul><li>(Internet from home more than 7 hrs/week: mean = 20.5 hrs/week or almost 3 hrs/day) </li></ul>
    11. 12. How do adult household members communicate with each other?
    12. 13. Landline <ul><li>Most frequent medium used to communicate with partners and children </li></ul><ul><li>Non users call their partners almost daily (women the most) </li></ul><ul><li>Internet using men use landlines as often as do male non-users </li></ul><ul><li>Female Internet users call somewhat less often than non-users </li></ul><ul><li>Landline used less often to connect with children than with partners – but still used the most </li></ul>
    13. 14. Mobile phone <ul><li>Second most frequently used medium </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy & light internet users call their partners every other day </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy & light internet users call their children weekly </li></ul><ul><li>Non internet users use mobile phones the least </li></ul><ul><li>Women use mobile phones to call partners and children more than men </li></ul>
    14. 15. Email <ul><li>Used less frequently than landline or mobile phones to contact partner (avg 1-2/week) </li></ul><ul><li>Less email to children than landline or mobile </li></ul><ul><li>Men email their partners as often as women do </li></ul><ul><li>Women email their children more often than men </li></ul>
    15. 16. Instant Messaging <ul><li>people IM partners less than once per week </li></ul><ul><li>many never IM, while a few IM more frequently </li></ul><ul><li>hardly any use IM to communicate with their spouses or children while they are at home together </li></ul>
    16. 17. How do adult household members use ICTs to organize and coordinate their leisure and social behavior both inside and outside the home?
    17. 18. ICTs to manage Busy schedules <ul><li>Paid work, domestic work, leisure, social, hobbies etc </li></ul><ul><li>Children’s extracurricular activities </li></ul><ul><li>Use whatever ICT is most convenient & efficient </li></ul>
    18. 19. Social affordances of ICTs <ul><li>Emailing partners from Home helps organize hectic routines - </li></ul><ul><li>Easy & convenient </li></ul><ul><li>Asynchronous; respond when you can </li></ul><ul><li>Not intrusive </li></ul><ul><li>Useful to keep track of what partners & children are doing </li></ul><ul><li>Light users not often </li></ul><ul><li>Moderate users email their partner from home an avg 1x/wk </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy users email their partner from home an avg of 3x/wk </li></ul>
    19. 20. <ul><li>I: Do you ever email your husband from here? … And send a message to his work? </li></ul><ul><li>P: It’s usually because when we’re here, there’s a thousand things going on and then the daytime comes; the girls are at school, he’s out of the way, Adam’s sleeping, and I think, “OK, we need to do this, this, this and this”. So I’m not going to pick up the phone ‘cause he’s at work and I don’t want to do that - but let me just send it so that way it’s out of my head. I’ve communicated, and when we get together tonight, “oh yeah, that email you sent me.” (#421 moderate user) </li></ul>
    20. 21. Emailing from work <ul><li>Light & moderate users email partner an avg 3x/wk from work </li></ul><ul><li>Heavy users 2x/wk </li></ul><ul><li>Women email household members from work more than men do </li></ul><ul><li>“ I do it from work all the time - to my husband in particular, because my kids during the day are not online - in school. But to my husband…I know he’s honestly on the computer a lot during the day. Not all day, but a lot, and I know he checks his emails frequently, so I can usually catch him there. Not that he doesn’t have a mobile phone all the time with him and stuff like that, but I’d rather just zip off an email to him…I emailed him today, I can’t even think what it’s about – like, “are you going to be home today after school to take the dog out?” You know - that type of thing” (#432 – light user) </li></ul>
    21. 22. How do adult household members use ICTs to share things with each other?
    22. 23. Together or separate? <ul><li>Heavy users spend an avg of 3 hrs/wk with their partners using the Internet </li></ul><ul><li>Moderate users – avg 1.5 hrs/wk </li></ul><ul><li>Light users – avg 1 hr/wk </li></ul><ul><li>The more the Internet is used, the more time that partners spend together online </li></ul>
    23. 24. Show & share <ul><li>“ My husband: the one thing that he does do…on the Internet is look at real estate, all over the place. Just the other night we were both sitting and looking at condos in Mexico. Let’s do it! You know, we were looking at property in Greece, but it was ridiculous…. We will often do that…. He also likes to look at the muscle cars; you know, the old-fashioned cars? He and my eldest son actually will sit down look at things like that on the Internet. So yeah, sometimes we will sit together, mainly for that purpose, looking at the real estate, like: “Look at these houses!” or something and dream” (#174 – heavy user) </li></ul><ul><li>Planning activities – movies, concerts, vacations </li></ul><ul><li>Complement with other media such as TV </li></ul><ul><li>Explore & share personal interests and hobbies </li></ul><ul><li>Home renovations </li></ul><ul><li>Real estate </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate with relatives </li></ul>
    24. 25. A new way to spend time with children <ul><li>Couples are spending time online with their children as well as with each other </li></ul><ul><li>Women spend more hours with their children online than do men (in all user groups) </li></ul><ul><li>Female heavy users - 4.6 hrs/wk vs male heavy users - 1.5 hrs/wk </li></ul>
    25. 26. <ul><li>“ Well, we go on the Treehouse TV [website]. It’s like the kids’ TV station: they have a website and they have games and music so… If I’m on there and she’s coming around, I’ll type in the Treehouse TV website and look at some stuff with her” (#263 -light) </li></ul><ul><li>“ We have access to the Winnie the Pooh site for counting and alphabet and stuff. So those kinds of educational games are not game games but are like counting or alphabet or you know: Dora and Blues Crews - like nursery rhymes and stuff” (#341 – heavy) </li></ul><ul><li>“ My youngest [adult] son and myself will spend more time finding fascinating things on the computer like “oh, come and look at this!” You know? Whatever, right? So sometimes we will sit side by side at the computer and do stuff” (#174 -heavy) </li></ul>
    26. 27. Interesting… <ul><li>Light Users (avg 1-2 hrs/wk): </li></ul><ul><li>70% Women </li></ul><ul><li>Send more emails to partners </li></ul><ul><li>IM partners more than others </li></ul><ul><li>Send more emails to children </li></ul><ul><li>IM children more often </li></ul><ul><li>Gendered communication patterns? </li></ul><ul><li>Kin keepers? </li></ul>
    27. 28. Households without borders <ul><li>Household members often have separate schedules & agendas </li></ul><ul><li>They use ICTs to help organize busy lives </li></ul><ul><li>People use different ICTs for different situations and needs – it’s personalized </li></ul><ul><li>The internet isn’t replacing F2F time in the household </li></ul>
    28. 29. Next steps… <ul><ul><li>ICT use between household members and networks outside the household </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Investigating the social networks of household members </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Are they separate or do they overlap? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Examining how household members manage their networks outside the home </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Who does it? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Which ICTs do they use? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Where do they do it? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is the home the hub? </li></ul></ul>
    29. 30. Further reading… <ul><li>Kennedy, Tracy & B. Wellman (2007). “Networked Households” in Information, Communication & Society , Vol 10 (5), pp 645-670. </li></ul>
    30. 31. <ul><li>Tracy L. M. Kennedy </li></ul><ul><li>PhD Candidate – </li></ul><ul><li>Department of Sociology </li></ul><ul><li>Graduate Fellow – </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge Media & Design </li></ul><ul><li>Institute </li></ul><ul><li>Research Director - NetLab </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>University of Toronto </li></ul><ul><li>725 Spadina Ave. </li></ul><ul><li>Toronto, ON M5S 2J4 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>