Networked: The New Social Operating System

Lee Rainie
Barry Wellman
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by endless email pings and responses, the chimes and beeps of continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss. Our perpetual connectedness gives us endless opportunities to be part of the give-and-take of networking. Some worry that this new environment makes us isolated and lonely. But in Networked, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman show how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making, and personal interaction. The new social operating system of "networked individualism" liberates us from the restrictions of tightly knit groups; it also requires us to develop networking skills and strategies, work on maintaining ties, and balance multiple overlapping networks. Rainie and Wellman outline the "triple revolution" that has brought on this transformation: the rise of social networking, the capacity of the Internet to empower individuals, and the always-on connectivity of mobile devices. Drawing on extensive evidence, they examine how the move to networked individualism has expanded personal relationships beyond households and neighborhoods; transformed work into less hierarchical, more team-driven enterprises; encouraged individuals to create and share content; and changed the way people obtain information. Rainie and Wellman guide us through the challenges and opportunities of living in the evolving world of networked individuals.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30119-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. I The Triple Revolution
    • 1 The New Social Operating System of Networked Individualism
      (pp. 3-20)

      Early on December 3, 2007, Trudy Johnson-Lenz tripped on her front steps as she was walking to her door in a rain storm.¹ She slammed her head on a rock and was knocked unconscious. Her husband Peter struggled unsuccessfully to rouse her and then called the Portland, Oregon, emergency ambulance service for help. By 8 a.m. she was on an operating table at Oregon Health & Science University. Her skull was filling with blood. To give her brain room to swell and heal, neurosurgeons removed a third of her skull, put it in the freezer for later, and removed the blood....

    • 2 The Social Network Revolution
      (pp. 21-58)

      When we tell people that we are thinking about social networks, they often say “Oh, Facebook.”¹ Many believe that the Social Network Revolution started with Facebook’s emergence in 2004. To be sure, Facebookissomewhat of a network. But social networks are bigger than Facebook, and they have been around since the beginning of time when Cain hung out with Abel. Even computer-based networks have been around for decades before Facebook.

      In the story of the rise of networked individualism, it is important to realize that the Social Network Revolution came first—before the Internet Revolution or the Mobile Revolution....

    • 3 The Internet Revolution
      (pp. 59-80)

      The pioneers of the internet did not act as if they knew they were creating anything special.¹ Internet communication began with a computer crash and meaningless nonsense. The first attempted transfer of information packets over a wire strung between two computers took place in 1969. It was not accompanied by the same kind of thundering declaration as Samuel Morse tapped out in the first telegraph message in 1844: “What hath God wrought?” Rather, Charley Kline, an engineering student at UCLA, froze his computer on October 29 when he began typing “L-O-G.” (He was on his way to keying in “L-O-G-I-N”...

    • 4 The Mobile Revolution
      (pp. 81-108)

      Traditional research has not fully captured the changes that mobile phones and wireless computers have introduced to the network operating system.¹ One way to grasp the magnitude of these changes is to remember scenes from the “old days” and how people functioned in the pre-mobile age.

      Almost any movie or TV show from before the Mobile Revolution will illustrate what we mean. The 1970 Neil Simon movie,The Out of Towners, is a great example of how much the world has changed because its comedy depends on the lack of mobile connectivity. Unable to get to a landline phone, Jack...

    • Interlude: A Day in a Connected Life
      (pp. 109-114)

      What are the everyday realities of hyperconnectedness? How do information and communication technologies affect home life and work life? Coauthor Wellman asked his Toronto students to complete time diaries and reflect on these questions. Maya Collum’s submission was exceptionally detailed and thoughtful. It also brought together trends that were common in all the papers.

      Today was an absolutely ordinary day, and, in being an absolutely ordinary day, it was inundated by technology, although I didn’t realize to what extent until I reviewed my notes.

      8:00 am The day began as any other weekday, with a brief check on what is...

  6. II How Networked Individualism Works
    • 5 Networked Relationships
      (pp. 117-146)

      Alarm spread in June 2006 when Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Mathew Brashears published “Social Isolation in America” in theAmerican Sociological Review.¹ In this leading journal, the three scholars reported findings from the General Social Survey—the gold standard of American surveys—to the question:“Looking back over the last six months—who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you?” Comparing Americans’ answers in 2005 to answers in 1984, they found that the number of people with whom Americans reported discussing important matters had declined by 28 percent, from 2.9 to 2.1. Moreover, nearly one-quarter...

    • 6 Networked Families
      (pp. 147-170)

      The Triple Revolution—Social Network, Internet, and Mobile—has undermined the classic notion that people’s homes are their castles: inviolate, defended households filled with family activity.¹ Rather, they are bases for reaching out and networking—with family members, friends and relatives, community groups, and work.

      Hillary Clinton understood this in her bookIt Takes a Village. Despite the title, Clinton recognized in the text that families are not bound up in villages but are networked: “The networks of relationships we form and depend on are our modern-day villages, but they reach well beyond city limits.”²

      The evidence suggests Clinton can...

    • 7 Networked Work
      (pp. 171-196)

      To see what white-collar work was like in the 1960s, watch the retro TV show,Mad Men.¹ It portrays life at a Madison Avenue (New York) advertising agency, where all the employees work nine to five. Men sit in separate offices or gather in small group meetings—each man with a young female secretary in the public space in front of their offices. Along with gender stratification, there is ethnic and religious homogeneity: All of the men are white Christians.

      Except for the occasional phone call to other organizations, all the men work at desks, using pen and paper—only...

    • 8 Networked Creators
      (pp. 197-222)

      An old adage has it that you should never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.¹ A new adage would be to never pick a fight with a networked individual with strong internet and mobile connections.

      In the age of the Triple Revolution, anyone with an internet connection and a bit of digital literacy can create online content that has the potential to reach a wide audience. With all the different forms of creating content and the increasing ease with which people can do so, the boundaries between producers and consumers are becoming blurred in the...

    • 9 Networked Information
      (pp. 223-244)

      Information not only wants to be free, it also wants to be networked.¹ There is no way to overstress the importance of this insight, first articulated by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, that information has a social life.² The first reader who scribbled a note in the margin of a tract understood this. The first scholar who added a footnote to her writing to highlight a primary source or a complementary thought understood this. The sixteenth-century Viennese printer who published the Talmud as a series of concentric boxes of commentary around the original text understood this.³

      Vannevar Bush, the...

    • Interlude: The Conversation Never Ends
      (pp. 245-252)

      Weekend social organizing has a very different flavor with very different communication logistics in the age of hyperconnection. We asked one of Wellman’s students, Justine Abigail Yu, to describe the process as it plays out in her life.

      With Reading Week fast approaching, the past few days have been a flurry of planning as my friends and I have been busy coordinating with one another in an attempt to make the best out of our short, but much-needed break from the stress of university life. Many of the plans have been ongoing for weeks but it is only now as...

  7. III How to Operate in a Networked World, Now and in the Future
    • 10 Thriving as a Networked Individual
      (pp. 255-274)

      The underlining theme of this book is that it is a networked world, and that being networked is not so scary. Rather, it provides opportunities for people to thrive if they know how to maneuver in it. Arguably, the emerging divide in this world is not the “digital divide” but the “network divide.” Technology continues to spread through populations, so the emerging need is for people to learn how to cultivate their networks—and to get out from the cocoon of their bounded groups.

      Those who want to thrive in the network operating system need insight into its realities and...

    • 11 The Future of Networked Individualism
      (pp. 275-302)

      Large-scale forces in economics, politics, culture, and religion drive social change, and societies change as they embrace new information and communication technologies (ICTs).¹ Changes toward a network operating system have brought a host of unsettling things. For starters, new ICTs bring fundamental challenges to the societal role of experts and information gatekeepers. In response, they fight back, claiming that their institutional connections and credentials give them the authority that amateurs lack. Doctors have to deal with e-patients who get information from the internet, and journalists sniff at bloggers who riff on civic events. That is invariably followed by a populist...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 303-350)
  9. Index
    (pp. 351-358)