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«NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Bernard J. Hogan A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»

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It appears that there is a relatively tight coupling between media and social activity. This coupling operates on at least two levels. The first is the extent to which a respondent will participate in planning, and the second is whether the activity is about planning at all, or mere accessibility and happenstance.

Of course, these results are not only provisional but also contextual. The Connected Lives survey is a relatively small scale survey of urban adults. They are not teenagers (who, it should be noted are notorious for their wholesale adoption of new technology and extensive disposable time). And to some extent they follow national and cultural standards. For example, texting is an uncommon practice in East York, but a common one in Europe, where the cost of texting is less onerous (Castells et al., 2006). Yet, in spite of these specific media practices and social activities, there still appear to be general dimensions of this media-activity coupling that will probably persist in the face of even newer technologies and shifts in social activities. What will change is not the dimensions, but how prominent each one is, and how many people

CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 128

fall near the center or on the margins.

It is clear here that networking is not merely about the frequency or intensity of activity, but also about how the activities are staged in the first place. Herein, one may infer clear patterns that are consistent across both media use and social activity proles. These patterns suggest that the two profiles are mutually reinforcing. Complex person-to-person interactions are sustained by a multitude of media. More traditional place-to-place activities can still use the telephone for intermittent touch-up. Finally, some individuals are not prone to any strategy, but it is not because they are planning parties where no one shows up unsuccessfully. Rather, they do little planning as well as have little social participation. This can partly be explained by social constraints— as the ‘domestic’ group are disproportionately likely to be new Canadians, poor, and coupled.

In all cases, however, networking and social engagement is a multi-site, multimedia process. Less than two percent of the sample only engaged in one activity or used one medium to plan. For some individual—the media omnivores of the heavy-all group—a multi-place multi-media strategy is a very deliberate attempt to maximize their accessibility and opportunities for social engagement. They are the busiest socially, with the largest networks and fullest social calendars. However, for many others, networking is about optimization, not maximization. For these individuals, the point is to use a sufficient amount of any given media simply as a means to an end.

For those that primarily neighbour and drop-in, this means a lot of quick telephone calls or no planning whatsoever.

5.6 Conclusion This work has highlighted a range of media use and social activity profiles. Some styles involve extensive use of many media for ad hoc planning, while other styles are more tethered to the neighbourhood and social rhythms. By examining the coupling

CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 129

between media use and social activity styles, I infer two guiding forces—the intensity (or frequency) of networking, and the extent to which networks are structured using fixed routines and rhythms or using ad hoc scheduling. Unsurprisingly, frequent media use is associated with more ad hoc networking since it enables communication across space and time. Yet no style is completely absent of media use—as media affordances are too useful to ignore.

These different styles, while demonstrating clear internal logics, are not easily predicted by social location. Granted, those who are younger and more wealthy are more apt to use media, while those who live in houses more apt to neighbour. Yet, when moving beyond the binary ‘use/not use’ dichotomy to look at the combinations of media use, it is clear that they are more closely aligned with behaviours and contexts than with ascriptive characteristics.

This situation paints a Janus face of networking. The good news is that styles of networking do not appear to be strongly determined by social location, rather they are afforded by social location. Networking is in many ways an equal opportunity affair. The bad news is that media use and perhaps even social structure are tethered to social activities. Thus one cannot merely ‘network harder’ or ‘smarter’ if they wish to change their habits. One has to seek out the sorts of contexts that work well with certain styles. Apartment dwellers who distain email and crave local contact will probably not be successful by reproaching their neighbours for behaving according to the semi-anonymous norms of apartment life. They might be better served by finding an area that facilitates this sort of networking.

While this chapter has discussed the relationship between media and social activity, it has said relatively little about the other participants with whom individuals network. Planning is not simply about specific engagements, but about conceptualizing a set of other individuals, and organizing one’s affairs with that set. Yet, individuals are not evenly distributed throughout a personal network. Sisters are tied to brothers

CHAPTER 5. NETWORK PROFILES: COUPLING MEDIA USE AND SOCIAL ACTIVITY 130





and uncles, voluntary members are associated with each other, and friends can be tied either to each other, or to any number of different roles. This means that the act of planning does not only take into consideration what kind of activity one is planning, but whether it is with a clearly defined group of people, a fragmented set of disparate alters or merely a one-on-one engagement with a close friend or neighbour. Different network structures create different constraints, and differentially place the burden of networking on the individual.

Thinking back to the earlier discussion of social affordances, these differential burdens imply differential needs to perceive and react towards one’s network. That is not to say it is completely in one direction and that ego is always simply reactive. But it is to say that different individuals will take advantage of technology in different ways to maintain this accessibility. The need to perceive technology differently is very real, since this perception is tethered to social activities with very particular space-time constraints. And it is manifested through different profiles.

Chapter 6 Within-network variations and networked individualism

–  –  –

multiple media use so that it makes obvious (1) how individuals think about their network, and (2) how they act on that network. The prior chapter examined this through the analysis of personal styles of interaction. These are the sorts of consistent patterns of media use that indicate an overall level of accessibility and willingness to engage in specific social activities. While these styles can give one a glimpse into the ways in which media are used and for what purpose, it is possible to overestimate the stability of these styles. There is variation both within and between these styles.

Moreover, simply because an individual has an overall style of media use that is not to say that the individual uses media in consistent ways with all his alters.

This chapter explores the variation within networks rather than between individuals (and hence between personal networks). Since I am peering inside the network rather than taking it as a single entity, it is necessary first to clarify what that network entails.

Most specifically, to what extent are people considered members of distinct groups, and what is the contribution of frequent social contact on one’s consideration of netCHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 132 work as a set of groups? In particular, I focus on the relevance of social roles as organizing principles for one’s conception of the personal network as either a series of groups, a series of dyads or some combination of both.

I demonstrate that the personal network is a cognitive artifact, which is consequently influenced by certain cognitive biases, such as one’s ability to recall people based on their ties with others. I am certainly not the first to make this point (Bernard et al., 1979; Marin, 2004), although it is worth reiterating with this particular data set.

The fact that individuals think about some roles as very group-like, whereas other roles are very individualistic may have consequences for the way in which media are employed for social contact in everyday life. Indeed, one prominent theory of

networking, Wellman’s networked individualism (Wellman, 2002) says exactly that:

new media are assisting a large-scale shift towards person-to-person networking and away from networking as a group-oriented social affair. After clarifying which roles are considered as group-like and which are more individualistic I turn towards variation in media use with the network. According to Wellman’s theory, we should see that sparser and more individualistic networks will be associated with more unique and individually tailored forms of networking. By using a novel measure of the variation of media use in personal networks (termed the “particularity” score), I examine whether group structure, the presence of roles and the use of media explain variation in the particularity score.

6.2 Networked individualism as a theory of networks and networking A prominent theory articulating how individuals network with each other is Wellman’s theory of networked individualism. As suggested in earlier chapters, networked individualism is a large scale theory of social interaction that suggests that the rise of new media technologies alongside social transformations leads to greater

CHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 133

individualism in networking habits. Individuals who employ new media technologies have new perspectives on their ties and thus can manage their interactions in a more specific and by-person manner. This can be contrasted with earlier social interaction (before the digital age) which was oriented towards interaction in shared spaces, and constrained by the shared group norms of these spaces in these interactions. Thus Wellman is often noted to claim a shift “from groups to networks”. He suggests that a shift from place and group-oriented interaction towards more individualistic actions should be associated not only with interaction patterns, but also in the very structure of the networks themselves, both in terms of diversity of roles and the sparsity of connections.

Networked individualism draws heavily on the Simmelian concept of overlap in everyday networks. In “The Web of Group Affiliations” (1922), Simmel asserts that, in the modern city, individuals do not exist in conceptual concentric circles of relationships (family, clan, village, county, etc...) but rather exist at the nexus of partially overlapping social circles. He suggests that this was partially due to changes in population density and social differentiation. These shifts led individuals to no longer associate with their nearest alters by default since one may be physically near hundreds or thousands of people relative to the country. Thus, new ordering principles based on individual interest and life courses appeared. These were the freely chosen groups of association, such as the Kinsmen or Lion’s club in Canada, that partially intersect with kin, workmates, and neighbours. Individuals, claims Simmel, had freedom insofar as they could associate with any number of these groups. This concept of ‘freeing’ individuals was subsequently reinforced by Rose Coser, who suggests that such overlaps and potential role conflicts enable the individual to create a singular autonomous identity that transcended or operated through these myriad associations (Coser, 1975).

Networked individualism takes this concept of individual autonomy through parCHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 134 tially overlapping groups a step further by drawing on the social impact of new media and increased potential for global transportation. To illustrate this theory, Wellman offers a tripartite schema of door-to-door, place-to-place and person-to-person networking. Door-to-door networking corresponds to the pastoral community networks that Simmel referred to in the country. Individuals would walk (or ride) over to their neighbour’s house, or down the road to specific locales. Wellman considers this form of networking as done within ‘little boxes’ or tightly bounded sets of relationships.

Simmel’s more modern form of networking between partially overlapping social circles relates to Wellman’s second ideal type—place-to-place networking. Here, one does not merely network at the clearly demarcated households of other individuals, but also neutral spaces such as a meeting hall, “third spaces” and across the city (Oldenburg, 1989). More radically, however, this networking can also take place without physically traveling anywhere, since media like the telephone and the postal mail allow individuals to communicate over distances between specific places. It is considered place-to-place since traditional media are tied to specific locations. Mail is sent to an address whereas the telephone would be tied to a fixed line associated with a place such as a home or office. One does not have to travel to a specific place in order to communicate, but place is still relevant for communication. Rather than little boxes, this form of networking is considered glocal, as it is a hybrid of local and global spaces.



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