«NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Bernard J. Hogan A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»
Whereas the analysis of linking by role was done using every alter that was elicited in the interview, communication frequency with network members was only done with a subset of these individuals. Recalling Chapter 4, the interviewer administered ‘minisurveys’ for many network members. Speciﬁc members were chosen using a purposive scheme that was designed to maximize the spread among network members. Prior analysis of the distribution of those sampled compared to the remaining network members demonstrated that these individuals did not vary signiﬁcantly on either tie strength, gender or role, with one small exception. Extended family were less likely to be sampled relative to their presence in the network (Hogan et al., 2007). This is because only one alter per household could be selected for the minisurvey. Since many extended family members were named alongside their spouse, this accounts for the discrepancy.
The minisurvey asked about ﬁve points of contact: in person contact, contact while socializing, telephone contact, email contact and instant message contact. Undoubtedly, this is not a complete list of points of contact. Individuals also send greeting cards and in recent years, use social software for contact. However, this analysis precedes social software and greeting cards are not relevant, since I am interested in active (read: monthly) contact. Greeting cards are usually sent at special occasions rather than on a regular basis.
Table 6.3 summarizes the percent of alters contacted monthly or more via any
WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 150medium/social context. The table is organized very similarly to Table 6.2. In both, the roles are ordered by their value and two columns are presented, weighted, and unweighted. Accordingly, the weighted values represent the average percent of alters contacted monthly per role, averaged across networks, whereas the unweighted values represent the average percent of alters contacted monthly per role regardless of their distribution in different networks.
Unsurprisingly, immediate family are the most likely group to be contacted via any medium. In addition to being the most dense, they also share a special place with most individuals as their ﬁrst and most stable ties. What is more novel is that the second most often contacted group are online only alters. This reinforces hypothesis 2, as online alters are generally isolated from each other, and link, if anywhere, to other non-online network members. By virtue of being online and sparsely connected, it appears that their inclusion in the network is very sensitive to the amount of contact ego has with these alters.
A majority of alters from work are also contacted at least monthly, as are a slight majority of friends. Also, when examining the percent of friends contacted at least monthly, one can see that the weighted average is much higher than the unweighted average. Recall that this situation indicates that smaller networks play a greater role when the weighted average is higher than the unweighted. This means that as people increase the number of friends they recall for inclusion in the network, they will recall individuals who they see less frequently. This helps to further the idea that what one sees as ‘the network’ varies not only objectively, but also according to ego’s subjective threshold for who belongs in the network.
The idea that different roles have different thresholds for inclusion certainly reinforces the other groups on the lower end of the contact scale. Only one third of relatives and organizational member dyads are contacted monthly. This number is smaller than the weighted number, again reinforcing the idea that larger networks inCHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 151 clude more of these individuals who they would not contact as regularly. So why are these individuals included in the ﬁrst place? As mentioned above, both relatives and organizational members are a part of a clearly intelligible structure, thus if one recalls one member, one might recall another. Individuals also think about their wider kin network as a structure of aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and so forth. Thus, these individuals are included in the network not because their relationships are as actively maintained, but because they are part of group-like structures which themselves are actively maintained.
Given this pattern, neighbours might appear to be a ﬂy in the ointment, so to speak.
They are not densely knit like organization members and relatives, nor are they frequently contacted like online friends and workmates. Yet, they are also a part of a perceptible structure—the structure of households on the street. Individuals can recall speciﬁc neighbours just by thinking about who lives near them and are close enough to be included in the network. By virtue of living near, they need not be as actively maintained (since they will be accessible regardless). That said, it is certainly possible to increase how many neighbours are ‘top of mind’ as Hampton and Wellman (2003) have noted in their Netville study. Therein, under relatively artiﬁcial conditions, those individuals who had the additional group focus of “high-speed Internet” were more likely to socialize and know their neighbours. However, given that subsequent studies of wired neighbourhoods have not seen such a similar phenomenon (Hampton, 2007), it is hard to tell whether there was a true effect of the Internet, or merely a Hawthorne effect of these individual being pro-social because they had a new and novel shared activity.
6.3.4 Summarizing the results from Part I The ﬁrst research question was focused on the group-like structure of roles. I examined both the connectivity of individuals by role along with the proportion of individCHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 152 uals contacted by role. Both of these analyses were at the network level. As such, I cannot make a direct strong claim about the relationship between role structure and contact frequency. However, the two hypotheses given earlier in the chapter appear to be validated. Roles that are perceived as group-like due to pre-existing structures are indeed more inward linking than roles that do not possess such an obvious structure. Also, roles that show a group-like structure are more likely to be recalled even though there is less contact per individual—individuals show up in the network by virtue of their membership rather than ego’s activity with alter. The only exception to this is immediate family members (rather than all kin). They are both densely knit and frequently contacted.
There are signiﬁcant consequences of these ﬁndings for a study of networked individualism. This study, like many that have come before, uses interpersonal closeness as a measure of inclusion in the network. This measure is partly a cognitive construct since it refers to how close individuals feel towards each other. Yet, people can feel (at least somewhat) close to a group of individuals, as evinced by numerous large cliques in the network. Of course individuals will feel closer to some group members than to others, but they are all still ‘close enough’ to warrant inclusion in the personal network.
Wellman talks about how individuals function in networks. Functioning in networks is not necessarily the same as thinking in networks. Functioning is also sensitive to the perceptual cues available from contexts for interaction. Some cues, like those on instant messenger and via mobile phone, are oriented towards individual interaction. By contrast, other cues, like a mailing list, or the membership list for a voluntary organization are oriented towards groups. Below I examine how individuals customize their interaction with speciﬁc network members, and whether the presence of certain groups leads to a notable difference in how individuals use media.
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6.4 Part II: Variation by interaction pattern Taken solely as structures of relationships, social networks are clearly ordered, and roles help to deﬁne this order. By positing networked individualism as a theory of network composition, we can classify some roles as being more networked individualistic by virtue of their linking patterns (e.g., spanning the network rather than linking inwards towards homophilous roles). However, this is merely a secondary task (here, at least) to an appreciation of the networks as points of access for media use.
Networked individualism is a theory of media use with networks as much, or more than a theory of network composition.
One premise of this theory is that networked individuals will make use of new media technology to facilitate more person-to-person interaction and less place-to-place interaction. Media use will not superimpose itself cleanly over groups, but rather cut across speciﬁc boundaries, as individuals ﬁne-tune their networking patterns with others (Wellman and Frank, 2001). This theory works well within an analysis of the social accessibility with alters. Namely, it suggests that access (both one’s ability to access alters and one’s actual behaviour) has changed as a result of the introduction of new media—or more precisely, that new media affordances facilitate new ways of interacting with alters enabling new patterns that are person/dyad speciﬁc rather than globally applied (Wellman et al., 2003).
For example, consider the description of “portability” as an affordance for networked individualism:
The person is the node to which communication is directed. Person-toperson communication is supplanting door-to-door and place-to-place communication...Personalization recognizes anywhere who people are. With portability, people take their devices with them. The combination facilitates the emphasis on individuals connecting and (mobilizing) to individuals, rather than individuals connecting to groups or groups connecting to
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First, it is worth specifying whether or not personalization would be considered an affordance under my framework. The answer is somewhat clouded. Indeed, personalization ﬁts the criteria of being a perceptual cue that is used when acting on one’s network. But personalization of “what”? As an informational affordance, it refers to the speciﬁc representation and organization of content based on the user’s actions, either explicitly (whereby users select what sort of content they want to see, such as showing movie listings on one’s “start” page) or implicitly (whereby algorithms select content based on a user’s behaviour—a common practice for targeted ads and online shopping recommender systems). As a relational affordance it is more obviously social. This is the fact that speciﬁc technologies provide individually tailored conduits to a speciﬁc person. This is the distinction between a person’s cellular phone and a home telephone, or a person’s inbox and a house’s mailbox.
Following through on Wellman’s idea of personalization as an affordance is the idea that individuals will have personalized repertoires between each other. Networked individualism is not simply a theory of mass media, where a medium would ﬁlter content based on the individual, but a theory of interpersonal communication where devices are tuned to the individual and her communication patterns. At the interpersonal level, this is precisely his point on how media connect people to each other when thinking about individuals versus groups. It is a point made again in his work with Kennedy on the house as a network (Kennedy and Wellman, 2007). Again, the authors focus on the use of personal new media and portable gadgets within the household, in contrast to focusing on the household as itself a point of contact.
CHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 1556.4.1 How does the variation in contact with network members relate to structure?
So, to reiterate the general research question: what is the role of multiple media in linking the way people think about their network and how they act upon it? From
Wellman’s point of view, we should ﬁnd:
Hypothesis 1 (On media use): That mere use of the Internet does not lead to more speciﬁc person-to-person media use behaviours.
Hypothesis 1a: But since the Internet affords personalization, heavy Internet users will have more speciﬁc person-to-person media use behaviours.
Hypothesis 2 (On group composition): Individuals with more alters from heterogeneous roles (e.g., roles that link to different roles) will be associated with more speciﬁc media use behaviours, and conversely individuals with alters from more homogeneous roles (e.g., alters who link to individuals of the same role) will be associated with more general and less per-alter media use behaviours.
Hypothesis 3 (On network structure): Individuals with a more fragmented network (either through lower density, greater numbers of components or more isolates) will exhibit more speciﬁc media use behaviours. And again, conversely, more coherent networks will exhibit more general media use behaviours.
However, to these general aspects of networked individualism I can add few other expectations based on insights from the previous chapter. The ﬁrst relates to the planning variable used in the previous chapter. It is known that the partitions that use more media also plan more frequently. It was implied that these individuals use this media in order to attain additional “coverage” of their network—however, such coverage is not really necessary if everyone in a person’s network uses primarily the same
media. So I should ﬁnd that:
Hypothesis 4 (On planning): Increased planning will be associated with more speciﬁc person-to-person media use behaviours.