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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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Hypothesis 4 (on planning) was that more planning overall would be associated with more particular media behaviours. This is indeed the case according to the models presented. While the coefficient for planning is small in this case (b = 0.008), one has to recall that this refers to times per month by any medium. To better appreciate the impact of the variable, consider that the mean value is 35.8 with a standard deviation of 38.1. So a person one standard deviation above the mean for planning will have a particularity score of approximately 0.3 more than average. It is also worth noting that it was a combination of planning scores, rather than any specific planning score that made a difference. In alternative models (available upon request), I tested individual planning scores (in person, by telephone, etc...) and discovered that only planning by cell phone was significant, but it was unstable and easily washed out by additional variables. Thus, it does not appear to be a matter of what media one uses frequently, so much as one plans frequently by any means.

Hypothesis 5 (on sociodemographic characteristics) was that recent immigrants would show more variety of media access relative to the rest of the sample. It was inspired by the fact that immigrants made up a disproportionate number of the individuals in the “daily online” social activity group and the commonsense understanding that they have restricted options to see many of their old ties in person. It turns out that this was a particularly apt intuition, as being an immigrant in the last five years was the strongest predictor of all. Indeed, it would appear that these individuals have to manage salient (and for the purposes of this analysis, consistent) social constraints.

Alters from back home are not merely distant in spatial terms, but for those migrating east-west, time zones also complicate one’s ability to maintain contact.

Overall these hypothesis paint a picture of media use variation that is sensitive to individual social location and propensity to use media, but not to social structure or

CHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 172

network composition. That is, one’s propensity to use a diversity of strategies does not appear, at face value, to be associated with cognitive network structures. Fragmented networks are sustained through consistent acts while cohesive networks are sometimes sustained through variable contact. To answer the question of how media effect the relationship between how individuals think about their ties to alters and how they act on them, the answer is not that diverse networks lead to diverse networking or that simple coherent networks lead to simple strategies.

One explanation for this is that individuals simply do not think about their networks as a cohesive set of relationships from which to draw on for activity. Rather they think about specific relationships in relation to specific activities. Unlike in the business world of networking, where individuals are explicitly focused on maintaining not only a large structure of ties but a carefully crafted one, here we do not see a clear relationship between networking and social structure—on the network level.

This means that concepts like “bridging social capital” are not as relevant as the practice of “keeping busy”, “Getting hold of someone” or “knowing the right person”.

This is not to say an individual cannot employ instrumental strategies to prune and shape one’s network, but that the use of media to do this can only accomplish so much.

While there is evidence for coupling between media use and social activities, there is not the same coupling between media use and network structure.

6.5 Conclusion It is taken as a given that people use various media with their alters. However, in explaining why individuals use either a consistent strategy or a series of person-specific strategies, there is little evidence that either the structure of the network or its composition plays a part. Heavy use of the Internet is associated with a more variable strategy as is frequent planning by any medium. Yet these are personal habits, not social constraints or structures. More groups (or more fragmentation) does not lead

CHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 173

to more fine-tuning, nor does having a larger network. Individuals often think about their network in terms of group structures and recent contacts. However, they do not necessarily act on their network accordingly.

Taken from another perspective, the question might be: is networking determined by the person’s individual propensities, the person’s social location or the person’s social structure? Of all of these, an individualistic account of networking appears to be the most persuasive...to a point. Immigrants who have been in Toronto for five years or less demonstrate that they cannot remain entirely fixed in their networking habits, and that in order to maintain a balance of alters from both the old and the new worlds, they will have to adopt a fine-tuned many-media strategy. However, in other cases, I do not see evidence that people’s social location has a significant or substantial effect on the variation of media use with their alters. Also, there is little evidence here that people who have large networks or fragmented networks adopt a particularly unique strategy for maintaining contact.





What I have termed an individualistic account does not, however, mean that this story is entirely in accordance with the assertions of networked individualism. Networked individualism is a story of networks—person-to-person, place-to-place or door-to-door. It suggests that there is a relationship between how individuals maintain contact with alters and the structure of these networks. Individuals with fragmented networks will maintain ties in unique and personalized ways. Individuals with dense cohesive networks will maintain ties in consistent and cohesive ways.

However, I have complicated this story in two related ways:

1. In the first part of this chapter I have shown that this story is complicated by the cognitive biases that filter what we think of as the network in the first place.

That is, some individuals think in networks, others think in groups, and others still in a hybrid fashion. Certain roles will be considered as a cohesive structure even if people are not networking with them on a frequent basis. Consider that

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extended family members are among the least likely to be contacted monthly, yet they are frequently recalled by virtue of their association with close family.

2. In the second part of this chapter I have shown that networked individualism exists, but the fact that there are certain kinds of networks does not mean that these networks are strongly associated with particularistic person to person networking. Bt contrast, fragmented networks can be associated with coherent networking strategies (i.e., the same strategy for each fragment), whereas cohesive networks can be associated with particular strategies (i.e., contacts everyone in the group in specific ways).

One of the key advantages of networked individualism as a theory of networking is that it links media use processes with network structure. Person-to-person networking is a process, and we can think about this process as having a distinct effect on one’s personal network. Yet, network structure as understood in the sociocognitive sense may not be the most apt place to look for this effect. Having a fragmented network is not the same thing as customizing one’s use of media. In fact, the same personalized strategy (seen only from the perspective of media use) can be used in entirely different ways. An individual may be the force that keeps a group together because she seems to be preternaturally able to access all members of that group (by being very particular). An individual may conversely be able to sustain a fragmented network again through being very good at knowing how to access which individual.

So in an elliptical way, I can get closer to an answer for the question of how multiple media use can inform the relationship between how we think about our ties to alters and how we access these alters. Variations in media use connote a “will to connect” with alters more than a specific kind of network structure. Some individuals have a tougher job of maintaining their ties. This is why immigrants use a greater diversity of strategies. Some individuals try to leverage their comfort with new media. This is why heavy Internet users use a greater diversity of strategies. However, the will to

CHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 175

connect is an individual propensity, not a structural attribute. It is filtered through the unique and contingent histories of individuals, and amplified by personal challenges in maintaining a coherent social structure. But it is not about specific network structures, nor about specific roles. It is about how people translate a vague sense of a need to be social with the opportunities presented, and how much they are willing to step outside of a specific style in order to sustain contact across myriad roles.

This suggests that both the Internet and the mobile telephone do not themselves cause fragmentation or isolation, but rather enable individuals to network in ever more complicated ways with pre-existing networks. Some individuals, those who need to or those who are prone to plan extensively, such as “Priscilla”, will glom on to these media as a way to sustain personalized contact. Others, such as “Roscoe” will find new media to be an irritation and remain bothered by the poor quality and seeming ambiguity of email messages. Yet, Roscoe still finds a way to access his alters while Priscilla might actually consider herself less busy if she only simplified her use of media.

This also leads to a reevaluation of networked individualism as an expression of autonomy (Wellman, 2002). Is the staid individual not exerting her autonomy by steadfastly refusing to network via the latest gadget? Is the networked individual being more autonomous by bending his habits in order to ensure he can reach whomever he wants (or needs) when the time comes? If anything, variations in contact across the network might actually show less autonomy rather than more. Consequently, maneuverability is perhaps a more apt phrase for networked individualistic networking than autonomy.

This is, in fact, an optimistic point for networking in everyday life. Increased personalization of media as well as its proliferation may involve new and specific avenues for interaction, but they may simply round out larger group structures, rather than fragment them. In fact, networking in past decades may have pulled individuals

CHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 176

away from a group-like structure if networking with all group members was considered too tedious or difficult. New media may actually allow individuals greater coverage as well as allowing them greater access. For this newfound maneuverability, the cost is not necessarily the fragmentation of ties, but the increased complexity of sustaining them.

But the optimism is not total. If maneuverability is an apt term for networked individualistic networking, then it stands to reason that some individuals are better at it than others. To maneuver is to move with skill and care. That networking in everyday life should be a skillful trait is perhaps surprising. One may think networking in everyday life as casual get-togethers, days at the beach or a walk to the neighbourhood pub. Yet, in reality, it involves the need to manage diverse schedules, differential media use, and alters who may not be able to plan autonomously without ego. Thus for some, a set of clear media use norms rather than the potential for maneuvering around individually personalized networking strategies might be a welcome change. But if anything, it seems that more personalization and more maneuverability, not less, is part of the shape of things to come.

This chapter looked at overall network effects. At this level most of the relationships between structure and media use were implied or muted. Being that the personal network is only partially under the control of the individual, and then it still is mediated by cognitive biases, the entire network might simply be too noisy to tell a clear story of the relationship between media use and social structure. As such, the next chapter will present a counterpoint (in the musical sense) to these findings. That is, how do individuals decide which medium to use with which network member? Instead of modeling media use with network structure, I model media use with specific individuals while controlling for network structure. Even if differences in structure are not associated with variations in overall networking patterns, structural differences may still play a role on a smaller scale. If networking is indeed an individual

CHAPTER 6. WITHIN-NETWORK VARIATIONS AND NETWORKED INDIVIDUALISM 177

rather than structural matter, then the analysis of networking with discrete individuals may help fill in details about how media use comes between the individuals one considers close and the individuals one actually maintains relationships with.

Chapter 7 Media use with specific network members

–  –  –

walking the dog, in a meeting, traveling, or just too busy to respond. Yet, regardless of context, most individuals have a means for contacting them most of the time.



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