«NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Bernard J. Hogan A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»
NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Bernard J. Hogan
A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Graduate Department of Sociology
University of Toronto
Copyright c 2009 by Bernard J. Hogan
Networking in Everyday Life
Bernard J. Hogan
Doctor of Philosophy
Graduate Department of Sociology
University of Toronto
Contemporary networking in Canada, like most of the developed world, involves signiﬁcant use of media to maintain relationships. This is not the use of media for faraway alters where in person contact is difﬁcult, but media use within the very fabric of everyday life alongside in person contact.
Past debates about the effects of new media have frequently focused on a medium’s potential for social isolation. These debates have resulted in ambiguous, muted or contradictory ﬁndings. So instead of suggesting another response to the issue of social isolation, this thesis reorients the focus towards a different question: under what conditions are alters accessible and how does multiple media use affect this accessibility? Rather than suggest that new media simply offer “more” social accessibility, I contend that they complicate social accessibility by offering individuals increasingly differentiated ways to habitually maintain contact with each other. The result of this differentiation is that while individuals might be able to maintain contact with more alters (or at least just as many) in the
sense, they end up maintaining contact with the most accessible alters rather than alters with whom one has the strongest ties.
This is the conundrum of multiple media use: how is it that each individual medium offers increased convenience but the sum total of media use makes life less convenient, more planned and more complicated? I suggest it is because media use cuts across longstanding social norms of public and private spaces (or public and private ii time) without offering a coherent normative framework as a substitute. Instead, individuals are differentially accessible via each medium. Moreover, this accessibility is related more to emergent personal habits than to tie strength.
Data for this study comes from 350 random-sample surveys and 86 follow-up social network-oriented interviews in East York, a former borough on the east side of downtown Toronto, Canada. The data were collected in 2005, before the widespread adoption of social networking software, but after the widespread adoption of cellular telephones, instant messaging services and email.
Connected Lives Team: First and foremost, I want to thank the members of the Connected Lives research team. It is funny that in a thesis dedicated to showing a shift from groups to networks, that I most fondly remember the trials and tribulations of a stellar group that is now a far-ﬂung network. Under the direction of Prof. Barry Wellman, this team was a regular meeting site, an intellectual cauldron, a methodological think-tank and a group of friends. So I offer my sincere thanks to Kristen Berg, Jeffrey
Romanovska, and Phuoc Tran, both for the times then and our friendships since.
Other members of NetLab: NetLab, Barry Wellman’s informal research lab at the University of Toronto, is something like a talent factory. Through NetLab, I’ve had the privilege of meeting or working with many great people. I’d like offer my thanks to NetLab alumni Dean Behrens, Keith Hampton, Anabel Quan-Hasse and Dima Dimatrova who showed me what a commitment to NetLab can offer, my peers Wenhong Chen, Paul Glavin, Jessica Collins along with the aforementioned Connected Lives team, and the numerous bright eyed and clever undergraduates. Of the latter (massive) group, I especially want to thank Wocjiech Gryc, whose intellectual absorptive capacity seemingly knows no bounds, Jeffrey Wong, whose software is like a gift that keeps giving, and Natalie Zinko, whose diligence is matched only by her endearing charm.
In tandem with NetLab, the Department of Sociology has been an excellent and stimulating place to work. That they could break in this theorist and show him the dignity of meticulous empirical work and careful questioning is a testament to their skill, and their patience. However, the most patient of all was not a Professor, but the Graduate Administrator, Jeannette Wright. My aloof approach to bureaucracy was no match for her resolve and her sincere concern for my best interests.
I have beneﬁtted from the advice, resources and technical support of numerous
acknowledge and thank Eytan Adar, jimi adams, danah boyd, Ronald Breiger, Danyel Fisher, Anatoliy Gruzd, Adam Perer, Marc Smith and Tom Snijders for their input on various aspects of this project at various stages.
Of course, a study of networking would be charged with negligence if the author only associated with academics. First to my parents, your faith in my potential and your unconditional support have been a constant source of strength and cheer. You will always have my love and thanks. However, I will let someone else decide if your attempts to keep me humble have succeeded. Perhaps I will ask the rest of my family, as they are all exceptional judges of character and have been a constant source of wit and wisdom.
I feel that all my friends have been a perennial source of both fun and insight, but none more than Bill Seaward. You offer more engaging, stimulating and obstinate critiques than virtually anyone I know, academics included. Steve Dymond and Sheldon Smith have helped me maintain a touch of Newfoundland sanity in a mad Toronto world. Max and Adam Reid’s brilliant nights DJing at the Embassy have shown me what a regular hangout really means, and why it is so relevant even in a mediated world. And to anyone who reads this and feels slighted without an explicit mention, I owe you a drink for making it this far. Don’t worry, make it through the rest of the thesis and you’ll need it.
And of my friends, there is none closer than my spouse, Jeremy. This labour of love is for you, for us.
This research has been supported by numerous grants and fellowships, either directly or indirectly through NetLab. I want to acknowledge the ﬁnancial assistance of the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada, for both their graduate fellowship and their funding of the Connected Lives project generally. I also want to acknowledge the support of the the government of Ontario, Microsoft Research, Intel’s People
Finally, I want to express my profound gratitude to my committee. Bonnie Erickson is not merely a distinguished scholar because of past awards, titles or publications.
She carries distinction with everything she does, from minute edits through lecture strategies to challenging overarching questions. She is a model of professionalism.
William Michelson is similarly a scholar of many talents, but none more than his ability to leave the very best impression everywhere in his wake. He has not only helped me clarify my ideas, but clarify my feelings about my ideas. He has an almost mystical ability—instead of judging my work, he can somehow show me how to judge my own work while simultaneously communicating his own concerns. His grace is a gift.
And last but deﬁnitely not least, I must acknowledge Barry Wellman, networker extraordinaire. Prof. Wellman has given me so much throughout this dissertation, I hesitate to go into speciﬁcs lest I trivialize it. He has been a steadfast source of support, a challenging and engaging thinker, a keen eye for detail, and a professional mentor par excellance. Barry Wellman does not simply talk networks—he weaves them, he actualizes them. That Prof. Wellman’s ideas are used frequently throughout should not be taken as a perfunctory gesture. It has not been an obligation, it has been a privilege.
5.1 Media used in planning—Average times per month............ 100
5.2 Descriptive values of social location variables and planning by media
5.3 Selected social activities—Average times per month............ 114
5.4 Descriptive values of social location variables and planning by social
5.5 Contingency table of media use and social activity partitions....... 122
6.1 Mixing matrix of links within networks and between dyads by role... 144
6.2 Ordered list of the ratio of in-links to out-links by role........... 146
6.3 Ordered list of the percent of alters contacted monthly by role...... 149
6.4 Nested OLS regression models predicting particularity.......... 165
5.6 Single axes plots of media use coupling and social activity coupling... 125
6.1 Three networks selected to show differences in structure by role...... 139
6.2 Radial pie chart networks showing variations in contact frequency. Grayed
really more of a tiny touchscreen computer than a portable music player. The home screen tells me I have a few emails, several new tasks, a handful of messages on Facebook (a web service that collects lists of friends), and some new posts on Twitter (a web service that publishes journal entries of less than 128 characters). I am barely awake enough to process what cereal to eat and I am deluged with social information.
Within an hour, I have also checked my cell phone (voice and text messages), my landline, convened with my spouse (who has gone through a similar sort of checking) and made coffee. Oddly enough, I have been told that writing a dissertation is a solitary experience. I assume that held true in the days before laptops and mobile computing.
Some of these technologies are new to me. I am only a recent convert to Twitter, and I have only been on Facebook for less than a year and a half, yet somehow these technologies are now an important and even taken-for-granted part of the way I know and interact with my friends and colleagues. But with the seemingly continual proliferation of new media technologies, is it possible to stop long enough and ask how these technologies, collectively, are affecting the practice of maintaining ties in everyday life? Practically speaking, how can scholars address the issues of a con
stantly changing media landscape with data that take so long to collect, code, and analyze that the objective conditions have changed before most results are published and distributed? We can do this because change happens at different scales. Some of these are minute and mere fashion (such as a choice between two competing social software programs, Facebook and MySpace), others are wedded to the life course or one’s ﬁnances (such as whether there is a single computer in the home or one for every member). Some social changes take decades or generations, while others would change faster if only my social network could keep up with me (or I with it).
To use a meteorological metaphor, some aspects of the proliferation of new media are like trying to predict the weather—even the experts are wrong half of the time. Yet, with a comparative context, enough data and some solid theory, it is still possible to tell that the climate is changing. This dissertation is about the changing media climate and its relationship to the maintenance of social ties in everyday life.
In his introduction to “Man and his urban environment”, Charles Tilly suggests that the author addresses the prickly question of urban planning “how much and how does the physical form of the city itself shape the social lives of the men [sic] within it” (Michelson, 1970, vi). It was an apt question, and still a relevant question. Yet, in the past 20 years we have seen a proliferation of communication devices that superimpose a network of access on top of the physically arranged network of buildings, parks and streets. Seen as merely a means to an end, we can ask simple questions about these media, such as “does the use of one medium lead to more social capital”, or “do some people use these media more than others”. But beneath simple relationships between speciﬁc media and behaviors is a new prickly question: How does the ecology of media use shape the social lives of the people who—whether or not they use said media—still experience it as part of the orchestration of everyday life?
To address this thesis, I will be examining networking from the perspective of the
nation of networking at various levels. This includes the individual level, the level of
the network and its composition and the level of individual relationships with speciﬁc personal network members. At all levels, one can ask the overarching question:
How can we characterize the strategies of multiple media use so that it makes obvious (1) how individuals think about their networks, and (2) how they act on those networks?
Returning to the anecdote about my morning, consider that each medium represents a slightly different slice of the people I know and interact with. My landline is reserved for close friends, telemarketers (unintentionally) and long distance conversations. My cell is primarily used to coordinate with my spouse, email is primarily for work ties and sharing novelties with my peers, Facebook is used as a social “third space” for friends and relatives. I use Twitter in a quasi-professional way to broadcast short life updates. I use instant messaging for emotional support at a distance and chatting with my spouse when I am on the road. And of course, my mailbox is used for greeting cards from my parents, in-laws and the occasional friend. Of these, only the landline and the mailbox are ﬁxed to a speciﬁc place, while the remainder are tethered to signal, either wireless or cellular. And none of them offer a complete picture of my relationships, although some do better than others.