«NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Bernard J. Hogan A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»
One may think of social life presented here as a city without trafﬁc lights, contacts whizzing by in the email lane, intersecting with cell phone conversations and knocks on the front door. The image is anarchic and stressful, but not entirely accurate. Granted, if we believe social life consists of contiguous events bounded in space and time, this picture is like a collision course of activity. But yet, social life is still orderly. Only we cannot name that order using modern notions of calendars and places alone. That is not to say we must do away with modern notions. Unlike early pundits of the Internet age, I am not here to ring the death knell for distance (Cairncross, 1997), or envision a future bereft of temporal order (Hassan, 2003). Rather, I take a middle
more abstract and encompassing logic—the logic of social accessibility.
This thesis is an exploration of how individuals regulate access with their social ties in everyday life. How do people regulate access in general? Do people have styles of social access? Is access role speciﬁc (as I may have implied with quasi-role speciﬁc media discussed above)? How do we know which media people will use with whom and when? And how can we characterize accessibility in such a way so that the concept can encompass even newer media technologies we have yet to imagine but are sure to arrive in the coming years? Social ties are available on a speciﬁc medium, but they are not exclusive to a speciﬁc medium. So as the number of new means for accessing individuals increases, it surely interacts with our sense of how to reach and maintain relationships.
Inherent in this theory is the assumption that there are certain constants to social life that persist and infuse networking regardless of the media. First, humans are prosocial animals interested in making contact with each other and sharing information, affect, and support. Obviously, not every person wants to support, share or exchange with all other people, but virtually all humans want to share with someone. Second, individuals have a concept of their social network, even if they do not deﬁne it as such.
These are the people for whom an individual is most prone to sharing information, affect, and support. If these are voluntary ties, or ties where the relationships are based on interpersonal closeness rather than a speciﬁc function (consider a friend versus a sales clerk), then this social network is called the personal network. Third, social ties in the personal network are differentially accessible. On one level, this is the case because media are differentially diffused throughout the population. But even if two alters are users of a particular medium, they will differ in their frequency, intensity, and responsiveness. But on a more fundamental level, encompassing in person interaction as well as mediated interaction, even if information can transcend space and time,
social network is at a party, I cannot talk with them all at the same time. Granted, I can talk at most of them (perhaps using a microphone) at once, but it would break down as soon as everyone tries to reply at once.
Beyond these constants is a veritable cornucopia of possible logics and combinations. Some people may eschew the Internet entirely, such as the drop-outs noted by Katz and Rice (2003) and Lenhart (2003). Others may be perennial busybodies eager to use the latest gadget and plumb its obscure features. And some will try to ﬁnd a balance between these two poles in a strategy that harmonizes their drive to maintain contact with the practicality of doing so through a number of possible channels. This thesis examines many of these combinations as they are present in Toronto in 2005, as a snapshot of the evolution of networking in everyday life. I do this using a representative sample of 350 individuals in East York, a former borough just east of Toronto’s downtown core. Approximately one quarter of these individuals (N = 86) also completed a secondary in-depth interview that goes beyond broad claims about behaviours towards richly detailed descriptions of socializing and communication with these respondents’ personal social networks.
This thesis begins with a theoretical chapter that lays down a framework for the subsequent analysis. Such a framework should encompass the way individuals think about and perceive other individuals as well as how they act on these thoughts. It should also be able to consider new media not as mere parenthetical novelty but as an active participant in the organization and maintenance of relationships. Media are not simply a neutral gateway enabling individuals to access their peers. By contrast, each medium has unique features for learning about and coordinating with one’s alters.
Some of these features are rarely employed by individuals (such as call forwarding), while the usage of other features depends on one’s social history and context (as we have learned from studies of the social inﬂuence model, c.f. Campbell and Russo,
of possible avenues, but also a variety of possible ways for employing any medium.
To derive such a theory, I draw upon philosophical pragmatism as a theory of action and ecological psychology as a theory of how actions are understood by individuals. Therein, I assert that individuals do not act on structure, as is commonly assumed, but on perceptual cues given from this structure. Admittedly, this is a subtle difference. However, this distinction promotes the idea that what individuals know of social structure is almost inherently partial and provisional. Social structures are not always obvious nor are they static objects. Thus, individuals require cues about these social structure, and these cues help guide action. Were there a complete correspondence between the cues given from social structure and the social structure itself, it might be easiest simply to do away with this extra layer of perception. But alas, social structure is a seductive object that necessarily resists exposing its full and complete self at any given time.
The cues that help individuals perceive and act upon social structure are referred to as social affordances. I explain how affordances have been used in psychology as well as sociology and new media studies. I present a model of action based on affordances and argue that this is a key step for linking action through media with action in face-to-face settings. I refer to habitual action, yet I acknowledge how action can be habitual on a person-by-person basis, rather than a one-size-ﬁts-all schema. I argue that a multitude of media help facilitate differential access to alters. Chapter 3 follows up on this theoretical chapter with a brief list of speciﬁc operationalized questions based on this theory.
Chapter 4 is a description of the sample. This includes a brief discussion of the research area, discussion of the survey deployment process and a comparison of key demographic variables between the survey and recent Statistics Canada census data for East York. I explain the technique for eliciting and analyzing networks in detail,
Following Chapter 4 are three substantive chapters about networking in everyday life using this data. Chapter 5 argues and demonstrates the existence of different internally consistent styles for networking in everyday life. I show the presence of six media use proﬁles as well as seven social activity proﬁles. These proﬁles highlight how affordances of different media work together to sustain a general pattern of acting towards one’s social network. I reduce these six media use and seven social activity proﬁles to a single concept: events are arranged rather than spontaneous, and this arrangement is differentially understood by the individual depending on the type of activity and the individual’s propensity to plan. Sometimes an individual is along for the ride. Sometimes an individual is participating in a regular and habitual event and other times an individual is singularly responsible for the shape of the vent (the participants, the venue, the duration, etc...). I use correspondence analysis to show both how media use is tied to various social activities as well as an individual’s propensity to plan.
Despite the existence of consistent styles that are in some sense reducible to one’s propensity to plan, there is still room for a great deal of variation within networks.
In Chapter 6 I explore this variation. Therein I use the theory of networked individualism (Wellman, 2002) to motivate the discussion, as it is presently a well developed theory of media use and social networks. I explore the composition of networks by role and highlight how individuals conceive of certain kinds of roles as “group-like”, while conceiving of other kinds of roles as individualistic. This affects not only the patterns of access with individuals of a certain role, but why those individuals are considered network members in the ﬁrst place. But, networked individualism is not only a theory of roles, but of media use. In the second half of the chapter, I examine variation in media use across networks using a novel “particularity” score, demonstrating how individuals vary in their media use from being very particular (meaning
(meaning they use generally the same strategy with all network members). I model particularity using measures of social location, planning via media, network structure and network composition. I ﬁnd that while particularity can be adequately modeled, it does not vary with network structure. Thus, I assert that networked individualism can work as a theory of networks, and a theory of networking, but that the two are more independent of each other than Wellman’s theory would suggest. For example, as a theory of networks, it explains differences in the structures of contemporary relationships (that they may be more loosely-knit and far-ﬂung). As a theory of networking, it is about connecting individuals on a person-to-person basis rather than on a place-to-place basis. Networking in a person-to-person way may lead to these loosely-knit and far-ﬂung networks, but network structures do not necessary follow from networking practices. Connecting this point to the central thesis, it seems that new media have more of an effect on how we maintain our relationships than whom we consider alters worth maintaining.
Chapter 5 looked broadly at the individual, while Chapter 6 looked more specifically at the composition of the network. Chapter 7 goes into even more detail by looking at speciﬁc relationships within networks. Here I examine how one can explain the use of multiple ways for contacting a given network member. To use a point of contact, be it telephone, in person social activity, email, and so forth denotes an additional form of access. These forms of access are collections of different affordances (be it the ability to communicate with faraway individuals, link several individuals into a threaded discussion, and so forth). Presently, this increased access is considered to be related to the emotional closeness of the individual—the stronger the tie, the more points of contact / access. I address this theory and discuss how a pragmatic approach to access might better explain the use of multiple media in contexts such as everyday life.
ters. Broadly speaking, I suggest that media do not merely embed themselves into everyday life, but also change the rules for networking. They provide differential access to alters, rather than simply more access. This differential access is manifested through the use of speciﬁc affordances to manage social access. I demonstrate this at different levels of analysis: the level of individual habits, the network structure of an individual’s relationships and the level of speciﬁc relationships. At each level, affordances allow for the ﬁne-tuning of relationships, extra conveniences and contact that would have heretofore been overly expensive or complicated. But the story is only half positive. If there are now a multitude of points of contact for our personal networks, and each media has its own unique features or specialization, but their use is not broadly adopted, this means that while people may be more accessible than ever, the norms for access are also more complicated then ever. Do I phone or email? Should I check instant messenger ﬁrst to see if he is available, or perhaps look on Facebook?
Does he check his cell phone messages? If I do not have his number who can I call to ﬁnd out? Is he normally awake at this hour? Indeed, this may lead to a situation of anomie (or normlessness).
Anomie has not been emphasized nearly as prominently as either isolation or “community”. Consequently, I conclude this dissertation by taking on the prevailing academic discourse about media as socially isolating. I suggest that new media are almost by deﬁnition not socially isolating (they are social media after all). But that does not mean we can close the book on their social effects—for the sum total of their effects may be in how they refocus as well as complicate access to others. This is to say we may continue to be social in spite of the profusion of social technologies as much as, and because of, said technologies. By considering how media create a situation of differential accessibility as well as cut into pre-existing normative contexts (or behaviour settings), we can see how media make life more complicated ironically in the name of
as well as some of the prominent features (or “affordances”) of new media, one may infer possible ways of simplifying the ever-expanding media ecology and its role in networking.
Chapter 2 A social affordances theory of social networking
2.1 Introduction—The concept of networking
learned this in numerous conversations about my work, particularly at parties. People establish themselves by talking about their relation to the host and frequently asking “what do you do?”, meaning employment. I mention that I study networking, and depending on the party I get one of two answers: “Like shaking hands and introductions?” or “So like Facebook?”. At ﬁrst I was a little bemused, as I had considered networking as a verb of social networks. That is, if I study how people maintain social networks, then surely I can say these people are networking, and thus, I am studying “networking”.