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Networked for Life by Barry Wellman (NetLab) at mesh14

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Networked for Life: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
A presentation by Barry Wellman (NetLab) as part of a session entitled Disconnecting from the Grid: Forward-thinking or Flawed Premise? at mesh14 in Toronto (May, 2014)

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Networked for Life by Barry Wellman (NetLab) at mesh14

  1. 1. Barry Wellman NetLab iSchool, University of Toronto http://groups.chass.utoronto.ca/netlab/ wellman@chass.utoronto.ca
  2. 2. In a Nutshell  The Bad:  Fixed belief that we are becoming more disconnected as our silos break down  The Good  Realization that the triple revolution is creating new, less-silo’ed opportunities for connectivity  The Ugly  Doing the hard work of collecting systematic evidence to evaluate networked life
  3. 3. 4 Traditional Small Groups: Door-to-Door “Silos” • Old workgroups (& communities) based on - proximity, bureaucratic hierarchy, kinship •All observe and interact with all • Deal with only one group • Knowledge comes only from within the group – and stays within the group
  4. 4. 5 The Bad: Recurrent Claims That Things Are Always Falling Apart  From urbanization, bureaucratization, industrialization, capitalism/socialism & technological change – to the internet and mobile  Thomas Jefferson: great constitutionalist, but loved silos  "The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body” (1784)  Ferdinand Tönnies (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, 1887) thru Robert Putnam (Bowling Alone, 2000) to Sherry Turkle (Alone Together, 2010)
  5. 5. The Good The Turn From Groups To Social Networks 6
  6. 6. The Triple Revolution  Three Phenomena Intertwined  1. Social Network: Reach Beyond Tight Groups:  More Multiplicity, Partial Attention, Less Boundaries  2. Internet: Personalization, Weakened Distance  3. Mobile-ization of Info & Communication  Hyper-Personal Body Appendages: Third Skin  Accessible To You  Available To Others  Networked Individualism 7
  7. 7. 8 18 Month Old Boys with their Favorite Toys: Mom’s Laptop & Dad’s iPhone
  8. 8. Person To Person: Networked Individualism  Mobile Phones, Portable Computing  Individual, not work group or household  Personalized networking  Tailored media interactions  Hyperconnectivity  Private concerns replace public  Online interactions linked with offline  Glocalization
  9. 9. 10 People Function as Networked Individuals With Partial Membership in Multiple Networks  .. and less as group or category members  Social ties & events organized around the individual rather than a social unit such as a family, neighborhood, school, or organization  The person has become the individual unit of social connectivity; and not the place,  be it workplace, school, or household  Agency: Each person operates own network  Mobile phones and internet allow person-to-person contact to supplement place-to-place communication  The social network revolution has provided the opportunities – and stresses – for people to reach beyond the world of tight groups
  10. 10. 11 Networked Individualism: Person-to-Person Structural Changes Linked as Individuals Less Groupiness More Agency Less Place Bound More Achieved, Less Ascribed
  11. 11. The New Media is The New Neighbourhood  Lines between info, communication have blurred  Geographic location is real, but less important  In addition to neighbours, workmates:  Most info-sharing transcends spatial & social boundaries  Networked individuals can exchange & create media  Projecting their voices to more extended audiences that become part of their social worlds
  12. 12. MIT Press 358 pp $14 (Kindle $9)
  13. 13. The Ugly: Actually Doing the Research  Fourth study of residents of East York, Toronto since 1968  In-depth interviews with 101 residents. Transcribed, anonymized  Research Issues  Nature of life in multiple teams  How does digital fit into ordinary life  And what does mobile add?  Home-work connectivity  Privacy concerns  Variations by age, gender, SES, family situations
  14. 14. Preliminary Findings  People value privacy – from each other, not institutions (NSA, Google)  Everyday use of digital media integrated with rest of life – use whatever is handy and appropriate  Multiple connectivity  Lots more this year as we analyze
  15. 15. 16 Networked Individual -- Nelu Handa @ Internet Café, Toronto

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