«NETWORKING IN EVERYDAY LIFE by Bernard J. Hogan A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»
More complex as one does not have the same certainty of knowing when or where one’s alters are available. But that does not imply social fabric is in free fall. As seen above, there are still obvious and theoretically driven logics to everyday life. But these are the logics of networks, not groups. The network metaphor which aptly described
derstanding of how to relate to others—for not even the simple task of deciding how to contact someone can escape its grip.
Chapter 8 Conclusion: Networking as accessibility
8.1 Introduction This thesis began with the story of my day: a busy media-rich life of attending to the various ways I know others. My experience is not a universal one, nor is my technique an obvious one. As I have demonstrated in Chapter 5, one should not expect a universal strategy of using many media in concert; people vary both in which media they use and the intensity of their use. Yet, one can look across myriad strategies towards general tendencies and overall logics that can inform the behaviour: both of those who frequently use many media and those who use few.
More speciﬁcally, I have examined media use with particular individuals, either as dyads or as part of larger social structures. Media are not solitary toys, they are artifacts of our present social system and an integral part of how we maintain social cohesion—they cut across speciﬁc social settings and are a part of the arrangement of everyday life. Even activities as seemingly cavalier as dropping into someone’s house are affected and sustained through their use. People will now call a few minutes ahead of time, look up speciﬁc locations on mobile maps or anticipate and check for potential changes of plans.
The sociological question in this situation is not a mere proﬁling of media use, but how media literally mediate the relationship between (1) those whom individuals consider as members of their personal network and (2) those with whom individuals
contact and actively sustain relationships (i.e., who one feels close to and who one ultimately associates with). After having examined this relationship at various levels of analysis, I offer the following story.
• Media present cues for action that cut across ofﬂine contexts. Media do not simply transmit our voices or text, but present a speciﬁc series of cues about who, where, and when individuals are communicating with each other (Chapter 2). These cues are termed social affordances. As affordances they link objective social conditions and internal states. Affordances are what we perceive from the environment we inhabit. This includes the environment of media that are used to communicate and coordinate. For example, instant messenger presents a person’s status, email indicates speciﬁc addressees, and cell phones list the
• Individuals make differential use of these cues and are differentially accessible. Differential use of these media give individuals differential access to others in one’s network (as seen in the clusters in Chapter 5). Some individuals are apt to only plan using the telephone, while others use a bevy of media. Some people eschew media (such as respondents who simply “do not like” email or instant messaging). Several quotes throughout the dissertation illustrated this.
It is also found through studies of Internet drop-outs (Rice and Katz, 2003). This means they are not available in certain ways, and cannot take advantage of the affordances that come along with said media.
• These differences appear to be more closely related to individual propensities rather than social location. The social location analysis in Chapter 5 indicated that media use styles were only approximately related to certain characteristics.
For example, younger individuals tended to use more media, but it was not un
unambiguous. Rather, it would seem that individuals have a particular propensity to plan which is more directly related to the activities they engage in than their social location. And both activities and media use seem to correlate well with overall frequency of planning.
• Differences in media use do not mean structural differences. This point was
noted in a number of different places. In particular:
– Heavy planners generally have very large networks, but there is not such a clear relationship between size and media use among not-“heavy planners”. As seen in Chapter 5, the media omnivore group listed very large personal networks (often in excess of ninety individuals) whereas the remaining individuals (who made up most of the sample) had network sizes of about 34 whether they planned very infrequently, or somewhat frequently
– There is little correlation between overall structure and overall media variation. In Chapter 6 I calculated the overall variability of interaction with one’s network as a particularity score. This score was strongly related to several variables, such as how frequently an individual plans, whether or not they were heavy Internet users and whether or not they were immigrants. However, it was not related to the number of individuals occupying speciﬁc roles or to standard structural metrics such as density, size, number of components or average degree. Granted, it was somewhat related to the number of isolates, but this is probably spurious, since this ﬁnding was no longer signiﬁcant when I included the number of online-only alters (who
between social networks and media use, of course there is. However, it is not in the form predicted by networked individualism...that more ﬁnetuned person-to-person contact is associated with more sparse and fragmented networks. Rather the relationship works on the dyadic level as seen in Chapter 7. At this level, speciﬁc individuals who are of higher degree and in more dense networks will use greater numbers of media with ego. Also, individuals who are family tend to share less media with ego, while those who use frequent media (other than the telephone) tend to use
• Roles are ﬁltered through biases such as group structure and recency of contact. Roles do not play a large part in variations in media use, yet they play a large part in understanding the structure of the personal network. This is seen in qualitative narratives, sociograms and the analysis of the group-like structure (or perhaps homophily) of ties by role in Chapter 6. That they order the network is only partially because this is what the network “really looks like”. Rather some roles beneﬁt from cognitive biases such as how individuals categorize alters based on groups and how individuals recall alters based on whether or not they have been in recent contact.
• Tie strength is not strongly coupled with differences in media accessibility.
This was found in Chapter 7 where I tested the media multiplexity hypothesis. It was shown that indeed, tie strength was signiﬁcant, but only in the ﬁrst model. By adding any other variables, such as controls for age, frequency of contact or network structure, this relationship quickly became non-signiﬁcant. Also, even when it was signiﬁcant, tie strength explained less than one percent of the variance in the number of media used. Given that it has been signiﬁcant using
ential accessibility of alters. Alters in prior studies, such as Haythornthwaite and Wellman’s distance learner study (1998) all had access to similar equipment and a host of student-centered media, plus they were relatively homogeneous demographically. By contrast, everyday life involves maintaining ties with a host of diverse individuals, each with their own penchant for media use and different reasons for wanting to maintain a relationship with ego.
• Social accessibility is tied to Media accessibility, but not tie strength. This is as much a theoretical claim as an evidentiary one. Tie strength did not explain media multiplexity in Chapter 7, but it was reasonably well explained by an individual’s distance, their location in the network, whether or not they were family as well as how frequently they were in contact.
• This creates a conundrum—individuals do not necessarily use diverse media with their most strongly tied alters, but their most accessible ones. But if media make some people more accessible by virtue of their personal propensity to plan as well as their structural position, then media may in fact exacerbate the difference between tie strength and social accessibility, rather than help it.
The rest of this chapter will grapple with this conundrum at length.
At all three levels (individual, dyad and network) I have focused on how respondents relate to their alters, either through social activities, speciﬁc roles or frequency and type of contact. The general answer to this question, as distributed throughout the analysis, is that there is a discord between who individuals think about in their network and who they engage with. Here I do not suggest that the Internet causes people to act in a particular way, but that people have general needs to maintain access with sets of alters (most notably the personal network, but also one’s work network, etc...), and that they are prone to differential levels of planning and have a different tastes
large swaths of people before the net.1 Yet the playing ﬁeld has changed since these new media are not simply used among heavy users, but among the entire population.
So while the behaviours may stay consistent, they may still have effects on one’s accessibility. Given the differences in accessibility, it follows empirically that strongly tied alters are not always the most accessible alters. People are accessible for a host of reasons—frequent contact, mutual ties, or preference for a similar kind of social activity / media. And I know both from this analysis and pre-existing literature that ties are close for a host of reasons, such as personal history, reciprocity, frequent contact, and social support (Marsden and Campbell, 1984; Wellman, 1988).
In broader terms, this work recasts the debate about the impact of technology on social isolation into a debate about technology’s capacity to attenuate or foster social anomie.
As a concept, anomie is as old as sociology and it is closely tied to sociology as a study of modernity (Giddens, 1973). While not the inventor of the phrase, Durkheim is the ﬁrst sociologist to use it with any zeal.
Even though Durkheim had considered anomie in relation to the division of labour (read: work), if one replaces “media” with “labour”, the parallels are striking:
This agreement on necessary procedures and rules grows out of prolonged contact and interaction, and in turn gives stability to complementary relationships. Without such pre-established “rules of conduct,” interaction must procede [sic] on a trial-and-error basis, which often results in conﬂict, not solidarity. Anomic division of labor exists whenever “this regulation either does not exist, or is not in accord with the degree of development of Anderson (2008) recently found similar evidence in an analysis of broadband users. Using a longitudinal panel design, he found that differences in behaviour after the introduction of high-speed Internet was primarily associated with previous media habits. He concluded that there was little effect of the introduction of this technology that could not be explained by consistent media use behaviours.
CHAPTER 8. CONCLUSION: NETWORKING AS ACCESSIBILITY 215the division of labor” (Olsen, 1965, 39, quoting Durkheim).
and Anomie is especially likely “when society is disturbed by some painful crisis or by beneﬁcent but abrupt transitions,” so that the system of moral norms temporarily breaks down. “The scale is upset; but a new scale cannot be immediately improvised.” He saw this condition as particularly common following rapid technological change, and in the realm of trade and industry (Olsen, 1965, 41, quoting Durkheim).
The idea of an anomie of media has been posited brieﬂy before by Star and colleagues at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Star, Bowker, and Neumann, 1997). They discuss it as “information anomie” whilst referring to a lack of convergence in information objects. In that context, it meant how new media objects increase information scatter in libraries. With the digital revolution, information could be found in any number of places including disparate databases, clippings, mailboxes, racks, stacks, and so forth. In the decade since the publication of that article digital searching and interoperability standards have improved dramatically. However, in the case of social new media, there is no equivalent to search and interoperability (except perhaps a personal assistant). There is still “social scatter” as individuals are left to handle the variety of communication streams from email, instant messaging, cell phone message manager, texts, and so forth. Convergence is emerging, to some extent, with new media devices such as the iPhone (which is both a cell phone and a capable personal computer with extra affordances to boot). Yet, even convergence is not the solution: many respondents have email but do not check it frequently, nor are they interested in instant messaging. Having an iPhone will simply enable people to
mobility of new media, it will only exacerbate the anomic situation by enabling ever more differentiated use of media.
Durkheim originally referred to anomie when discussing a shift from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity. The former referred to social cohesion based on broadly encompassing similarities and ritual among individuals, while the latter referred to cohesion based individual specialized relationships common in modern society. A hundred years later, the shift from mechanical to organic solidarity is happening again, but in the domain of “points of contact” (read: media) rather than occupations.
Maybe instead of suggesting that media users are differently social, one might say that people are now “differentiatedly” social.