«NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Bernard J. Hogan A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»
This incident was considered the ﬁrst of many ‘ﬂash mobs’, a ﬂeeting trend among highly mobile urbane folk to spontaneously gather for absurdist spectacles while savoring a taste of prankster community. Flash mobs represent an excellent example of media and social activity coupling. The affordances of cell phones allow people to be contacted regardless of place and time. So with little warning, those who signed up for a mob over the Internet would be given instructions via SMS to be at a certain place at a certain time plus some hint about the event such as ‘bring a pillow’.
Had the instructions been sent via email, fewer individuals would get the message on time. It could barely be done by telephone as it was a text based message and calling
CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 89that many individuals so close to an event would not scale nearly as effectively as broadcasting a single text message to all the potential and willing participants.
Five years later, the popularity of ﬂash mobs are waning. Like streaking, it was a clever and ﬂeeting cultural trend that could get old quickly. But in their wake we are left with a sense of how assuredly ﬂash mobs are a social spectacle of their time.
They represented a coupling of mobile phone/text technology and a speciﬁc activity that needed these affordances to be executed quickly and discreetly. And they needed a technology that was sufﬁciently well diffused that virtually any brave soul who wanted in was sure to have a phone at their disposal.
The coupling of technologies and social activities in ﬂash mobs is rather obvious.
Yet there is a similar logic that underlies the coupling of technologies and activities in everyday life. But where ﬂash mobs are rare and very precisely coordinated, most social engagement is frequent and far more loosely coordinated. There are multiple paths to the coordination of social activity. Someone may plan a dinner with a friend over a phone call, follow up by emailing some other friends to attend and ﬁnally create an event in one’s calendar that is then digitally shared with all the invitees.
Alternatively, one may socialize by showing up for church on Sunday, just like any Sunday, and then staying for a dinner party afterwards, just like any Sunday. These activities demonstrate both a social activity proﬁle and a media use proﬁle.
In this chapter I assert that the one constant in social activity is “arrangement”.
Events do not spontaneously happen. Rather, they are a blend of space-time ﬁxity and negotiation. Space-time ﬁxity is the idea that certain recurring events are generally ﬁxed either by being at a particular place, a particular time or both. Negotiation is the process by which individuals reduce uncertainty in future social activity by iteratively clarifying the speciﬁc time-space coordinates of the meeting. Most importantly, different styles of social activity entail different levels of arrangement. It is not merely that different events have differing levels of arrangement, but rather, that individuals
CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 90are prone to arranging their lives to different extents.
This story is at odds with the traditional notion of social engagement as a groupbased phenomenon. Group-based networking requires a high degree of time-space ﬁxity, since it is difﬁcult to constantly negotiate with everyone. Thus, voluntary associations routinely meet at a ﬁxed time, such as Sunday evening. In fact, one of the core ways in which individuals indicate their adherence to larger group norms is through their adherence to the temporal rhythms of larger social groupings. As Zerubavel notes, the Durkheimian distinction of sacred (meaning large social groups) and profane (meaning the private individual) is not simply a distinction in space, with sacred and profane sites, but it is also a distinction in time (Zerubavel, 1985, 1989). In fact, not only is the seven-day cycle of the week religious in origin, but so is the modern calendar. But the idea that most social activity is routine and rhythmic is itself waning.
The calendar and the week are not transcendental constants in everyday life. They are socially constructed conveniences for the synchronization of social activity. They are temporal affordances. And as pointed out in Chapter 2, other individualistic temporal affordances are emerging—the affordances of new media.
Since these new media offer perceptual cues for negotiating time and space, they can circumvent the staid and ﬁxed rhythm of the calendar in favour of ad hoc and contingent social engagement based on the continual individualized arrangement of everyday life. New media technologies offer individuals new paths to the arrangement of everyday life. By virtue of their unique affordances, new media create new perceptual cues about social structure—they offer lists of “friends”, signiﬁers of a friend’s availability, access to individuals within broad time-windows rather than at speciﬁc times, and access regardless of place. As such, they provide a great deal of possibilities for new and more complex ways of arranging events.
So who uses these media to arrange their everyday life and who does not? Recall that noted ecobehavioural scientist Roger Barker suggested we can learn more
CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 91
In this chapter I argue that individuals have internally consistent and salient styles for networking. These styles are inﬂuenced by social location, but not determined by it. That is to say, networking is an attribute characteristic of an individual rather than a structural characteristic of a social network. People network in ways that make sense to them and in ways that are similar to many other individuals. They frequently have a preference for a particular media or a particular way of maintaining contact with others. To demonstrate this claim, I use cluster analysis to illustrate styles for media use and styles for social contact. I then use correspondence analysis to indicate the relationship between the media that are used and the activities that take place.
I assert that the coupling between media use and social activities can be explained by the frequency of media use, as well as a preference for either ad hoc ‘last-minute’ networking or prospective, ﬁxed scheduling.
The ﬁrst germane outcome of this work is to suggest that scholars can reexamine how media use is studied. Rather than focus merely on the Internet or cell phones, this work demonstrates that by examining the two in concert I can provide a clearer picture of variations in use. These variations are not merely in the frequency of use,
CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 92but how this use is supplemented by other technologies, and how this use helps to facilitate speciﬁc kinds of social activity. Thus, this work will allow us to transcend an either/or dichotomy about Internet use and social isolation. In some cases, no doubt, individuals really are isolated online—they spend numerous hours consuming news, shopping, gambling or viewing pornography. Yet, this does not negate the fact that the Internet can be a useful addition to other means of maintaining contact in everyday life (Katz and Rice, 2003). And rather than isolating individuals, it can in fact allow for great social accessibility. By refocusing the lens of inquiry onto individual networking patterns and away from the media themselves, we are in a position to better examine how the Internet is ‘used’ rather than judging what the Internet ‘is’.
The second germane outcome is to refocus the debate on social isolation more generally. By showing how media use and social contexts are used to maintain social networks, I will argue that it is not enough to merely show that ‘larger networks’ or ‘diverse networks’ mean better outcomes. Larger networks are simply associated with very active schedules, a great deal of planning, and a signiﬁcant investment of time.
Some individuals may argue that the investment is not worth it, or that there are diminishing returns. Others may agree that large networks are beneﬁcial but not know how to go about growing their network aside from collecting friends on Facebook.
Without providing a solid link between larger or diverse networks and how people network, it is insufﬁcient to demonstrate the links between social networks and positive outcomes. I will merely be validating those who already beneﬁt while providing no actionable insights for those in need of better network management, or easier access to the appropriate arenas for networking.
The story would not be sociologically complete if I sought to reduce networking to psychological preferences. However, it would be academically naive to suggest that social forces can fully explain how individuals network. I take a middle path between psychological or sociological reductionism by suggesting that however inCHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 93 dividuals decide what is an optimal strategy it is nevertheless stable and consistent, and it is mediated and constrained by social forces. For example, many mothers enjoy networking via telephone and with neighbours. The social constraints of having children playing in the neighbourhood is a powerful force that persuades many mothers that this is a sensible strategy. However, there are many other suburban mothers who value their career ﬁrst, can afford daycare, or simply do not like enlisting the support of neighbours. Being a mother does not cause people to neighbour and privilege the telephone, but I can say that this life course stage constrains individuals in ways that make this particular networking strategy viable and frequently desirable.
This example reinforces the concept of a ‘life style’. This refers to a consistent outlook on personal life course decisions and social activities (Michelson, 1970). It is constrained by opportunity structures but not determined by them. As Michelson muses, [w]e do not know, for example, whether a person will emphasize what would be expected from social class, from ethnic memberships, from agegroup relationships, or any other relevant label, when it comes to behaviour within a speciﬁc setting. It is quite likely that two people with the same set of labels may regularly act very differently because of the individual priorities they put on the phenomena behind these labels. It is not the labels themselves which interact with the environment. It is the behaviour coming from one, some, or a blend of many labels which is actually what the environment must accommodate. We should design for regular behaviour patterns (1977, 27, italics added).
In keeping with this claim, I focus on the behaviour patterns ﬁrst, and the socially signiﬁcant attributes second.
This strategy is also in line with recent work on friendship by Spencer and Pahl (2006). After mapping the personal communities of individuals in Britain they noted
CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 94that people do not merely have networks of a certain size or shape, but that they express a desire to maintain networks of a certain size and shape. Spencer and Pahl refer to this desire as a friendship repertoire. Some individuals prefer intensive intimate networks while others prefer extensive networking across many groups. Unlike this work, they did not analyze the ties between friends nor the media use with friends.
Yet, their work is an excellent step in a similar conceptual direction.
Finally, this work is partially harmonious with Wellman’s trichotomy of ‘door-todoor’,‘place-to-place’, and ‘person-to-person’ networking. Yet instead of suggesting a broad social shift from one kind to another, I contend that all these styles are present in everyday life. Person-to-person networking, characterized by individual technologies and fragmented networks, has emerged as an alternative style of networking, but it has not eradicated other styles. Wellman asserts that these styles are afforded rather than determined by technology. If that is the case, then it follows that not everyone will make use of these affordances and become networked individuals. Many will continue to use a more glocalized form of networking, or even maintain little box networks of local ties. Whether there has been a change in the proportion of these three kinds over the past 10, 20 or 100 years is outside the scope of this study.
5.2 Plan of this chapter Results of this study are divided into three sections. The ﬁrst section (5.3) is on media use for planning social engagement. The next section (5.4) is on social activities that individuals engage in. The penultimate section (5.5) discusses the coupling between how media are used to plan and the sorts of activities people participate in. The chapter concludes with a summary of ﬁndings and a segue into the next chapter’s discussion of networking and social structure.
Before proceeding, I offer a word of caution on the ﬁndings presented in this chapter. These ﬁndings are primarily derived from a one-time survey of individuals in